Next month it'll be one year ago that I traveled to Oslo. Two weeks, by myself, with no plan. I have just enough money, and knew I'd be broke when I got back. But that's fine with me. I keep thinking, I'd rather go to Europe, while I can, and come back broke than not have gone at all. So I pack my bags, bring more shirts than I need and head to the airport with my passport in hand and hop on a plane. For 8 hours. Eight slow, nerve-wracking hours. My mind has a bazillion tabs open at once. Me, a girl, traveling alone halfway around the world with no plan on where to go or how to get there. Arriving at the airport, and lugging my enormous suitcase to the window, the lady asks me, "Do you have any friends in Oslo?" ...Um, no. Should I?? "Well, not really.." She looks at me like I'm at getting in trouble. "Honey, do you have somewhere to stay while you're here?" I hadn't considered the couple I found on Airbnb to be friends, but nevertheless, that's what she meant. She stamps my passport (that's when it really sinks in for me) and sends me on my way.
After a confusing train ride, I finally arrive to the main street in Oslo, and have to find the exact apartment I'm staying at, with not so clear directions. It's a good thing the street names aren't hard to pronounce, or else it would've taken me about an hour to find. Because names like Skulpturparken are easy to read, and reference, right? After walking for what seems like forever, and looking for the right street name, I see it. Typically, when you come to an intersecting street, the whole street, either left or right, is the same street. Well, the Norwegians said screw that, lets make the left side one street name and if you turn your head to the right, on the same intersection, let's call it something completely different! Sounds like a grand idea! So I had only been looking on one side of the street. But as they say, the only way to find out where you are and how to get back, is to get lost. So that's my first adventure, two hours of being in another country. Peachy.
As I'm lugging my three bags through the streets, I feel really small next to all the buildings looming over me. They're all so beautiful and historical, and each one has so much detail. Arriving at the right apartment, I'm greeted by the nicest people I've ever met, along with their little Pomeranian, Molly, whose dead set I'm an intruder. No shoes allowed, I kick off my red Toms and they give me a tour. They own the entire third floor, and it's literally the coolest apartment I've ever been in. The kitchen is so high-tech, if I told you how to heat up water for tea, you wouldn't believe me. The stove top alone looks like how Back to the Future thought everything would be in 2015. A laser pops up to test the pot of water for the right temperature, and to change the temperature, you ran your finger up and down a small grid.
The one thing I did budget for at least, was food. I'm welcome to their kitchen, but I decide to buy my own food. Let me tell you, even their food labels are hard to decipher. I'm standing in the food aisle with my Google translate on, trying to figure all the different type of cheeses, and sandwich stuff, with absolutely no shame. Note that grape jelly literally does not exist in Norway, as I tried to be the frugal traveler and get stuff for PB&J's, but to no avail.
As I walk around the streets, the entire time I'm in awe. Til the very last day. It never got old. I start to feel like I'm blending in, especially since I'm surrounded by blondes, and my hair is some shade of blonde. When I look around, I realize I hadn't really seen any brunettes or black hair, or redheads, and when I did see the few brunettes, they looked out of place. I do however, notice all the blonde, sexy guys with man buns, pushing a stroller, or with a toddler on their shoulders. That was such a normal thing, and I enjoyed every second of it! 😏
On a really sunny day, I decide to take the train to the last stop which takes me to this huge lake with trails, and nature, all the outdoorsy stuff. Deciding to be one with nature, I decide to go off the path and into the woods. It's so peaceful, beautiful, and just all around breathtaking. Norway is definitely known for their love of nature, and it shows. However, this turns into the part of the story where I thought I was going to die (not really, but I got really freaked out). So, I'll start with this. For those of you who have not seen The Blair Witch Project, these three kids try to find a witch who lives in the woods, and get lost overnight and find these creepy, man made tee pees made out of twigs and shit right outside their tent the next morning. That being said, what really freaked me out, was as I'm admiring how vibrant all the greenery is around me, I look down and see the strangest thing. It is literally 4 feet away from me, and I still have no idea what the hell it was.
