In short, I learned how to say ice cream in Norwegian this week: iskrem.
But in greater length, I found myself at the airport on Thursday morning staring at the departures board trying to remember where I was going at such an early hour. I find myself often not remembering my next destination, though. I arrived in Oslo before lunch and went to meet some family friends who graciously took me under their wing for the long weekend stay. I spent much of the first day resting and spending time with the family around the house. It was not only great that I got to stay with locals, but I got to be around a family table and eat tacos while learning more about another culture. I had not been in a family setting in a very long time so this was pure joy.
Guro and Åsne took me to the Viking Museum, the National Gallery and the Munch Museum before we regrouped and ate Dim Sum with the whole family. The Viking ships were grand for having been buried in the 800’s and discovered only a century ago. The National Gallery had a few great pieces by better known artists like Picasso and Monet, but I found a few Norwegian artists that have pushed me to think that I’ll be spending my summer painting. The Munch Gallery houses Scream, a painting which sold at auction for $120 million in 2012, but I quite enjoyed looking through his life’s work.
Maren and Anna took me to the new Opera House where there was local preparatory Independence Day entertainment and views of the fjord from the rooftop. How neat to have a space for each person of the community to enjoy. We finished the day with ice cream, a tradition I could get use to.
Saturday, the 17th of May, was the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution that gave Norway their freedom from Denmark in 1814. I couldn’t have planned my timing better. In the morning I nibbled on salami, cheese, bread and fruit while the family put on traditional bunad costumes for the celebration. This day is all about the kids and a lot about ice cream. I found myself eating my first ice cream shortly after 10am and a few more after the parade commenced. Øistein and I spent some time by the castle, watching the royal family observe Maren, Anna and Torjus march in the parade. We tried to sneak in, but a human barricade of officers thought otherwise.
Among the ice cream, I spent time at the kid’s school celebrating the incredibly festive day and at a concert with some classical music intermixed with some pop artists. After a day of marching bands and national anthems, it felt a bit strange. Guro made a fantastic meal which we followed by more ice cream and went to bed absolutely exhausted. Norway knows how to celebrate their Independence Day. This day might remain one of my favourites of my travels abroad.
The weather for my visit was exceptional so we took the T-bane to the forest where we explored the Holmenkollen Ski Tower—a newly upgraded and very large winter sports arena—where we rode a ski jump simulator and climbed to the top for views of the fjord and forests surrounding.
We spent the afternoon hiking nearly 14km along a winter ski path, stopping at a lodge for ice cream and falling down dead-tired at the end. We feasted on some Norwegian salmon and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
This holiday was one of my favourites. Meeting a family that I happened to be in the same wedding (Hey Karen!) with at the age of two and being taken in to experience the local tradition and culture is fantastic. There were times when Google Translate had to rescue us, but Torjus helped teach me the important words (ice cream, apple juice, etc.) in Norwegian and the length of daylight hours in May far exceeded any number I had ever been exposed to; I can’t imagine Midsummer, I would never get to sleep. The shear size of the country beckons for my return with a longer visit so I’ll be back to see your fjords and hike through your mountain lodges, Norway.