Posts Tagged ‘oslo’

Midnight sun shines brightest today

June 21, 2008

We would be remiss if we didn’t send out a greeting from the land of the midnight sun, on this, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Summer solstice on Google NorwayEven google.no (Norway) honored the event with one of its trademark graphics, which we’ve done a screen grab on here. Norwegians in different communities across the country and especially in the north celebrate with giant communal bonfires, although it is unclear to us on exactly what day this happens.

Although as of a few hours ago we returned to Oslo, in the south (we fly home tomorrow!), we were indeed above the arctic circle last week during our cycle trip on Lofoten (photos and a few highlights to come). Midnight sun at Ramberg beachNot only did the sun never go down, it truly shined all night. I’d expected “light” not “bright.” I even wore eyeshades to sleep a couple nights when we didn’t have proper curtains. Some nights were cloudy and the sun was hidden. But on one of the clearest nights, we had an oceanfront cabin in the small town of Ramberg on Flakstadøya and could watch the midnight sun out our living-room window. At exactly midnight, about two dozen tourists, including us and a lot of Germans, poured out of their cabins and campers to see the show. It was a crazy scene!

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Oslo highs (we’re not talking prices)

June 16, 2008

This is the last dispatch from Oslo, I swear. And, now, for some superlatives:

ToveBest Norwegian hospitality: Our Sunday lunch hosts Tove and Øystein win the prize here. Tove is the sister of Pusa Gundersen, the mother of my long-time friend Erik. I celebrated many a Norwegian-style Christmas dinner at the Gundersens’ home in West Newton, Mass., near Boston. Coincidentally, Pusa is also in Oslo on holiday, so it was fun to see her here as well. Tove and Øystein’s lovely home, a little south of Oslo, is near the Oslo fjords, which Wessel and I had a view of during our delicious meal.

Best transportation: Loved the public transport here, which include trams, subway, trains, and bicycle sharing. But the highlight was maneuvering a two-seater Th!nk City electric car through morning rush-hour traffic and onto the highway, hitting about 60 mph. Without Wessel navigating, I wouldn’t have made it. The cars, to be released in August, are coming to the US in 2009. Read all about it in my Ode magazine story sometime later this year. Very exciting! (I also drove a hydrogen-powered Prius for another story. That was cool too)

Regional traditional folk costumes for sale at HusflidenCoolest wool clothing and yarn store: Husfliden, which carries totally modern clothing and throws, including contemporary wool blankets made at Røros-Tweed, a historic textile factory with a wonderful story of reinvention that I can’t seem to find written in English anywhere. The store also carries clothing and accessories for the elaborate regional traditional folk costumes, called bunad.

Coolest cool-clothing store: Design Forum, a national chain. Reasonably priced for here, funky, feminine, great-for-layering tops, pants, skirts, sweaters, all made in Norway. Really great shoes too. Totally my style. Maybe I’ll convince someone to open an outlet in North Carolina. Can you imagine?

Hippest street: Grünerløkka is where the groovesters go, so of course Wessel and I were there, fitting right in with our American garb. The main drag of Thorvald Mayers gate (gate = street) has the usual assortment of trendy shops, cafes, restaurants and bars and from what I can tell is the only such street in Oslo. But since it’s become well known enough for us to find it, I’m guessing there’s something a little artsier and a little more fringe.

restaurant SultBest restaurant: The foodie favorite Sult, in Grünerløkka of course. The name means hunger, and it adjoins the bar Torst, or thirst. Small room, small menu, biggish meals at a reasonable price. Beautiful plating, ultra-cool photos on wall that matched the tabletops. Wessel had pork; I had catfish and we had one beer and two glasses of wine, for $130 plus a 10 percent tip. The waitress gave us a cocktail/cookbook from the original chef (now gone) that I wish I could read. It’s a great souvenir, anyway.

Most annoying smell: Cigarettes. Young people, especially women, smoke like chimneys, we were disappointed to discover. (They all have tattoos too.)

Best news out of Norway: Norway’s parliament last week adopted a new marriage law that allows gay folks to marry and adopt children and permits lesbians to be artificially inseminated. 

Loudest music: Under our hotel window on a Saturday night. That’s because one of the many stages around town for the annual Musikkfest Oslo happened to be quite close to us, which made our downtown street – and many others — quite lively. Most of the music was rockin’ and surprisingly very good. (I say surprising because bands were free and plentiful, not because they’re Norwegian! I mean, let’s not forget a-ha. Or rather, let’s.) The live music stopped by 11, but not the raucous partiers, who were still going strong when I finally fell asleep around 2. And was it truly dark out? Not really!

 

Øskår Mæyer? My first Norsk dachshund

June 10, 2008

Shira of NorwayWe met Shira, a three-year-old long-haired dachshund, on the grounds of the Natural History Museum in Oslo. Her aunt and uncle were house/pet sitting while mom and dad were on a weekend getaway. We struck up a conversation while they strolled through the lovely botanical gardens connected to the University of Oslo and near the Munch Museum.

Shira was very friendly, as were her humans. Shoot, I just realized that I forgot to ask them what the Norwegian word is for dachshund. Does anyone know?

Since meeting Shira, we’ve spied two wire-haired wiener dogs, but I wasn’t in the mood to stop the owners for a chat and a photo. Maybe next time.

 

Norway goes gaga over ‘Sex and the City’

June 9, 2008

Ad for Sex and the City on tramNorwegians seem as excited about “Sex and the City” as Americans are. Buses, taxis and subway stations are plastered with “Get Carried Away” (get it?) billboards touting the opening of the movie. On Friday, when the film debuted here, a bar held a “Sex and the City” happy hour, featuring “rimelige” (discount) cosmopolitans. On Saturday we saw gaggles of galpals pour out of the theater after a showing.

