Norwegian Introduction

by Britta on 7 March 2010

in European Adventure,The Norwegian Experience

Oslo By Night

Oslo By Night

I had arrived in Norway full of hope, but was quickly disconcerted by the language barrier and the poor directions I had from the hostel I had booked. It was a Friday night. I had flown from London and had taken the bus into Oslo from the airport, 2½ hours away. The bus station is next to the train station, and somehow I found myself there, despite the fact that I hadn’t come on a train, nor was I looking to get on one. Trying to figure it all out on my own, shouldering my backpack, being jostled by the rush hour commuters at the train station, quickly became overwhelming. I found a relatively quiet shop and went up to the shopkeeper to ask directions.

“Do you speak English?” I asked, a little embarrassed. In my frustration, I had forgotten how to ask the question in Norwegian.

“Of course!” He was very genial, and genuinely glad to be called on to help. “What do you need?” And he proceeded to tell me exactly how to catch Tram #17, whose second-to-last stop was just below the hill to my hostel. “Good luck,” he said cheerfully.

A few days later I decided to participate in Norway’s national sport. Getting to the ski trails required a series of trams, subways and buses, and a little ingenuity, but eventually I made it, with the help of another friendly, English-speaking shopkeeper. He directed me from the bus stop at the top of the hill to the ski shop five minutes down the road.

Classic Tracks

Classic Tracks

“Do you have a lot of experience skiing?” the kid at the rental shop asked me.

“Oh, yes,” I replied, thinking I hope I don’t make a fool out of myself. Yes, I have a lot of experience skiing, but I haven’t actually done it in almost 5 years. I hope I still remember how.

He grabbed a pair of skis from the rack and rubbed in a layer of kickwax. Is that all? I thought. Maybe I should ask for extra wax just in case. But he handed me the skis and a trail map, and I got absorbed in where I would go and what I would do. I headed out the door and snapped my boots into the bindings, and off I went.

Despite having seen snow only a few times in the last 5 years, let alone being able to ski on it, my fears were unfounded. The skis felt as familiar on my feet as if I had been skiing yesterday, and the trails were expertly groomed and maintained. And, the wax was perfect.

Once I was on the trails, I knew I would go much farther than I had planned. I thought, not having skied in a while, I would do about 5 kilometers. On classical skis, being unfamiliar with the snow and terrain, I thought that would be enough. And physically, it probably would have been perfect. But that wouldn’t be enough time out on the trail. Even when I started to get tired, even when the little hills started to look big, I still didn’t want to head back. Being out on the trails was just too much fun.

A Hut along the Trails

A Hut along the Trails

Halfway through, I stopped at one of the huts that dot the park, and had a cinnamon roll and a coffee. While I’ve had better coffee, it wasn’t instant, and that was certainly an improvement over the last country I was in, and the cinnamon roll was moist and sweet, like the rest of the mouth-watering pastries I’ve had in Norway. And of course, the in the middle of the park, accessible only on skis, was something of a novelty, too. I even had my first Norwegian pee-in-the-woods after drinking that coffee (more difficult than you might expect with all the people out on the trails).

Norwegians passed me in both directions, young and old. Some looked like they might have been alternates for the Olympic team, but as it turned out they were just out doing their daily workout. Some looked like they might have been on the Olympic team decades ago, but they were still just out doing their daily workout. Parents were teaching their kids to ski, owners were taking their dogs for a run. And everyone, everyone, had a huge smile on their face. Not that workout grimace, but a smile that reflected genuine joy. I couldn’t help but return it, even on the uphills.

That first night, following the shopkeeper’s directions, I walked out onto the streets of Oslo. It was snowing lightly, and starting to get dark. The pools of amber light from the streetlamps gave the fresh snow a warm glow despite the dropping temperature. The air smelled clean, even in the city, and the tram arrived right on time. I knew I was going to like Norway.

Did you like this? Share it:

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joslyn Stinson March 9, 2010 at 9:34 am

Britta, I love this post! It sounds like you needed some winter. Makes me want to be there with you!

Pat Perry March 10, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I’m so ready to go ski tomorrow – after the Tour of Anchorage with Joslyn – almost 3 hours of skate skiing. Just so I can honestly wear their cute wool hat I’ve wanted for years! Your dad has the lake groomed tonight – first time in a few weeks since the rain killed the skiing – our new dump of 3+ feet of snow has it ready for tomorrow! I’ll be thinking of you and hope you’re out enjoying it again. Be sure you visit Vigeland Scuplture Park – it’s amazing. Plus, try the Norsk Folkemuseum – if it’s open this time of year, Kon Tiki Museum as good too.
Loved the posting and looking forward to your next and hearing & seeing more on Norway.

Carmen March 13, 2010 at 5:03 am

Britta, what a great post! I’m looking forward to hearing more. Enjoy!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: