After a rather arduous journey home due to super-tight security on trans-Atlantic flights and getting bumped off our flight to Chicago (though we were handsomely rewarded: we got travel vouchers that will probably mean a free or close-to-free flight to Europe for both of us), we’re finally finished with our trip.
It was really, really fun. I took almost 500 pictures, and Denny took more than that. I narrowed it down to my top 139, which I’ve posted here. For those of you who do not have patience with my copious shutter-clicks, here’s a brief-ish summary with some photos that best represent my memories of Norway. Click any photo for a larger version.
All the guidebooks begin with their descriptions of Oslo with some sort of apology: “Though it’s not one of Europe’s beautiful capitals, Oslo has a lot to offer,” or “Oslo may not inspire poetry, but give it a chance.” I find that tone to be inaccurate. Oslo is, as a capital, fairly young, so it’s not steeped in ancient stuff like some other European capitals are, but it’s just as nice. Oslo is very clean, spacious, and modern; it reminded me more of Minneapolis than London, but I like Minneapolis, so there you go. I really enjoyed the fact that there were lots of modern sculptures and fountains all over.
This island off the west coast is where Kaspar and Sabine’s wedding was. It was very rural and unspoiled, quite peaceful and nice. Their wedding was really fun; lots of people, including Kaspar, wore traditional Norwegian costumes that represent their home regions. The other guests were also really nice. We had a lot of fun talking to people from Norway, Sweden, France, and England. Cute kids abounded. Kaspar’s family was very warm and welcoming.
Bergen feels much older than Oslo, and much more typically European. It has a lively downtown area with a bustling fishmarket, nice parks and museums, and pedestrian-friendly, shop-lined streets. We rented an apartment there, and it was fun to shop at the fishmarket and local grocery stores and feel like one of the natives.
The highlight of the last day we spent in Oslo, for me, was the Vigeland sculpture park. Vigeland was a prolific sculptor who gifted a huge collection to the city of Oslo in exchange for free studio space and some assistants. His work is really captivating. The sculptures at the park are life-sized or larger-than-life humans interacting in all different stages of life. My favorite ones were of the cute babies. I could have spent hours and hours there, but we were tired because we’d already been to three museums that day.
The highlights of the wedding were the group sing-a-long and Kaspar’s dad’s speech. I guess it’s traditional in Norway for everyone to sing song parodies on the topic of the couple. Kaspar’s mom wrote really cute ones about Kaspar’s growing-up years. During Kaspar’s dad’s toast, he mentioned that as Kaspar was growing up, he spent a lot of time alone with his computer. Kaspar’s dad said he often asked himself, “Are we raising a nerrhhd?” Imagine him saying it in his Norse seaman’s voice. The consensus was that, nerdy or not, Kaspar turned out pretty well.
A lot of stuff comes in tubes in Norway. We saw shrimp paste, caviar, bacon paste, and salmon paste, all stored in what looked like toothpaste tubes. Rad.
On the train from Myrdal to Oslo, we witnessed a couple of German teenagers go through two entire cycles of cry-fighting and smoochy making-up. During the fighting parts, the girl would ask the guy for Kleenexes, so he’d hand her the pack, and she’d take one, then hurl the pack at him. We couldn’t figure out why she didn’t just keep it, unless she got satisfaction from beaning him with it. I think they were friends again by the end of the trip, but we got off at an earlier stop than they did, so we’ll never know for sure.
Norway was wonderful, and I think I could have stayed another week if my food budget were bigger. A burger and fries costs $10-$15 USD. Yikes. Grocery stores were more reasonable, so it was good when we were in the apartment and could do some cooking.
Denny’s new favorite food is Ballerina cookies.
I almost barfed on the flight from Stockholm to Newark, but I didn’t. It was very turbulent. The people at the Newark airport were very rude, but to be fair, I’m sure they had a very hard day what with all the extra security. It stood out in stark contrast to all the Scandinavians; every person we dealt with in the Oslo, Bergen and Stockholm airports was extremely nice, and they were under even tighter security restrictions.
Denny did a very good job driving us home from Chicago. He rocked out to the Rick Moranis country album and the Talking Heads. I dozed, waking up occasionally to adjust the iPod. And now…back to work tomorrow.