I leave Norway on Sunday. So these past few days I have been saying goodbyes and squeezing in a few last adventures. It only really started to hit me yesterday that I’m leaving this country that I’ve called home for a semester. It’s a sad realization, and I hope that one day I’ll be back, at least for a visit. While I’m very sad to leave, this sadness is tempered by the fact that on Sunday I will be heading to Paris, a city that I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid. Thus, the only way to really describe these last few days is bittersweet. Throughout the semester, I’ve taken lots of photos, but I have taken very few of Oslo because I wanted to feel like a resident not a tourist. Yet, in these past few days, I’ve fully embraced my tourist instincts and have been snapping photos as a way to help me remember and share this city. So here are some photos of Oslo and of final adventures here in Norway.
On Saturday I headed over to Drøbak, aka the Christmas town, located about an hour outside of Oslo by bus
There was lots of Christmas themed cuteness
letters to Santa!
We also wandered down by the harbor
On Sunday I checked out Emmanuel Vigeland’s mausoleum/museum. It was a bit eerie but also interesting as the walls and ceiling were covered in paintings of the human life cycle.
It was also well located. Nearby we were afforded a beautiful view over Oslo.
Now for touristy Oslo photos – National Theatre
- Stortinget (Parliament)
Nicely decorated city streets
So I’ve fallen a bit behind on this whole blogging thing, and by now there are lots of adventures that I’m skipping over, including our trip to Stockholm (long story short – it was awesome!) but I want to just share some of my reflections on this last bit of my term in Norway. My classes officially ended today (although I still am putting finishing touches on my research – so my work is not over quite yet). I also have yet to say goodbye to my program cohorts, we have an early Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday to say goodbye to each other and the program, but I have my last official day at my internship with Changemaker tomorrow. So it really is hitting me that soon I will be leaving Norway and finishing up this semester of adventure. It’s crazy how fast the semester has gone and I find myself thinking about how strange it will be to return to the US. I’m very excited to be reunited with family and friends (and with favorite foods). Yet, it will also be sad to leave friends here in Oslo and to leave a city that has grown on me over the past three months.
The more I travel and the more people I meet, the more I believe in the goodness of humanity. Some people might develop the opposite conclusion from traveling (and I guess part of that depends on your experiences and I’ve been pretty lucky in mine thus far). I think that there are so many wonderful people out there and that there’s beauty and sadness in the fact that in order to explore this world and meet more of those incredible people you may have to say temporary goodbyes to others for a little while. In the past few months, I’ve been (geographically) far away from a lot of people who I love but I’ve also met some amazing individuals along the way. I’ve shared laughs with, and been inspired by, incredible people in Botswana and Norway and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a lot of fantastic people in this world and even though at times you may be sad because you have to say goodbye, take the risk to reach out and connect, because ultimately it’s worth it.
Nature has a special place here in Norway. It’s often invoked in discussions of national identity and plays an interesting role in the ways in which Norwegian society is viewed, both by those within it and by those outside of it. So this weekend, a couple of friends and I took advantage of the gorgeous fall weather to get in touch with the Norwegian nature surrounding Oslo. We went on a six kilometer hike from Frognerseteren to Sognsvann (for those not familiar with Oslo and its surroundings, these are two gorgeous areas). Along the way we encountered beautiful scenery (and a fair amount of mud) and enjoyed having the trail to ourselves for most of our hike.
Today I checked out the Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Ski Museum. As part of the Ski Museum people are allowed to ride an elevator up through the jump to the top where you can look out and enjoy an awesome view of the Oslo Fjord on one side and forest on the other. I love the changing colors of the trees and our morning at Holmenkollen didn’t disappoint in terms of beautiful fall foliage.
The Ski Jump
A view downward, not quite at the top yet
View down from the top
This past week I was on fall break from my study abroad program. So I used the break as an opportunity to see more of Europe. I met up with my parents and traveled with them to a few cities in Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria. It was a busy week, but well worth it! Pictures below:
The view from Nuremberg castle
These pedestrian crossing signs were everywhere in Germany and the Czech Republic. In Austria I finally saw one that was a man with a child, prior to that it seemed to always be a woman with a child, which was an interesting gender commentary – In my opinion, it represented the ways in which gender roles and certain definitions of “family” are reinforced and normalized in daily life through subtle messages like this one (the Women’s Studies major in me couldn’t help but deconstruct this seemingly innocent sign)
Rothenburg, Germany (one of the best preserved Medieval towns – complete with a castle and a giant stone wall that runs the length of the city)
Part of Rothenburg’s castle
The adorable cobblestone streets of Rothenburg
Welcome to Prague!
The oldest still functional clocktower
We were looking for the entrance to Prague castle and stumbled upon a back way that felt a bit like a magical forest
We finally found the castle entrance!
