Three cups of coffee, juice, bread, ham, cheese and a boiled egg in the airy breakfast room and I was almost ready to begin my day. It was when the hostel owner, a pleasant lady with 80s hair, came to fill up my coffee cup for the second time that I finally plucked up the courage to ask what ‘thank you’ was in Norwegian. I road tested it when she brought my boiled egg and got amused but not unkind chuckles from the other three occupants of the room. A large, stuffed bird peered over my shoulder.
‘Have you tried the brown cheese?’ asked the lady sitting alone by the window. ‘It’s very Norwegian. Either people love it or they really hate it. It’s a goats’ cheese.’
I took a slice from where it was hiding behind a pot of pickles on my platter. It was the colour of caramelised condensed milk, and tasted very odd. The texture was almost grainy, and as well as the unmistakable acid tang of goat, there was also a strange kind of sweetness to it. Not bad, necessarily, but a bit intense for breakfast.
When I came to pick up my bag in the evening, the hostel owner stood out on the porch talking with me for a minute or two.
‘There is an elderly gentleman from England, and he must be fascinated with this Hurtigruten boat you’re taking. He has come every year for…this will be his seventh year, and he always takes this boat. He will come again on Monday. He stays a night here at the start. Then eleven days on the boat, then another night here, and he flies home. Always the same.’