What guests often ask us :)

1. How quiet is your place?

ONE thing you’ll notice about Norway is its very different tempo compared to Continental Europe. There are far less people here and the way of life is much slower. Nature has a very strong presence in Norway and it doesn’t take long to leave an urban area. This reality has a very calming effect.

As we are in the country, and not in outback Norway, you can expect some ambient noise. We live in a group of five houses, so we do have neighbours. However, they are generally very quiet.

There are also farms in the local area, so in summer there is some noise from tractors and forestry work. In saying this though, the noise level is very low compared to the city and urban areas. In other words, you can hear yourself think and the birds sing.

2. Will I see the Northern Lights at Happy Bee Retreat?

You might. It’s possible to see the lights in Lillehammer, so it’s also possible to see them in Landåsbygda. However, it doesn’t happen as frequently or with the same intensity as further north. So if you’re set on seeing the lights, then we strongly recommend taking a tour up to northern Norway, to Tromsø, Kirkenes or Alta, where the polar night sky is more suited to the lights. If you’d like to try the lights down here though, then October, February and March are the best times to see the Aurora Borealis, especially a couple of hours before or after midnight. As we haven’t yet seen the Aurora here, as soon as we do, we will post a video, photos or a post on it.

In winter Landåsbygda has the most spectacular clear, dark night skies, so at the very least, if nothing happens then you’ll still be treated to an amazing view of the Milky Way.

3. Will I see a moose / wolverine / bear / reindeer / musk ox / wolf / lynx / fox, etc.?

We did have a young moose who visited our garden for a while. 🙂 So yes, it’s possible to see moose, especially during dusk and dawn. There are also wolverine in the forests around us, and you can often see their tracks in the snow.

Norway doesn’t have very many bears, but there are some brown bears, as well as wolves, closer to the border to Sweden (Finnskogen).

You’ll have to travel further north to Dovre to see reindeer and musk oxen. But you can see deer, foxes, squirrels and hares around Landåsbygda.

There are snakes out and about in summer, and the only poisonous snake in Norway is the European viper (hoggorm). You won’t die from a bite, but it can hurt. Generally, they are very slow moving and passive, so the risk is quite minimal.

What you definitely won’t see down here are polar bears. 🙂

4. Can I visit the Sami where you are?

Yes and no. The largest concentration of Sami folk is further north. Although there are, and have been in the past, Sami living as far south as around Jotunheimen national park, where you can also find wild reindeer.

5. Why don’t you have any TV, radio, DVDs, WIFI, etc.?

We appreciate the fact that we live in a modern technological age, and it’s for this very reason that we believe there is enough gadgetry and technology in our daily lives. That’s why we want people to come to our place and simply ‘switch off’. That means only bring with you what you really need to enjoy your holiday.

6. What kind of clothing should I bring with me?

As this is Norway we’re talking about, you can expect rain anywhere, anytime. So bring your raingear, e.g. pants and jacket, no matter in which season you come. You can generally expect much less rainfall here in the east of Norway than in the west. To compare, in the first months of living in Landåsbygda (Feb-June), our old home town of Stavanger experienced more than 450 mm of extra rain than Landåsbygda did.

Landåsbygda is also elevated, at around 500-550 metres above sea level. So we are a little cooler up here than down in Gjøvik or even in Lillehammer. In summer, bring a warm fleece with you, as the evenings can cool down. On a sunny day, it can get quite warm here though (up to 30 degrees), so it’s enough to strip down to your birthday suit and lie in the sun.

In winter, Landåsbygda is a cross country skiers paradise, so we recommend bringing your skis, warm polar fleece, snowgear and outer shells.

7. When is the best time to come?

The best time to come is any time! Each season is completely different and has its own charm. There is no doubt about it, Landåsbygda and the surrounding region are winter sport meccas. However, there is plenty to do in summer too. Eastern Norway is delicious in summer (if it doesn’t rain). So it is hard to choose. It depends on what you’d like to experience.

8. Can I light a fire outdoors?

From the 15th of April to the 15th of September, there is a complete fire ban anywhere in Norway.

9. Can I camp anywhere in Norway?

Yes, you can camp almost anywhere you like for free. How many places in Europe can you do that?

Norway does have a bad reputation for being expensive, and staying in a hotel will burn a big hole in your budget. So the best thing is to take your tent and camp out in the wild. Become a member of the DNT (Norway’s equivalent of an alpine or bushwalking club) and receive the magic key that opens the doors to its amazing network of huts. That way you save money (prices range from 100-240 kroner in unmanned or self-service huts) and you get to experience true Norway (the nature is why you’re here, right?).

The free camping ideology is based on the Allemannsretten, which basically means everyone has right of access to nature in not only Norway but all of Scandinavia. But there is a list of dos and don’ts. To read them and more about Allemannsretten, click here.

10. Where should I go shopping to get the best produce and the cheapest prices?

No doubt, you’ll be a little surprised by the choice in the supermarkets – especially if you’re coming from Continental Europe or even from neighbouring Sweden. Well, that’s Norway. However, it’s not true that ‘everything’ is ‘always’ expensive in Norway. Seasonal food is sometimes the same price as or cheaper than on the Continent.

There are definitely ways to save money and buy quality food in Norway. As Landåsbygda is in the middle of farm country, there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to buying locally.

If you plan on staying here for a while (a month or two) then you can order a fresh produce box from the biodynamic Alm Østre farm near Hamar (the other side of the Mjøsa). For a small fee you can pick up your weekly box at a drop off point in Moelv, Lillehammer, Hamar or Rudshøgda (also on the other side of the Mjøsa). The season starts in August and ends in February.

