I visited Betsy and Dex in Norway for a week at the end of March. Here are some pictures.
It's a twelve hour flight from Japan to Copenhagen, then a one hour flight to Oslo. Jet lag on the way over was fine, but the return trip wiped me out. Works for me! I had a blueberry Pop-Tart in Copenhagen Airport. They probably don't call it "Pop-Tart" though. Betsy and Dex met me at the airport, and we went to Oslo for the night.
On the second day (the first full day) we went on a Norway in a Nutshell tour. It's a customizable package thing that lots of tourists purchase, apparently. So, we took the Bergen Railway up to the ice planet Hoth. It was cold and windy outside, I imagine, but we stayed in the warm train car. Some people were snowkiting, which I'd never seen before. At Myrdal, we hopped on the Flåm Railway and predictably went to Flåm. After that it was a trip on a boat through the fjords. Dex is a geologist, and he explained the geology behind the country's ridiculously curvy coastline.
I thought the weather in Norway in March would really suck, but it didn't. We got a little rain one day, a lot of rain another day, and then lots of partly cloudy and sunny weather. It was warm, too. Good conditions for walking outside. We walked up a mountain road for an hour and turned around when the snow got too deep and the sun dipped low in the sky.
It was too windy to get a flashy guidebook-style photo atop Pulpit Rock. The view was good, though. Later in the afternoon we had lunch at the lodge. Betsy and Dex had a potato and leek soup, and I had a smoked salmon sandwich. I don't know much about Norwegian food, but I enjoyed eating a lot of new things. The restaurants served a lot of fish. Breakfast buffets included pickled herring, whole wheat bread, Norwegian cheese, musli, and other standard fare like eggs and bacon and sausages. Hot dogs appear to be a staple food product here. Many convenience stores and shops serve large delicious hot dogs. I consumed my share.
Dex flew back to work, so Betsy and I toured Bergen on our own. My friend Henrik said that a guidebook once opened, "In Bergen, sometimes it does not rain." I'm suspicious of the claim. Certainly we experienced a lot of precipitation, but we had the umbrellas and jackets, so with soggy shoes and socks we hit the popular sites. The popular sites were mostly empty, because tourist season is in the summer, so there were no lines. We saw the The Hanseatic Museum, showing off the old town, the Bryggens Museum, with a display on a town fire a century ago, and Troldhaugen, the house where Edward Grieg lived when he wasn't busy touring the rest of Europe.
Can you think of any famous Norwegians other than Edward Grieg? Well, if you don't listen to classical music, you probably don't even know who he is. My parents suggested that that guy who painted The Scream is famous. That might be true ... although Adam later remarked that the painting itself is famous, and the artist is less widely known. If you're a mathematician, you might know of Abel, who made great contributions to the subject in the early 1800s. And if you start naming famous musical groups, the odds are decent you're getting Norway confused with Sweden or Denmark.
Moss is a town about an hour south of Oslo. Dex is teaching geology at a small university campus there for a semester. It looks like a nice facility. In the morning we went shopping, and in the afternoon we walked around town. I fixed some of their computer problems and explained some of the others.
Betsy and I went to several museums in the Oslo outskirts. There were some old Viking boats at the Viking Ship Museum, a big ship that went to the North Pole and the South Pole at the Fram-Museum, a balsa wood boat and a reed boat at the Kon-Tiki Museum, and old buildings with moss on the roof at the The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Four museums in one day usually gets tedious, but if you mix up the types like we did, it's interesting. In the late afternoon, we went to Vigeland Sculpture Park to see the sculptures. My friend Henrik from graduate school lives in Oslo, and we met up for drinks. You can't afford alcohol in Norway, though, at least not on a regular basis. It's very heavily taxed. It was fun to chat with Henrik; I hadn't seen him in almost a decade. Dexy took the train up, and later in the evening we went to a fancy restaurant.
It's fun walking around downtown Oslo. That's what we did on my last morning. Around noon, I said goodbye and hopped the train to the airport. The plane ride back to Tokyo felt shorter than the plane ride there, but maybe I just slept through more of it. A good vacation. The new Japanese school year starts next week.