On to Oslo

Tuesday, Oct 22

I was awake a lot overnight, listening to the rain (and possibly sleet) crash against our windows.  The wind howled, and something metal occasionally creaked in the wind. All I could think was that if this lasted into the day, I would not want to go out.  Sure enough, the rain and wind have lasted all day. Every time I looked out the window I was more motivated to stay inside. We decided it would be a good day for a tv marathon.  Late in the afternoon, Ginger ventured out to grab one last reindeer sausage, but Rob and I opted to stay in. We were planning to walk to the train station tomorrow morning, but the forecast is for continued rain, so we went ahead and ordered a taxi to take us.

Wednesday, Oct 23

All went well with the taxi.  We arrived at the train station nearly an hour before our train left, but that made us feel good to know that we didn’t need to rush or scurry about in the rain.  We were all looking forward to this train ride; it’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful in Europe. I don’t know that I would go that far with my own description of it, but it did give a really nice overview of the various types of Norwegian countryside.  The first hour of our train ride was in darkness, but we had driven the same route a few days earlier when we came down from Kaupanger, so we didn’t miss anything. Almost immediately, Rob started to feel really sick from the motion of the train, so he spent most of the ride with his eyes closed, feeling pretty miserable.  Some Dramamine did help settle his stomach once it kicked in. The train took us past raging rivers (likely extra fueled by all that rain we had the day before), up to snowy mountains, past sleepy villages, and down into more fertile green valleys as we neared Oslo. It was a 7 hour train ride, so plenty of time to get some knitting done in between bouts of watching the scenery out the window.  I would recommend this train ride to anyone who only has a little bit of time to spend in Norway, since you get to see so many different types of terrain. There was a dining car; Ginger and I got decent pizzas for lunch. A note to future travelers: we sprang for the “Komfort” car, which was a little more expensive and had maybe slightly more leg room. It seems everyone else did, too. Our car was completely full.  We were in a set of four seats facing each other and a stranger was in the fourth. When Ginger and I walked through the regular cars to get to the dining car, they were nearly empty. One car had, literally, 2 people in it. I would have rather had the only slightly smaller seats and had them to ourselves, rather than have to ask a stranger to move every time I wanted to get up, and feel like our conversation was disrupting her work on her laptop.

On to Oslo.  It was a rare sunny day, so after we got settled into our last flat of the trip, Ginger and I set out to find Frogner Park to see the Vigeland statues.  Rob was still feeling a tiny bit off from the train ride so he stayed home. The park is huge, a really nice big green space in the middle of the city. The trees are all decked out in bright autumn yellows.  The sun was getting low by this time, so we didn’t get very good pictures of the lovely trees. The sculptures are scattered all around the park. They are all by one person – Gustav Vigeland. The metal and stone sculptures were all naked people in various poses, some serious, some silly, some joyous, some sexual.  Some were in fountains, some on plinths framing a bridge, lots on a giant monolith (stone pillar) that rises 46 feet high and has 121 human figures all wrapped around each other like snakes writhing in a pit. The most famous statue in the park seems to be the Angry Boy (I keep calling him the cranky baby). He’s just one among about 40 lining the central bridge, but there’s just something about his expression that the sculptor captured so perfectly that I think resonates with people.

For dinner, Ginger and I went to a restaurant called Fiskeriat.  When we arrived, we could see through the windows that it was tiny and completely packed.  But, upon further inspection, the queue for seats held only a few people, so we decided to wait.  Good decision on our part! Ginger had fish and chips, which she thoroughly enjoyed! I finally got to have bacalao.  When we were in Ålesund, I had read about bacalao and how it was a Norwegian national dish – especially known in Ålesund.  It is a soup that uses Norwegian stockfish (the dried cod that the north and especially Lofoten is known for producing) along with a lot of foreign Portuguese spices and garlic (hence the Portuguese name).  I was hoping to try it in Ålesund, but we were unsuccessful in finding a place to get it. So, I figured I needed to give it a try today when I saw it on the menu. It’s a tomato based soup, which isn’t usually my thing.  Really, it’s more of a stew with large chunks of the stockfish and potatoes, garnished with black olives and pine nuts. The soup was very aromatic, as soon as it was set down in front of me I could smell the paprika and other spices wafting up from the bowl.  Funnily enough, the red-orange color of the bacalao matched the sweater I was wearing. Bacalao is not my new favorite soup, but I’m really glad that I tried it. I was only able to eat about half of it, so brought the rest home and will have it again another day.  We also finally got a chance to try the Norwegian national spirit, called Akevitt. It’s distilled from potatoes and flavored with spices like caraway, dill, anise, and others. Ours also had citrus tones to it. It’s quite strong, so you just get a shot of it and sip it.  We shared the shot in a fancy mini-wine glass. I’m not much of a drinker, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but it was kind of nice, perhaps nicer to smell than to have going down. It definitely warmed the throat and cleared the sinuses.

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