"To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom....Since our office is with moments, let us husband them."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oslo: A Transportation Quandry

This past weekend was spent in Oslo, Norway, along with two friends from DIS. We had a great time, although the weather was quite uncooperative. Pictures have already been uploaded to Webshots for your perusal if interested. But here is the rundown on Oslo, day by day.

The cruise we were taking was supposed to leave Copenhagen harbor at 5:00 pm, which meant we needed to be on board the ship at 4:30 pm. I skipped my last class of the day to make this time frame not be an issue. Patricia and I left DIS around 3:00 pm, with the idea that we had plenty of time to make it to the dock. We looked up online which bus we needed and we were set to go. But of course, nothing could be that easy. We picked up bus 26 at Radhudspladsen as we were supposed to, and we knew it was the correct bus immediately as there was a fair number of people with luggage. In fact, the destination of the bus read "The Cruise Ships". How could we go wrong? Well, it turns out that there are 2 different bus 26 lines, one of which goes to the terminal, but the other stops at an odd point in the harbor. Unfortunately, we were on the second line, and weren't aware of it, so we rode out to this point, where the bus driver told us to get off. Confused, we asked how we could get to the boat. He responded with very poor English that we needed to walk down a certain road, and that we would be there in 5 minutes. So Patricia and I set off, and called Jessica, who was supposed to meet us at the dock, trying to tell her not to make the same mistake. 10 minutes later we reached the end of the pier (and the bus that had previously left us off passed us). However, we still had another 10-15 minutes of walking to do. We finally ended up at the terminal around 4:20ish and Jessica was able to get there by 4:30, too. All in all, a great start to our trip.

The ship itself was great. It was nothing close to a ferry, but in reality a cruise ship. The rooms were small (as expected), but rather nice for what we paid. The odd part was that every other cruise I've been on (Alaska and the Western Caribbean) have always included food. We didn't pay for food, so I stared longingly at the menus as we ate our PB&J sandwiches. I did end up splurging on some pretty bad cheesecake and a hot chocolate (which was amazing). The rest of the night was spent at a table by the bar and the piano player people watching more than anything else.

The next morning we got up bright and early, 6:30 am, as we were told coming into Oslo is gorgeous. So we grudgingly woke up, put some clothes on, grabbed our cameras, and headed to the top deck. We lasted for about 2.5 minutes, at most. I almost fell over twice! It was incredibly windy, cold, and rainy. Just gross weather. We made the executive decision that sleep was better than the weather and went back to bed.

Upon actually arriving in Oslo the weather became a little better as it stopped raining. The previous night the three of us had sat down and planned what we wanted to do. The first stop was to walk along the old Norwegian fortress that guards the harbor. Unfortunately, we never had time to really explore that area. Next we made our way to another pier where we went on a boat tour of the Oslo Fjord. Basically, there are hundred of islands within this fjord that are all part of the greater city of Oslo. It was fun, although it would have been nicer if it wasn't so cloudy and a bit warmer. When we came back to the pier, the rain started, though, which made the rest of the day fun to say the least.

After the boat ride, Patricia and Jessica went off to do their own thing, and I met up with Hannah, a friend from Carleton who's studying abroad in Oslo. We had a nice lunch, and it was great to catch up with a friend that I hadn't seen since the spring.

I met up again with Patricia and Jessica after lunch at the Royal Palace. We decided that Oslo in general is much prettier than Copenhagen (even with the rain), simply because of all the trees downtown. We then headed off for a train station to see Holmenkollen, the famous Norwegian ski jump, which is a huge tourist site as it has the best views of the city. However, more fun with transportation halted our plans. About 2/3 of the way there our train lost power. We sat on the tacks not moving for about 20 minutes, at which point we decided to scrap our plan and catch a train back. But we were too slow, and missed the train back, and ended up waiting another 20 minutes for the next train.

By the time we got back to the downtown area we only had an hour and a half left, so we decided to go to the
Vigeland Park, which has a ton of statues created by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. It was pretty awesome, and my pictures really don't do it justice.

After spending some time there we decided we should probably head back to the boat. First, we had to catch a tram, which runs every 10 minutes. As we were walking out of the park, we realize that our tram is coming and that we don't have time to miss it. We start on a dead sprint to make it to the station in time, which involved having to dodge a quite large tour bus, whose bus driver was not too happy with us. After catching the tram back to a main station we then had to catch a train to the actual main station. Due to uncertainty, though, we ended up missing the first train and had to wait a couple minutes for the next one. Once at the main station we were only a 5 minute walk from the terminal, and we had 10 minutes to get there. No problem. Except we had come up from being underground and had no perspective of where we were, and thus no idea of where to walk. With the time frame closing in on us by the second we decided we should probably take a taxi. But of course, when you need to find a taxi, you can't. 5 minutes later we're in a taxi on our way back to the ship terminal. We had to have been one of the last 10 people to board the boat, but at least we managed to get on it.

That night was very similar to the last, eating PB&J and fruit for dinner (although I also splurged on a ham sandwich and pasta salad), talking for a while, decided to get dessert, which included my first Chai tea since I've been here -- it was awesome -- and sitting up by the piano player in the bar people watching and talking.

General Thoughts, Again
All in all, it was a really fun trip, and Oslo is a great city. It made me want to go back to Norway in the summer and see Oslo again, but also head north a bit to see more of the arctic aspects. The trip has also had a negative effect in the sense that I'm having problems deciding if I am in fact in school or on vacation still. This makes doing work pretty difficult, which is why I'm writing this right now, of course. You might also notice that I've added a "European Food List" on the side of the blog. This is where I'll list some of my favorite food that I find while here, even if they aren't that special -- Danish/Norwegian apples in the fall are amazing! Then finally, I'm considering taking one more trip right before I leave for home in December. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good European city to see in the middle of December for a day or two?

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