I have arrived safely in Stryn. The weather is still great, I'm hoping it holds for tomorrow. I 'spose I'll just post a few pictures for now. If all goes well, I'll be skiing all day.
Lillehammer, Norway, at 12:30 am
Last summer I spent nine weeks in Darmstadt, Germany doing automotive research with the National Science Foundation for the "engineering experience" portion of my Horton Scholarship trip. So, this summer, I am having myself a "cultural experience" in Scandinavia. I will be spending thirty days traveling through Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
After going to bed last night at 6:00, I awoke this morning to chirping birds and a brilliantly shining sun. At 5:30. The weather when I went turned in for the night was eerily reminiscent of Blacksburg: windy, rainy, and cold. Today, however, it is gorgeous. I could see all the way out to the Oslo fjord from my breakfast table. The hostel breakfast was great. Norwegian breakfast resembles German breakfast: there are cheeses (Jarlsberg!), cold meats, jams and jellies, fresh vegetables, muesli, and grainy breads. A few Norwegian additions include pickled herring, beets, and a few substances I have yet to identify. The coffee and juices are excellent.
Today is Syttende Mai: Norwegian Independence Day. Oslo on a typical day is pretty busy, but today the city was a zoo. Not thinking clearly, I wore my orange effect t-shirt today. (Norway’s national colors are red, white, and blue, just like ours.) Most people wear the Norwegian colors on Syttende Mai. Others wore traditional Norwegian garb or their finest Sunday clothes with red and white ribbons.
I probably saw three quarters of a million people today. The only other person wearing an orange shirt was a hobo.
I felt rather out of place, but the festive atmosphere and the great weather were a good distraction. There were a smattering of different parades, but the biggest one was the traditional children’s parade, which went on for a good three hours. I visited Slottet (the Royal Palace), Stortinget (Parliament), and the brand new Opera house, which was just finished in 2006. The building is really quite remarkable – the whole outside is tiled with marble and it rises on a majestic slant right out of the harbor. On the inside there is a Guggenheim-esque rising spiral with a cool wooden pattern. Definitely the coolest building I have seen in Oslo. The urinals in the men’s restroom were pretty flipping sweet too.
I grabbed some Subway for lunch (95 NOK = 12 dollars) and then made my way over to Vigeland park and statue garden, where I encountered a statue featuring a man that I fondly refer to as “the baby basher.” This Vigeland guy would have been an interesting dinner guest to say the least. Most of his work was weird and some of it was downright grotesque, but it was pretty cool to look at.
I’m having my other frozen pizza from yesterday now. The past two days I have spent less than half of my $40/day food budget – but I am hoping to save money in the first few weeks because I did not account for my possible day of skiing in Stryn on my original budget.
It’s 6:30 and I am tired again – I can tell I’m still not adjusted to European time. I’m going to stay up a bit later tonight to hopefully allow myself to wake up at a more normal time tomorrow. 6:30 instead of 5:30, perhaps? A few pictures from my busy day:
Hello everyone. I have landed safely and successfully made my way to the Haraldsheim Hostel in Oslo, 4 km from the city center. It’s my first day in Scandinavia (and Norway) and I have already learned several new things:
1. I do not speak Norwegian.
I just returned from the grocery store, where I bought two pizzas and a bar of chocolate, which rang up for 75.90 NOK – roughly 12 dollars. Fortunately everything was well labeled and I was able to see my total on the cashier’s display, thus avoiding a total communication failure. I had a delightful conversation with the young woman working the register.
TORY - smiling, dumbfounded: Uhhhhh…
CASHIER – smiling: Birkelsojidorf sikfj suudkj rweoiru. Sodudk skojd ox?
TORY – still smiling, handing over the money: Um.
CASHIER – accepting money, puzzled at lack of response: Sodudk skojd ox?
TORY – clearly distressed: Yes.
CASHIER – frowning: Tslkjdoiook durpfk. Dfjek uyoot.
TORY – apologetic, dismayed at unintentional breach of etiquette: Danke. (Oops!)
Aside from my most recent experience buying groceries, everyone I have met in Oslo has spoken impeccable English, in many cases with no discernable accent. I have my handy dandy Norwegian phrase book, but I haven’t needed it yet. I guess at the store I was too embarrassed to break into English. I’m eating one of those pizzas right now – Jarlsberg cheese, ham, and mushrooms. Delicious.
2. Norwegians are realllly friendly.
I landed in Norway with no train reservations, no bus tickets, no map, and no friends. I was quite pleased with how easy it was to get all of those things taken care of in almost no time at all. Not only does everyone here speak English – they are also really friendly! I have been to a lot of places where I felt like I was part of some sort of invasion. Certainly not the case here… I have now paid for all of my accommodations, transit needs, and admission fees for the next four days. I pulled out 3000 NOK this morning after I landed, and half of it is gone as a result. I have experience working with the Euro, the Pound, and the Swiss Franc, all of which are comparable to the dollar in spending power. So, finding out that a bottle of water is 18 NOK is taking some time to get used to.
3. I love me some Jarlsberg.
Well, I am going to take a few more bites of this pizza and then it’s time to tram back down to the city center for some exploring. It’s almost 2 pm Norway time, which means I’ve been awake for 21 hours now. I haven’t crashed yet, but I know it’s coming. My goal is to make it to 5 pm.
A few pictures from day one: