Being the last leg of our journey with friends, Oslo gave us a good beginning. We reached with no hassles and booked a van for ourselves because we finally realised we needed it, instead of two cars. It was a good thing we selected the vehicle because the one hour drive, from the airport to the hotel, just flew. No, the driver wasn’t flying, but the van had a karaoke system with some old English songs and many of us sang the hour away. Wished we had this on the eight hour drive to Riga, too, but then that grumpy old driver would have had a problem with that too.
After a long time, I sang ‘There’s a kind of hush’ and recalled my days with the band. I was new, back then, to the glorious world of singing and enjoyed every day we decided to practice. Alas, it lasted for only a year but that’s when I began performing on stage. Yes, the ride to the hotel was a nostalgic one. The song in the picture was another one I had sung with the band. Memories. Sigh!
After we checked into another Radisson Blu Plaza (read my complete review here), I realized one thing. Their hotels in India seemed much grander than the ones outside it. Personally, I found the rooms, the tiles, the air conditioner and the structure, all not so impressive during this trip. Maybe, I’m just scrutinizing everything for no reason. Or maybe, we Indians love spoiling our guests.
In a country like this, we, Indians, go through a major culture shock as we are forced to follow rules and do things we never do in India. I’ll give you several examples from the day we landed there. Everyone stood behind the yellow line surrounding the conveyor belt. I could not recall any visible line anywhere in our Indian airports. When we got into the van, every child was strapped to a mini seat (sitting position) and it did not matter if he was asleep or not. In the night, Hard Rock Café forbade us from ordering a bottle on our table because, apparently, it was illegal to order for liquor bottles. In India, we always order a pitcher or a bottle if many of us are having the same drink. Uber is illegal in Norway. It is all over India. If you have forgotten to buy a ticket before getting on a particular train, you will be sweating and almost wetting your pants because the strict rules are known but the punishments are not. Lastly, we were forbidden from entering strip clubs because we had not worn closed shoes and it did not matter how sexy our sandals were. I was appalled at the fact that we had to cover our toes in order to see someone dance naked but I have yet to check the rules, for entering strip clubs, in India.
Our night out was something funny. We left from Hard Rock Cafe after they behaved horribly with us and walked around the block to find a strip club. The first one rejected us because we were well dressed but in sandals. Fifteen minutes later, we get rejected because we do not have our original identity cards or passports for identification. Twenty minutes later (by the way we are walking for all these minutes mentioned), we catch hold of an Indian driving a cab and we sit for a mere fifteen minutes until he drops us back to Hard Rock Cafe getting the meter to flash a good NK 400/- (Rs. 3280/-). We laughed so much at our stupidity because we paid that amount just to land back at square one. Well, 3G had betrayed us so we had no way of knowing our whereabouts after a certain block. We had a good time at an open air club right opposite Hard Rock Cafe but we clicked more pictures while walking than at the party.
Time flies when you’re having fun. We visited Holmenkollen and one of our friends went to the famous ski arena there which is open to zip-lining in the summers. Six of us waited below to become the paparazzi. Several minutes later, we got restless and began dancing on the grass after we got to know she was still in queue and had asked us to count four people before it would be her turn. Before we knew it, she was on her way down and we hardly got anything on camera. View some of it here.
The beach in Huk wasn’t all that interesting. Juhu beach in Bombay is bigger than that. We spent around an hour there as the kids enjoyed playing with and eating the sand but none of us dared to get into the ice cold water. The nude part of the beach had no one nude there. Though we were not quite interested in the beach, the kids had a ball of a time. Sometimes, the children need their spaces too. My son kept finding things, in the sand, to taste while my daughter kept burying her legs under a lot of sand. Parenting is a tiring job.
I was amazed with the Vigeland Sculpture Park (free entry) which had more than two hundred sculptures in different poses. Some were with babies, some were by themselves and some were with their friend (did not want to go too far with my wild guesses). Each one had a different posture and gesture but the two things that they all had in common were nudity and their creator Gustav Vigeland. I guess he wanted to portray people in various parts of their lives but did not want them to belong to any particular caste, country or era so anyone could connect with the sculptures. Personally, I found this thought quite amazing for someone in the early 20th century. At the end of the park stood a monolith which was 18 meters high with 121 statues on it and had taken the artist 14 years to create. The best thing there was that, everything was made accessible with the baby stroller, up until the monolith.
The Akershus Fortress was like entering another world. It covered a large area and had stunning scenic views from it. Check out the view from one of the sides. Inside the fortress, there were several well maintained rooms, halls and museum. The dungeons and closed doors were quite spooky but I still wanted to see what was behind them. Banquet halls lead me to imagine faceless well-dressed men and women dancing the nights away. I wondered how happy they were there.
Outlet Mania was not at all interesting, so, it was not worth the travel time, with kids and prams but at the end of the day, Oslo city was amazing despite the rules that stress you out if you are not familiar with them. I have decided that I am definitely visiting Norway again because I have yet to experience the Fjords and the northern lights which were not possible on this trip. For now, it was time to say goodbye to Norway and the rest of the gang as we were off to Spain and they were off to our Motherland, India.
By the way, if you love Arabic food, try Carmel Grill.