Er, well it would help if we had a winter to speak of in Britain rather than squalling winds we’re experiencing this week!
Having spent fifteen years growing up in Norway the whole notion of winter wonderland kinda means six long months of flumping, yes flumping around in layers of grey thermals, cute but itchy wool socks, wool hats to wreak havoc with your hair, traditional Marius jumpers knitted by your nan forty years ago (think Sara Lund’s fetching woolen ones in The Killing), not to mention giant snow boots and a layer of god-awful Gore-Tex to shield you from arctic winds. That’s the reality of winter in Nordic countries folks.
Forget sexy snow bunny, think giant, waddling yeti from October til March. Kids look adorable in all those woolen layers, adults less so. It’s a wonder the birth rate in Nordic countries doesn’t plummet between June and March each year, all that itchy wool is the most ingenious prophylactic to getting frisky.
Anyway. Last December I returned to Norway on a press trip and -18 degrees celsius weather. The cold was so discombobulating my cheeks froze and for a few minutes I wondered what the hell I was doing back on terra norvegia. Reader, the cold and I do not get along. Much as this girl loves the aestethics of snow and skiing, I would much rather bask in the sea and soak up the sun than flump around in minus anything degrees. Plus, feeling like an itchy, heavy-footed yeti doesn’t exactly make one want to leap with joy. Your cheeks may look rosy but you just feel BIG.
Shows what 11 years of living in a temperate climate does to you. And this wasn’t even as cold as it can get in central Norway – as a kid I had heard this little town in central Norway called Røros was famous for holding the record of coldest ever temperature south of Finnmark, a refreshing – 50.4 degrees celsius.
That’s MINUS 50.4 degrees. Unfathomable really. What compels polar explorers to spend months in such temperatures is completely beyond me. Norwegians get very excited about the cold. Perhaps that’s what keeps the birth rate up
So back to Røros. A town in central Norway that gets rather chilly in winter but also known for its picturesque wooden buildings and now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Røros is echt winter wonderland, replete with markets and festive cheer in the run-up to jul (as we say in ‘Weegie). And plenty of delicious, warming gløgg.
Back in Norway for the first time in a year and against my better, grumpy nature I was actually excited to see proper winter, and lots of appropriately clad winter folk (having left the cold spell in London where people seem to think wearing ghastly Uggs in snow is sensible). Also the country doesn’t grind to a halt when it snows, and after the press started reporting on potential food shortages across the UK I was reassured to find Norwegians still knew how to boss winter into submission.
It was an invigorating trip. Plenty of cold, dry air which strangely doesn’t feel as cold as the damp air back in Britain, adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities and great food. Local reindeer served with chanterelles and mandelpoteter (almond potatoes) at Vertshuset Røros was a particular highlight for me. It’s hard to find reindeer meat back in the UK and I miss this delicate, tender game meat. Vertshuset itself is old-school Norwegian with its bold red exterior and warm, cosy wooden interior. I’d love to go back and stay there for a few days. Next year!
We also met local producers – the region has a growing Slow Food movement which is encouraging, and Røros itself offers much more than the usual schmaltzy tourist experience with its quaint Christmas market, jolly, friendly locals and lots of hand-knitted wool items made from Røros wool – some of the finest in the country.
Feeling a bit nostalgic for Norwegian winters and rather pathetically drowning in work at the moment I thought I’d share some of the photos from our trip. Obviously I’m biased but I couldn’t recommend a visit to Røros more highly and would definitely return, if only for a reprise of the dog-sledding at Alaskan Husky Tours – the most fun I’ve had outdoors in years. If you don’t believe me, watch Tim Hayward’s report on our dog-sledding expedition. That’s what winter is about.
Hope you like the snapshots of festive Røros and its Winter Wonderland folks, and normal service will resume later this week with a round-up of 2011 cookbooks and a few Scandi Christmas baking recipes too. Better too late than never…
Dogsledding at Alaskan Husky Tours:
Run by Ketil Reitan, world leading expert in dogsledding
Cost per person from NOK 890