Wessel’s big thrill for the weekend: he found a 50-Kroner bill on the ground – a whopping $10. Woo-hoo! Saturday he found a 10-NOK coin, worth $2. He’s on a roll!

Kafe CelsiusOur most enjoyable night out was in the happenin’ courtyard at Kafe Celcius near the harbor. I had the mussels appetizer ($20) with a glass of white wine ($13) and Wessel had spareribs, of all things ($40), along with a $12 beer, covered by his big finds. Not so expensive by Norsk standards. Last night at a less-remarkable place I had a $30 Greek salad and Wessel had a $40 Turkish chicken meal. I slowly sipped a $14 wine and Wessel savored his $12 beer.

Speaking of beer and wine, we keep arriving just a little late. On Thursday night, we tried to buy beer (a bargain $5 for a tall can) at the supermarket at 9 p.m. They stop selling it at 8 p.m. We were prepared for the weekend, when they stop at 6 p.m. We went at 5 p.m. Saturday to buy a Diane tests shopping basket on wheelscouple beers and a bottle of wine only to discover that you can purchase wine only at the liquor store, which, on Saturday, closes at 3 p.m. I wonder if all these restrictions keep alcoholism and drunken driving down. They’re certainly cutting down on my intake.

Speaking of shopping, cool supermarket invention: Plastic shopping baskets here have long handles and wheels if’n you’d rather roll it than carry it. Are you listening, Whole Foods?

 

Cool stuff in (very) warm Oslo

June 6, 2008

Finally, we’re in Oslo, where it’s sunny (until 10 p.m.) and unseasonably warm (until Tuesday). Woo-hoo!  To catch folks up, we barely made our connector flight at Newark Wednesday night. There was no Delta agent on hand to help with connections, though that had been promised. We discovered that we needed to go to another terminal, which meant going outside and back through security. Ridiculous setup. We were running through the airport like fools, but it paid off, with only minutes to spare. Had we been out of shape, we wouldn’t have made it.

I could gripe further about snippy Continental flight attendants or how I didn’t sleep at all (unlike Mr. Snooze-o-rama Wessel), but let’s focus on the positive, shall we?

How about, do enjoy your $4 a gallon gasoline, because it’s about $13 a gallon in Norway.

Some other random tidbits:

Ceramic sculpture in window of Galleri FormatCoolest art gallery/shop: Galleri Format, which sells work by members of the Norwegian Association of Arts and Crafts. The association runs a store in Bergen too.

National Opera House in Oslo, NorwayCoolest building design: National Opera House, opened in April 2008. Angles and curves gloriously mingle, while walkable roofs attract a vibrant stream of visitors.

Oddest B&B: Stage Café B&B, an old ship that’s a B&B, café, and small-production theater. You gotta love it. A bonus: It looks out onto the Opera House.

Detail of National Opera House atriumYou know you’re not in the US when: women’s restrooms stay open while male maintenance workers clean and restock them; women breastfeed in very public places; a 20-minute taxi ride from airport to city costs $130 to $150 (we took the $35 train) and a small salad costs $20.

Friday day is a work day, but tonight we’ll celebrate the weekend with $12 beers!

 

Packing panic and Norway neuroses

June 4, 2008

I’m sending this from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, were, alas, our flight to Newark is delayed. We think we’ll still be able to make our connection to Oslo. We think….

I’m glad I crack myself up, because I’ve been having a lot of laughs at my expense over the past couple days. After planning a trip to Norway for more than a year, Wessel and I are finally on our way! As always, the last few days before leaving on a longish journey (18 days) are the craziest. I understand how the anxiety of leaving home for several weeks is enough to inspire the now-trendy “staycation.”

The location was Wessel’s idea, the highlight being a bicycle tour on Lofoten, an archipelago above the Arctic Circle that I’d never even heard of. Now that’s exciting! Since then, it was ranked in the top five of best-preserved islands by National Geographic Traveler.

We “bought” tickets with Delta Sky Miles almost a year ago, always an ordeal. Although we knew Norway was expensive, with the dollar so low and the Norwegian Krone strong, sticker shock got the better of us. So what began as a vacation with a travel story thrown in is now a working vacation, with three alternative-energy stories planned for Ode Magazine and two travel stories planned for the Boston Globe.

So, back to packing. Despite my frequent travels, I’ve never learned to pack light. I’ve taken classes, bought books, written stories on how to do it, but I seem to be a lost cause. This is a trip with work, play, warm weather, cold weather, outdoor, indoor activities. The usual. I put way too much thought into everything, trying to predict my every need. Then there was the choice of reading material. I changed books three times (settled on “What is the What”) before chucking the whole idea and going with four unread issues of The Sun Magazine.

Here’s the part that really cracks me up, and I wonder if others do the same thing. Suddenly, two days before leaving, I had to finish everything I had put off for the past three months. Filing, sending long overdue emails, cleaning a room. Meanwhile, I wrote a small book for our house/dog sitters Paul and Michelle, with about 12 headings. They came over twice for tutorials. I was very relieved that they scored well on last night’s pop quiz.

But the final hour today was the most outrageous. Even though people will be staying at the house, I ended up in the kitchen finishing every half-eaten thing in the refrigerator, things that had gone untouched for a week. When it was the agreed-upon time to leave for the airport, Wessel found me standing over the kitchen sink frantically eating half a leftover orange, juice dripping all over. “OK, hon,” he said gently, placing his hand on my shoulder as if I were a mental patient, “we really need to go now.” First, I had to put the peels in the compost. And then, finally, we were off!