Kentuckian in Norway, Part Five: Back in the OSL
I didn’t expect the ride back to Oslo to offer much in terms of experiences. David, who had waved me off after hosting me in Trondheim, recommended I take the train back instead of flying; it was also cheaper, so I booked my minipris tickets on NSB.no beforehand.
I noticed the demographic seemed slightly more working class on board than the last time, when I was on the Bergensbanen. I ended up switching seats with a woman who moved to be next to her neighbor, snagging a spot by the window on the right. Several stops later, a man who had clearly soiled himself sat in front of me, making this part of the ride a bit uncomfortable. Still, I was able to capture views from the hilly Norwegian countryside.
After three hours, everyone who was headed to Oslo had to get off the train and reboard on buses. There was a landslide that had shut down part of the route, and I was more than thrilled to get away from the gentleman who sat before me. Everyone scrambled to find the right bus and I found mine, asking the driver, "Går denne bussen til Oslo S?" to make sure. I popped a seat near the back, directly behind a group of Norwegian boys, who didn’t keep quiet the rest of the way. Still, this part of the journey’s trade-off was another photo opportunity. By this point, the landscapre was radically shifting. We went straight from green pastures through a complete whiteout in Sør-Fron kommune, where the snow had blanketed nearly everything. But then the landscape shifted again, to fjords and massive lakes. My wifi was going in and out, but I was able to upload several incredible photos. I was once again glued to the window, as I had been on the Bergensbanen.
When we got to Oslo, it was a little rainy, but not as cold as in Trondheim. I was back at Oslo S, crowded as ever, and needed to make my way to Grünerløkka to find Anker Apartment, my residence for the remaining four days. I found the crowded number 30 bus, hopped off at Dælenenga and after asking someone where the hostel was, I spotted the large yellow building across the street from the stop.
The rest of the day was uneventful, to say the least. I had been severely stressed about money. The hostel came to around 720 NOK, and my budget was evaporating fast. It had also started to rain again was I was just wiped out and didn’t feel like going out again. This had been the longest I was living out of a suitcase and it began to take a toll. Still, I will credit the hostel, however, which was brand spanking new and impeccably spotless. There was also a Joker market connected to the building, which helped me to self-cater the remainder of the trip. I ended up retreating to my 20-bed mixed room, which had a couple of French dudes, a group of men who sounded like they were from a Slavic country, some Italians, Swedes and also a Moldovan guy who was trying to find a job in Oslo.
Thursday proved to be better and more eventful. I walked through Grünerløkka on the way to meet someone for coffee that afternoon, which was quite a delight. Its reputation for being one of Oslo’s trendiest neighborhoods turned out to be accurate, as I passed through a large park, a bunch of restaurants and bars and cute little boutiques with clever names. It reminded me of the Highlands in Louisville a lot, and the area just seemed to sparkle even more prominently from all of the fall colors and sunshine. I came to adore this part of Oslo, unsurprisingly.
After coffee, I met up with another friend, Petter, who I had seen in Chicago last December. He took me to a Thai restaurant, where we caught up about our lives since he was last in the U.S. I made the mistake of asking the waitress for a limón when I should have used sitron. It was also weird using Norwegian with Petter because he sounds like an Amerıcan when he speaks Englısh, so I clammed up and resorted to using English as well. Petter then took me to Crowbar, a new local brewery which was popular with people our age. The place was filling up quickly, and we grabbed a couple of ales and found an open booth. We talked a little bit more about developments and I attempted to take some selfies of us, although moderately successful. The end of the night rounded off with a tour of østkanten, as we walked through Grønland, passing Akerselva, and then Tøyen, where Petter pointed out the city’s prison and even a mosque. The flavor of this part of Oslo was remarkable; immigrants were everywhere and corner shops, bars and restaurants were open, with notably the lowest prices I had seen in the city regarding meals and pints of beer. It was dark and while it would seem a little sketchy walking alone for a new traveller to the city, I didn’t feel unsafe. I hung out at Petter’s place for a while and had some of his yummy cobbler before heading back to the hostel.
Friday may have been the most anticipated and subsequently eventful day for this leg of the trip. I had planned an early birthday get-together at Ett Glass, my favorite restaurant since being in Oslo the first time for people to come and meet up. It was 7 p.m. and no one was there yet. I had also made the mistake of not reserving a table, as most people there were still eating. Still, I waited outside. I was kind of worried no one would show up.
My friend Erland spotted me outside, shifting my worries to joyful surpise. After being so happy to see his face and giving him a huge hug, we went in, where a tall Swedish hostess found us a table for two. Erland couldn’t stay for the entire night, but we managed to find a lot to talk about while I was with him, all over some beers (that he was so kind to buy me as an early birthday present). I had felt bad about not being able to set up arrangements before to meet him, but we decided to plan tomorrow afternoon with a walk through Kampen.
