Lost & Found In Translation

An American college girl's perspective on the European adventure of a lifetime.

Vigeland Park, Oslo, Norway. Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Before leaving Oslo for Stockholm, I knew I had to see Vigeland Park, the famous sculpture park in Oslo. A part of the larger Frogner Park, the Vigeland Statue Park holds 212 bronze and granite statues designed by Gustav Vigeland. 

Angry Boy is the most famous statue in the park, with another notable statue being the strange depiction of a man shaking babies off of himself. The obelisk at the end of the park is the culmination of nude sculptures on top of each other.

Norway. Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

As recommended by Rick Steves, I decided to take the Norway in a Nutshell tour, a train and cruise tour that takes one to the center of Norway to explore its beautiful fjords. I had to leave at 6:30AM to start the trip, which left from Oslo and went to Myrdal, a tiny town high up in the mountains. It was utterly freezing and everything around us was covered in snow. 

From Myrdal, we took a small train to the town of Flam, stopping along the way to marvel at the magnificent Kjosfossen waterfall, which flows right next to a platform built specifically for the train to stop to let passengers out at. For some strange reason, a woman dressed in a flowing red dress popped out from behind a small ruin next to the waterfall and started doing a tribal, smooth dance. Not particularly sure why, but it was an interesting sight.

From Flam, we took a boat cruise down the Naeroyfjord and the Aurlandsfjord, two of the most beautiful fjords in the world. We saw beautiful waterfalls, snowcapped mountains, and even a seal! 

After the cruise ended in the town of Voss, we took the train back to Oslo, where, after a long day of traveling, we arrived at 11:30PM. 

OsloFriday, June 22nd, 2012.

This day was a long day of museum touring around Oslo. 

My first stop was the National Gallery of Oslo, a small art collection that is part of the National Museum but housed in a separate building. Among an impressive Impressionist collection that includes Renoirs, Monets, and Manets, the National Gallery also houses a Vincent Van Gogh Self-Portrait from 1889. However, the most important pieces in this collection are Edvard Munch’s, Norway’s most prestigious painter. Munch pieces in the gallery included The Dance of Life as well as the original The Scream. It was incredible to see these pieces up close.

The next stop on my journey required a brief ferry ride to the Viking Ship Museum, where I saw the famous Oseberg, Gokstad, and Tune ships. The Oseberg ship is fully intact, a rare archeological find. In addition to the impressive ships, which were used as funeral boats for noble people, there was an expansive array of grave goods, including beautifully carved carts, which indicates that there was some kind of road system back in the time of the Vikings.

After the Viking Museum, I stopped at the Norsk Folkemuseum, which is based on Stockholm’s Skansen. An open air museum with buildings from across Norway and from different time periods. Unlike Skansen, the Norsk Folkemuseum was deserted and boring as all get-out. I made a beeline to the only thing worth seeing, the Gol Stave Church from the 13th century, and then got the heck out of there. The Gol Stave Church was definitely worth seeing though; the architecture is specific to Northern Europe and this particular church features a painting of Jesus and his apostles. 

My next museum stop was the Kon-Tiki Museum, which housed the Kon-Tiki raft used by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl in 1947 expedition from South America to Polynesia in order to prove that such a thing may have been possible in pre-Columbian times. Heyerdahl believed that the settlers of Easter Island were migrants from Peru, and built his raft using materials and techniques that were available to people from that time period. His mission was successful.

After the Kon-Tiki Museum, I went to see the Fram, a ship used in Arctic and Antarctic expeditions in the late 1800s and early 1900s that is said to have sailed further north and south than any other wooden ship. 

My final stop was the royal palace, kind of unimpressive as far as palaces go, but a palace nonetheless.

