Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Norway + Sweden = Crazy Delicious

I had a slight leg up on my fellow travelers before reaching Norway. You see, back in 7th grade, our Spanish teacher was a lover of all languages; so, if a student visited a foreign country, their assignment would be to return to class and teach us three words. My friend and classmate Jon-Erik, for the uninitiated, he’s half Norwegian and his well-earned middle name is Viking, returned to class and taught us some of the more exotic words. First word was the Norwegian word for “speedbump”: Fartstemper. For the second word, we learned how to say “dirty”: Shit. The next was the phrase for “in fact”: faktisk (pronounced “Fuck dis”). Even if I didn’t know quite enough Norwegian to be conversational, seems like every Scandinavian can speak English better than most Midwesterners.

A couple fun facts… Norwegians are some of the slowest drivers in the world. The max speed in most towns is around 35 km/h, (~20 mph), so there aren’t many fartstempers. There are 5 palm trees in the entire country. They have the longest road tunnel in the world… nope, not just because they are slow drivers and they measure the length of the tunnel by total time spent driving through it. Faktisk, the road tunnel spans over 15 miles and facilitates the drive from Oslo to Bergen, especially during the winter months as the state-of-the-art tunnel won’t let your car get shit.

If you go online, there are roughly 50+ cities that claim to be the “rainiest in the world.” Bergen definitely may lay claim to the title as they suffer from 275 days of rain on average per year. So data & decisions geeks, what’s the probability that it would rain the 3 days and 2 nights that we were there??? 100%. (it’s a heck of a lot easier to figure out probability on historical events.) Oh, and in subsequent conversations, we have heard that Bergen had 68 continuous days of rain during this past winter. But that 69th day must have been unreal.

We did muster the courage to go out each day braving the wet weather. The fish market absolutely rocked… we got the insider deal with Ricardo and Cono spitting out Spanish to the Mexican and Argentinian working the tent. The salmon baguettes were superb… but you’ll have to ask the two others about the whale…. Yeah, some of us honor the global boycott on international whaling—which, for the record, is flouted by Norway and circumvented by Japan… I think they were saying something about, when in Rome.

We also attempted to do a full day hike in the looming mountains lining the city. The tram/train ascent was pretty cool until we got to the drop-off spot and the inclement weather shrouded the soaked city below. Fortunately, there was a park with the strangest troll/elf/predator statue which inveigled us into taking a couple candid shots.

Our favorite spot in this seaside spot was a restaurant called the Penguin. Not sure if the conversations or the beer were more effervescent… the main draw though was the scrumptious food. It is quite easy to make the transition from penny-pinching trekkers to cultured gastronomes. I think we might have made it through dinner without passing gas or even talking about passing gas—quite an accomplishment.

We decided to venture a bit from the beaten track and hit up a miniscule hamlet, Balestrand, located on the edge of one of the Western fjords. This was truly a one horse town: one bar, a couple restaurants, and a supermarket (which happens to be closed from 8pm Saturday until 8am Monday morning). Since our goal was adventure and separation from all the tourists (supposedly 600,000 do a guided tour through some of the proximate cities), we went on a long day hike up the ridge line splitting two fjords. The vertical assault on the mountain was simply awesome. And on the return trek back down the mountain, the sun finally conquered the sky. Oh, how I missed thee.

Cono and I decided to confront the icy water of the fjords while Ricardo played the role of Steve Bloom. yeah, the water was frigid… but so much more refreshing than a Gatorade or a cold shower.

Goteberg is the second largest city in Sweden and probably the coolest. Even on a Monday night, the Avenyn, the main drag, was jampacked with a young, vibrant crowd. True to form, my attire might not have been the best fit for the evening. my flipflops (or “slippers” as the bouncer referred to them) prevented us from entering the bar, although he did say Cono in his tennis shoes and shorts was alright to enter.

Unfortunately, in order to get back on schedule, we only had a handful of daylight hours here… just barely enough time to do a walking tour, grab our bags, and head back to the train station.

So the running count on meals is 4 kebabs (basically, middle eastern spots shaving meat onto a plateful fries with a bit of salad for coloring), 3 McDonald’s and 2 Burger Kings. Embarrassing!! Even more appalling is that the average cost at the fast food spots are around $10 - $12 for a Big Mac meal. Ouch! But I’ve also chowed down on salmon more times in the past 2 weeks that I have in most years.

*** NEWS FLASH ***
Sweden just anointed Stockholm as the Capital of Scandinavia. This decision was received the rest of Scandinavia like the world reacting to the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. Bill Murray celebrated by getting hammered then driving around town in a golf cart… which must have been an absolute riot until he got pulled over by the police and nailed for a DUI. Don’t they know that he starred in Caddyshack?
Gunga gunga la gunga… which means of course that when I die, I’ll receive total consciousness on my death bed; so I got that going for me which is nice.

1 comment:

Daisuke said...

It seems that you are having great time! NY is fun but I am desparate to seek for job now that I have nothing to do after Harry Potter's gone...