So, we find ourselves on the Oslo airport to city express train. I’m still not sure how or why exactly this happened when we are rarely diverted from a trip into Italy under any circumstances so it seems particularly improbable to be heading to a place where the temperatures are (supposed to be) 10 or 15 degrees cooler and where the bloody sun shines all day and then most of the night. At least at this time of the year. And then it hardly puts in an appearance at all for the rest of the year.
Oslo, as it turns out, is actually much warmer than we expected. As is the case for the western part of Norway all the way up beyond the arctic circle thanks in part to the Gulf Stream keeping things warm. At this time of the year the city is on full on summer mode with all kinds of stuff happening and hordes of people out and about.
We had a wander around looking at some outstanding architecture, both modern and old (check out the opera house), and some history (not much…just enough to say we did) and ended up at a pop-up market on the waterfront. Fish and Chips and local beer. It was good but I got the uneasy feeling as things unfolded that the coming couple of weeks was going to require some reassessment of the budget and that as the day lengthened, even though the sun was still in view, evening wear was going to be distinctly “un-Tuscan”.
The thing about the climate here is interesting, as is the way people think about Norway and its social conscience and green image. Very green, very clean, very socially aware (except for the odd right wing nutter). Warming could disrupt the Gulf Stream and cool things down as all that ice in Greenland comes knocking at the door but on the other hand warming will…well…warm. So no one knows what to think.
Now we all think that Norwegians are doing their bit to address carbon emissions with all kinds of cool programs that rich countries can afford like encouraging people to buy Teslas (I saw more here than I have seen in my whole life prior to coming here). Fantastic and Green Party policy makers just love to love it. Norway has one of the worlds largest sovereign wealth funds driven almost entirely by royalty and tax revenue from North and Norwegian Sea oil and gas extraction and the wealth is still being generated. They also have whale meat on menus in many cafes and restaurants. I don’t care. In fact I am good with all this. I’m Just saying.
But. I digress. We liked Oslo. I thought that the house boat style saunas that you could rent were cool. These things had the whole wood fired sauna thing going on complete with smokey chimney and were motorised so you could drive them out into the sound and overheat in the sauna and then jump off into the cold water before driving back if you got the sequence right. We watched some guys having a good beer drinking session on one which kind of suggests that getting the sequence right isn’t a given. I’m just not sure of the wisdom in all of those things coming together in the one activity to be honest.
Of course I was awake at about 0500 the next morning because that’s when the sun started to make the hotel room blinds look pretty ineffective. That was to be the pattern for the next two weeks but that’s fine, I like to be up and at ‘em in the wee small hours.
That next morning we took the train out to Jessheim, a suburb near the airport and picked up our hotel room for the next two weeks. Actually it was more apartment than hotel room. Double bed, separate shower, en-suite bathroom, full kitchen, dining room. And four wheels. It was the only one left to rent. It was enormous…it reminded me of that stupid movie about the Millers with Jennifer Aniston in it. Driving it was like saddling up a reluctant donkey and being taken for a ride. We drove it to a supermarket to provision and I made parking it look like the admiral of the Pacific fleet parking his air craft carrier.
The real shock at the supermarket though was; NO WINE!!! What? No. Norway has some kind of arcane attitude to alcohol that requires them to go to a state monopoly to buy wine. It’s like Ontario but even worse. After forking out what seemed to be an inordinate sum for our non alcoholic provisions (except beer) we then had to saddle up and navigate the beast to one of these wine shops. That’s when the fun really started. A crazed lunatic thinking he is going without wine for the next two weeks behind the wheel, someone who has to turn maps upside down to read them in the navigators seat, narrow roads and no parking spaces long enough, and a vehicle that just wanted to do its own thing and take up a Mac truck sized portion of the road.
The good people of Oslo, bless their hearts, seem to take this stuff in their stride. Much better than we did I must say. Needless to say our fist night of “camping” was only about an hour out of the city. We did have wine, there was no danger of running out of daylight, and we had avoided any major incident.
I’m going to close it off here, post this one and then blog the two week trip next. Norway is actually an amazing and stunning country and I am not sure how the photos I can upload would actually do it justice.