A Brit, two Americans, and fifteen Russ kids walk into an ice bar…

When we finally got back onto dry, unmoving land, Sara and I got re-situated at Anker and met up with one of our friends who booked a flight from the UK on a whim. He loves us…or maybe just the chance to see Oslo.  In any case we were finally able to be the tour guides, rather than the tourists, and managed to show him the city centre.  We walked Karl Johans gate, from the Royal Palace to Stortinget, before making our way to the waterfront.  After pulling Scott away from TGI Friday’s one too many times (you would be surprised how many there are in Oslo) Sara spotted a cotton candy, or candy floss, vendor.  If you’ve never met Sara, her five favourite things on this planet, in no particular order, are: footy (especially Liverpool FC), Disney, coffee, the United Kingdom, and cotton candy. She was in heaven, but because she has bouts of irrationality for some reason refused to go up to the lady and buy some?? After a full three minutes of her pacing around the general cotton candy vicinity, and looking dangerously close to stealing a child’s candy floss Hamburglar-style, we made a deal-which I’m still convinced I got the short end of. If she went up and bought a cotton candy I would go up to the next group of Russ kids we saw and ask, in my best Norwegian, if I could have one of their Russ cards.  Of course her insatiable sweet tooth won out and she got some cotton candy. As did I but I needed no convincing.

Norway candy floss

We wandered Akershus Festning with our confections, snapping photos and trying to sneak some of Scott.  It didn’t work, as he hates having his photo taken, but it was a fun game the entire time he was visiting.  Sara was on the lookout for Russ kids the entire time we were at Akershus, though I told her the teens probably wouldn’t be hanging out at a fortress when they could be completing Russ challenges like, say, jumping into the fjord in nothing but their undergarments, but she wouldn’t listen.  We finally stumbled onto a group as we came upon the National Opera and it was now my time to shine. Sara and Scott picked my targets, a guy and two girls lounging on the building’s sloping roof as families and tourists milled about them. I felt bad for interrupting their lunch but a deal’s a deal, right?  So I adjusted my boots, shoved my hands into my coat pockets, and, in my best the only Norwegian that would come out, asked “har du en Russekort?”

They were baffled. What the hell was another teenager (I had to clarify that I was about to turn 23) doing asking for a Russ card? The guy finally asked where I was from, and I told the trio about our birthday trip from the States and the bet I had going with my friends.  Pointing to Sara and Scott was a mistake; no sooner had I gestured over my shoulder than the girls broke down giggling while my face turned red in the realisation that Sara was filming me for Snapchat.  So thanks for that Sara.  One of the girls and the guy were out of Russ cards, as a group of school children on their way to a park at lunchtime ambushed them, but the second girl handed me her last card! I earned it, she said, and my Norwegian wasn’t half bad.  We chatted for a few seconds more since I’m far too awkward to excuse myself from conversation without provocation, and I made my way back to Sara and Scott, trophy Russ card in hand.  We celebrated with a pint and the Liverpool game at that bar that I shouldn’t have been able to get into because of the strange age restrictions, before parting ways to ready ourselves for the night.

The initial plan was for me and Sara to enjoy a few drinks with Scott before the Ice Bar, as his hotel was two doors down from the bar and alcohol in Norway is ridiculously expensive, so imagine our surprise when we woke him up from a nap upon our arrival.  He hastened to get ready and we practically ran to the bar, worried it might be crowded on a Saturday night.  We managed to get inside just before the crowd came, and wandered the bar, our lovely complimentary shots of straight Jäger in hand.  It’s not actually lovely, never drink it straight for the love of all that is good in this world.  But the bar was brilliant, with various sculptures ranging from a traditional Van Gogh (severed ear and all) to an abstract cubic sculpture that Scott broke and rushed to re-stack before anybody noticed. Just as Scott finished reinventing the ice bar’s design a group of particularly feisty Russ kids rushed in.  We tried skirting around them, but they seemed determined to pull everybody in the bar into their group, so we pulled a classic Irish exit and ducked out without a second word.  The next stop was our favourite place in Oslo for a pint of Bulmer’s and dancing-or talking: back to Kulturhuset we went!

Scott found love at Kulturhuset in the form of Eivind, our new friend. Remember him from earlier posts? I can’t recall if I named him or not, but Eivind was the most recent Norwegian we befriended. He’s in uni in Oslo and was worried he’d be denied from Kulturhuset (apparently their age restriction becomes 23 on weekends…again with the odd drinking barriers!) but by a stroke of luck his friend who works there happened to be on door duty and let him on in. As Sara and I watched, Scott and Eivind formed an international bromance to rival all bromances. Now that I think of it, it may have been more on Scott’s end, but in any case they got along brilliantly. When it came time to leave Scott insisted Eivind accompany us for drunk food. A few moments later, as Sara and I were about to enjoy our late-night snack, Eivind had to defend our honour from a few men who seemed convinced they had a right to take us from our companions. Just as Eivind had them backing off, telling them we couldn’t understand English and weren’t interested (it helps to be about 6’3″ and speak fluent Norwegian) Scott went and told them we were Americans.  Thank you drunk Scott.  Don’t be too concerned, to cut the story short we made it back to our hostel safely, delivered to our door by the boys who then went their own ways, but it was a sad reminder that simply saying “no” or shaking our heads in disinterest, as women, isn’t always enough to make men back off.  No matter how much it should be.

I’m very grateful for Eivind’s presence and Sara gave Scott a nice long lecture on not giving us away next time, but it reinforced our vulnerability even in one of the most peaceful countries in the world, in 2015, and in a group. So cue the reminder to always, always be cautious when traveling, be it to a foreign country or simply down the street. Don’t let fear control your every action, but don’t forget that nobody is invincible. Be adventurous without sacrificing your own well-being.  With that lovely reminder (and a few more photos of our day/evening), I bid you beautiful readers farewell for now!

atop the opera house
atop the opera house
ice bar
ice bar
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