My first thought is The Blair Witch Project. This thing is about the size of a textbook with four twigs tied together in a square with some sort of rope going around it. It was just so weird. I hadn't heard any other humans possibly hiking, or seen any signs (liter, or anything) that anyone had recently been here. Yes, I will admit, if someone reads this, and ends up telling me it's just some sort of net or something, I'll feel really stupid. But maybe being all alone in the woods in Norway made me a little paranoid, my mind takes the direction of it being something bad. I very carefully take a picture of it and I cannot make this up, as soon as look away from it, my nose starts running. Like, instant snot. At first I think it's a bloody nose, figuring that's what's supposed to happen if I were in a scary movie. Needless to say, I book it out of there. Luckily, it's around midday, which makes it a little less frightening. And that my friends, is the story of how I almost thought I was going to die.
As I make it back onto the main road, I drink some water, eat a cliff bar, and calm myself down. I'm out in the open, I can breathe normal again. I had my daily dose of Stranger Things for the day. But, the universe decides to throw in just one more strange thing. As I'm walking down a gravel road, I pass a few jogger, my mind is more at ease being back in semi-civilization. (I'm still near the pond where the last train stop went to) I continue walking down the path with the woods on my right and a long vibrant green field running parallel to it on the other side of the road. So as I'm walking away from the lake and the train, I all of a sudden see a line of about 25 kindergarten aged kids walking, running, and doing cartwheels through the field. I was done being weirded out, So I just keep walking. Eventually, hunger gets the best of me and I turn around.
Now the woods are on my left. The woods are really thick at this point, and you can't see into them very well. I hear children's voices and giggles are coming from the woods as I walk by, but I don't know if I want to find out what the hell is going on. But, curiosity gets the best of me, as I look for some sort of opening in the trees. After a few minutes of feeling like I'm in the Amazon, I see all these bikes, backpacks, and jackets in a pile and to the right, the kids I saw earlier are all running around with a kickball. In the trees surrounding them there's all these cool swings and ropes everywhere they had built. If you ever went to summer camp as a kid, and did those cool activities where you tie rope around trees to make a spiderweb and you have to pass through a hole without touching the rope, that's the kind of stuff they were doing. I look for an adult (hoping I wasn't the only one), and see an older gentleman helping a little boy tie his shoe. I'm not really sure if it'd be weird, or awkward if I walked up to him and said hello, but he was the one in the woods with a bunch of kids.
So I walk past all the kids who are now staring at me, I'm hoping this guy speaks English, and I say hi and politely and curiously ask him what all this is. He tells me (in pretty good English) that this is his class that he takes here once a week after school to do outdoor activities to help them learn about science and bugs, and team work, and so on. I thought it was really neat, once he told me. A little confused though, I guess every single one of their parents signed some sort of permission slip allowing their small children to go hang out in the woods. He was very friendly, and not some psycho who kidnapped a bunch of kids, which did cross my mind due to my previous encounter in the woods a few miles back. So, I tried to play ball with some of them, but they hadn't started learning much English yet, and they didn't really understand or just didn't want to share their kickball with some random, strange, tall lady who popped up out of nowhere in the woods. Weird.
The rest of my stay, I definitely make a mental note to stay in public places with plenty of people around. I get two Norwegian/Viking tattoos on my arm, I go to a concert, which wasn't very good. The entire band was very obviously tripping and I think they thought they sounded better than they did. Each Saturday down by the water they have a farmer's market with everyone in their own stands selling handmade jewelry and leather bound journals. I find a lot of awesome souvenirs that day, and meet some really rad people. After trying a lot of their food, I really just want a nice, big, cheddar bacon burger from TGI Friday's. So I go in, grab a table and order my burger and a beer. The young man about 17, brings me my food, and as I look up to say thank you, I see a gorgeous blonde man making a drink behind the bar. Like, ohmygosh, he is so cute in such a nerdy way. Imagine a blonde Clark Kent. I tell him that I promise I'm not trying to be weird, but I think you are just gorgeous, and I wanted to let you know. He blushes and takes the compliment with a laugh, says thank you very much, and then informs me that he had a girlfriend. But he did tell me he thought I was very pretty, and asked where I was from. So it all turned out to be not weird at all. I knew there were plenty of other hot blondes with their man buns all up and down the streets I could gawk at..with my sunglasses on, I don't want to look like a weirdo too much.