I’m behind on updating, I know. But I’m so anxious about taking everything in that I might wait until I get home to finish chronicling my adventures. My current location: Reykjavik, Iceland. This might be the most hipster city ever, filled with city-commissioned graffiti and ostentatiously painted houses, a bar based entirely on The Big Lebowski, vintage stores every ten feet, and the most immaculately dressed hipsters I’ve ever seen. The radio plays Grimes, Of Monsters and Men, and lykke li. Everyone rides fixies and goes hiking and swimming in geothermal springs. It never gets dark in the summer. I love it here.

Stockholm —> OsloThursday, June 21st, 2012.

After check out, I headed for the Ericsson Globe, the world’s largest spherical building. Gotta love Swedes and their minimalist yet brilliant designs. You can ride these tiny globes up to the top of the building (which is a concert venue that the likes of Lady Gaga have performed at) for a killer view of Stockholm.

Then, the long road to Oslo. It was kind of an annoying trip; there was no fast train, so despite the fact that the cities aren’t *that* far away from each other, it took me 6 hours to get to Oslo. And the train was an intercity train, one that, in all of my travels, no one makes a reservation for, because they aren’t compulsory. I haven’t even seen an intercity train with assigned seats. But of course, this one had them, so me - with my eurail pass, I didn’t need a reservation - had to move at least four times. To make matters worse, it was one of the dirtiest trains I’ve ever been on. Non mi piace.

However, I was really excited to arrive in Oslo. The smallest of the major metropolitan cities in Scandinavia, as well as one of the wealthiest, Oslo is a heavily pedestrian area. These might actually win for the hottest men on earth, at least for me, because not only are they tall, svelte, well-dressed, blue-eyed, and strong-featured, but they are also COVERED in tattoos. All hail the Norwegian metal scene. Speaking of which, in my search for a decent bar (good fucking luck - Scandinavians have no concept of night life) I heard crazy bass and some screaming from the upper levels of a bar in the hip square of Youngstorget. Needless to say, I went in, and found myself in the midst of a Norwegian death metal concert, surrounded by beautiful tattooed and pierced men. Pretty sure that was heaven.

Other interesting things to note: I walked around the area of Grunerlokka, often called the Greenwich of Oslo, for about an hour in search of a bar, but failed. I don’t know if it was because it was a Thursday (the Scandinavians really only party on the weekend) or if I was looking in the wrong places, but I came up dry. I got to Youngstorget around midnight, and the sky was still a medium blue color. I am almost positive it never got truly dark out last night, as we near the longest day of the year. 

And as with any very wealthy city, there are hoards of prostitutes and drug addicts. In a city where neither is legal, however, I was amazed at their brazenness and the fact that the cops simply don’t care. There was literally a prostitute on every single corner in city center last night, blatantly going up to any men who walked by and solicited them. Talk about uncomfortable.

Stockholm, SwedenWednesday, June 20th.

My full day of exploring in Sweden! My first stop was the Vasa warship, a giant 17th century vessel, the best preserved of its class, that sank only 2km into its maiden journey. Sucks.

My next stop, also located on the island of Djurgården, which used to be used as the royal hunting grounds, was Skansen, the first open air museum and zoo in Sweden. Built in 1891, it was inspired by Oslo’s open air Folk Museum, and consists of buildings from all across Sweden - geographically and from throughout the ages. I even came across a Viking rune stone! In addition, there is a pretty impressive zoo with animals such as bears, reindeer, wolves, etc. in thoughtfully put together habitats, along with a town center featuring craftsmen in traditional dress performing their skills. There is also an “aquarium” that doesn’t feature that much sea life, but has an impressive monkey house; my favorite part was a giant lemur habitat where there was literally no separation between you and the lemurs. They could come right up to you! I was happy to be one of Skansen’s 1.3 million visitors per year. 

My next stop was Grona Lund, a tiny amusement park based off of Tivoli in Copenhagen that somehow manages to be the largest amusement park in Sweden. Poor kids. It was honestly about a sixth of what a Darien Lake theme park in the States is like. Kind of depressing. 

