The ambassador of Norway to India, Nils Ragnar Kamsvag, talks about his tryst with this country and its many hues
“Coming to India for the first time can be an overwhelming experience,” says Nils Ragnar Kamsvag, recalling his first brush with the country in August 2015, when he was appointed the Norwegian ambassador to the country. He affirms that in all the time he has spent in India, he has found himself thoroughly enchanted by its colours, its diversity and, above all, its people. He talks to Shubh Yatra about his experiences in India so far.
The past year-and-a-half has been an extremely enriching and rewarding phase for me. I have travelled to several places in India, and absorbing the culture, vibrance and traditions has been a truly memorable experience. I have so far covered nearly half the states in the country, including Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, a few states in the Northeast and Goa.
And along my journey, I’ve found many places that I would love to experience again. Before my India posting ends, I hope to have visited all the states in India. There is so much richness and such diversity of history and geography in this country that a traveller will never run out of exciting places to visit!
I have found over time that India and Norway have quite a bit in common, even beyond the obvious. We are both democratic countries with rich heritage and we are equipped with the intention as well as the willingness to preserve our traditions even as we move towards the future with zeal.
Norway and India also share strong cultural bonds. At the government level, both countries have had a cultural cooperation agreement since the 1960s. At the same time, cultural exchanges are also taking place at the private level, through NGOs, cultural institutions and even artists. We have recently been working with Indian filmmakers to shoot Bollywood songs in Norway, further enriching people-to-people contact between the two nations.
Even the food practices in both countries are similar – they are deeply traditional yet modern. Like Indians, Norwegians also have treasured food traditions that are practised during festivals like Christmas and Easter, just as Indians do during festivals. At the same time, just as Indian curries are famous in Norway, Norwegian salmon is slowly becoming a favourite among Indian diners, and Indian chefs are also experimenting with the fish. In fact, the Norwegian Seafood Council has tied up with Food Hall, a premium gourmet superstore in New Delhi, to promote sea food from Norway in India.
For any Indian visiting Norway for the first time, exploring Norwegian architecture at places like the Oslo Opera House and some of our old stave churches is a must. You cannot claim to have truly experienced Norway until you’ve seen the Norwegian fjords and iconic landmarks such as Trolltunga, Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten. The train ride from Oslo to Bergen, including a visit to Flåm, is one of the most stunning experiences you can have.
The best time to visit Norway is from June to September, since the weather is favourable and the days are longer. Places like Lofoten and Tromsø are also well-known but not always included in tourist itineraries. For visitors who wish to fully explore Norway, I would recommend that they travel beyond the more frequently-visited spots.
As for India, any Norwegian coming here must visit Kerala, Varanasi, Rajasthan, the Northeast and Goa.