Sharing the Moment

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End Jun 08, 2010

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Flag of Norway  , Oslo,
Sunday, May 30, 2010

Guess what – I had another early start after another later night and this is how I'm going to start the blog entry. In reality this was one of the later early starts as it was after 6am, 6:30am to be precise. Getting to the airport was as easy as getting from the airport when I arrived so it didn't take long before I was at the airport self-tagging my bags and dropping them for check-in. I almost went through for my first credit card as my boarding pass experience but I decided it would probably be best to print a pass in case I needed it to claim any missing frequent flyer points when I got home.

This flight to Oslo had also been upgraded by SAS to an A321, but this time I had learnt from my earlier mistakes and chosen seat 10A, just behind the exit. This seat has 2 and a half row's worth of leg room, and 2 windows. The only drawback was that the food menu and safety information was in the seat pocket 2.5 rows in front. Especially considering my potential need to be able to operate the exit successfully I thought this information would have been more accessible. The reason for the aircraft upgrade was likely due to a large Taiwanese tour group travelling with us, making the flight 100% full, including the middle seats in the economy extra/business cabin. I was seated on the correct side of the plane to get a good view of Oslo as we flew past it to the airport.

Little had changed at the airport since my last arrival, the most noticeable was the Eurovision balloon display looking a bit sad with some popped and saggy balloons. Unlike Copenhagen, our bags were already going around the carousel when we got there, making the process a smooth one. Once more I was enjoying swiping my credit card for my ticket and reclining in Flytoget for the trip into Oslo S.

Thon Terminus was my hotel for the night, almost across the road from the station, and thankfully they had a room available for me despite the early check-in and them presumably being fully booked with the Eurovision final occurring that night in Oslo. I took the opportunity to once again rest and ensure that I was prepared for the afternoon and evening's events.

Wearing my suit was a good feeling – its first use and bringing purpose to me dragging it around the US, Canada, Norway, Germany, France and Denmark. In what for an Australian is a relatively formal part of the world it seemed as if nobody even noticed that I was wearing a suit on a Saturday and taking the tram out of town. The tram trip took about 10 minutes, winding its way around the fjord and climbing into the eastern parts of Oslo. From the Holtet stop I had a few minutes walk uphill through some pretty confusing streets to the Bekkelaget Church for Thomas and Linda's wedding. I met Thomas first when he worked at Serco Transperth with me while he was studying in Joondalup and then I met Linda and we ended up hanging out and becoming friends while they finished their studies. As dedicated readers would know, I visited them last time I was in Oslo last year.

At first it was a little awkward standing out the front of the church as other relatives and friends arrived, most of whom seemed to know each other, but after Thomas came out and welcomed me, everyone started introducing themselves and engaging me in conversation. Everyone was particularly friendly and welcoming, disrupting their other conversations and switching to English just to include me.

We all moved into the church in preparation for the arrival of Linda, who was right on time and entered to “Entrance of the Queen of Sheba”. The entire service was in Norwegian, as it should've been, so most of what I took in was from body language and the reactions of other guests, plus what I could decipher from the written text in the hymns and in the programme. It seemed torturous that the bride and groom must site across from each other without being able to be together while people talk and sing about them and their relationship, finally uniting them at the end of the ceremony. Many a tear was shed throughout the church and I really got the impression that they have the full support of everyone present and that what was happening was right, I think so anyway.

As we congregated outside the church congratulating the newly weds it began to sprinkle so that spelt the time for us to head to the reception and for Thomas and Linda to start their photo run. Thomas' friend Frode, a Norwegian who he'd met studying in Woolongong, and his girlfriend drove me and the only other foreign guest, Dee (from Singapore but had studied with Linda in Joondalup), to the reception because it would've been quite a trek on foot.

Villa Lilleborg hosted the reception in its great location, on one of the islands on the eastern side of Oslo Fjord. The villa itself is a 3 story wooden building with a nice garden overlooking the fjord. We had a few hours to mingle before the couple arrived so I had a chance to meet most of the relatives and friends and give them a chance to practice their English, which was all of a high standard anyway.

