Sunday, July 22, 2012

Norway Review Pt 4

Twenty four degrees Celsius in Oslo really did mean 24 degrees C that day.  I spent an hour or so looking for larger hand luggage.  The only thing I liked cost about 600 Cdn and was one size down from a bag I already owned and knew to be available cheaper in Canada.

So I decided to wait until I returned to Amsterdam as I remembered there was a luggage store in the mall underneath the airport.  A better solution came about.  I found a fold up in a pouch instant hand luggage bag (kinda like those fold up bags by Longchamp but at a fraction of the price).  It weighs next to nothing and will now accompany me in my travels in case I decide to go on a heavy sweater buying frenzy again.  More importantly I like how people wouldn't suspect the value of goods I was carrying inside.

Oslo was a feast for the eyes.  It appealed to the architect in me (remember I spent a summer working as a Jr architectural technologist).  What I didn't expect was the variety of design styles in the city.  It blew me away.  The city is clean with wide avenues.  Even the buskers seemed to have more talent.  What a way to spend my last day in Norway.

Because of the well developed, people friendly port area (with loads of ice cream options), business men and women would buy their lunches (full out meals on plates and everything) and sit out on the steps leading to the water.  So I did the same.  A gentleman sat beside me and started chatting.  He is an industrial painter and had been to Canada before and wanted to know if job prospects for his line of work were good (I didn't really know).  We talked about the cost of living in Oslo (7 - 8 million NOK to get an apartment near the port) and other general topics.

Despite it being lunch time, wide out in the open with lots of people around and fairly neutral conversation, my spidey senses told me something wasn't quite right so I quickly finished my lunch and bid farewell.   I can count on one hand the times where I've had that feeling in all the years I've travelled.  But I've learned not to ignore it.  Important to trust your gut whether you are a solo female traveller or not. 

Oslo is a very walkable city (didn't need to consult map much at all, streets made sense) so that's what I did for the remainder of the day.  Because it was such a beautiful sunny day, the outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes were packed.  I love how the restaurants gave you blankets or faux fur to sit on.  The day passed too quickly.  I wished D could have been there. 

Funny enough, I met my last Norwegian person not in Norway but completely by chance at the Montblanc counter at a duty free store in AMS.  She was in the midst of testing out a ballpoint pen.  Because you have to show your boarding pass upon purchasing, I heard her say she was going home to Norway.   I couldn't help myself and piped up that I just came from Norway and just how much I was entranced by her country.

She was attractive, young, well put together, confident, very obviously intelligent and from Geiranger.  She lamented about how she had heard the weather had been quite cold recently.  I told her it didn't bother me as everything was still so beautiful.  Currently she lives in Stavanger and had just come back from Beijing on business.  I got the feeling she didn't really love growing up in a small village.  It took 8 - 10 hr by bus to get to Oslo as Geiranger did not have an airport.

Then we got talking about pens as we both have a thing for fine writing instruments.  Her love of fountain pens began when she studied in France (she had my dream upbringing) where everyone writes with them.  I nodded as I knew it to be the case and told her why I was at the counter too.  I was looking for a regular pen as fountain pens and airplanes equals one big mess due to air pressure changes.  Plus I was tired of using leftover hotel ones as my Waterman (a graduation gift from my aunt) was a bit too large and heavy.  (Believe it or not, there are 4 or more weights and barrel sizes of pens.)

I was extolling the virtues of my Montblanc fountain pen vs other brands when I found out she didn't own one yet.  This pen purchase was her first foray into the brand.  Her fountain pen is a Parker (my first one also) and it had some problems that didn't exist with my current one.  I think I did a good enough sales job so when she is ready to buy her next one, she'll make the leap.  We wrapped up our respective purchases (she was so cute, she asked to have her pen gift wrapped so it was like a true gift to herself), wished each other well and went our separate ways home.  My chat with her was icing on the cake on an already wonderful experience.

I'll end this review series with a few comments on the "cost" of Norway as I heard a lot of moaning and groaning about it during my trip.  I've listed some of my costs along the way to give you an idea.  Compared to Canada, yes it can be more expensive.  Compared to Central and South America, it is seriously expensive.  Compared to the big cities like Paris, Zurich, NYC, LA, it's about the same to eat and sleep there.  Compared to Monaco or Cannes, it's cheap.  Like most of life, it's all relative.

If you just want a cheap beach with all inclusive drinks and food for next to nothing, if that is what value means to you, then go to Mexico, Dominican or Cuba.  If you want a beach where you aren't in a compound or hassled every 5 seconds and where most people there make more money than you, go to Bermuda or the South of France.  You see what I mean?

I'm thinking most people just don't land in Scandinavia by mistake.  You go there for a reason, knowing you have chosen a relatively pricier place.  So make peace with it and don't go back if you don't want to.  Norway is going to be just fine with that.  There are many other cheaper beautiful places in this world.  Go forth and be happy.  As for Me, I'm going back.

The value of Norway does have something to do with cost.  You are going to a country where people are literate, skilled, employed, where the economy is strong and it's cities clean and safe.  It also happens to have a treasure trove of unique physical beauty.  That's what you are paying for.

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." 

Oliver Wendell Holmes  US author and physician (1809 - 1894)

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