In Gjøvik itself there is the 4seasons Ferske Varer international supermarket in the city centre, with a range of fresh fruits and vegetables and imported products (Indian, Thai, Turkish, etc). They have a good selection and staff are friendly.

The KIWI supermarket chain usually has a good selection of locally grown seasonal and organic produce, as well as vegetarian and vegan products. If you want to splash out, then we recommend hitting CC Mat at the CC Gjøvik shopping centre. It has a deli and products you won’t find in other supermarkets, but the bigger selection does come at a price. Alternatively, drive to Sweden and stock up for a month or two at lower prices and with a wider range.

For something a bit special, try the Bare Brød bakery in Gjøvik centre for sourdough bread, Danish style loaves, cakes, muffins and snacks, all made on site, as well as the Gjøvik Sjokoladefabrikk.

11. The language is so strange here, how am I going to make sense of anything?

The good news is that the majority of Norwegians speak English. Nearly every tourist centre has information in English and/or German.

As for the local lingo, there are two kinds of Norwegian language: Nynorsk and Bokmål. Nynorsk is a composite language based on the local Norwegian dialects, and Bokmål is based on Danish. While written Norwegian doesn’t change that dramatically, spoken Norwegian can vary so much that you may feel like you’ve just stepped onto another planet. Which is kind of a nice thing, because there’s so much to learn.

Every little bit of Norwegian helps though, and will no doubt impress the locals. Honestly, the language is not hard to learn. English is based on the Scandinavian languages, so you will see many similarities between Norwegian and English. Plus if you know German or Dutch, or even Flemish, then you’re 50% on your way to speaking Norwegian.

Good words to know:

Here are some false friends (words that look the same in two languages but have totally different meanings) that you should be aware of. 🙂

12. What should I know about Norway and Norwegians before coming?

The Norwegian mentality is very different to anything that you’ll experience in Europe, or even in Sweden or Denmark. Most of us have been filled with images of blood thirsty Vikings and the like. But the modern Norwegian is anything but this stereotype. As with anything in life, it pays to keep an open mind and to understand why a certain culture and nationality is the way it is, instead of comparing it to your own. 🙂

It’s true that Norwegians tend to be more reserved, and this can seem strange for people from more gregarious cultures, such as from the Eastern European and Mediterranean regions. But everything needs context. Norway is a very large country, with a very small population. There are huge variances in dialect, language, temperament and habits from region to region. Nature is the one constant in every Norwegian’s life. It has shaped them and it has protected them.

To get the low down from a native Norwegian, watch this video.

13. Where are your bees and honey?

At the moment, we don’t have bees, and therefore no honey. We’re currently deciding the best way to set up bee hives here using natural beekeeping practices. As soon as our bees move in, we’ll publish a post on our blog. In the meantime, there are many other native pollinators that you can find in our garden. 🙂 If you’re interested, please read about treebeekeeping here and natural beekeeping practices here and about the Scandinavian black bee here.

14. Can I go foraging?

Most definitely. There is a national foraging association specialised in foraging wild plants and mushrooms in Norway. Nearly every county or region has their own little branch or club. The closest to us are Gjøvik-Toten or Lillehammer Sopp og Nyttevekstforening.

Common foods/drinks you can forage for are: bilberry, cowberry, strawberry, raspberry, cloudberry, crowberry, blackberry, hazelnuts, Rowan berries, Elder flowers and berries, nettle, dandelion, Alpine lady’s mantle, hops, bog myrtle, clover, sorrel, angelica and Birch sap. To learn more about foraging and eating wild plants in Norway, visit Stephen Barstow’s Edimentals blog.

For information about picking mushrooms in Norway, read the information here in English, or download this brochure in English.

This web site posts on daily plant type observations and has links to a species database. You can also learn more at the Norwegian Botanical Association.

15. I would like to take a day trip to Oslo. I’m thinking of taking the train or bus. What do you recommend?

We recommend driving to Raufoss train station instead of Gjøvik, because you can park your car at Raufoss station for free. Parking at Gjøvik train station used to be free, but they recently changed the rules, and you will have to pay during the week (free on weekends). The law was changed by Gjøvik Council to stop people hogging the car park and reserve more space for the many commuters to Oslo.

If you want to take the bus, then we recommend driving to Lena bus station, where you can also park your car for free. Lena bus station is also the pickup point for Nettbuss which goes all the way to Oslo airport and Oslo central station.

16. Are there mosquitos where you live?

Yes, in summer there are mosquitos in Norway. We aren’t bothered by them while sitting outside on our verandah or the sun terrace but it does depend on how much rainfall we get during summer, e.g. the more rain, the more mossies. It’s only once you go into the garden, as well as down to the lake, that you can expect close encounters with mosquitos. However, if you take some insect repellent with you, or use tea tree or eucalyptus oil, you won’t even notice them. Jasmin often runs around the lake, and hasn’t met a single mosquito yet.

17. Where is the cheapest petrol near you?

We generally find diesel and petrol are cheapest in Raufoss on Monday mornings. A short 8-minute drive down Landåsvegen to Odnes and there is a petrol station with cheap rates on Sunday evenings and very early Monday morning. Dokka also has cheap rates on Tuesdays.

18. Is there free parking in Gjøvik?

There was, but not anymore. You can park at the CC shopping centre and receive two hours free parking. To receive an extra hour free, you’ll have to register your car’s number plate before entering the parking area. For the rest of Gjøvik centre, parking is free after 3pm and on the weekends.

19. I want to drive to Oslo. What do you recommend?

We don’t recommend driving to Oslo! They are trying to reduce the amount of cars going into the city centre, with a ring of toll stations that will cost a small fortune. Take the bus or train instead.