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ecently I had the pleasure of accompanying a client to
fishing industry in this area, as evidenced by tiny villages on
Norway. She wanted to travel with her extended family,
isolated islands. Occasionally we saw narrow strips of fertile
but due to some physical limitations she would be un-
farmland, and sparse vegetation clinging to shoreline crevices
able to take care of herself and make the trip alone. Pen Pal
and sheer cliffs. With the sea such an influence in this country,
Travel to the rescue! My services as a medical travel compan-
it is no surprise that fish is the staple of their diet, served at all
ion were requested. With the date secured and travel plans
meals, including breakfast. Several unusual kinds we tasted
made by the family well in advance, I was kept informed of
were clipfish and stockfish (both important export varieties),
all arrangements. Prior to departure, I visited the client to offer
nourishing coalfish and Arctic char. I read that archaeologi-
suggestions for packing and met with her medical advisors to
cal excavations have revealed that coalfish was being used for
clarify her medication requirements and interventions for the
food as early as 6000 years ago. Reindeer, served in several
different ways, is another common source of protein in this
Our trip originated in Newark, NJ, with an overnight trans-
region and reputedly very lean and healthy.
atlantic flight to Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, and a con-
Not only is the fishing industry important to so many Nor-
nection to Bergen. The very old town of Bergen, established
wegians, it is also a rich source of food for sea birds. Many
in 1070, has a unique character and atmosphere. Its center
hundreds of thousands of nesting birds live in colonies along
was known as the Kingdom of Norway in the Middle Ages,
the northern coastline and island rookeries. Throughout the
and even today it is considered the natural capital of Europe’s
ages, bird populations have fluctuated as a result of overfish-
North Atlantic. It is still a vibrant shipping and trading city,
ing at certain times. Depletion of herring fry in the Barents
with a bustling fish market, and the starting point of our 4,000
Sea, for example, was catastrophic 20-30 years ago, resulting
km Coastal Express voyage aboard the MS Nordlys.
in puffins being unable to nourish their offspring, with subse-
Norway has a population of 4.5 million people, many
quent long term problems for their population recovery.
of who live along the extensive coastline all the way up and
Visitors from all over the world come to northern Norway
past the North Cape to Kirkenes, just 15 km from the Russian
not only for the scenery, but for the thrill of crossing the Arc-
border. Even though much of this coast lies above the Arc-
tic Circle (at 66º 33’ north), marking the southernmost point
tic Circle, all but Kirkenes in severe winters, remain ice free
at which the Midnight Sun shines 24 hours a day, and to see
due to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Approximately 4
abundant wildlife: seals, whales and walrus, blue or white arc-
million cubic meters per second bathe the coast of Norway
tic fox, reindeer, and at least 50 species of birds.
and flow into the fjords. The Norwegian coastline is indented
As tourists, we found Norway to be an extremely clean
with many, many deep fjords which were formed millions of
country, its citizens apparently very conscious of the environ-
years ago by receding glaciers carving their way through mas-
ment. On board ship, recycling is important with specially
sive granite mountains. Today, large cruise ships and trading
marked bins for paper, plastic, metal, glass and the “rest” situ-
vessels are able to navigate for miles inland, allowing tourists
ated in several places on each deck. Unlike the US, water is
to see magnificent views, and inland communities to receive
not freely provided, but must be purchased in refillable glass
supplies. We sailed more than 100 km into the Geiranger
bottles at meal times. Additionally, a notice in our cabin re-
Fjord, with its wild, high mountains (a few still snow tipped in
quested we reuse our towels to save unnecessary laundering,
summer), deep gorges and spectacular waterfalls.
adding to eventual water pollution.
Our sea route took us northward through Norway’s nu-
My client, a wheelchair-bound woman in her mid 80s,
merous island kingdoms and past thousands of islets, sker-
and I shared a cabin. This was our third trip together. On a
ries and lighthouses. Most people’s livelihood comes from the
typical day, I was able to provide her with assistance to the
October 2009
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