Oslo, day 1: Happy birthday Sara!

Where do I begin describing the two glorious weeks spent terrorizing gallivanting around Oslo with my best friend? I suppose from the very beginning—I’ve heard it’s a very good place to start. Okay, I’m done with cheesy movie references. For now.

This is Sara (the blonde, not me). She and I planned our trip to Norway when we decided we absolutely had to reunite or we would both keel over dead, and upon researching plane tickets, realized a flight to Norway on a budget airline was the same price as one to LA or DC. Maybe $100 more but WORTH IT. So we booked our tickets a few months ahead of time, talked and talked about planning our hostel stays but didn’t actually book them until three weeks before we departed, and awaited that moment we would finally be together again to take over the world. Or drink. We ultimately went with the second option.

BUT, before we could begin the festivities—I arrived on her birthday, you see, and my birthday was a week after our excursion ended—we had to get there. Cue the friendly, aptly named Norwegian Airlines. Sara landed a day before I did so she had a bit of time to get oriented to Oslo, and when I survived customs (aka walked through, Norway is unnervingly slack on their incoming security) and bought my ticket for the express ticket into Oslo Sentrum, I discovered to my dismay that I had no data service. Thank goodness for mobile wi-fi or our hilariously disastrous planned meet up would’ve taken even longer than it did. Sara, if you’re reading this, let’s figure out a place to reunite before the day of next time! Preferably when my phone has more data than a 1996 floppy disk. Between some WhatsApp messages, a few minutes heaving my suitcase over slick cobblestones (it had begun raining, you see, just as my train arrived at the platform), and garbled phone calls, we managed to reunite at last. Did I mention there was a tiger statue right in the center of the square? I still haven’t figured that one out…

We hugged, laughed, screamed in the most basic way possible, and entangled our hair in her umbrella (maybe that was just me, I don’t remember). At long last, my best friend who lives 3000 miles away, which, in case you were wondering is 3000 too far, and I were together again. Happy birthday to us, am I right?! It was only after the euphoria of knowing we were well and truly together in Oslo wore off that we noticed we were in the square outside Oslo S, it was raining—a common mid-afternoon occurrence in the city—and people were staring at us as though we were sporting extra limbs or garishly neon hair. And we still had to check into our hostel before the real celebrations could begin.

A one-mile trek later, we were in the lobby of Anker hostel. A lovely, if slightly run-down hostel in the grungy hipster district, where you can buy a beer for 30 NOK. Which is quite the steal, considering beers at the bar ran us 80 NOK at least. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We checked in, got settled, showered and decided to find a place where we could eat. One downside to Norwegian Air is that their incredibly budget-friendly tickets don’t, at the lowest fare possible, include food or drink. Seeing as I had been too stubborn to pay an extra $20 for an in-flight meal I had subsisted on two granola bars, a tired-looking airport apple, and a liter of water for the past ten hours. We made up for this by finding a great little café called Capish? off Torggata, just a few blocks from the main street. I would highly recommend it; the atmosphere was fantastic, serene lighting with cozy wooden tables and phenomenal pizzas (yes, Sara and I got a pizza each) complemented by friendly staff and unfairly attractive clientele. We constantly found ourselves pausing halfway through sentences to marvel in the beauty that seems to be an integral part of every Norwegians’ being.   When we finally managed to finish our dinner and make somewhat coherent plans for the night ahead, we meandered back to the hostel. Mind you it was about 10 pm at this point and still quite light outside; we weren’t there late enough in the summer to see the midnight sun but we got close!

As soon as the key card slipped out of our door and back into our pockets, the festivities began. It was Sara’s birthday, after all, and our first night out in six months, and she had already made friends with locals who were more than happy to show us a fun place to party. Mascara was applied, jägerbombs were downed, shirts were tried on and swapped, and hair was straightened. If you’ve never tried straightening super short hair, good on you. I felt like Dobby after he had to shut his fingers in the oven. We met one of Sara’s newfound friends, Aksel (like Axel with a more softly pronounced “a”) who proved a most useful tour guide as he directed us to Qadis, a bar that seemed to perfectly emanate the effortlessly cool aura the rest of Oslo had given off so far.

Dimmed lighting. Upbeat music. Expensive drinks. Friendly—sometimes a bit too much so—people. This was Norwegian nightlife, this was Sara’s birthday night, and this was exactly what we needed. We quickly learned that many Norwegians have a relaxed perspective on meeting and following people home, but even if you declined an invitation they were more than happy to continue talking to you. It was refreshing to see that, even if someone had been snubbed, they didn’t take it as a horrible offense. Of course I wound up discussing philosophy and the practicality of working in the theatre industry with a PhD student so no bedroom talk there. Regardless, it was refreshing to know that people were free to have as little or as much physical interaction as they desired. It’s amazing the things you pick up on when you veer away from the tourist path and (try to) fully immerse yourself in what locals actually do.

Stay tuned for the next thirteen days of adventure!


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