When traveling in a new country, we are always hyper-aware of the road signs and rules. But we started to see the same signs over and over on our trip. Everywhere we looked, there were road signs warning drivers of animals potentially in the road. But these weren’t general awareness signs; they were highly specific. The signs would tell you exactly when you could expect potential wildlife on the road. The most popular sign we saw during our two weeks in Norway was a sign cautioning us about moose.
At first, it started with a sign with an image of a moose that read, “200 – 800 m”. Ok, so in 200 meters we will be on the lookout for a moose for the next 600 meters. Got it. And then the moose signs continued. Right after the first 800 meters passed, we saw another sign with a moose that read, “0 – 2 km”. This sign was a little bit more general than the others, but we still started to be on the lookout for a moose right away. The signs continued and continued to pop up like this for our entire trip.
Our first thoughts were wondering how much did it cost to make all of these signs to warn us about moose in Norway? Wouldn’t it be easier to just say, “Moose in the area for the next 100 km. You have been warned”?
To help pass the time in the car, Jordan and I started to make up stories about the moose signs. We began to think they were Norway’s greatest joke. Everyone talks about them, but they don’t actually exist. Have you heard the joke about going to see the rooftop pool when you started high school? Just like that. (If you haven’t heard the joke, there’s actually no rooftop pool. Everyone talks about it but only the gullible people believe it.)
We decided that the moose signs and the distances provided on each weren’t actually to warn drivers about moose in the road. They were instead real estate signs for moose to know what plots of land were available for them to graze on. Yes, we are weird. Throughout our entire trip, we commented on many different spots in Norway that we thought would be perfect for a moose. But there were no moose in sight!
Even the locals asked us if we had seen a moose! We knew it had to be a pretty popular event after a guide on the whale safari trip asked Jordan if he had spotted any moose. We were now convinced that we would see a moose on this trip.
However, we were started to feel defeated as we continued to pass more and more signs without spotting a moose. As we continued on an on our trip looking for a moose, we couldn’t help but wonder, is seeing a moose in Norway a myth, just like the trolls?
Trolls in Norway are rooted in Norwegian mythology. Often mischievous and rarely friendly, the trolls of Norway like to play tricks on humans. The trolls typically live in mountains, caves, or isolated rocks. The trolls of Norway may be large and dumb, or small and round, but are always ready to cause trouble for humans! The one way to ward trolls off is by ringing church bells. Trolls are afraid of church bells and will run away at the sound.
Shops were full of troll toys and trinkets for purchase. There are many popular tourist sights and hikes that also have the name “Troll” in them. There’s Trollstigen, a winding road with multiple hairpin turns. Sounds like something a troll would make. Next, you have Trolltunga, a popular hike with a large rock that juts out over the fjord that gives the appearance of a troll’s tongue. The troll may have stuck out its tongue and accidentally became frozen in place when exposed to the sunlight. Then, there is the Trollkirka hike that leads to beautiful marble mountain caves with water rushing through them.
We did the Trollkirka hike, alternatively known as “Trolls Church” when translated. We hiked up a steep, slippery, and muddy trail and were welcomed at the top with the entrance to these caves. The caves were stunning! I am writing a full review of our hike that I will share soon.
On our way up the hike, it was foggy and we had limited visibility outside of the trail. We heard the distant sounds of sheep with the bells on their collars ringing beyond the fog. Could the bells on the sheep be similar to church bells, warding the trolls away?
Jordan and I joke about seeing animals on hikes as ominous and bad signs. On our Iceland vacation in 2017, we were on a long, ten-mile hike where the weather conditions were starting to deteriorate fast. Little to my knowledge at the time, Jordan had planned on proposing at a certain location on this hike and we continued on. There was a lone sheep on the eerie mountainside and we felt like this was a warning telling us to turn around. We did not turn around, and after I told Jordan, “please don’t let us die up here,” he did not end up proposing on this hike.
We will always remember that day in Iceland as “the hike where we almost died,” and we were hoping not to have any trouble on the Trollkirka hike in Norway after hearing the sheep in the distance. Sure enough, the trolls had something else in mind.
On our way back to the car, my hiking boot slipped on a steep rock face. I couldn’t stop myself from falling and sliding down a few feet. I wasn’t hurt or injured by the fall, but I did get very muddy and had a large bruise on my side. The bruise was shaped exactly like the face of a dolphin. I like to think that one of the trolls was playing tricks and gave me a kick down the trail for fun. He probably thought he was saving us some time! I even bet the troll’s signature mark is a dolphin’s face. Next time we will carry a bell with us, just in case.
Trolls aren’t the only mythical creatures in Norway. We also learned of a Huldra, a Norwegian mountain spirit who tries to lure men into the forest. The Huldra looks like a beautiful woman but actually has a tail that she keeps hidden under her dress. Folklore has it that when the men go in the forest, they never come back out! While I was safe, I had to keep an eye on Jordan to make sure that no Huldra went after him.
We were lucky enough to be able to experience a Huldra first hand while in Norway. We stayed in Flåm for the night and took a train ride through the mountains on the famous Flåmsbana. The train ride promised beautiful views of the valley and a stop as Kjosfossen, a waterfall over 700 feet high. The train stopped for about five minutes at the waterfall, and we were able to get off to take photos.
While we were stopped at the waterfall, we suddenly started to hear music playing. A woman in red comes out and starts to wildly dance and sing. But it’s not a woman at all, it’s a Huldra! We listened to the sounds of the Huldra and can now see how men may be mesmerized enough to follow her into the forest. Listen to the video yourself below.
Trolls and huldra aside, are moose also mythical creatures of Norway? Were the signs warning us about moose proportionate to the number of moose actually in the area? Did we actually see a moose while in Norway?
We saw plenty of moose memorabilia. There were moose signs, talking moose heads, colorful moose antlers hanging on trees, Andy Warhol style moose designs on a bridge, and even a giant silver moose statue. Yes, a silver moose statue in the middle of nowhere.
We learned that Norway has placed signs, art, and statues all along the roadside to help break up the monotony of the drive. With endless trees in sight and no nearby towns, Norway hopes this will help drivers stay alert on the road and reduce the number of accidents. And it worked for us! It got us out of the car to stretch our legs for a few minutes as we wondered why there was a giant silver moose statue in the middle of nowhere.
But we also saw one real moose in Norway too!
We spotted a moose in the first week of our trip. We named her “Mrs. Moose,” and I spotted her after dinner as we were heading to our hotel for the night. It was a two-lane road and there were not many cars around. As we were driving along, I saw something brown in the woods. I’d been fooled before; there are many moose-like rocks and trees out there. After exclaiming, “It’s a moose! A moose! I saw a moose!”, Jordan quickly turned the car around on the road and we headed back towards where I had first seen it. Sure enough, it was a real moose! Jordan quickly grabbed his camera to capture some photos of it. The moose stayed around for a few minutes and even posed for us before darting off into the woods.
And if could you believe it, the area we spotted the moose had no signs warning us about moose in the area! This further proves our sound theory that the moose signs are only for available moose plots, right?
So there you have it. Moose in Norway are real and are not mythical creatures. Please enjoy this photo of “Mrs. Moose” below, who looks like she is smiling at us because she knows the real secrets of the forest.
Thanks for reading! Hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend. Next week I’ll finally share our Norway itinerary. In the meantime, check out this post I wrote on how to see polar bears in Norway!