As the child of two U.S. Marines, I had the privilege of spending part¬†of my childhood in Oslo, Norway, and Weil der Stadt, Germany, and I’ve been trying to get back to Europe — back home — ever since we returned to the States in 2007.
When I saw that Oslo, Norway, was a port on the Summer 2014 voyage, it was the deciding factor for me. Once this summer’s tuition was paid for and flights were booked, I had still more important decisions to make: I knew I wanted to overnight in the country, versus taking day trips and returning to the ship each night, so where would I stay in Norway? This was more worrisome than any other ports we are stopping in because Norway is the most expensive of them all as far as hotels and food go. Luckily, my Mom’s best friend Anne-Wenche Lloyd and her family still lived near Oslo and thanks to the miracle of Facebook we were able to plan for me and my roommate Lindsey Greene to stay with her for the duration of our time in Norway’s capital.
Whenever someone from overseas would come to visit us in Norway, which was often, they typically signed up to take a “Norway in a Nutshell” tour. Since I’d never gotten to go on one as a kid, I decided that would be one of my “Norway bucket list” items, even though in hindsight I didn’t really know what the tour was. Compared to tours I’d taken in other countries¬†with¬†tour guides and air-conditioned coaches, the Norway in a Nutshell excursion we took from Bergen to Oslo was just modes of transportation specifically chosen for the scenery along the way: two trains, a bus and a two-hour ferry ride through the narrow N√¶r√∏yfjord to Fl√•m that took more than 14 hours. Lindsey and I really enjoyed it, but maybe next time I’d opt for simply the direct train instead,¬†which¬†also had very pretty scenery.
Once off the final four-and-a-half-hour train ride, we found Anne-Wenche waiting for us on the platform in Oslo with her dog Mack. Driving to¬†Sandvika where her home is, which is on the top of a large hill, I was reminded of the trip¬†Lindsey and I took while in Portugal¬†with lots of winding roads. Once at the top of the hill, I was ecstatic that I recalled how steep her driveway was. So steep in fact that in winter my Mom’s car couldn’t get up the driveway and we would walk up.
But my all-time favorite memory of Anne-Wenche’s house is¬†of picking apples in her front yard from the many¬†apple trees and I was lucky that they¬†were ripe enough that I could eat one. It was wonderfully sour and I’m starting to wonder if that doesn’t partially explain my longtime preference for sour tastes over sweet.
One key place I wanted to visit during my stay in Oslo was my childhood home in nearby Bekkestua. We drove up Gamleringriksvei (my old street, which translates as “old ring road”), but sadly no one was home to ask to tour the interior. We drove a mile to my old school, which, unlike my house, had undergone some major renovations, including a new, modern exterior. I was a little taken aback to see all the changes, but there was one section they left the same which I recognized. Once I had that small image to latch onto, memories of walking through the hallways to class and carnivals we had in the courtyard swarmed me. It was nice to be able to reminisce.
As a child, going to Oslo’s¬†Norsk Folkemuseum¬†was more exciting than Disneyland (which my¬†roommate¬†Lindsey considers blasphemy, but is still true).¬† The Gol Stave Church is one of the most popular¬†sites within¬†the Folk Museum and was one of the most fun buildings to go in as a kid because of the small alcoves that run all along the outside of the building.
My favorite part of the Folk Museum is all of the original Viking buildings taken from all over Norway and dating back to 1200, most of which you can go into and see how people lived back then. In the summer, they would let the kids go on horse carriages and jump from a hayloft into a giant pile of hay.
Words cannot describe how happy I was to find the candy shop in the Old Town section of the Folk Museum, which exhibits Kolonial Norway and had the same raspberry candies I made my parents buy me every single time we went to the museum. They too are sour… definitely sensing a trend here.
Sadly, one of the most iconic monuments in Oslo, which I have specific memories of going to skiing festivals at every¬†year, has been completely torn down and rebuilt:¬†Holmenkollen ski jump. I used to be able to see it so clearly from my porch because the old one was stark white. The new one is stale grey and reflective, so it blends in to the landscape. Stephan, Anne-Wenche’s husband, agrees with me: the old one had style, while the new one is just too modern for our taste.
On the way back to Anne-Wenche’s, we stopped at my old¬†home¬†one more time and still no one was home. I decided it would be safe to take pictures since I started to get the idea that no one lived there, which made me more than a little sad. My house was set into a hill, so the front yard is on a steep incline. I was glad to see the cherry trees were still there, as well as the large pine tree my sister and I would hide in the bottom of as our “secret fort.” I took some of the cherries off the tree and they were extremely sour, probably the most sour thing I’ve found on this trip. They were amazing! I asked my Dad, and apparently they were always this sour and Mom had to add a ton of sugar to make the pies.
On each side of my house was a small hill path leading to the backyard. Some of my favorite memories include picking flowers on the hill. I also pushed my cat Dagmar around the backyard in a pink baby carriage. She is the most tolerant cat I’ve ever known and still lives with my parents in Virginia.
Unlike Anne-Wenche’s house, which has been beautifully renovated, my house hasn’t been touched in the 10+ years since I moved. Right down to the black paint and the wooden garage and front doors, everything is the same. I am a little disappointed that I was unable to go inside, but seeing the outside was enough to bring back memories.
Anne-Wenche invited Lindsey and me on her evening walk with Mack and Stephan on a little island we could see from their house and is only accessible from a single walking bridge. The island featured many large fields and beaches. One of my favorite things about summer in Norway is that sunset lasts for over an hour; as a photographer that lighting is very important.
The next day, Anne-Wenche, Stephan and Mack escorted Lindsey and me back to the ship, which was docked in Oslo’s city center. Saying goodbye was bittersweet, but I know I will find my way back to Norway, somehow.