I am finally feeling better (I think the anti-nausea pills were enough to get me over the hump). I took the train to Oslo, Norway, today with one train transfer. Big red has gained some weight due to a couple of cast iron souvenirs and some books, and I am kicking myself for the purchases. I think she’s up to 33 kilos by now. I asked my hotelier if there were porters at the station. He didn’t know what the word “porter” meant. Evidently, it doesn’t translate to Swedish: they don’t have porters anywhere. He told me it’s a Swedish joke that every Swede is born with a backpack and tool belt. Self-sufficiency is an important value. So, today, I was self-sufficient (when in Rome… or Stockholm).
I carried the baggage up the stairs, onto the train, along the platforms, and finally in the end, six long blocks to my hotel because I could not find a cab. Fortunately, the big bag sort of rolls, though its wheels are not as well aligned as they once were. This is in addition to the backpack and the shoulder bag and my purse. I looked like a pack mule. Some of the grubbier people seemed to mark me with interest until I looked them in the eye with my American “don’t even think about it” look. If you know me, you know the look. With a lot of sweating and some swearing under my breath, my stuff and I reached our destination, the Thon Panorama Hotel. It’s a nice place with free wireless and telephones that actually work. I know because I placed and received calls(!). I haven’t been this excited to use the phone since I was a little kid calling my grandma. It’s been that long since I’ve regularly used a telephone. I talked to my Norwegian relatives in Bergen and arranged to meet them the day after tomorrow, and I also talked to the Program Manager at my old mission, Gravity Probe B, about whether to renew our software tech support license. It was so pleasant I almost forgot to get dinner.
Hurriedly, at 10:30 PM (barely twilight yet), I went out, got a cab to the waterfront about two miles away for $20. Yikes. But I was tired of walking everywhere and if I wanted to eat before everyone closed, I had to. I could have eaten at the budget pub for $45, or the nice place for $60. I went for the Michelin rated restaurant, the view and the good food. Screw it. It ended up being closer to $75 with the tip and the wine, but sometimes you have to enjoy yourself. Being on the harbor with fresh fish on the menu is high on my list of temptations, too. It was a beautiful harbor, full of working ships, cruise ships, yachts, sailboats, dinghies – all kinds of vessels. My grandma Mary Evelyn would have loved it here. The boardwalk was clean and the sea air smelled good. I was too tired to bring the camera, but I suspect I might end up there tomorrow too. You could hear the very loud seagulls (louder than the ones back home, even!), probably looking for dinner as well. A fine evening, all things considered.
Dinner was fresh halibut with cabbage, beets and drawn butter, with new potatoes, starting with a basil-cream seafood soup and accompanied by Chardonnay. It was French wine, but hey, you can’t have everything. I had all the water I could drink. Delicious. I took a cab back to avoid any drug trafficking problems anywhere near the station and my hotel. That cost another $20, but it was cheaper than getting into any trouble. So far, the Norwegians have been very welcoming and friendly – they have a sense of humor and curiosity. I like them already.
All in all, a great start!