I came back to the main land and shopped a bit, hitting up the frequent H&Ms and this lovely boutique chain in Scandinavia, Indiska, which is sort of like Urban Outfitters, but with a more bohemian feel. I grabbed dinner at Pizza Hut, since that was all I could afford, but it was actually kind of funny because in Sweden, somehow Pizza Hut is like, a high-ish class restaurant. It’s really weird. 

Also, Scandinavia has more 7/11s in a five block radius than the entire city of Boston, for real. It is insane. And expensive. But they have Froyo, so I guess that’s a plus?

I ended the night with a boat cruise. I know it seems like I’ve been doing a lot of those, because I have, but it is because a) the places I’ve been going have a lot of water and the perspective from said water is quite different, obviously and b) the cost of the cruises is included in the Stockholm Card. The Stockholm Card (there is a similar version for most of the major cities I’ve visited) is a pass that comes at a set fee, of approximately $50, that allows you to ride all public transportation for free AND allows you free access to many major sights. Rick Steves recommended it to me, and the man was certainly right; 8 public transport rides alone will run you at least $40, and ONE entrance fee to any museum or attraction is at least $20. The Stockholm Card was worth it.

The cruise was enjoyable, making a trip around Djurgården again and then around Gamla Stan, the tiny island in the center of Stockholm that comprises the Old Town. Immediately after the boat tour, I decided to check it out. It is a quaint area filled with cafes and boutiques, and VERY few cars; I am almost positive that cars need to pay a fee in order to drive into Gamla Stan, so the cobblestone roads are pretty much clear for pedestrians.

The picture I’ve included of Gamla Stan, the very last photo, is of Stortoget Square, the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath in 1520, in which the Danish King Christian II had Swedish noblemen killed. This led to a civil war, which resulted in Sweden’s independence. Gamla Stan is also home to the Swedish royal palace.

This is a siroopwafel. It is a Dutch snack made from two waffles held together with a caramel-like substance in the middle. They are delicious, and I am officially obsessed.

This is a siroopwafel. It is a Dutch snack made from two waffles held together with a caramel-like substance in the middle. They are delicious, and I am officially obsessed.

Stockholm, Sweden. Monday June 18th-Tuesday June 19th, 2012

The trip to Stockholm took about 7 hours, so I was a bit beat upon my arrival at my hostel, which was complicated by the fact that Stockholm’s Central Station is an unrivaled clusterfuck. It literally makes no sense. Nothing is connected, the buses have weird routes, and Google Maps sent me to the complete wrong street to catch my bus. After a mild breakdown, I figured out where I needed to be and got to my hostel in one piece. 

Once I arrived, I was fortunate enough to meet friendly fellow hostelgoers, one from Norway, one from Montreal, and three from French (who were not so good with English). We went out to the clubs downtown, took in the extremely attractive Swedish men, paid $12/drinks because Sweden is ridiculous, grabbed a burger while the sun was coming up at 2:30AM and then hit the hay. 

All the traveling and not sleeping and being sick but pushing through it finally caught up to me; yesterday (Tuesday) I was a complete bum and slept until 7PM. I couldn’t help it; I was beyond exhausted. I got up, wandered around Sodermalm - Lisbeth Salander’s stomping grounds in the Millennium Trilogy - and stopped into a pub to watch the Euro 2012 game, this time Sweden vs. France. I got some beers and a delicious caesar salad, but the salad cost me the equivalent of $25! I know why Swedes are so skinny: it’s too expensive to eat here!

Above:

1. Sunset over Stockholm, viewed from Sodermalm, around 11PM.

2 and 3. New friends!

4. O-Bar in Stockholm.

5 and 6. My cheery hospital hostel.

7. Watching the Euro 2012 game! Go Sweden!

My new soccer crush (second only to David Beckham): Denmark’s Daniel Agger.

My new soccer crush (second only to David Beckham): Denmark’s Daniel Agger.

(Source: miakispus)