It didn’t really sink in until I was over Norway. I peered out the window to the world below. It was laid out like an Age of Mythology game. There were pockets of farms and trees that veined out along railway tracks and rivers. The houses were cute, red face with a black roof, and were all identical.
Oslo’s airport, Gardermoen, was also a radically different experience. Everything was made of wood. As we climbed out of the aeroplane I was surprised to see young adults my age, boys and girls, working on the planes and running amok on the airfield, dressed in fluorescent yellow.
The first step onto the wooden floor of the customs bay was strange. Somehow the wood feels more welcoming, less clinical and impersonal than the hospitalised or factory feel of Dubai airport.
And the people are beautiful! I fell in love seven times between customs and arrivals.
Henrik collected me. His hair was wrapped in a bun (as were most of the Norwegians) and he donned black skinny jeans and a burnt sienna shirt with a necklace. I think I found hipster kingdom. All the men looked so stylish, like on those trendy Instagram photos. They sported and elegantly messy man bun, had high cheek bones, smiling softly through their beards.
The trip from the airport to Oslo was beautiful. To quote a family favourite movie: “Why is everything so fucking green?”
We drove to a family friends house so I can drag my wretched body through the shower to scrub away 24 hours of travel. I remerged a new human! We sat down for a quick lunch. My eyes were drinking in all I could. The buildings were old, picturesque and highly detailed. They also glimmered in the soft summer sun, each pastel colour sporting its hue proudly.
It’s supposed to be summer, but the sky has remained ever grey since my arrival. A gentle drizzle clung to the trees and the buildings, and to my frizzy hair.
We finally arrived at the place I would be staying, or rather sharing with my old friend Henrik. We spent the evening drinking beer and listening to songs on his record player. His room is a rather special corner. We set up a makeshift bed in the corner for me. He is a hoarder, like myself. Or rather a collector. He has curated a wonderful assemblage of artefacts from his travels to the east and his walls are decorated with wonderful works of art, constructed by himself. Being in the room felt like I was scratching around in his mind itself – it was a good reflection of who he is as a person.
Apparently it is tradition in summer to drink beer in the park until the sun sets. The only problem is that the sun DOESN’T set. Henrik has a large east facing window and at 11pm it was as bright as it was at 5pm. We ended up manoeuvring a makeshift curtain in place.
I know they say “don’t convert”, but honestly, converting the prices of things makes it easier for me to justify buying. I just convert to Omani Rials. So, instead of thinking that my orange juice cost me 39 krone, or 80 South African rands; it cost me 2 OMR. Simple solution. It helps to put a lot in perspective.
I stayed out from 9:30 am until 11pm on Saturday.
Henrik spent the morning working at reception, so I explored the park and hipster corner: Grünerløkka. My feet managed to find their way to the most American place possible: The Nighthawk Diner, where I drank a grapefruit juice. After Henrik’s work at reception we visited his dad’s workspace. He is a renowned graphic designer in Oslo: Trond Nordhal. Then myself and the Nordhal family went to lunch. It was my first time dining out and I was excited. Obviously the menu wasn’t in English but at least I had the three of them to translate for me, and an hour later (and 140 kroner later) I was eating a delicious prosciutto sandwich. I was stuffed.
The architecture in Oslo is surprising. I was also naïve in thinking that it would be town houses. The city centre is full of high rises and apartment buildings. It was a place we explored on bicycle the rest of the day with Karla, a friend of Henrik’s.
Cycling has got to be the best way to commute in Oslo. And they made it so convenient. If you get the Bysykkel mobile app then you buy a season ticket to rent a bike and cycle as much as you want! We went sightseeing, drinking and even shopping!
I even ticked off my first touristy visit on day one: a visit to the Oslo Opera House. It is staggering in its design; it is modelled after a glacier which inspired the architects to draw sharp shapes and keep the colouring simple. The vista from the top if breath taking! The harbour is in the process of being redone, so it’s a large construction site. But tall buildings frame the city side of the Opera House, and on the other side is the water, spotted with islands and peninsulas.
After licking ice cream and wondering at the beauty of it all we cycled back to Henrik’s to pick up some supplies. Oslo as a city is very old: it was founded in 1000 AD but has undergone various empires. It has changed in the last thousand years – something the architecture strongly reflects, but I will expand on that later. What is quite quaint are the few pockets of little houses that have collected along certain cobbled roads in the bustling city. They are little havens that transport passerby’s (and tourists) to a different world. The houses are colourful and cosy, with neat gardens sprouting on the space space between the road and the front door. We took a trip up Damestredet.
Once prepped, we went a favourite watering hole: La Boheme. It made me think of MaClarens from ‘How I met your mother’. It was a cosy bar, and relatively empty. Yet a strange collection of people found themselves all sitting at the same table – all from different walks of life. It seemed like a kind of place that joined people together and aided in the making of memories.
When our bellies started rumbling Henrik, Karla and myself left to Karla’s house to prepare dinner: lovely summer rolls. I had no idea such a thing existed. But many bites and glasses of wine later it was time to head home. I still had to pack for my Bergen trip in the morning.
All in all, a day well spent. I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.