Okay, first some catch-up regarding Norway…when I was in elementary school, we did these “country projects,” probably best described as an early version of the research paper we completed later in high school. For whatever reason (I can’t remember if our countries were assigned or if we chose), my country was Norway. Some ten years later, I was able to actually visit Oslo! My Norwegian journey actually began at the Rygge Airport, from which I took a shuttle to the train station and then a train in to Oslo, where Laura and I had a happy running hug reunion fit for the beginning of a Norwegian version of Love Actually.
Our main goal for that day (this was Tuesday) was to visit Viegland
Park, a space full of sculptures by Viegland. Laura told me that the city of Oslo gave Viegland free studio space in exchange for the sculptures. He seemed to have an affinity for naked sculptures, but there were some pretty cool sculptures, and the park offered a fantastic view! Before heading to the park, though, Laura showed me her school and we stopped to get Kebabs for lunch. German/Luxembourgish Kebabs (Doeners) are from Turkey, but the ones in Norway are from Pakistan, so the toppings are a little different (they add corn), and the meat is prepared a little differently (chopped rather than shaved), but they are just as delicious (and just as messy)!
On our way to the main sculpture section of the park, Laura and I
spotted a familiar bust across the way. “Is that Lincoln?” she asked. “Yes, I think it is!” Upon further investigation, we found a bust of Abraham Lincoln chilling in the middle of Oslo, Norway, apparently a gift to Oslo from the people of North Dakota. After we explored the park and took in the view of the city, we ventured into Laura’s local grocery store, made dinner (pasta and meatballs…not exactly the most Norwegian thing, but it was good!), and then found some of her friends and played cards the rest of the night.
Wednesday was my big day of exploration. Laura had class until 2:30, so I was on my own until then, when we had agreed to meet at the iconic Tiger outside of the main Oslo train station. I had a few specific things I wanted to see, but mostly I just wandered through the streets, stumbling upon the main sights as I explored. When I felt like I had seen enough of one area, I just found a tram stop, hopped on the first one that came, and got off when something looked interesting. Before I met up with Laura, I managed to…
- See about a billion statues (Oslo seems to be teeming with them)
- Eat a chocolate roll while strolling around the park next to the national theater
- Find Henrik Ibsen’s grave
- Find Henrik Ibsen’s old apartment
- See Parliament
- Visit the Nobel Peace Prize location
- Visit the library (they have nice bathrooms, in addition to lots of books! But really—they were free, and there was a sink in each stall…)
- Sip hot chocolate and eat a muffin while looking out at the harbor (and listening to street musicians)
- Find a statue of FDR (Apparently Norway likes American presidents?)
- See the Royal marching band march from the Palace down to the gazebo outside the theater for their afternoon concert
The harbor is definitely my favorite place in Oslo. It was full of people, but it was also so peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful!
After I met up with Laura, she took me to Akershus Fort, which is a
working military fort, but largely open to the public. The ruins to the old fort are also right out front, but climbing on the fortress walls (which were visible from the Harbor) provided one of the most spectacular views available. The castle portion was closed, but we looped around to see old city center (which was adorable) and get a closer look at the castle (I had been too busy following the band earlier) before stopping to get some sushi and heading home. We rested for a bit (and Laura worked on some homework) before heading out with Laura’s friends for “Ladies Night” at the Underwater Pub down the street. The pub was painted as if it was underwater—scuba divers and everything—and it was a really nice night. The really cool thing about Laura’s program is that she’s studying with students from all over the place. During my time there, I met people from Columbia, The Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Canada, Norway (obviously), and Lithuania (probably more that I’m forgetting, but those are the ones I remember). It was really neat to be able to spend time with them and learn about their perspectives, traditions, and cultural norms.
Today, we went on another Discovery tour with the MUDEC students (well, some of them) to Metz, France. Andrew (the student activities director) had
arranged for us to take a ride on the “little train” through town, which was really nice because it allowed us to not only see a lot of the town (which was much bigger than I had expected), but also have an audio tour to learn some of the history of both the town and the building. Metz is apparently the capital of the Lorraine portion of France, which was traded back and forth between Germany and France for a long time. The French and German influences are apparent in the architecture (according to our audio guide), but the most impressive thing I saw was the Cathedrale Saint-Etienne. Our guide told us that this Cathedral has more surface area of stained glass than any other cathedral in France (including the Notre Dame), and is the second or third highest in the country. It was very impressive, awesome in a very literal sense of the word. One of the windows reminded me of the Chagall piece at the Chicago Art Institute, and I learned once we were on our little train that Chagall actually did make some of the windows in the cathedral! After our train tour, we had a bit of time to wander around before heading back, so we explored the market, grabbed a croissant, and explored the area around the cathedral. It was a great visit!