In May flowers are blooming, and so are we Norwegians. You can feel nature virtually exploding into life all around you. There are several public holidays in May, and the Norwegians make full use of them to celebrate springtime after a long winter.
Late spring is when the scenery in Norway is at its most spectacular, with trees and flowers waking to life, snow in the mountains and melt water swelling the waterfalls, and sights like the orchards of flowering fruit trees along the Hardangerfjord in May are images of paradise to many.
While most consider spring a season that starts with the spring equinox in March, it may actually start as early as February in parts of Norway, when the snow may start to melt and the first flowers may start to appear.
Spring is a fickle mistress, however, and may choose to turn a cold shoulder until well into May. Even then, there may be days when it is cold enough to snow, and days when it is warm enough to sit outside in the sunshine. Spring months can also be very windy, so be careful with that umbrella.
This is also the season when the temperature differences between the southern and northern part of the country are largest. Spring is the time of year when daytime and nighttime temperatures differ the most.
Spring is the time for lamb dishes, usually enjoyed around Easter, and the year’s first potatoes, asparagus and wild garlic are the extras that will leave many Norwegian foodies weak at the knees. The same is true for fresh fish of all sorts, including herring and cod from the Lofoten area, called Skrei and considered a local delicacy.
Closer to the summer, rhubarb will appear in all its leafy glory, and all the feast days in may will make cakes of all sorts emerge from many a kitchen, particularly in Western Norway.
Traditionally, spring was also the time to finish off the last of the winter stores, so salted meat and “raspeball” – a kind of traditional potato dumpling – is a popular springtime dish to this day.
When it comes to dressing for the weather in spring, don’t trust your own eyes – by the time you’ve put your jacket on and tied your shoelaces, the weather may have changed for the worse. Or better.
Weather and temperatures can change quickly, especially in the mountains, so bring good footwear and warm clothes no matter what it’s like when you set out. Spring weather can be very unpredictable, so make sure you dress in layers and are prepared for both sun and rain.
If you’re out seeing the sights in a city or urban area, an umbrella is a good idea, unless it’s very windy. Out in the wilderness, however, bring a raincoat or windbreaker instead. Either way, sunglasses are a good idea, and remember to use sunscreen if you’re enjoying the sun in the mountains, where there is still snow on the ground. The white snow reflects the sun, and you’ll get sunburned much more easily than you’d think.
Spring arrives early in Southern Norway compared to the rest of the country, usually sometime in April. It is easy to know when spring is coming: The days get a little warmer and lighter day by day. Spring flowers appear, the trees are budding, birds start to build their nests and the farmers deliver the newborn lambs.
Arctic Norway may not experience true spring until late May or early June, but by then the long and bright summer days have already started, so you might not care so much.
Just like spring arrives later in Northern Norway than the rest of the country, it gets to the coast and lowlands long before it crawls up the mountains. As you travel up or down the mountains, you can follow the changing seasons from winter to spring or from spring to winter, all in just a few hours.
Summer in Norway means long days, short nights, and often quite stable and pleasant temperatures on both land and sea. Skinny dipping at night or soaking up the rays in the day, this is the time for it.
Autumn is summer’s wetter and colder younger brother, and sees the arrival of a palette of bright red, yellow and orange, and berries and mushrooms are plentiful in the mountains and forests. If you can’t take the summer sun, this is the time to go hiking.
In the Viking sagas wintertime is often summed up as “that winter he stayed at home at the farm”. It was a time to stay indoors and rest up and spend time with the family, but in this day and age, you might as well spend your winter days enjoying the snow under your feet and the northern lights overhead.
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According to ancient legend, the name Norway comes from the old norse word Norðrvegr, which means “the way north”, a name given to this long and craggy coast because it was largely ice-free in the wintertime.