Currently I am on a train departing Oslo, so it’s a great time to reflect upon the adventure we had here.
The overnight train from Bergen to Oslo was interesting. I planned to sleep but we all know how fickle sleep can be. I dozed off at first, only to be woken up by the ticket collector. Our Eurail passes worked flawlessly. We chose the option that gives us 6 days of travel within 2 months throughout all of Scandinavia. Tracy and I sat next to each other but eventually sat apart so we had an entire row to spread out on. Everyone else slept, but I am too tall to have laid down on only two seats without being cramped, so I mainly played on the free wifi before sleeping from 3am to 6am. It was difficult to see any sights since it was pitch black, but we rode through a serious blizzard that covered one station in at least 6ft of snow!
Our arrival in Oslo was stressful. Our train arrived at 6:35 and we had to make it onto the metro which left at 6:46 to make it to our hosts metro stop by 7:10 when he left for work. If we missed the metro, we would have had to carry our bags around all day until 8pm when he got home! In our rush, the ticket machine for the metro didn’t work and everyone else was just walking through an open gate without swiping anything, so we figured it was free that early in the morning.
We made it on time and met our host, Alex. Tracy and I decided to save money during our trip by couchsurfing our way through Scandinavia. Even the cheapest hostels are $50 a night per person, but couchsurfing is free and includes the occasional free meal! It sounds scary, but it’s actually a great way to meet locals and get the “real” perspective on a city. Most users are verified by the website and reviewed by other users who have stayed with them. I only ask users who have all positive reviews by several people. We couchsurfed in Dubai and it was great!
Alex is a young Norwegian elementary school teacher who lives in the suburbs of Oslo. We purchased a 24 hour metro pass for $10 that covered all of our trips to and from the city, so it paid for itself and was still cheaper than a hostel! Alex showed us to his apartment which was in a quaint little neighborhood of families and other young adults. If you’ve ever been in an Ikea, you’ve been in Alex’s apartment. It was pristine and gorgeous, although a bit small. He was in a rush to get to work, but showed us the kitchen and offered us bread for breakfast. He made it himself and even said he would send me the recipe. It was delicious! He even let us have some “brown cheese” – a Norwegian favorite. It tasted like a creamy, dark, and milky peanut butter. I would definitely eat it again!
I slept on a mattress in the office room and Tracy slept on the couch. He wasn’t going to be home until 8pm because of a school play he was directing, but he gave us a key and said to make ourselves at home. It was still only 8am so we waited until 10 and ventured into the city.
First we went to the Oslo Opera House which is a famous contemporary building and you can walk from the sidewalk onto the roof for free! It was a great photo op.
Next, we wandered down the main shopping street to the Grand Cafe where Henrik Ibsen wrote his famous plays. Next was onto the “Castle” where we made friends with a royal guard we named Thor since he couldn’t tell us his real name. He told us some good places in Oslo and said that he doesn’t really like living here because it is boring and cold. I can see where he is coming from. Oslo got pretty mundane after awhile of seeing the same stores and architecture, street after street. There aren’t that many sights in the city other than museums which Tracy and I both despise. The most famous museum is the Munch museum which has paintings by the famous artist of “The Scream.” But other than museums, there isn’t much to do.
We wandered to the sculpture garden and it has been my favorite thing thus far. The weird sculptures are in a beautiful park and it’s fun to look at them, laugh, and pose. All of them seemed to have a common theme of nudity and babies. Bizarre.
By now, the sun was setting – at 3:00pm. Yes, due the regions high longitude, the days are extremely short in winter and long in summer. Although everything stays open until normal hours, the lack of sun makes you feel very tired and sleepy – or maybe that was our 3 hours of sleep the night before. Either way, we went to a few souvenir stores and saw a few more beautiful but similar buildings and then headed home.
Due to the exorbitant cost of dinner ($35 – $40 for a sandwich???) we decided to just go to the grocery store by our host’s apartment. I got a yogurt for the morning, some granola bars for my backpack, and a “cheap” (read: $10) sandwich to eat at home.
At soon as we got back at 6pm, Tracy fell asleep. I stayed up watching English TV with Norwegian subtitles and thought about how much Norwegian I’ve learned this way. Absolutely no one has taught us anything about the language, but I know that “jag” means “I” and “ikke” means “no/not.” I’ve also leaned a few basic words like “barn” for child. I always thought it was so strange that people I met in Jordan claimed to learn English from TV, but now I understand. It is pretty easy! I have started to be able to understand basic advertisements and newspaper headlines simply due to the languages similarity to English and the words I’ve learned via subtitles. Crazy!
Alex got home around 8pm and started making some more bread as we talked about what Tracy and I did during the day. He agreed that Oslo is a pretty boring city.
One of my favorite things that we talked about is the different views our cultures have on kitchens. His kitchen had entirely wood countertops. I asked “Wouldn’t knives and water damage the wood eventually?” He said “Maybe, but wood is so much more welcoming and nice. Stone countertops and floors are cold and rigid. No one wants that.” He also said that no one has carpeting because it is so dirty. We view carpeting as warm and comfortable – something I think Nords would want in their cold climate, but I guess not.
My “bed” was a mattress on the floor but so comfortable! He asked if I needed a blanket or pillow, but I didn’t want to trouble him and I was so tired that I just used my travel U-shaped pillow and my thin sleeping bag liner. Somehow I was incredibly warm and slept so well. Waking up was not fun.
The next morning, Tracy and I had some more delicious bread and headed to the train station for our 1pm departure. I used my remaining 33NOK ($5) on a grande plain coffee from Starbucks. Usually I have a moral objection to getting food you can buy in America while abroad, but I made an exception.
Our next city is Gothenburg, Sweden, where we will meet up with Tracy’s two friends for dinner and drinks and then head to our Israeli- Swedish couchsurfing host’s house!
Overall, the trip has been fun but hauling my huge backpack around has not been! Lifting it into the overhead bins on the trains is the bane of my existence. It has been faithfully carrying all of my stuff, so I guess I can’t complain!