As soon as Erland left, my other friend, Martin, came by about five minutes later. Martin had been sick the past couple of days before, but was in better spirits to come that night. After giving him a rightly epic hug, we went upstairs to find some seats. Ett Glass was now turning into what I remembered it as and there seemed to be a lot more gay people appearing this time of the night. Martin bought me a birthday drink and we talked a little bit about my trip and also about his recent move to Oslo. He had lived in Bergen, which provided another opportunity for me to hear the delightful accent. At this point, my Norwegian was in full swing, and I had been able to understand it without any of the problems I faced from long conversations when I was first in Oslo the week before. I don’t know if it was the beer or nervousness with Petter yesterday, but I felt more comfortable using it as well. Soon, another friend, Alexander had come up and spotted us. I was wholeheartedly taken back — I messaged Alexander before about my plans, but we hadn’t checked in before I left for Norway, so seeing him there was a complete I-had-absolutely-no-idea-you-would-be-hear-at-all surprise. My heart felt so warmed by what was happening (beyond the influence of the pints I had); it was really turning out to be a memorable bursdagsfest and I was so appreciative of my friends who had come out on a Friday night to celebrate with me. I mentioned my appreciation to Alexander, who said that he really wanted to meet me when I was in Norway. He bought a pitcher for the table (although he had to sit on the steps next to us, which I felt bad about — again, full house) and I ended up taking several selfies of us. I even spotted the person I had met for coffee, who was at the table next to us!
Alexander had to leave but I, again, reminded him how thankful I was that he came and gave the last of several hugs I had given him that night. In the meantime, Martin wanted to take me to the rest of Oslo’s gay bars. I still couldn’t believe what was happening, really. Martin, who had been ill, was volunteering to make sure I had a memorable and fantastic night; i felt so thankful, amazed and elated from it all that I took a photo of us in the street; the light illuminating behind us seemed to capture the spirit of the night, which I still smile about as I type this.
I can’t remember the name of the first bar afterwards we went to, noting that it wasn’t crowded. I saw a friend and his girlfriend there, and we hung out with them, while dancing in between. I will take this opportunity to specifically credit how impressive of a dance Martin is! I’m pretty sure we danced to Beyonce at one point, although things become a bit blurrier the later the night becomes. We stayed there for roughly an hour before heading to Elsker, my other favorite club from my first time in Oslo, although this was at a new location. Martin had pointed out that all of the bars where in walking distance of each other, a convenience for both of us. Martin ran into a couple of friends he knew and we later made it to the dance floor, which had been playing familiar Eurovision and Scandinavian hits. He soon had to leave around midnight, but I made sure to give him a hefty embrace and thank him as profusely as I could. He had been so willing to make sure I had a fun and memorable early birthday celebration, a favor that meant a great deal to me. What a dear friend he had become!
And oi, what a night that had been! Somehow I made it home to my hostel in Grünerløkka. After lying down, I messaged Erland about meeting that afternoon and he told me he was at Expresso House coffeeshop, which was in the neighborhood. I walked there, observing that it was one of the cutesy shops I had passed before. And it was equally as koselig on the inside, and crowded. Erland was with his nephew, and we talked in Norwegian, at one point discussing how I came to learn the language. Soon Erland’s friend and his nephew’s co-worker came to join us. We stayed there for a short while before Erland and I began our trek to the Kampen neighborhood.
Petter had suggested I see Kampen the Thursdaybefore. While walking with Erland, we passed Akerselva again, but this time I spotted a huge outdoor flea market that was taking place right under the bridge near the river. Goods such as TVs, linens, produce and more were on sale at unbelievable prices; it happened every Saturday, according to Erland. Grønland was remarkably crowded this time, with all of the street markets bustling with shoppers. Erland’s friend soon came to join us on our journey and we walked through Tøyen again, eventually heading up the hills to Kampen.
This area of Oslo was quite serene and quiet, and quite a change from the hecticness of the rest of østkanten. We must have climbed a number of steps and I noted all of the colorful houses and buildings we passed by, stopping every now and then to take a photo of them. I can’t think of the right word to describe it except for deilig — Kampen felt a bit remote, but still accesible. And also really picturesque. We stopped by the park, which laid on a hill overlooking the city. It was quite possibly the most wonderful autumn day, and a perfect opportunity for us to take photos. Erland had brought his SLR camera and took several really wonderful photos of all of us. It was a highlight to come here and explore this side of Oslo; I really began to fall in love with the eastern side of the city and was glad that I had properly seen more than the first time I was in Oslo, which was mostly Frognerparken and Aker Brygge.
