In search of the mighty Aquavit

Trip Start Jun 12, 2005
Trip End Jul 02, 2005

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Our last day in Oslo began a tad late...we awoke at 4 AM to listen to the Pistons game and George Blaha via the good old Internet. Luck was just not in our favor as the Detroit radio feed would not cooperate and thus I can only blame our loss on the fact that we had to listen to the ESPN Radio national broadcast of the game. Needless to say we were both quite frustrated (and worn out) after that we slept in past our free breakfast ?.

When we finally did get going we walked up to the National Gallery. The museum was smaller than I expected but contained an interesting collection mainly of Norwegian artists or of others (Gaugin, Picasso, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Matisse and Cezanne) painting or sculpting scenes of Norway. Their was of course many regular paintings as well. The collection spanned from early works from the 17th century to a vast collection of 20th century modern art, focusing a lot on cubism. From many of the more modern pictures you could see where the "Scandinavian Design" (think IKEA) is derived from. The museum also contained many paintings of Edward Munch, including "The Scream". It was interesting to see and compare the lithograph, color sketch and oil painting of "The Scream" all in a twenty-four hour period. The museum also had this interesting Frog exhibit going on...we elected not to pay for it (the museum was otherwise free and Ashley has taught me many skills about getting things for free this trip), but you can see from the picture the interesting design they came up with for the exhibit.

After the museum we walked up through the Royal Palace and its gardens, through the upscale Majorstua district (home of all the embassies, etc...) to Frognerparken and its centerpiece Vigeland Park. This is a beautiful 80-acre park that is decorated with 212 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. Vigeland's works in the park have a wide range, showing elderly couples, small children and intertwined couples. You can see from the pictures the interesting design of his works. We relaxed and had lunch in the park for a few hours (we were still pretty tired from the early wake up and Pistons loss).

For dinner we headed out to the Grunerlokka district. It was highly touted in Lonely Planet and this free Oslo guide we picked up (if you come to Oslo the Use-It Budget guide is a great resource for cheaper and FREE stuff...Oslo is damn expensive so this thing can help out a little). Lokka has lots of newly renovated houses mixed in with older worn down ones, cool café's and little boutiques. It was described as "Oslo's Greenwich Village" and as we walked through I can see how during the day it may have been, but most of the little eclectic shops weren't open and we actually had a tough time finding a place to eat. We settled for sushi and Thai and realized that we have had a hell of a lot of Asian and Pizza on this trip (although weren't not talking Dominoes or Dolly Dimples, Norway's Take Out Pizza place of choice). The food in Norway is so expensive so the international foods offer a good and cheaper option...we also managed to pick up a free (well Ash left a nickel) loaf of bread that this small café was getting rid of on the street (again, Ashley with the keen eye for the free stuff), so we had that for later if needed.

After dinner we headed to this cool Jazz club named Bla (yes very similar to the all important saying of "Blah, Blah, Blah..."). As we were walking down the small road the club was off of, we came across what seemed to be a Porn shoot...the things you don't see everyday in America. When we finally did find Bla (it was set back and tucked away behind a few warehouses and along the river), we were quite impressed. It was pretty hoppin' for only 10 PM but we somehow managed to snag a little table outside along the river. You can hopefully see from the picture the cool setting of Bla. Both of us were quite impressed and we enjoyed a few drinks (non-alcoholic of course Mrs. Adamczyk) while listening to the DJ spinning. Their didn't seem to be any Jazz that evening, but they had some rock bands playing. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone that likes music if they come to Oslo.

After Bla we had one more task to fulfill before we left. I had to have Norway's national drink Aquavit. Arvid had told me about it in Voss a few days prior and I was determined to sip on some before we left. Sall (our crazy Italian waiter from the night before) had recommended we venture up to the top of the SAS/Radisson hotel and enjoy their Bar that overlooks the entire city. 34, as it was called due to its location on the 34th floor, was definitely worth the trip. Although a tad overpriced (as most bars of this nature are, think Signature Room in the Hancock), it offered an amazing view of the city. The hotel was the tallest building in Oslo so we looked down upon everything. The sun was still up as we looked out the north, poking through the overcast sky forming quite a scene (see picture). One of the smaller buildings below us was also shooting off a fireworks display, which was quite nice. Most importantly however, they HAD Aquavit. Aquavit "is made from a grain or potato mash that is fermented and then double distilled. The second distillation features the addition of various flavorings, which can include one or more of the following: caraway (the most common), cumin, cardamom, lemon peel, aniseed or fennel." It has a very distinct smell and taste and was quite strong straight. It is sipped mostly, but the bartenders also said that many enjoy it mixed in some sort of concoction with vodka (like it needs to be stronger!?) and lime (and I assume something else, otherwise your liver might shut down from drinking it). Aquavit quest was now complete so we headed to bed determined to enjoy our free Breakfast...


So now we have arrived at the far away Torp airport (2 hour bus ride from Oslo) to part for a few days. Ashley is off to visit her friend Stephanie in St. Andrews, Scotland and I am off to wander aimlessly around the streets of London, and to visit Eric as he moves in for the summer study in Middlebury's Breadloaf Program at Oxford.

Catch ya on the flip side from Jolly 'ol England,
- M and A
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