In Norway, the Journey Is the Destination


Daring and courageous. I thought about his words often as I drove for five days, sometimes for as long as eight hours at a stretch, both in terms of the architecture I saw as well as in trying to convince myself that his overarching plan described how I was feeling. In fact, my state of mind about the trip could be described as shaky at best. A friend in Oslo warned me that bad weather often cropped up unexpectedly in October, especially in the north: torrential rain storms or early snow storms that leave cars stranded on a mountain pass or by a lonely fjord.

I was slowly becoming a more daring driver but I was not used to being without a passenger in a country where I didn’t speak a word of the language. On top of that, I already felt emotionally quite alone from my marital breakup, a melancholy sensation that only intensified during intervals when an hour passed without seeing another car, even on major highways.

Photo

One of the many ferry crossings across fjords on the Norwegian Scenic Route from Trollstigen to Geiranger.

Credit
David B. Torch for The New York Times

After a couple of days though, the peace and diversity of the countryside became meditational, a panorama that seemed dreamlike through my windscreen. Traditional country cottages built into mounds of earth with grass-topped roofs and green weathered doors looked as if they were out of “The Hobbit.” Dark thick forest alternated with bucolic sun-dappled farmland and bare, desolate mountains overlooking quaint lakeside towns. One late afternoon as I drove into a village, the sun appeared to drop like a fireball into the fjord. Spectacular modern installations appeared on remote corners in the most far-fetched of places, that they sometimes seemed like a figment of my imagination.

I have never seen a place so multifaceted in its geography and so unpopulated, except perhaps on the other side of the earth, in Patagonia.

Above Trollstigen, another project conceived along these routes is the Juvet Landscape Hotel, designed by the architects Jensen & Skodvin, and the creepy, if incredibly appropriate aesthetically, setting for the 2015 film “Ex Machina.”