Norway finally!!! It seemed at one point that it wasn't happening…several plans with different groups of friends just wouldn’t materialize. The worst was the plan cancelled by 2 of my friends because of the volcano in Iceland and the subsequent disruption in air traffic. We had done just so much r & d on the net.
Luckily all the research didn’t go waste when suddenly one day quite close to my return from Finland, one of my friends decided she was coming to Scandinavia.
Her tickets were blocked, we were awaiting the visa when suddenly we had another scare. My company nearly cancelled my leave! But I managed to convince them by cutting short the trip by 2 days and deciding to visit only Norway and give Stockholm and Helsinki a miss.
But I guess there were still more surprises in store. All train tickets, hostels and guided trips booked, we were getting all excited when for some reason I revisited the bookings. And thank god for that - my friend had by mistake booked all hostels for 2011 instead of 2010!!! I had a strong feeling we wouldn’t get hostel bookings for 2010 since we were making bookings too close to the dates, but fortunately I was proved wrong….and am I glad. Most of the hostels changed the dates and only in one place we had to book another hotel.
So finally after our share of adventure we landed in Oslo. Though initially Norway beckoned because of its natural beauty and fjords, I was sure we were in for a lot of culture too. It was evident from the tails of the Norwegian airlines planes!
Luckily there was a direct bus from the airport (nearly 50 kms from Oslo city) that left us quite close to the youth hostel. Otherwise living up to its reputation as the most expensive city in the world it would have cost us a bomb to take a cab!
If I had to describe Norway in just one word, it wouldn’t be that difficult. There is just beauty everywhere. Even the ride from the airport to the city was beautiful. I wondered, do they have any industries and polluting factories?
My friend had reached a couple of hours earlier than me and so she had already left for city center when I reached. She has picked up some of the tourist books and maps…1st glance…this place has soooooooooooooooooooo many museums! There are 50 museums and galleries in Oslo itself!!! We marked what we wanted to cover and immediately took off exploring Oslo.
I saw this beautiful statue outside the Opera House. It is another statue of the playwright Henrik Ibsen that is more famous and visited by tourists, but I personally feel that she deserves more recognition when I heard about her. Her name is Wenche Foss, an actress who had a child with Down’s syndrome. At a time when people hid about their differentially abled children , she openly took him out and felt no shame. She was also diagnosed with cancer and felt no embarrassment in being photographed bald. She is also the mother of the Oslo Mayor!
The square outside the National theater was like in most cities with live singing by 2 ladies and jugglers etc.
From there we moved to Holmenkollen, the ski jump arena and museum, which honestly was a let down given the amount of publicity it gets. Its in the top 10 attractions in Oslo, though I beg to differ. Infact I preferred the cute wooden church close by, even though it was closed and we couldn’t go inside.
Back to Oslo city center, where we heard there was some Mela! Artists from all over the world would be performing that weekend. As we moved towards our destination, we were shocked to see many, many Indians. It was like every 2nd person is an Indian. As we reached the Town Hall, we realized that day there were Indian and Pakistani artists performing and so the crowd of Asians. And then there were the stalls of Jalebis, Samosas, Kababs etc. It was like we were in Jullandhar and not Oslo. I was starved of India…I had been in Finland for last 6 months, so was totally excited at seeing all that jhim jham. My friend was like…I want to see Oslo, not India!
And true Indian Mela Istyle, one could get ones picture taken outside the Taj Mahal or standing alongside a jazzed up truck straight from Pakistan!