Arrival in Norway: Tourist stumbles

My welcome to Norway was a little rocky, as traveling tends to be. Work on the train tracks meant that I needed a buss rather than a tog to get to Oslo, then I had to pull my epically large suitcase through a growing rain the few blocks to the Grand Hotel, where they weren’t ready for me. I must have looked like a drowned rat by that time—my rumpled travel clothes declassing the incredible historic building—because they set me up at the bar while I waited. They had also not heard about my Oslo Pass being there, which turned out to be because Kirsti from Visit Oslo hadn’t told them yet. She had it in mind that I got in later than I did—probably my own fault because I had written about wanting to visit the E. Vigeland mausoleum (Or possibly because I, attempting to considerately adapt to local customs, had used 24-hour time in my email, and she’d read it as 12-hour time—there seemed to be a 2-hour mix-up that could be accounted for by mistaking 17:00 for 7:00 pm.)

Kirsti showed up not half an hour later and was all apologies. Which was completely unnecessary given that her office was hosting me at the Grand Hotel. She took me out for coffee, which WAS somewhat necessary because I was exhausted from overnight travel. It was pretty seriously raining by then.

When I finally did get checked into the hotel, they’d upgraded me to the Nobel Suite. Kirsti made an offhand comment that I wouldn’t be able to sleep thinking about those who’d slept in that room (not Obama, she made clear, though he did hold meetings in it), which I thought was quite a thing to say to someone so tired. I slept just fine. But the room did kick my impostor syndrome into high gear. Inside the entry there are portraits of some of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, and a mirror. As if to say: “who do YOU think you are?”

Wall in the Nobel Suite of the Grand Hotel in Oslo, with photos of Peace Prize winners.
Tell me this wall of luminaries isn’t judging me.

In the morning I had a harder time getting going than I’d thought I would. In the shower, the water temperature soared and I jumped out of the stream. I had the sudden thought of Malala or one of the other Nobel Laureates getting their buns scalded in the shower, and it brought me down to earth. Surely those incredible people who’d stayed in that suite also feared themselves unworthy.

(And then I thought about Obama holding meetings in the suite and guessed that he’d used the toilet at some point. So probably I’ve now used the same toilet as Obama. Add that to my list of life accomplishments!)

Me missing the point of this photo entirely by being on the wrong balcony in my ridiculously giant suite.

But back to my first evening. The rain had stopped, or at least paused, so I decided to go to Ekebergparken. I hopped on the trikk and, well, had a “clueless tourist” moment or two as I struggled to get off at the right stop. But once I did, I found the park quite lovely. And huge. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see but a fraction of the sculptures, so I aimed for “The Scream” by Marina Abramović. It’s a simple installation, a frame in a specific place that tourists can use to turn themselves into Munch’s screamer.

I had a hard time finding the thing, though, because it was just farther than I thought it should be. Really it was a bit of a hike, and I kept second-guessing myself and thinking I must have missed a turn. I made it there just as it was getting dark. No surrealistic sunset lit up the sky behind me, and Oslo harbor is basically unrecognizable from Munch’s days, and frankly the trees were a bit overgrown. But if they say this is where I should shriek, then shriek I will. (And while I’m here, may I ask why we translate “skrik” to “scream”? Sure, they have slightly different connotations, but “shriek” feels like a more authentic translation to me.)

self-portrait at ekebergparken
Existential horror on a drizzly Oslo evening. If I’d had a friend or a selfie stick this might have been a better picture—you can hardly see the frame.

Back in Oslo Sentrum I walked around looking for a restaurant, but pickings were slim a bit late on a Sunday. Eventually I decided to just buy a “pølse” at 7-11. The conversation goes:
Me: Jeg vil ha én grillepølse.
Cashier: Would you like to add a drink for twenty kroner?
Me: Was it that bad? I’ve been practicing!

I ate my hot dog as I walked, and then, the night seeming less gloomy than it had, stopped at a bar for en øl, consumed on a heated patio, then finally back to the room to sleep.