Inside the grounds of Prague castle
View of Prague from up by the castle
The John Lennon Wall
I liked this message that someone had added to the wall, which seems to be part of a longer quote by an unknown author that goes “Don’t let the world change your smile, let your smile change the world.” A cool message for all of us to keep in mind – never underestimate the power of a smile, it’s one of the few things that’s universal.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Amazing architecture in this preserved Medieval town
The entrance into Cesky Krumlov
View of the Alps from the funicular at the top of Salzburg
A brief sightseeing stop in Innsbruck before heading to Frankfurt to fly back to Oslo
This past weekend I traveled to the town of Bergen and spent a few days there exploring the town and the famous Sognefjord. Along with a friend from my study abroad program, I traveled via train from Oslo to Bergen. This train ride takes about 8 hours each way, and while it is a much longer travel option than flying, the scenery was incredible. Our weekend was full of idyllic scenery and picturesque views. Just in the town of Bergen itself there are great views – especially from the funicular. A funicular is a sort of tram car that rides up the mountain to give you a view downward over the whole city. We rode the funicular up to Fløyen and were rewarded with an amazing view of Bergen. (See photos below) If you’re ever going to Bergen, I would definitely recommend taking a ride in the funicular. The sightseeing from the funicular was incredible but was outdone in beauty by our views of parts of Sognefjord the next day. We went on a 10 hour fjord tour and despite the off and on rain, we were lucky enough to see lots of breathtaking scenery.
In many ways luck seemed to be on our side this weekend as our trip happily coincided with the Bergen food festival (a fact that we were unaware of when booking our train tickets). Since everything in Norway is expensive, we didn’t get a chance to try every food that we desired (probably a lucky thing for our health) but we did try a few new foods. My favorite was the pancakes that were sold at several different food stands. Now some of you may be thinking – you went all the way to Norway and your favorite food there was a pancake, really? So allow me to explain – this was no ordinary pancake. The pancakes were cooked right there on a portable griddle. They were hot and fresh and then were topped with jam and this sort of sweet cream. After slathering your pancake with these toppings you folded it over and ate it like a taco so the tart and sweet flavors blended together and melted in your mouth with the hot pancake – is your mouth watering yet? As you can imagine, it was delicious!
On a more serious note, it was interesting engaging in this experience after having been studying in Oslo for the past month. There was an overwhelming amount of tourists in Bergen, particularly on the fjord tour (I have to include myself in this count because despite the fact that I’d like to consider myself somewhat of a Norway insider after my month here, I had many tourist moments oohing and ahhing at the views in Bergen). It doesn’t surprise me that adorable towns like Bergen attract lots of visitors, however I find it concerning for people to only travel to cities like Bergen while in Norway. By only visiting an adorable, idyllic place like Bergen, one risks leaving Norway with a rather stereotypical picture of a rural utopia and missing the complexities of the country and the diversity within it. In my study abroad program we have been examining the popular conceptions of Norway and the ways in which images of beautiful, rural Norway are so often invoked. I can attest to the fact that Norway does have a lot of natural beauty. Yet, I would caution visitors to the country not to oversimplify and think that that is all Norway has. Norway has a lot to offer and by only looking at stereotypes of Norway you might miss out on several cool offerings. So while my pictures of Bergen and the fjords may help to fulfill stereotypes that you may have heard about the charming Norwegian rural landscape and astounding scenery (which are true – it is gorgeous), don’t forget about the more urban environment of Oslo and the unique treasures that are found in different parts of Norway.
Houses on the famous Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf
Bergen Fish Market
The funicular track
View from the funicular
Another view of Bergen from the funicular
View of Bergen from the boat at the beginning of our fjord tour
After the boat segment of our fjord tour was a trip on the Flåm railway
The view from Myrdal, a stop along our train trips during our fjord tour
Before coming to Norway, I had a very idealized image of the country. I knew from my program description and from the events of July 22, 2011 that Norway, like any other country, was not perfect. However, I thought that it was pretty darn close. Now that I’m here, I’m realizing that while Norway is an incredible country, there are areas in which the country can improve. I’m not saying this in the spirit of a study abroad student who merely misses her own country, nor am I someone who thinks that everything is better in my home country. Instead I am someone who is trying to critically examine what’s working and what’s not in different systems. In doing such, I’m realizing that Norway, despite what I thought previously, is not above scrutiny.
I find it problematic when people try to make claims that it is unpatriotic to critique the practices of your country or of a country in which you are living. I think that in fact, it’s the exact opposite. By choosing to critically examine a country, its strengths and its weaknesses we are acting “patriotically” (I realize that patriotism is a rather problematic concept in and of itself, but I’m going to forego taking up that discussion here and use this term for lack of a better one). I think that the job of citizens in a country is to challenge and question our nation to make things better. It’s similar to the style of any good teacher, coach, or advisor, who push you because they see your potential to become better. While I’m here in Oslo I’m seeking to analyze different policies in both the US and Norway because of the potential I see for an even better world than the one that we live in today.
On a slightly lighter note, this week I started my internship with an awesome organization called Changemaker. It is an activist organization that helps to raise awareness about global issues and Norway’s role in these issues. I really loved my first day there and can’t wait to go back next week. Also, along with a friend from the program, I’m headed to Bergen next weekend. I’m very excited to see more of Norway and to hopefully see more fjords!