Tag Archives: Norway

Lights and tunnels of Norway

11 May

Were we really still in Oslo just yesterday morning?  We’ve had two sensational days of driving, along fjords and farmlands, up into snowy mountains, around dizzying switchbacks, on ferries, and through tunnels.

Ah, the tunnels. We always seem to associate trolls and gnomes with Scandinavia, but I swear there must be dwarves somewhere in its history, too. Dwarves, after all, are the ones who tunnel, and never before have I seen a land with such an abundance of tunnels.

But let me start with the light, to make a feeble attempt to describe it. The sunlight yesterday morning was spectacular. The sky was clear and blue, and sunshine poured over the horizon from a low angle, lighting up one side of the houses spilling down the hill.

As we drove into downtown Oslo, we could see a solid wall of cloud had built up over the fjord, with sunlight leaking out overtop. Utterly dramatic.

Then in the evening, too, we watched golden sunlight dissolve first into coral hues, tingeing the snow-capped mountains and few wispy clouds a rosy pink, then into violet, and finally into bluish grays.

It’s just after midnight now, and it still isn’t completely dark.

By the way, there are lights in the tunnels, too. It seems that you never know what you’re going to experience when you go into a tunnel in Norway. It might be wide, or it might be narrow. It may be well-lit, or you may find yourself wide-eyed and staring into dusty darkness, especially if your eyes were dazzled by sunlit snow moments before.  Some tunnels are smooth-walled, and others seem to have been newly chewed through, with wet patches where spring melt is seeping through the rock. The rare tunnel is tiled in glazed panels that reflect the lights of oncoming vehicles. Sometimes the tunnel lights are white, and sometimes they’re orange. Once, while driving under a fjord, the lights at the shaft’s nadir were blue.

In this land of tunnels, you might be anywhere when you emerge. The country is built on bedrock, so many of the tunnels must be built by dynamite, eating through solid granite.

You never know where you’re going to be when you get out. You may go into one teetering along the edge of a precipice, and then emerge to find yourself in a green valley.

We remarked today that we should have kept track of how many tunnels we’ve traversed, and the distance we travelled through each one.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find we’ve driven through 20 or 30 kilometres of tunnels on our trip so far.

It can be harrowing, and it can be exciting, but it’s certainly never boring.

Day 1: Oslo

9 May

Greetings from Oslo!

The trip from Vancouver to Oslo was fairly uneventful and, if not entirely comfortable, not entirely unbearable, either. There were 20 minutes of near-panic when I was hemmed in by my carry-on bag at my feet, the guy reclining in front of me, and the GIANT Croatian guy sitting next to me, whose  legs spread into typical man-sitting position when he fell into a thunderous, snoring sleep. Fortunately, I was able to move my bag to another nearby seat and the fellow in front of me obliged me by raising his seat back a couple of inches, so I had a little room to breathe for the 9-hour-and-20 minute flight.

My parents and my Oma greeted me at the airport and we set off right away to see a few sights and find some supper. My dad had spotted a sign earlier in the day advertising a Norwegian whalemeat dinner, so we sought the place out. I tried muktuk (whale blubber) once in my high school days in Iqaluit, but had never actually tried whale meat. I can now say that I’ve tried it, but I don’t think I would jump to do it again. It’s really kind of a red meat and has quite a strong flavour that I wasn’t overly fond of.

The my dad took me for a quick jaunt over to the new Norwegian Opera House, opened just 4 years ago. It is designed to look like an iceberg and you can walk from street level right up to the roof! The inside is beautiful, too, although I can only attest to the lobby and the bathrooms.

Oslo Opera House

(Photo from Wikipedia)

After that, we drove to the B&B where I was able to shower off the travel grime and attempt to recover from jet-lag.

This morning, I looked out the window of my room and was greeted with a hazy mist, spring green, and colourful houses.

A room with a view

Driving into Oslo later in the morning, I was continually struck by the architecture: an interesting house here, a round building there, a slanted one over there. But driving along at high speed on narrow and windy roads is not conducive to great photos, especially when combined with a slow, jet-lagged, and head-cold-affected brain that registers a second too late that the camera must be switched on.

After breakfast, I made a quick stop at Oslo’s City Hall.

My mom outside City Hall

Imagine the party you could have in here!

The other end of the giant foyer, including pipes from the pipe organ

Next we jumped onto the “Jomfruen” for a little sailing tour of the Oslo Fjord, including a close-up of the Opera House and the floating sculpture that lies next to it. We jumped off on the opposite side of the Fjord so that we could visit a couple of amazing museums.

Not sure this sailboat ever gets to be under sail, but it was a lovely ride around the Fjord.

"She Lies": a floating sculpture

“She Lies”: a floating sculpture

First there was the Fram Museum, which appears to have been built around the huge boat inside it, the Fram, used by Fridtjof Nansen for both polar expeditions at both ends of the earth.

The Fram inside the Fram Museum

The museum also covered information about Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the North Pole, and also a boat (called the Gjøa) that was taken to Gjoa Haven, Nunavut about a hundred years ago. Fascinating stuff! After that, we walked a kilometre or so to check out some Viking ships that had been excavated out of burial mounds.

It’s after midnight now, so I’ll gloss over the Nobel Peace Centre (amazing, too!) and the fantastic dinner we had. Tomorrow we’ll drop my Oma off at the airport so she can fly home to Germany. It’s been wonderful seeing her. Our friend Marina will also join us as we head for the first stop on our driving tour. We’ll be driving between 8 and 11 hours each day, so not sure how much blogging I’ll fit in.

En route

7 May

I’m sitting in the International wing of the Vancouver Airport. There’s a little oasis here, with a stream, grasses growing along the edges, a footbridge from which small children can throw coins, a giant salt-water aquarium, and comfy chairs all around.

I have quite a nasty head cold and am grateful for the sinus-clearing drugs that allowed me to stave it off long enough on Saturday that I had a fantastic show, and that allowed me to land in Vancouver this morning with trepidation but no pain.

I am off to meet my parents in Oslo. It will take all day today and a good chunk of tomorrow to get there. I’ll be gone for 10 days. I’m excited, but melancholy all at once. Yesterday as I was packing Jade’s lunch, I was getting teary thinking about leaving my girls for so long. And I very nearly cried when my plane took off this morning. I am a suck.

I know Michael is perfectly capable, and yet I feel bad to leave him to parent both girls and try to get his work done. (Although I do the same thing. But my work doesn’t pay the bills. It just barely pays for itself. Yet.)

I just had a Skype talk with Michael and Halia, so I feel a bit better.

My Oma will be in Oslo, too. I haven’t seen her in a couple of years and I’m really looking forward to giving her a great big hug. I wish I’d thought to ask the girls to make a card for her before I left home.

This is my life today. Chaotic, disorganized, and exciting.

And my kids will be fine.