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Far North

May 3, 2016

My final trip. Just a few short weeks left in the semester, and I've just finished my final weekend trip. It feels quite weird admitting that, as if it's an honest admittance that this semester is coming to a close.

I spent the weekend in Oslo with a good friend of mine, Patrick, from Bowdoin. We had originally planned on taking this weekend to head over to Geneva to visit CERN, the site of a major particle accelerator, but changed our minds on the suggestion of a professor who had visited before who told us not to bother going unless we wanted to look at outdated computers and keyboards. Why not take his suggestion to heart and visit one of the more random locations in Europe, at least for study abroad students? Oslo it was!

Oslo is probably a less-visited location for students and after spending a weekend there, I know exactly why. Norway is a very rich country. Residents have a high standard of living, pay very high taxes, but live well. Because of this, it's quite difficult for penny-pinching students to visit. Patrick and I were lucky enough to find an affordable Airbnb on the Sørenga peninsula (an up and coming waterside development) near the opera house, but were dumbfounded by the prices of everything in the city. Want a one-way bus ticket? That'll cost you $4. A single, half-liter can of beer at the supermarket? $4. Want that same beer at a restaurant? $10. Takeout Indian food will cost you $15-$20 per person. 

While I was super excited to visit Oslo, I was disappointed by the amount of rain we got throughout the weekend. I arrived Thursday evening after a 1.5hr flight delay and found it already raining with chances of snow that night (though as someone who hasn't seen snow yet this semester, that would've been quite welcome!). Patrick and I went to buy some groceries for breakfast, grabbed burgers at a local restaurant, and headed back to the apartment in the rain for a bit of catching up and a lazy night in. 

Friday morning we headed over to the office of my favorite map company, Use-It, to borrow the two bikes they claimed to lend out for free. Armed with two falling-apart bikes and helmets, a must in any city while biking, especially a city that hasn't quite caught onto bike lanes yet, we set out across the city to do some exploring. After biking up to the king's castle, we biked up to a park in the city with a beautiful view of the Oslofjord before going to a Norwegian restaurant I had read about before the trip. There, we ate hearty plates of reindeer, peas, potatoes, and lingonberries as I fought the urge to take snapchats of my meat adorned with bright red noses. Afterwards, we coasted down a main road to the Nobel Peace Center, an accidental find and a worthwhile museum. One of the striking temporary exhibits was of military training and experiences worldwide with terrifying photos of soldiers in all kinds of training situations with quotes about their experiences in battle.

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The Royal Palace in Oslo. The flag signifies that the king is home!

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The view overlooking a wonderful park and much of the Oslofjord in the distance.

Later, we ended up at a small jazz record shop and cafe (supposedly with live music at night) before returning the bikes back promptly at 5:00 pm as we promised. We then walked over to the edge of Grønland, the immigrant neighborhood, for some Indian takeout and a walk through pouring rain back to the apartment. We finished off the night by watching a disgustingly large amount of Netflix. We may have gotten through the entire Netflix remake of Wet Hot American Summer in one night, all four hours of it, but don't mention it to our parents. Also - the show may be about a kids' summer camp, but it is not a children's show. Please don't show it to your kids. 

On Saturday, we planned to make three big trips, one to the Parliament building for a tour only offered on Saturdays, one to IKEA on the free IKEA bus for meatballs, and one to the Fram museum. Unlucky for us, the Parliament tour had filled up by the time we got there (trust me, we got there decently early). We did make it to Ikea and gorged ourselves on Swedish meatballs and sparkling pear juice after meandering through the store taking pictures of couples that were bound to break up due to the inevitability of arguments in IKEA. After Ikea, we found out that the Fram museum closed at 4:00 pm, so one for three on our activities for the day, we walked around a bit before grabbing groceries and cooking dinner. 

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Sunset from our Airbnb on Saturday night.

Sunday morning brought promises of better weather and a trip to the Fram museum! We learned about the polar expeditions of many Norwegian explorers and got the opportunity to check out not only many of the tools and instruments they used, but also two of the expedition ships! We followed that up with some delicious pizza and a walk up to the top of the Opera House, one of the more popular activities in the city. How many times do you get to say you climbed the roof of a world-class opera house?

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The Fram, a ship that has sailed farther north and south than any other wooden vessel.

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The view overlooking the Oslofjord from the Opera House.

Now that I'm back in Madrid for the next two and a half weeks before I go, I'll be doing my best to take advantage of everything the city has to offer (i.e. I will be eating lots of tacos). I hope to pay another visit or two to Friday night trivia at J&J Books and Coffee as well as soak up the beautiful May weather before heading home!

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Some very delicious pizza accompanied me to the top of the Opera House.

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