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Minimal Stay

Posted by Tom Haines, Globe Travel Writer  July 29, 2007 01:31 AM

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At the edge of Oslo in a jet-lag haze. Globe photographer Essdras Suarez saw it this way:

oslo airport 072807.jpg

The goal of our trip, which continues early tomorrow morning with a flight north to Tromso, then Berlevag, is the northern edge of Arctic Norway. That region, known as Varanger, in eastern Finnmark, is more a product of its setting against the Barents Sea, than its relation to the crisp capital of Norway. Ethnic Finns dominate some Varanger towns. Fishing villages grew on the Pomor sea trade with Russian neighbors. Sami native communities still herd reindeer inland, though many coastal customs have diminished. So the point this evening in Oslo was a transition from international air travel to the move farther north.

The walkway in Essdras's photo leads from the airport to the Radisson SAS, a symbol of Scandinavian style. Room 5130

blends 60s modern (checked lime carpet; wood with black-died grain), kitschy details (ornate clear-plastic mirror frame; green cones atop the bed board), vibrant colors (red scarf of African woman in portrait, burnt orange drapes) and random whimsy (a 3-foot-long immitation red pepper). Downstairs, "chilly potato soup" with smoked salmon, arctic caviar and truffle oil goes as an appetizer for $18 a serving.

To get a taste of life beyond, I set out on a pre-dinner run, which cleared a few round-abouts then followed a paved bike path. North and south were spun by an already far northern sun. Soft rain snuck down, barely visible. Traffic was light but steady on the approach to Oslo airport.

Norway is home to 4.6 million people, and last year it was the world's third largest net exporter of oil, behind only Saudi Arabia and Russia. That makes for a rich state. But for the middle class, with gas pump prices hovering above $6 a gallon, it may be tough to get anywhere.

For us, though, the destination stays fixed: tomorrow, north to Berlevag.

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