Hello from Oslo!
Norway is a beautiful place to spend Spring Break- or any other time of the year (on the sunny side of the equinoxes is better). I'm travelling this week with Ian B. of Canada and IUB. We are visiting a friend of his; they both went to a Davis UWC high school with Martha W of the Lafayette-IUB exchange. This means that one among us knows the language and that accommodation is taken care of. The former is quite nice as the national language [Norse] is a bit hard to understand for a non-native. It is a Germanic language (as are German, Dutch, and English), but that's helpful only in trying to read signs and such.
The latter point is especially helpful in the land of the cheeseburger - Norway is a ridiculously expensive country! Norway has the highest standard of living of any country in the world. Only 3% of the land is arable, so bringing in most of the food and materials probably costs a bunch, and they have high taxes supporting a very strong welfare program. Salaries are much higher here to match.
Norway is an exceptionally beautiful country, though, and more than worth all the costs of visiting. It fits extremely well into my travel goals of finding places of amazing beauty that are off the beaten path...who comes to Norway in the spring?
We stayed in Oslo for the first and last day of our trip, only a beautiful bus ride and discount flight away from Bremen. Oslo is a great city, on the fjords and the capital of the country. One of the first places we visited was Vigeland Park, full of statues expressing almost every human emotion or part of life that is commonly shared...quite an interesting place. We saw the palace, the park, the national theatre, the parliament, various embassies, and the Nobel Peace Museum. Oslo is Norway's largest city (Bergen the second largest) and it looks like we are definitely making a break away from the "typical European city tour” to enjoy the amazing natural wonders of Norway. Even visiting those sites typical of any tour was quite different in Oslo than in the other European cities I’ve visited...Norway really has a character different from mainland central Europe.
Near the Nobel museum, we walked along the bay on Oslofjord. That was beautiful...seeing the ocean, and the inhabited rocky hills rising up above the horizon, and many many ships of every size and variety --- tall sailing ships, huge container ships, cruise ships, yachts, little dinghies, etc. There was a passenger boat getting ready to depart. Someone in our trio said "I wonder where this goes? Let's get on and find out!" So, we did. This semi-random ferry was quite a nice ride out on the harbor to a large island, where we walked around for a bit on the seaside and took the next ferry back.
On return, we visited the fortress seen in the upper portion of this postcard. The sidelighting sun and weather was perfect for walking all around the walls for great views of the town and the ancient fortress. (The castle is still headquarters of the national military, and houses a small museum about resistance to the Nazis, and probably still has a fair amount of empty room). However, when we tried to leave, we had an interesting adventure making a complete loop around the castle again and finding all doors out blocked. "A Canadian, an American, and a Norwegian get locked in a fortress. The Canadian suggests scaling the 5 m wall, the American suggests we keep trying more doors. The Norwegian watches the castle guard load his gun and then asks him for directions. Guess which one is female."
Traveling leads to a lot of interesting stories, and provides context for sequences of events that would not make sense or even be conceived of in one's home context. For another example, consider a Canadian borrowing Norwegian Kroner from an American and paying back in Euro - not something that would be extremely obvious in a home country, but something that seems obvious and works out well to mutual benefit in this context.
Amazing photos from this city are plentiful and many are far better than this postcard image, but do not convey the idea of "Oslo" nearly as concisely. Next destination: the train to Bergen!
Grace and peace,
Postcard photo, text, & software ©2007 W. Ben Towne / WBT Productions.