People who aren’t currently travelling always seem to have this idea that travelling is a constant vacation. It is lovely, but travelling for extended periods can start to feel rather more like work than play. Especially when travelling starts kicking you fiercely in the teeth at every chance it gets. After two months on the road, and two rather eventful and not entirely easy weeks in Poland, I was ready for a vacation from my travel. Fortunately, I now have friends all over Europe so I was able to throw myself on the beautiful summer weather and wonderful people of Norway once more.
I left the searing heat of Krakow for the sunny but rather more manageable summer climate of Oslo and its neighbouring peninsula, Nesoddtangen, where I had arranged to stay with my swing dancing Stockholm companion, Kim Tomas. After a two hour flight from Krakow, an hour long bus ride from Oslo Rygge Airport (yay, Ryanair) and then another hour long commute on ferries and buses, I had finally made my way into a little bit of paradise also known as Fagerstrand or “beautiful beach”.
The next morning I was unleashed in a real kitchen with real ingredients, implements, and appliances to make a feast of crepes. We then proceeded to indulge in the laziest of days mostly spent lying in the sun on the lawn drinking lemonade and iced coffee. We also built a swing for the front porch. And by we I definitely mean Kim Tomas as my contribution was limited to possibly helpful commentary and holding pieces of swing for sanding, levelling etc. It is a fairly lovely swing with two height settings: one for childish adults like yours truly, and the other for actual children like Kim Tomas’s nephew.
Later in the afternoon, my host headed out to spread the word of the Labour Party (Norway is coming up on their local elections) and I went on a wee adventure around the area. It is a strange mix of small town charm, rural naturescapes, and major city amenities (e.g. proper public transit) and it is stunning. The harbour is full of boats and surrounded by beaches and rockeries which were strewn with locals of all ages swimming and enjoying the sun. After rather a while lounging and reading on a hot rock in the sun, I moseyed back to the house and treated myself to a bath—hostels and houses in which a single bathroom is shared by three women are not conducive to long lazy baths. Sometime later the political campaigner returned and we spent a relaxing evening of no obligations, ice cream, lemonade, and Norway’s informal national dish: the meat and onion pizza. It’s not the most authentic pizza, but it’s tasty enough and very filling.
Saturday morning I made a quick trip to the local shop where neither the shop clerk, nor the election campaigners outside were prepared to meet a non-local, non-Norwegian. creature who knew no more than a handful of words in the local lingo. It was a small bit of an adventure. When I returned with my bag of supplies, I made eggs benedict, Kim Tomas made coffee (fancy, delicious areopress coffee) and were soon ready to face the day. We headed into the city where Kim Tomas was set to referee a football match and I was to enjoy the city in the sun. We began with more coffee at Fuglen which seems to be the most impressive hipster magnet around—they also make excellent iced coffees. Shortly thereafter Kim Tomas set off to prepare for the match and I was released into the city to explore. With the painful sort of predictability that is so characteristic of me, I ended up spending most of my free time pouring over books and analysing classification systems in the local public library, the Deichmann. It’s really quite lovely and if they felt inclined to hire me, I would make no protest.
Since it was a Saturday, the library closed at 3pm and I went hunting for a subway stop which would allow me to reach the pitch in the eastern part of the city where a local football match was about to be played. Two hours later, I uninstalled myself from my resting place on the grassy hillside next to the pitch and collected a tired referee before heading back into the city centre. Once in the centre, we found a jazz club for a drink (and a snack for me) and a rest. We then spent an hour or so wandering about the docks eating ice cream and ogling pretty wooden sailing boats. It was the perfect night to be on a boat and the number of boat parties in the marina were strong evidence that we weren’t the only ones that thought as much. And then it was back to the ferry and the bus to return home to peace, quiet, and rest.
Sunday the shops were closed so I had to make do with what was already in the kitchen for my cooking adventures. Fortunately, exciting breakfasts can be made with very few resources and so we were soon up drinking wonderful Norwegian coffee and eating Kaiserschmarrn before we set off into the city to enjoy the sun. Once in the centre we met with one of Kim Tomas’s friends and spent a happy hour or so swimming off Aker Brygge and basking in the sun. We then zipped off to grab some ice-cream before heading out to the stadium to catch a local football match. Though the play wasn’t terribly thrilling, it was my first football match in an actual stadium and the supporters were a delight. Even when their dearly beloved local team was playing so conservatively as to barely move the ball up the field they were chanting and singing and shouting. Adorably, it seems that the whole family comes along to these matches as there was also a kids’ area of the stadium where the wee ones can watch the match and the support the team without overhearing too much of what their overenthusiastic fathers might shout in the heat of moment.
Probably the highlight of the match for me, however, was the moment when the family beside me got all sorts of excited shouting at the players and the smallest member of the family (a boy of about 6 or 7 I’d say) shouted something (in Norwegian) that was sufficiently naughty to cause his screaming mother to clamp a hand over his mouth and drag him back down into his seat with a few very sharp words. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
After the match, we rejoined the friend from earlier for a lovely lazy dinner of rather creative bouillabaisse (there were sweet potatoes) down by the opera house in the sun. Obviously, that was followed by more ice-cream before Kim Tomas and I dashed away to dance a little Sunday West Coast Swing. We danced ourselves halfway to dehydration before it was time to hop back on the ferry and sail away to Nesodden in the night.
Monday we had another lazy start, this time with french toast, before wandering into Oslo to visit the July 22nd Centre. It is currently a temporary exhibit in the ground floor of one of the buildings affected by the bomb and it offers a very poignant account of the events. It’s hard to believe that such an awful thing could have happened somewhere as lovely as Norway.
After the centre, we headed up to the famous Tim Wendelboe Coffee Shop to sample all the available coffee options. The coffee was lovely; the rain that began whilst we sat there—less so. Eventually however, hungry tummies and the queue for seats drove us back out into the world where we drifted through vintage shops until we eventually found our way to a taqueria with good ceviche and excellent, if a bit expensive (bloody Norwegian prices) tacos. It was still early once we were fed so Kim Tomas took me to a deliciously clandestine little bar in one of Oslo’s local spirits distilleries. The drinks were delicious and the atmosphere divine. And then once again we were on the ferry heading back for my last night in Norwegian paradise.
–My lovely host and some lovely coffee–
This morning I was up early with a backpack on my back and the airport in my sights. I bid farewell to my wonderful host and slipped away into the cool morning. By the afternoon I’ll be in Prague with all the most excellent memories of a vacation from vacation with Kim Tomas in Norway.
Back in the backpack,