Let’s face it, travel can be expensive. I realized years ago that I could increase my opportunities to see the world simply by responding “I’ll come!” when invited to visit friends and family in exotic locations. That strategy sent me to Maui, Santa Barbara, Tuscany, and Manchester, England, to name a few.
In October of 2005 I responded to a casual “you should come visit me!” from my friend Carolyn by traveling to Oslo, where she was completing a sabbatical. I flew with her to Norway via Reykjavik, Iceland as she returned from a visit home. In the late afternoon of the day we arrived, we walked around Oslo Harbor.
The air felt fresh and thin, sailboats chimed at their moorings, and Norway appeared to my eyes to be colored in a thousand shades of blue and grey. I loved it instantly. Frisked by the icy wind, we explored the Akershus Fortress that overlooks the harbor.
While Carolyn worked, I explored Frognerparken, home to hundreds of bronze and granite statues by the beloved Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. Wikipedia describes the sculpture garden as celebrating man’s journey from the cradle to the grave, and mentions the many statues of ‘children at play.’ I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this strange collection, but as far as I could discern, the story went something like this:
At some point during their journey from cradle to grave, Norwegians apparently were attacked by a swarm of babies.
The adults fought valiantly, but eventually they were overcome.
The babies took control.
They eventually grew into some very creepy looking children.
I wasn’t clear on all the details, but the story didn’t seem to end well.
The statues depicted nude people in every possible human combination. Perhaps it was the chill in the wind, but to my eyes the statues appeared either sinister or sad.
Some of the most mystifying relationships were also the most intriguing.
Frognerparken seemed to me to be an odd place to relax and read a paper, but this Norwegian man tucked himself right in amidst all of the angst to enjoy the sun. The stone girl behind him seemed to be reading over his shoulder.
At Frognerparken, I also discovered the secret to recent Norwegian prosperity. They may claim that it is due to the vast reserves of oil discovered in the Norwegian Sea, but I believe I’ve stumbled on the real source of that influx of cash.
One of my favorite things to do in a foreign country is visit a local grocery store. I like to see what the people who live there eat at home, how they prepare it, and how much it costs.
As it turns out, my French was not entirely useless in Norway — ‘kreme Sjampinjong-o’ when read aloud sounds quite a bit like ‘creme champignon,’ also known as our American classic, Cream of Mushroom soup.
Scandinavian countries may have a reputation for being less than welcoming, but I felt right at home. Maybe it was my Swedish genes, but something about Norway just felt right to me. Having said that, I may never go back. It remains the most expensive country I have ever visited. Our 7-minute cab ride from the train station to the apartment cost about $25, and it was hard to go out to lunch for less than $30 per person. Carolyn and I were not about to let sticker shock keep us from an adventure, and after a few days in Oslo, we booked ourselves on a whirlwind tour of western Norway, called ‘Norway in a Nutshell.’