A week after my trip to Sweden, I packed up again and headed to the balmy, exotic country of Norway. I traveled with some friends from DIS living in homestays in the same town as me, which was a great way to bond with new people. If you’re thinking of studying abroad, I’m sure you’ve heard other students talking about the amazing, best-friends-for life traveling companions they’d met. I had a conversation with other students about this and have determined that you won’t meet people and click with them right away, then want to travel together. Instead, you’ll find yourself bored and looking for a weekend away or hearing someone in your class mention the desire to visit a city also on your list of places to go. Then, you’ll find yourself swept away on a great adventure with some near-strangers. It’ll be a little awkward at first and you’ll probably be a little bit too polite, but it’s the act of experiencing the vastness of the world together that will bring you together, clinging to any sense of familiarity to ground you.
This aside, I boarded a bus near 10pm on Friday in my biggest coat. Sometimes, I think I’m an intelligent individual. Sometimes, I go to Norway in February. On a bus. Notes for traveling and life in general: things go wrong. After a few minutes of panic following the sight of a bus bound for Oslo rounding the corner and disappearing out of sight (not carrying us), we realized we didn’t miss our vessel after all. Another bus, actually ours this time, pulled up moments later and we were off.
Luckily I slept well and woke up at the bus terminal. We walked the dark streets of Oslo in the early hours of the morning, checked into our hostel, and slept for a while before heading out to explore. The city was very similar to Copenhagen, which I loved. We stopped into the Cathedral, a few souvenir shops, and got coffee before hopping on a fjord cruise. This would be my favorite part of the trip by far and one of my favorite memories of my semester (writing this in mid-March). I have never seen anything so beautiful. The colors of the sky, the sea, the rocky bluffs and snow were beyond fantastic, plus the rows of tiny houses peeking from the sides of the mountains were epically quaint. The ship was perfect for the occasion—a wooden vessel with masses and cords, lanterns on each table, and woolen blankets and animal skins for warmth. The fjords are not as dramatic and astounding as those in the north, but were enough to remind us that we were far from home and lucky to be so. We met some lovely girls from Britain there as well, who were funny and sweet to talk to.
After the cruise, we were dropped off at a part of the city where most of the museums are located. I was blown away by the Viking ship museum, containing full Viking ships and artifacts from burials. The Vikings had a culture similar to that of the Egyptians: when a respected man died in battle, he would be buried…in a ship. Yes, they buried the whole ship. In the ground. But wait there’s more: on the ship would be shoes, horses, food, armor, supplies, dogs, tapestries, gold, and more to aid the warrior in his journeys after death. This, of course, became an archaeologist’s fantasy: a mound of perfectly preserved ancient Nordic life. The ships themselves were largely preserved without flaw. Basically, this is 1300-year-old wood, fabric, texts, etc. It was amazing to me that they had not deteriorated over time, especially considering how few artifacts there are of American history extending as far back.
For dinner, we had reindeer. Though we thrived on our diet of fruits and Nutella bread, we opted for a traditional Norwegian dinner. This ended up being the cheapest place we could find that served reindeer and coincidentally one of the most authentic places in the city. We entered the tiny establishment and were definitely the only ones there under 75. Even worse, the older people were out-drinking us in tenfold. But, we got what we came for: a true and authentic dinner. The menu was in Norwegian, but we got some strips of fried pork (maybe? To this day I have no idea what it was), pizza, and reindeer. The reindeer was good, oddly spicy and sweet, but I did like it.
The next morning, we headed to the Vigeland Park, Norway’s most visited attraction. It is a sculpture park with all works by one artist, and it is massive. All the sculptures were of naked humans, of various ages, physiques, and poses. In the center is a spire, built of stone body flowing into stone body. I was happy to go because it was the one thing my mother recommended that I see before I left for Europe.
Something interesting about Norway: they don’t shovel the sidewalks. There is a lot of ice and I am very clumsy.
After this excursion, we headed back and went to the Munch museum. The presentation and styling of Munch’s art was fantastic, although only one room of the museum was open. They were setting up a new exhibit, and as I peered through a set of doors, I saw them lift a covered canvas onto the wall. Careful work, but rewarding, I thought. Handling the pieces and crafting the room would be quite an exciting job.
We concluded the night by watching the sun set from the roof of the Oslo Opera House at the harbor, and I could think of no better way than that.
After a McDonald’s feast, we hopped on an overnight bus back to Copenhagen, pumped some coffee into our bodies, and headed for a GRUELING day of class.
My first self-guided travel, a casual, low-maintenance trip and I wouldn’t do it any other way.