Day 2 is officially over, and I can now say I’ve officially been to Europe! All I can say is I love it over here. It’s surreal however, to not be the primary, dominant spoken language – everything is in Norwegian first. The country is beautiful – my ride in to Oslo on the train from Gardermoen International Airport was fantastic – green, rolling plush hills and with the occasional farmhouses dotted the countryside.
Immigration into Norway was a breeze – there was no long queue as there was in London (I only waited 20 minutes, but the line was huge!). There were two agents in the booth – and I spent less than 3 minutes talking with one of them. An observation about the gates in London Heathrow Airport – they only open approximately 45 minutes before the plane takes off – something completely different than in the States.
Oslo is a beautiful city – a collection of Old World architecture – cobblestone roads, and castles, mixed with modern buildings, such as the Oslo Opera House make for a very diverse cityscape. And the people here – just as beautiful – I can’t believe how fit most people are, and not to mention people here know how to dress!! I love the United States, but if you’re a male the states with an eye towards fashion, people stereotype you. In Europe, it’s just called being normal.
I spent most of my day at Aker Brygge, a popular meeting place for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Aker Brygge is west of Pipervika, an arm of the Oslo Fjord, on the former ship yard of Akers Mekaniske Verksted, which was shut down in 1982. Before the shipyard was established there in 1854, the area was known as Holmen. It was an old yard where some industrial corporations established, and a suburban establishment grew in the early 19th century.
It was wonderful to just sit on the boardwalk, and watch the many boats come in and out of the harbor, and people watch. I ate at McDonalds (it is expensive here in Oslo; McDonalds here has a “double Big Mac mean” which is two Big Macs, fries, and a drink. It cost me NOK 130, which equates to: $21.90 USD. I could never live in Oslo, not with those costs!
At 5:00 PM CEST, I met up with Bente and her son (I don’t remember his name), and Tom and Inge from the Cruise Critic forum I’ve been on for the past few months. We have been writing back and forth, discussing the upcoming cruise, and it was great to finally meet “in real life”. Bente and her son live in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Tom & Inge are from Florida – but have lived all over the world. It was inspiring to hear the many stories of their travels, from Budapest to Bangkok, and Monaco to Malaysia – they have been all over the world, and offered one piece of advice: “When you decide you want to visit someplace, do it – don’t put it off, just go.”
We ate a restaurant called Lekter’n which is situated at the very heart of Aker Brygge, and has a fantastic view overlooking the Oslo fjord and Akershus fortress. It’s the perfect place for relaxing in the sun, eating, drinking and daydreaming. With over 1100 seats, sunbeds and bar stools it is by far Oslo’s most visited summer restaurant. Their menu is influenced by proximity to the sea. Pictures can be found here: http://iloveosl.com/lektern (not my photos).
On draft, they only had a local beer called Ringnes Fatøl which has a deep golden colour. The Fatøl has a harmonious, rounded flavour with a subdued bitterness and a balanced, classic character. Easy to drink, and served cold, so I was happy, as I’ve heard horror stories of beers served warm in Europe. I think I’ll experience that in Germany. Warm beer, really? Anyway, I digress.
In a few hours, I’ll experience my first Scandinavian breakfast and will hail my first taxi in Europe to take me to Filipstad Terminal to board my cruise ship. I am aiming to get to the Terminal around 11:00 AM, and I already have all my documentation printed, and then will meet up with more friends in the Schooner Bar at 2:30, and watch the ship sail away from Oslo, and meander its way through the various fjords, then it will be off to explore my home for 5 days, and time to set sail for Copenhagen.