‘You can’t go to Oslo just for the day!’ Dan swatted my idea away.
‘Because it’s miles away. What would you do there, anyway? There can’t be many things to do in Oslo for day-trippers.’
‘I’ll get lunch or something. It’s an adventure! Imagine the headlines: Boy Goes to Oslo for Afternoon.’ Admittedly, it wasn’t my catchiest attempt at a splash.
‘There won’t be any headlines. You can’t just go to Europe for the afternoon, I won’t let you.’
‘I’m already at the airport. I’ll call you when I get back.’
I put the phone down and rested my bag against the piercing glare of the airport floor. Conversations like that only increased my determination to go.
Flickr Credit: Edward Dalmulder
I was staying in the airport overnight, a consequence of the frighteningly early departure time. I wasn’t alone – Stansted was full of people blurring the line between traveller and lodger. There were couples curled up together, using their luggage to shield them from any open eyes; there were groups of friends lazily flopping playing cards onto the floor in the small hours; there were hard living types who appeared able to sleep beneath aggressively fluorescent lighting; then there were others, like me, who were unsettled, walking in circuits around the airport and dreaming of climbing into a pool of warm coffee. In the early morning silence the airport was uncomfortably peaceful.
Generally, my friends didn’t get it. Why go so far for the day? I didn’t have a convincing answer. It was pointless, sure, but exciting because of it. I was testing the feasibility of international day-tripping and enjoying the hubbub that I was causing in doing so. Of course, spending all night in the airport then hours on planes and buses for barely a couple of hours on the ground in Oslo is not for everyone. At times, during the night on Stansted’s sheet ice floor, it wasn’t for me either.
The bus rolled into central Oslo and I set my stopwatch to 90-minutes. I looked around, picked the direction that looked the driest and quickened my step, before getting distracted by some expensive looking pastry in a nearby shop window. If there is one theme to my travels in Scandinavia it’s that I’m willing to spend whatever is necessary on Scandinavian cake, often leading to puzzled glances weeks later as I trawl through credit card receipts. Most of my travels have been fuelled exclusively on cake, beer and a looming sense of financial regret.
Flickr Credit: Bernt Rostad
At the Opera House – a glass doorstop wedged next to the harbour – I caught my breath. The Opera House acted as a mirror, pushing strips of sunlight across the harbour. The golden view of split sunlight across still water would have been special, were it not filled with the squinting grimaces of those trying to enjoy it. I stood for a while and watched on as two girls sang their best Spandau Ballet to a gold living statue, which led to them, and me, being filmed laughing by a news crew working for NRK, the Norwegian national broadcaster.
I kept checking my watch, time was disappearing as I headed over to the Royal Palace. Oslo is a pleasant city to stroll in, its fountains, green spaces and Scandinavian stone buildings all looked suited to the scattered sunlight and browning leaves of autumn. Standing in front of the Royal Palace, the city that opened up ahead was green, airy, clean smelling and unintimidating. It was a shallow but enlivening first impression of Norway, and that was all I wanted from the trip. It felt good being there without reason, it felt good being lost.
When I got back, I phoned Dan.
‘So, make any headlines in Norway?’
I thought back to the camera crew outside the Opera House. ‘Actually, now you mention it…’
Flickr Credit: Jack at Wikipedia
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