On the way back to sentrum, Erland treated me to a kebab and we headed back to his place, but not before stopping by Kulturhuset Hausmania. This self-governing establishment is a wonder that just has to be seen in person. Covered with nothing but graffiti and street art, I was mesmerized. Erland and I took several photos beside the giant orb that stood out near the center of the premises. We then headed back to his place a little and watched some of the Norwegian version of The Voice before I had to depart.
I had to meet my other friend at Teddy’s Soft Bar in Grønland, which wasn’t too far away — once again, a benefit of Oslo’s incredibly walkable layout. We had actually ran into Erland’s partner, who had just got off work. They walked me to main street in the neighborhood and I gave them both hugs, hoping to meet Jean later at OSL airport tomorrow where he worked. Once again, I was touched by the kindess Erland had given me, and I was a little sad to say goodbye. It’s impossible to thank him for everything, but I knew that he was all the more happy to make sure I had a great experience while in Oslo, reflecting a friendship that I now hold close.
Walking into Teddy’s, you can’t help but feel you’re in another era. I spotted Eirik sitting at one of the tables, getting there right on time. We took our seats at the bar where I looked around at all of the memorabilia that had been in place since the place had opened decades ago in the 1950s, including an iconic jukebox that Eirik pointed out. At this point, only Norwegian had been used and it felt weird when we had to resort to English, a sign that my being in Norway has having a rapid effect. Eirik and I talked about our jobs and travel plans, and he also mentioned a party he was going to later, that I went with him to.
We grabbed some grub and more beers (but not before a mixup with trying to get chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant, which apparently doesn’t exist in Norway) before walking to his friend’s party in a suburb called Sagene. It was a long walk, but it was great to explore more of Oslo in this way, observing where and how the locals live. The houses we passed by reminded me of those on Kampen (and Eirik noted that they were also expensive). Soon we got to his friend’s apartment, in which it was hosting a “Heaven and Hell” party on both floors. Oi — didn’t have a costume, but it didn’t matter. I met his friends, including the host and a performer from Trondheim; they had all attended school together and had known one another for a long time. I struggled a bit with some of the conversations because they became incredibly colloquial, but everyone was shocked when I mentioned my connection to Norway and the language. The party, which was also kid-friendly, was a great and authentic way to cap my last night in Oslo. I remember standing on the balcony at one point after having some wine, feeling like I was really just living in the city now, and no longer a tourist in any sense.
Eirik walked me to the another Anker hostel by mistake in the city center, but accompanied me halfway to Grünerløkka before we split ways. I gave him a hug and said hade, heading back to the other Anker on a not-too-chilly early morning.
Last day in Norway:
Well, the time had come. It was rainy Sunday morning and I had to check out of the hostel by 11 a.m. I had first went out to search for a shot glass for my sister, heading downtown and eventually walking up to Slottet, although I didn’t go in; not enough time, unfortunately. By the time I searched unsuccessfully, it had been an hour and I needed to be out of Anker Apartments by 11 a.m., so I booked it back to Grünerløkka. I packed everything in my 50-pounder, checked out, got some snacks at Joker for the last time and then walked to find the bus station to take the flybuss to the airport. Erland had told me were I needed to go, but I still needed help, so I asked several girls who were waiting for the next bus at a nearby stop.
"Hei, jeg trenger å ta flybussen. Hvor kan jeg finne det?"
"Det er der borte, på den siden av gaten," one of them explained. It saw the stop right across the street.
"F-N." Another one said, which was the name of the actual bus. "Det ligger på veggene."
"Åh, ok. Tusen takk!"
I waited for about 30 minutes, as it began to start drizzling. I took a photo of the large SAS ad under the bus canopy, as these seemed to be ubiquitous in Norway. Soon the bus came and I boarded, greeted by a very chatty driver and paid for my ticket on-board with my card. I didn’t even realize when we got to OSL; I suppose I was zoned out and bummed about having to fly back to Berlin. After a smooth check-in and going through security, I tried to look for the OSL lounge for Jean, Erland’s partner, but I wasn’t able to find it. By the time I made it through security it was already too late. I walked to the international gate and sat quietly, a little tired with my feet in dire need of relief. I thought about my eventual flight back to the U.S. the next day and the time it must have been there and plans in Chicago. But soon those thoughts drifted and I thought about everything that had happened all those who I had met the past two weeks. Unequivocaly, Oslo had now become my other home.
Read parts one, two, three and four from the Kentuckian in Norway trip!