The cobblestone streets of Scandinavia’s cleanest—and most expensive—city looked completely unfamiliar bathed in a spackled light that peeked earnestly out from a cloak of ominous gray nimbus clouds. The last time I was here, the gods were angry with Oslo, pelting their terror down upon the land in a flood of Nordic rage, and so this was my first time not seeing the capital from beneath a veil of precipitation.
Ellen was my one familiar connection to an otherwise unrecognizable place. The first time we met was on a plane transporting us both from Reykjavik to New York, but since we have become regular fixtures in each other’s life, having explored the fjords of Geiranger together early on in our friendship, celebrated her 30th birthday in West Hollywood from the plush confines of a bluebird-tinged limo, and spent one Thanksgiving together at SVV’s parents’ home in suburban Sacramento before continuing our weekend of indulgence in Wine Country’s most delicious town, Yountville.
For many travelers on the ship, this two-month Enrichment Voyage has been a tasting platter of some of Europe’s most desirable destinations; for me, it’s a chance to catch up with some of my nearest and dearest friends living abroad.
Coming from a job interview, Ellen, clad in Karen Millen, met us in Aker Brygge before clicking around town smartly in her black velvet heels, playing tour guide to SVV, my co-worker Amy and me. The day started off gloomy so we stuck close to the city center. Oslo is an austere city, easy to explore if you’re on your own and also very walkable.
We meandered over to the Oslo Opera House, an edifice I hadn’t seen on my last rainy visit to Norway in 2009 though it had opened the previous year. Seeing as I’m not big on architecture, I didn’t have high expectations—or really any expectations at all. I also wasn’t expecting it to be such a modern stunner in contrast to the city center’s more dated Scandinavian architecture.
The stark structure, composed of Italian marble and white granite, rose from the water filling the Oslo fjords as if a Titan protecting its home. When Ellen told us we could go up on the roof, I didn’t realize that the majority of the open space surrounding the Opera House was, in fact, the roof.
Even though the weather wasn’t particularly favorable (yet), people—locals and tourists alike—milled about in every which direction. That’s the odd thing about Scandinavia: Sun is such a rare occurrence that even when it’s just mild and dry outside, the people emerge like zombies drawn to a beating heart.
There were far fewer visitors crowding the top level, and I couldn’t help but wish I’d just happened to pack my decades-old Rollerblades in my single suitcase. How fun would it be to coast down this slope?
**To all you regular readers: Apologies for the erratic posting. Having limited Internet access on the ship (and full days when the satellites have been down), being in a new country nearly every day, managing my freelance load and two companies from afar, and working and teaching on the ship have become a tough balancing act to handle. But I promise once I’m home on June 19, I’ll be back to my regular Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule. Thanks for bearing with me in the meantime!