After four more nights in Stavanger, I was ready to leave Norway.
I had been in Norway for 20 days and I was about 250% over my travel budget
for that time period. Out of pure necessity, I flew to Stavanger, from Bodø
via Oslo. I was so far north that any other method of transport would have
taken two and a half days at best to get back to the south. As is common,
the round trip ticket to Stavanger was cheaper than the one-way, so I was
sitting pretty with a plane ticket back to Oslo, where I would jump on the
first train into Sweden. Unfortunately the first train was booked, so I jumped
on the second train into Sweden and gritted my teeth as I paid for the remarkably
pricey ticket to get out of Norway, whereas a ticket going the same distance
within Norway would have been about 1/3 of the price. The Norwegians
get you every time you move while you’re in the country and then wind
up for one last kick to the wallet as you flee.
Despite my unrequited love for Norway, I felt a very powerful
pang of relief once the train ticket transaction was completed and I was able
to unclench my jaw. I was finally leaving Norway. Goodbye bad food, goodbye
wretched prices, goodbye little or no public phones, toilets or water fountains.
And hopefully, goodbye to people wearing too much clothes! I was ready for
some serious skin, but I knew I would have to wait until the Netherlands for
that. Patience. Deep breath. Onto Sweden.
I had six hours to kill in Oslo. I had not been to Oslo for
almost 10 years, so I decided it was probably worth a look around to see what
had changed. And there were changes! There were a lot more Mc Donald’s.
That was about it. I screwed on the courage to walk across the city to my
favorite spot in Norway. Having been to the five biggest cities in Norway,
I think I can safely say that there is little or nothing that has a bigger
oh-wow factor than Vigelandsparken. A.K.A Frognerparken. A.K.A That Naked
Vigelandsparken is an huge, sprawling park on the western side
of the city center. I used to make a pilgrimage to Vigelandsparken every time
that I was in Oslo. Not only for the endless stretches of grass, perfect for
a juggling workout, and not only for the secretaries sunning themselves topless
on the benches during their lunch hour, but also for the countless, awesome,
nude statues all over the park. This is truly a massive, awe inspiring place.
I actually took the tour once (after carefully disguising myself, in case
one of my friends happened to be in the park at the time). All of the details
and information just makes the place even more extraordinary. And here’s
the kicker. It’s free! Sweet merciful crap, yes! Something in Norway
is free! But hey, don’t go blabbing this to the tourism board. This’ll
just be our little secret, K?
Despite being an idiot and taking the Office with me on the
trek across town, causing my left shoulder go completely numb and my neck
to lock-up, I was happy to be back in Vigelandsparken. I dodged the 20 or
30 tour groups that were staggering around, jaws gone completely slack, and
took numerous pictures. Despite having my camera out and armed, I missed quite
possibly the best photo op of my travels up to this point when a little girl,
about four years old, climbed up to have her picture taken by one of the crouching,
male nudes. Perhaps in a sign of things to come, she reached up and playfully
tickled the statue’s testicles and sang out “OooOoo!” for
the photographer. Keep an eye out for her in 2017 for her debut in a European
video porn store near you.
After getting my fill at That Naked Statue Place, I swung by
the royal castle on my way back to the train station. As far as royal castles
go, the Norwegians seem to have gone waaaaay out of their way to keep the
dwelling simple and unassuming. Even more modest is the security around the
place which appeared to be comprised of two, 16 year old boys in uniform.
They did their best to march around a look foreboding, but I’m pretty
sure that anybody with a can of mace and the desire could get into the building
with little or no problem.
After maxing out my camera’s memory card at the castle,
I stopped to check my email and to eat an indescribably bland plate of chicken
in curry, before boarding the train to Stockholm.
I spent the ride to Stockholm leaning as far away as possible
from my neighbor, who I was pretty sure was a SARS carrier and started reading
“The House of Leaves” by Mark Danielewski.