Oslo

Written on July 26.

Royal Palace

On Thursday, we finally got to go into Oslo and explore the city. We got off in the city center and walked to the Royal Palace, saw the National Theatre and City Hall and some of the other main attractions of Oslo. After a short time there, we left to go eat on top of a mountain that overlooks the entire city.

Frogner Park

After lunch, we walked down to Oslo’s competition ski jump, a towering metal structure in the summer with zip-liners but covered with snow in the winter. The heat was pretty much unbearable during this time, especially on the train up the mountain, so we headed to Frogner Park to sit in the shade for a bit and look at the Vigeland installation, a series of nude sculptures of men, women and babies, including a giant monolith of naked bodies.

Vigeland Installation

After Frogner Park, we left to get out of the heat and headed home, stopping by Marianne’s old school and the main shopping street (I don’t suggest shopping in Oslo unless you’ve got a lot of extra $$ hiding around).

At some point during all of this, we came to find out that Norway is facing a “imminent concrete” terrorist threat regarding the Syrian civil war and that I’m supposed to register with the American embassy (sorry mom for not telling you, but I didn’t want to scare you). Norway increased security in the airport and main bus/train terminal, with police carrying guns (unusual here), and shut down the Royal Palace and City Hall to tourists. Guess we just made it in time to see them. 

Overlooking Oslo

I registered online with the American STEP program, which alerts the embassy that I am in the country in case they need to track me down. I’m sitting on the plane to London writing this, so I’m fine, but hopefully Norway escapes whatever threat faces them and finds whoever would be responsible before anything happens. We caught a piece on the news interviewing Americans in the country later that week about the scare, which was unexpected in a country that is generally so safe that police leave their guns in their cars.

It’s odd how I managed to be in Oslo in such a tumultuous time, with the burglary and record breaking heat and the terrorist threats. Marianne’s family told me they usually find themselves complaining in the summer that it could be a little warmer, a little less cloudy or rainy, but that this summer they’re complaining that they’re not complaining. The chances of a burglary in Oslo are much slimmer than at home, and targeting Norway with terror threats has been compared to doing the same with Idaho in the States.

Naked Monolith

Marianne’s parents came home Thursday night to deal with the burglary (they had guests at their summerhouse the day before and the police told them there was little they could do by getting back early), having to leave the fjord earlier than planned. Marianne’s brother came by, and we all ordered pizza.

Friday was another chill day mostly spent at the apartment. I had to get some laundry done, and it was too hot to really do much. Marianne, her dad and I went to the Munch Museum. Edvard Munch (pronounced monk) is a famous Norwegian painter known for “The Scream,” and his collection made me a fan. I think he’s got to be one of my favorite painters now!

Lobster at Lofoten

Marianne’s parents had a friend’s party to go to that night, but they sent us and Marianne’s brother and his girlfriend to a seafood restaurant called ­­­­Lofoten recommended in the Michelin guide and The New York Time’s 36 Hour Guides. I ordered Norwegian lobster, which was perfectly cooked, and we all shared a nice bottle of white wine. The waitress was a bit off, but the food was on point. We all headed home and I packed up to leave for London the next day.

 From Frogner Park

Now I’m sitting on the plane, laptop and tray table out before they’re supposed to be and Lana Del Rey’s new album echoing through my headphones. It’s been more than a year and a half since I was last in London, my favorite place in the world. The place that spurred a two-year personal growth unlike any other in my life, where I spent the best three months of my life. My flatmates are still scattered across Europe, though I will get to see three of them and some of my other friends throughout the 19 days I plan on spending here (I may take a few days to go to Dublin and maybe a short trip to Oxford or Cambridge). I don’t know what to expect this time around, but I anxiously await stepping out of the plane and back into a place with infinite personal meaning to me.

Beaches and Burglaries

We left the summerhouse on Tuesday evening to head to Oslo for the rest of the week. My time on the fjord was quite refreshing after being on the go for so long, getting to eat home-cooked meals and give my feet a break in the sun. My sneakers pretty much never got put on, and my breathing feet thanked me for that. Tuesday evening in Oslo was pretty chill, considering we got in around 8pm and had to grab groceries for the week. We went to bed relatively early and got up the next morning to go to the beach. Marianne had a package coming between 3-4 on Wednesday, so we went to the beach knowing we’d need to head back around 2:30. It was really hot out – the heat has been near record-breaking in Oslo this past week – so we would alternate lying out on the hot sand in the open sun and hopping in the cold waters of the Oslo fjord. Once we cooled off in the water, we’d hop out and dry in the sun only to get wet again with sweat.