My last adventure is a favor I do for a friend. He is of direct Norwegian descent, super blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes, but unfortunately he couldn't go. Being a descendant of the Vikings, he has a natural like of heavy metal and black metal music (yes they are different). He ends up showing me a documentary on how heavy metal formed over the years in Norway, and the documentary shows this building in Oslo they used to meet up at in the 1990's and have secret meeting in the basement about..heavy metal things. They spray painted the words 'BLACK METAL' on the concrete slab of the wall, which was apparently a big deal. I won't get too into it though.
So as a favor, I walk for half an hour to find the building which since then had been converted to a record store called Neseblod. I flip through all the records, grab some for my friend, and then realize there's a winding staircase to the basement with t-shirts and other merchandise lining the stairs, inviting you to search downstairs.
So off I go. It ends up being a ton of old CD's in boxes, and more t-shirts and records. Then, if you didn't know about it, you totally would've skipped over it thinking it was a maintenance room, or something unimportant. But I'm on the prowl. I'm all alone down here and start looking for anything from the documentary. I peek my head around the corner and there's a hallway that looks pretty abandoned, maybe they did just turn it into the water heater area. Then an employee pops up out of nowhere and says, "Hey, you know you can just walk back there, right? Everything is still there." Like, he knew. So I totally play it off, and casually walk back there. The entire structure, ceiling, floor and walls are all concrete, forming a short tunnel that leads me through a narrow hallway into a small room that contains a coffin in the dark, left corner, and some black and silver/metallic old chair and silver paintings. There's also a random coffee can with the writing "Hell Hammer's Mask! Do not open!!" Which, is a Norwegian black metal band from the 1980's.
Then to the left is a doorway that leads to a bigger room, and I see 'BLACK METAL' on the wall, just like the documentary. Obviously I take a selfie, and send a few snapchats, making sure to save them.
There's even a table with a cool looking journal full of people writing hello and where they're from, and how much they love heavy metal viking music. I scribble my girly 'Hello! Laura from San Diego' with a smiley face, and head back upstairs. Records in hand, I head out the door, pretty estatic that I went somewhere I saw on television a few months prior.
Eventually, the time has come for me to pack up everything and head home. I literally have twice as much stuff as I brought, I had to buy another giant suitcase, and somehow manage to stuff everything in it. Back to the airport, I grab one last souvenir and mentally prepare myself for the 8 hour flight back, and going through customs. The way back always seems shorter, returning from any long distance voyage. The meal they serve on the plane is literally the worst thing I've ever had, and I was living off ship food for years. After I inhale a few granola bars to fill me up after the terrible airplane meal, we have a connecting flight in Belgium. I have barely enough time to grab an actual Belgium beer before my next connecting flight into Chicago. Since that's the flight actually going into the United States, that's where we have to go through customs. Me being a U.S. citizen, made it a little easier. I still get lost and have no idea what I'm doing. Am I supposed to declare all the sweaters and fridge magnets that I'm bringing to my friends and family? Do I have to scan my passport? What if I get lost and miss my next flight? Shit, what if I have to end up spending the night in Belgium?? My mind is going crazy.
After a couple hours of figuring it all out, I'm back home to the familiar sights of California. I fly into LAX, my friend picks me up and we go get chicken and waffles in LA. I showed off my two new tattoos,
and told him all the crazy things that happen when you decide to wander off to other countries with no plan whatsoever. Pretty happy with having gone to Europe and back, I doze off in his truck, thinking that I'm so glad to be home with my own things (and by that I mean my stuff I brought, along with my other suitcase so full of souvenirs that is about to burst open).
Until our next adventure!! Stay excellent!