I woke up to a strong, cold wind coming off the water.  We were still sailing but we had reached the Oslofjord and were passing along all sorts of charming little coastal towns.  One thing I seem to recall is that everywhere it went, it was bright outside for at least part of the day.  Everyone we talked to in the cities we visited said the same thing: they were shocked at having a day of Sun when it had previously been so dreary.  I’ve been watching the bridge camera on the Emerald Princess ever since I returned to Phoenix and they’ve had rain everywhere they’ve gone since we left. It seems we brought the Sun with us to Europe and then brought it back with us to the United States again.  The brightness of the Sun in the Oslofjord was far different than the brightness in Arizona.  The Sun seemed to shine more intensely (most likely because the skies over there are far less polluted), yet there was little heat.  In my book, that spells perfection.

The chilliness didn’t last for more than a few hours.  We didn’t experience it for long, anyway, as we went up to Lido Deck 15 for breakfast. I generally had bangers (sausage for you Americans), some sort of egg sandwich or omelette, fruit, coffee, and possibly a fruit tart (I had those frequently…amazing things, there).  It was way more than I ever eat at one sitting, and I actually got used to having breakfast there (a feat, indeed, as I rarely used to eat breakfast).

Once we finished breakfast, we went downstairs to hand over our tour tickets and board a bus bound for Oslo.  We scanned our cruise cards and walked along the pier to the bus and had a grand old ride through the city.  I was quite surprised by the number of things they had in Oslo that were also in the United States.  I was also impressed by the sheer level of education the natives displayed. Most of them knew multiple languages fluently and had begun learning them before the age of 8. The Norwegians are a beautiful people, very tall and fair, though many didn’t have the prototypical blonde hair that one so often imagines them having.  This makes sense to me, considering the fact that my family is Norwegian, and nobody is blonde in my family.

At any rate, our tour was very short, as we were only sightseeing en route to the Fram Viking Museum.  Inside the museum is the very first ship that ever made it to the North Pole.  It was very cool, and we got to board the ship and explore.  It was relatively small, and the living quarters inside were even smaller.  It was furnished with all sorts of things from the period, and with little artifacts that had been left behind.  There were also news clippings and poetry written about the ship emblazoned on the walls, memories etched into wood for the sake of posterity.

It got warm in there fast, and I was not feeling too grand that day anyway.  I’d been dealing with a particular health issue off and on since February or so, and it decided to aggravate me with a vengeance that day and the following two days.  I left the museum and sat outside for a while, nursing a water bottle and trying to cool off.  The morning’s coldness had worn off and been replaced by a very mild coolness, perhaps 75 degrees, so I didn’t cool off quite as much as I would’ve liked, but I was fine.  Our group finished at the museum and joined me outside, where we walked about 100 meters to the neighboring museum of Viking ships.  We looked around a bit at all the ships (including one of the first Viking ships ever found…it was over 2000 years old, and was basically a hollowed-out tree trunk) and accoutrements.

After that, we were ushered into a room to watch a video about the Norwegian fjords, the prelude to our next activity: a fjord cruise on a ship built in 1892!  I ended up dozing through the video a little bit, sadly, as I was still not feeling incredibly well, but I made it through the cruise just fine.  We boarded the old ship and took a seat at one of the picnic tables setup on the main deck. The sun was warm overhead but there was a good breeze across the water.  We made our way around various islands and our tour guide explained everything along the way.  I don’t recall the name of our tour guide, but she was fascinating.  She had such a quirky sense of humor that would’ve fit well in my family (maybe it’s a Norwegian thing), and always had a funny anecdote to mention about the sights we were seeing.  We caught a glimpse of the Oslo Opera House, which was designed to look like a giant iceberg.  Apparently, it looks incredible in the winter when the fjord freezes up.  We passed several quaint houses on the various islands and it was explained to us that the houses on the islands were not allowed to have running water (though I cannot recall why that was the case), and they were only allowed to be painted blue, yellow, green, or red.  The islands themselves had rich histories, as well.  One of them had been used as a place to exile women who had had children out of wedlock, and it had been known as the “Island of Unwed Mothers.”

There were thousands of boats on the docks and in the water, and our tour guide said that there were 4.8 million people in Norway, and over 1 million boats in Norway.  Apparently boating is the preferred way to travel in the Nordic states!   We passed by a small converted church and our tour guide said it was a good thing we weren’t there the day before because there had been several Swedish nude sunbathers there.  Nobody in any of the countries we visited really liked the Swedes.  I was surprised because I hadn’t heard much of the animosity between Swedes, Danes, and Finns, but it’s there, and even the Estonians don’t like them.  I had thought it was just a Norwegian thing, but apparently not!

We got near the city center again and saw the old Viking fortress right next to our ship, and got a good look at downtown Oslo, which was covered in cranes.  Our tour guide said they were building an entirely new section to Oslo and that it had been and would be under construction for quite some time.  In the middle of the water, near the Opera House, was a sculpture made of glass and metal that looked like an ice sculpture of sorts.  It was designed for aesthetics, of course, and when the fjord freezes in winter, it’s apparently quite a sight to behold!  The ship docked and we stepped out onto the pier.  My mom and I decided to go into the souvenir shops along the pier, as we had plenty of Norwegians to buy for.  I got a pair of slippers for my best friend, coasters and a potholder for the apartment I share with my roommate, a Viking figurine, a Norway hoodie with the Norwegian flag printed on the inside of the hood, a keychain, and the shopkeeper gave me a couple free decks of Norway playing cards for being a good customer.  There were so many friendly people in the shops there, and I had more than one good conversation. I met a British man who had moved to Norway in years past and he was there to supervise the shop activity, and we had a wonderful conversation and parted as friends.

Once my mom and I left (with 3 bags of goodies between us), we boarded the Emerald Princess once again, dropped our stuff off at the stateroom, and took in panoramic views of Oslo from the top deck, where it had become incredibly windy.  We walked around for a while before deciding to see if we could finally find out where our dining room was.  It was on the 6th floor aft, and we wound through the decks and up and down floors before finding it after probably walking for a good half hour.  By then we had built up an appetite, and were pleased to sit down at our table.

I had been expecting a large table that sat maybe 8-10 people, but ours was a smaller one that sat only 4.  We were the first ones there but it didn’t take long for our table mates to arrive.  They sat down and introduced themselves as Brian and Thelma from Tampa, Florida.  They were very pleasant people, and very smart.  Thelma worked for the city’s transportation office and Brian worked with computers.  They both were of Russian descent, but Brian was also British and German, and had an accent that slightly melded the British and German aspects with the American background.  We all enjoyed terrific conversation and an exceedingly large 4-course meal before parting ways.  My mother and I were both very tired from a combination of losing 9 hours on the plane and from the day’s activities, so we adjourned to the stateroom and watched TV for a little while before crashing.  I had wanted to do more but was still not feeling pleasant, so I slept, eagerly awaiting what would come for us the next day as we arrived in Aarhus, Denmark.

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