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There were tons of naked babies running around (how European), gorgeous Scandinavian couples (I swear there’s something in the water here) and swans unafraid to gather around the humans, one of whom sat guard outside of a baby carriage for a short time (okay I’m actually afraid of swans ever since I got chased by one when I was little). At 2:30, we headed back to the apartment, which is when the real action of the week occurred. Marianne’s flat is on the top floor, and when we got out of the elevator we noticed an oddly familiar sheet sitting outside of the roof access door, which was wide open. Marianne put her key into the deadbolt lock, turning with no success. Then we noticed that there were indentions on the side of the door near where the locks were. “Oh my god someone’s broken in,” says Marianne. 20140726-232817-84497114.jpg There’s no way. I’d left my iPhone and wallet in the apartment since we were going to the beach, had my laptop and passport there. Everything important to me and my travels was sitting inside of that apartment. “They didn’t get in through this door,” I say. “Could they have gotten in through the roof?” I was holding onto the hope that someone tried unsuccessfully and that everything was fine. I climbed up the ladder onto the roof and ran across the hot black ground there to the side overlooking the veranda. The door to the apartment was wide open with the lock busted. I ran back and Marianne was talking to her dad, who had called the police. I go into a full on panic because I’m assuming the worst, that everything is gone, that I’ll have no way to get money or get out of the country, that I’ll have to figure out getting a new phone in a foreign country and have to replace my laptop (which, though small, had a blog post written and ready to go up that I thought I would lose forever). 20140726-232817-84497993.jpg When the police arrived, they couldn’t get the front door open either, so they had to call a locksmith. Marianne’s family – her brother, sister and brother-in-law all showed up. The police were going to take a while, so we left for a café while they took pictures and fingerprints from the scene, and it was more than two painfully nerve-wracking hours before we would realize what was taken. When we got to the café, I used Marianne’s brother-in-law’s “Find my iPhone” app to check for my phone. It said it was still in the apartment, but it couldn’t find my laptop. My laptop wouldn’t have been connected to wifi, so seeing that my phone was still there I had hope. The police called Marianne to survey the scene and tell them what was missing, and finally Marianne’s family and I were able to go back into the apartment. Somehow, all of my things were there except 300 NOK (about $50), which felt like nothing compared to what I thought would be gone. The burglars did manage to steal the Tyvand’s safe, which had silverware and passports in it, and most of her mom’s jewelry and some silver ornaments for their Norwegian national costumes. Things were thrown everywhere and there was fragmented wood surrounding the door to the veranda where they had broken in. After we had checked the apartment, we left to grab sushi and decompress and spent the rest of the evening cooling down in the apartment. We couldn’t be bothered to go into Oslo as we had planned after such a stressful day.

Dear Kragero

This letter brought to you by my laptop surviving a burglary in Norway – more on that next time…

Kragero

Dear Kragero, 

I spent my days with you watching the sun make its slanted path across the sky, not setting until past 10 and never truly getting dark.

Midnight on the Fjord

Your long, easy days helped mend my tired feet. Your cool, salty waters woke me from my lazy naps, the salt curling my hair in the warm breeze.

You were three days of fresh air, sunshine, kayak and motorboat rides and dips in the fjord to cool down in this year’s unusually hot Norwegian summer. You were long talks about politics and culture, about international friends and the trip the Tyvands once took to Siloam Springs, Arkansas, where I haven’t even been.

Kayaking

Meals too were eaten in the open air, underneath a large umbrella to keep us in the shade. Coffee and cereal in the mornings, Italian pizza in the village nearby for lunch, Norwegian salmon or hot dogs in potato tortilla-like buns in the evenings. Would dinner be at 4:30 or 7 or 9 today? Only the day could decide.

Late night dinner

We took a boat ride yesterday, past the islands and through the fjord out to the open sea. We anchored near a small island and jumped off the boat into water that first knocked the air from my lungs but then felt warm under the sun floating on my back. We snacked on Norwegian sweets – one almost like a pancake and the other like some sweet tortilla.

Taking out the boat

As I floated, face towards the sky and body cool under the water, I couldn’t help but think, there is nowhere in the entire world I would rather be than here.

Thank you.

Brennan

Good friends

Out on the boat

Copenhagen, July 17-20

Looking over Copenhagen

Cassidy and I saw Diplo on the Wednesday night before I headed to Copenhagen, giving me only a few hours of sleep before catching the 6:20am train. I slept most of the five-hour ride, which I assume was beautiful, and got into my hostel around noon.

I couldn’t check in until 2, so I grabbed a veggie burger and walked around the Assistens Cemetery, where Hans Christian Anderson is buried. The cemetery is more of a local park than anything, with young (shirtless…) fathers lying on blankets with their babies and couples sharing benches.

I headed back to the hostel and took a well-needed nap on the top of a three-story bunk before waking up to a new girl named Betsy in the bunk below talking to one of our roommates across the room. I heard her say she was from the states, so I rolled over and asked her where she was from: Maryland – only an hour outside of DC. We talked for 20 minutes before I actually got out of bed and we saw what each other looked like.

Christiania

Three 18-year-old English girls who just finished their A-levels came into the room after a short while, and the five of us grabbed a bite to eat before heading to Christiania, which is kind of a free town within Copenhagen. There’s a marijuana market there, lots of artwork, bars, outdoor seating and a large warehouse where a couple hundred people live. We had beers by a lake there and enjoyed the late sunlight until 10:30 before heading back.

