Viking Biking and Hiking
At the beginning of September, as a way to kick off my Jesus Year (33rd birthday), I went to Norway. It was nothing I expected and everything I expected at the same time. It hadn't been what I originally wanted, but it ended up being exactly what I needed. I had gone through a pretty tough two months before my Norwegian adventure, with major life changes, and I was in need of something to renew my faith in myself. Even though my original idea for the adventure had a completely different itinerary and a different loved one in mind, the trip was one I will never forget.
Ever girl has that friend that will drop everything to come and cause trouble with you, and we would not be the same without those friends. I am extremely grateful that I met that friend my freshman year of college. After my initial heartbreak, when I asked if she would go to Norway with me, she didn't even hesitate and said yes. So, I set off to my a new itinerary for the trip that would compliment both of us.
We set off on our adventure from Orlando, where we took a straight flight to Oslo on Norwegian, which is a budget airline with some great prices on flights. We spent the first three days in Oslo where we stayed in a tiny apartment that was centrally located and perfect for us. And within the first hour of being in Norway, we were already blown away. Norway had a way of always surprising me.
Maybe it was an ignorant view, but I had originally thought that once we got to Norway we would stick out like sore thumbs. Neither of us are 6 foot tall, blonde, or blue eyed. The truth of the matter was my idea on diversity in Norway was COMPLETELY wrong. They are an immensely diverse nation. Norwegians come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and it was beautiful to see. What was even more refreshing was that these people were all healthy. Healthy in the way that they embrace activities and the outdoors. They were not stick thin and not obese, they were HEALTHY. Because Oslo is 60% green spaces you can find a variety of things to do outside. We ended up trying two activities during our time in the capital city.
Our first adventure in Oslo was a 3 hour kayak tour in the fjord. And it was as magical as that sentence made it sound. Departing from the marina at 10 in the morning with Oslo Kayak Tours, we paddled our way through the fjord discovering lighthouses, nude beaches, and tiny million dollar cottages. The sun was shining and people were out enjoying the day. Our group included a couple from Boston, a Norwegian mother daughter duo, and an Irish mom just enjoying her first day alone in years. I have loved kayaking for more than half my life, and to share that with one of my best friends as well as a couple of strangers felt like the perfect start to a week long adventure. When time was up, we replenished our bodies with treats from the local bakery before starting our afternoon of shopping. I will say this, as a vegetarian who lived two years in Japan I was ready to make due with whatever food I could find. I was delightfully surprised to find it extremely easy to find vegetarian and even vegan options wherever we went, including an amazing vegan sausage from a food truck.
Our second adventure in Oslo was a 5 hour bike tour around the city that we booked with Viking Biking. It was a crazy fun adventure that we shared with 12 other strangers from around the world. We wore bike helmets with viking horns as we rode around the city learning more about this place that we were growing to love. We explored parks, neighborhoods, landmarks, as we learned some of the history behind Oslo. We even rode by the homeless world cup of soccer, a tournament for people who are either homeless or once had been homeless. Throughout the ride you could not help but notice all the other Norwegians enjoying their day outside. They even had a public slack line for people to try their luck balancing on. As with the kayak tour, the ride seemed to end a little too soon, but that is how it is there is never enough time. The next morning we departed for our next adventure on a four hour train ride.
I have taken a lot of train rides in my life, but the train ride from Oslo to Andalsnes is the most beautiful ride I have ever been on. Norwegian trains run relatively on time and are spacious and comfortable, they even have free wifi on board, but the real star is the landscape. Once you make it to Dombas, the next hour of mountains, waterfalls, and fjords will leave you speechless. We got off the train in Andalsnes and made our way to our lake house called Tindelykke for the next two nights. Andalsnes is a cute mountain town home to a climbing museum, various shops, and the reason why we were there, the famous Romsdalseggen hike.
The morning we departed for the hike was not the sunniest of days, but the rain and the wind weren't too bad so we decided we would continue with our hike plans. The hike is only 10km, but don't let that fool you, the steep inclination and the sheer rock faces aren't for the faint of heart. During our hike we made friends with others on the trail including a German couple, a couple from San Francisco, and a guy from Perth, Australia. The hike was the first real challenge for my mind and my heart. Being physically used to hiking and the outdoors, I had overlooked some things that were effecting my friend. I had in fact pushed my friend to her limit, which of course made me think of how I do this with all my relationships, platonic and romantic. In short, I can be quite selfish. After realizing this, I did something I have never done, I apologized right away. I didn't wait for things to get worse and I didn't blow up or make excuses, I simply said "sorry." We survived the hike and made it back to the lake house where we made sandwiches and watched trash satellite TV as we laughed about the day's events.
Our last Norwegian adventure was a stop in Lillehammer, home to the 1994 Winter Olympics. As a former figure skater, I always hold homes of winter olympiads close to my heart, and was curious what the city had to offer. When we arrived in Lillehammer it was raining, but not so hard that it kept us from going out for dinner. We ended up in an artsy cafe that had a live punk band and amazing apple crumble. We returned back to our hostel, which was actually in the train station, to turn in for the night. We were leaving the next day to Oslo for our flight home. We got up early to explore Lillehammer, but as everything in Norway, nothing was opened until around 9:30am. The city was absolutely beautiful and reminded both of us of what we think Sundance must be like. It is a cozy mountain town sprinkled with some of life's luxuries. There is so much to do in Lillehammer and we just didn't have time to do it. My biggest disappointment was not being able to visit the mountain bike park there, but maybe next time!
We made it to Oslo just in time to board our flight to Orlando, where hurricane Irma was waiting for us. I found it funny because it felt like a big metaphor as well. We only had a week in a truly magical place. I will not lie and say that my heartbreak didn't effect me during the trip, or that I hadn't thought about how it would have been different being there with someone else. But I didn't let that stop me from having an amazing adventure. I am truly grateful to my bestie for putting up with me for a week and kinda risking her life so that I could do some healing. I love you sister! And for those thinking about going to Norway, do it! You only need these three pieces of advice, eat the waffles, brown cheese is delicious, and buy a bag of Smash...you won't regret it!