The party moved inside when the couple arrived and I was seated next to Dee and Linda's sister, Janne, who I'd met when she visited Thomas and Linda in Perth. Across was Kristine, Thomas' sister and Frode and his girlfriend. Speeches kicked off with Thomas welcoming everyone, including a part in English so that he could specifically thank Dee and I for coming so far. I'm not sure what to make of this English interlude – I appreciate it very much that he wanted to thank me and include me linguistically but on the other hand it was a Norwegian wedding and I didn't want to impose.

The rest of the proceedings were in Norwegian with some translation from Janne at important and particularly funny moments. Again I had to rely on body language and tone to understand what was happening and again the day's actions were validated by peoples' actions. Everyone who spoke seemed very sincere and at times intense. Needless to say there was a lot more crying, but everyone was happy and in high spirits. The food was great, especially the crayfish entree, and the drinks flowed freely so by the end of the food service it was time for a good dance. I was dismayed that only the women were dancing and asked some of the guys why this was. They said it's the way they always do it but when I argued that they were missing a good bonding/interaction opportunity with the women and that we dance with them in Australia the best man and I started a more gender balanced dancing time. We even got Thomas dancing, which was my goal after he didn't dance once at my 21st. Another highlight of the Norwegian wedding is the absence of a lame fruit wedding cake, instead 4 different cakes were provided, all of them more tasty than the traditional icing with a bit of fruit fare we get at home.

By the end of the night I had lots of new friends and had the chance to further to talk people while we waited for some taxis to come to us instead of picking up people from the Eurovision final on the other side of Oslo. I shared a taxi back to the hotel but the other 2 guests wouldn't let me pay for any of it at all. Great to end a satisfying and fun night on a nice gesture like that. During the taxi ride the driver let us know that Germany had won Eurovision and we had a chat about how inexplicably big it is in Australia, leading to the driver to ask where I was from. When he learnt that I was from Australia he asked me to play hockey with his team as they already had an Australian playing for them. When I returned to the hotel I swear that I saw the guy from Iceland's 2008 Eurovision entry, Euroband, standing out the front. Then again, all Icelandic people look the same, don't they? Too bad the chick from that band wasn't there...

Check-out of my hotel was not until 12:00 noon so I had plenty of time to try to sleep in and get ready to leave. When I checked out I left my bags in the hotel's bag room and navigated my way back out through the lobby that was crowded with what I think were Icelandic people who had clearly been at Eurovision the night before. I went on a stroll to take in the sights of Oslo in the sunny summer weather. It was fun to walk up the roof of the Opera House and look out over the fjord and at all the people about town. I've never seen Oslo this busy, although I've never visited at this time of year, so it was nice to see everyone out and about enjoying what was on offer. There were some Germans running around with flags celebrating their victory the night before.

Whilst on the roof I received a message from Thomas and Linda asking me to come over to theres for the rest of the afternoon until my ferry departed. I returned to theirs by the T bane and walked uphill from Oppsal Station to their place. It was good to see them again after the wedding, as they were able to relax, although they do still have a bit to do with all the presents they received at the wedding. Thomas' parents were also there so it was good to see them again after the wedding.

Thomas, Linda and I just chilled and ate for the afternoon, including a stint on the balcony soaking up the sun in what was by Australian standards cool weather - how northern European. We chatted mostly about the wedding and what everyone thought, meeting relatives and then looking to the future, including making plans to visit again. Norway is definitely a place that I can keep coming back to, it's a nice corner of the world.

At the end of it all we were in the car back to town to pick up the snus (chewing tabacco) that I had purchased Thomas duty free on my arrival into Norway from the hotel, where I had left the tins in the bar fridge, and then onto the Stena Line ferry terminal. We parted for the final time this trip and I went through the motions in the terminal. The waiting area is inadequately small for a vessel that can hold hundreds of people so most people, including the elderly, had to stand. The boat, Stena Saga, sails from Frederikshavn during the day to Oslo and then back overnight. As such there's only a 1 hour turn around time in Oslo so things were a bit frantic on the dock.

My exterior cabin was okay, nothing great, not Hurtigruten, but it worked and didn't smell too funky, so who am I to complain? I explored the ship and was on deck for our departure although it took a while to navigate the nonsensical deck access ways. I opted out of an extremely overpriced dinner and instead had only an overpriced dinner of 2 slices of tasteless pizza for 66 Kroners, or about $11AUD. I think I'll stick to the free water from the tap in my cabin, thanks. As this was a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep after I had finished exploring the ships decks I hit the sack for a long sleep.
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