Christiania

At the hostel, we met another group of seven Brits interrailing after their A-levels, as well as an American named Maxine, and chatted with them for a while before going on a walk. Most of them intended on going out, but we mostly just wanted to explore.

Copenhagen Opera House

Betsy and I spent pretty much all of our time together, though I took a walking tour by myself. We went to the Danish National Museum and a theme park called Tivoli, where we ran into an Australian girl who took a bike tour with me in Stockholm. We rode a roller coaster there after exploring a bit and then grabbed dinner. We went back to the hostel and spent some more time with the large group of British students.

Tivoli

The next day, Betsy and I went to a really nice food market, where I had a Smorrebrod, which is a traditional Danish open sandwich. Mine had mackerel on it and was by far the best thing I ate in Copenhagen. We also got this Jersey cow ice cream on a stick that was fabulous – mine was sea salt caramel and pumpkin seed and hers was some kind of honey oat flavored. After the food market, we headed to the National Gallery, which had a really nice modern collection.

Secret Tunnel

Two years ago, my friend and I were travelling in Berlin when we met two English-speaking girls – Sisi from Copenhagen and Chloe from Oxford – and ended up spending an evening and a lunch with them. They were both au pairing and had met only a couple months before. Anyway, I told Sisi I was in town and she met up with us at the gallery.

Sisi and Me

It was pretty wild seeing Sisi after such a brief meeting two years ago and catching up on everything. Chloe still lives in Berlin, and the two of them have stayed good friends since we met them. Sisi is back in Copenhagen studying, where the government pays students to go to school. We spent a few hours in the Botanical Gardens, walking around and at a café in Norrebro, the neighborhood our hostel was in and where Sisi lived.

There’s something really special about international friends – regardless of how short of a time you meet them or where you are in your life, it’s always nice to catch up and see them when you are in the same place. There’s this strange openness about these friendships because you know that you having ever connected was by such a slim chance and that the friendships may be just for a day or two where your paths cross. You may never see these people again, but if you do it’s always interesting and welcomed.

Americans in Copenhagen

After grabbing drinks at the café, we said our goodbyes (maybe to one day see each other again, who knows where) and Betsy and I headed back to the hostel. The other American girl we met, Maxine, and I left to see a DJ set by Dillon Francis and Flosstradamus. The show was sick – I moshed for the first time, though it was more of a toned down mosh pit than others – and we left with a new Danish friend to grab some more drinks. 

Flosstradamus

As usual when I have to travel these days, I got almost no sleep before having to get up at 5am to head to the airport for Norway, where I currently sitting on the shore of a fjord sipping on some coffee. Will get back to you on that one. 

A Letter to Stockholm

Skansen

Dear Stockholm,

Thank you for welcoming me to Europe with open arms. Looking back I will remember you by the people I met and the stories they told.

From an American girl finishing up her third session with her favorite tattoo artist, to an English friend who once hallucinated on what he thought was throat medication that his mouth was a jazz bar where a customer kept buying drinks and spilling them, causing him to spit over and over again. And the Swiss friend who hallucinated on something less accidental and took 200 selfies because he thought he was so beautiful.

New Friends

Your stories gave me new ones to tell.

Like giving Diplo a high five after yelling “AMERICA!” at him and drinking too much with the Swedes we met at his show, at an outdoor venue looking over the entire city and the long day’s sun that sets past 10pm.

Before Diplo at Mosebacke Terassen

And like travelling 45 minutes through a daunting subway system to get to a bar that wouldn’t let us in before close, only to meet two Swedish girls who were infatuated by our foreign accents.

“Come out with us tomorrow – our friends will love four cute foreign boys!”

And the boys got so excited about these two Swedish girls while I chuckled to myself wondering if they knew why I wasn’t excited in the same way…

Visiting Skansen

Like a group of us almost crashing our bikes every few minutes on a bike tour because they had back-pedaling breaks instead of handle ones.

Thank you for the stories and the friends, and the wonderful introduction to this continent I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave.

Brennan

Europe: Day 1

I’ve officially made it to Stockholm after an uncomfortable seven hour flight (being 6’2 and sitting in economy just doesn’t ever work out) that I somehow managed to get some sleep on (thanks Benadryl).

It’s raining right now, and I’m exhausted, hence me not feeling too bad about sitting in the hostel for a minute to catch my breath. I’ve been wandering through the city center all day by myself – my friend Cassidy gets in tomorrow, so I haven’t been too concerned with making friends in the hostel just yet. I think most everyone is probably out doing their own thing right now anyway. I’m planning on doing a bike tour tomorrow so I can get better acquainted with the city and maybe meet some new people.

I’d forgotten the feeling of being alone in a foreign city, the awkwardness of ordering things in English and longing to talk to the few people I hear speaking my own language. There’s a strange juxtaposition in feeling independent yet confused and lost. I’m realizing again that I’ll have to put in work to get what I want out of these next couple of months here – learning a few phrases in the local language and going out of my way to make new friends and exploring buddies.

But first I’d like it to stop raining.