Monday, September 06, 1999

TR Norway

Trip Report
Oslo Marathon
Oslo, Norway
(9/3 –9/6/99)

Oh! What a difference a week makes! At least in communications.

Oslo is much different from Moscow; 800 Thousand vs 10 Million people and about 40% speak English as a 2nd (or 3rd) language.

This was my third trip to Oslo this summer and I was hoping that this one would leave pleasant memories unlike the first two. The first trip was during the weeklong train tour through Sweden and Norway. When I got to Oslo there were no hotel rooms to rent so I had to visit for the day and then travel on to Goteborg, Sweden to get a room. The next trip to Oslo was during our Baltic cruise. It was the last port and my sinus infection was kicking into high gear and pain and I spent most of the afternoon on the Acker Brygee drinking $8 beers trying to kill the pain with booze!

But fortunately the third time was the charm as I had a very pleasant visit this time.
Oslo is a fairly small city even though approximately one-third of the Norwegian population lives there. Although it is celebrating its 1000th birthday this year there are very few buildings older than a few hundred years because they have all been destroyed by fires, wars, etc. Even the Akershus fortress and castle which is the oldest landmark in the city and celebrating its 700th birthday has been rebuilt several times during that period. So its architecture is not as impressive as many younger castles throughout Europe. But they were holding a pageant this past weekend, which included full dress re-enactment of life and battles around the fort during the 17th century which were very interesting.

Oslo’s beauty lies in its location. It is situated at the mouth of the Oslo fjord that is about 150 miles long. Oslo is built up on both sides of the fjord. The downtown core is built along the harbor and rises up into the mountains on both sides. There are several parks and green areas throughout the city. The downtown is small –about one square mile running from the harbor and the Aker Brygge (similar to Fisherman’s Wharf but more modern and upscale) to the main street called Karl Johan Gate that runs one mile from the Central train station to the Royal Palace. Inside that core is the Aker Brygge, the Akershus castle, the national Theatre and most of live and movie theatres, hotels restaurants, pubs and sidewalk cafes. The streets are filled with sidewalk musicians and entertainers and on weekends there are literally tens of thousands of locals strolling around and enjoying the cafes and pubs.

There are many other tourist attractions such as the Viking ship museum that houses two 1000-year-old Viking ships and artifacts; the Kon-Tiki museum that houses the Kon-Tiki, a papyrus ship that sailed around the world; and the Vigeland Sculpture Park that contains hundreds of nude sculptures of men, women and children depicting life from birth to death. On the outside of town there is the Hollmenkollen ski jump high above the city with some spectacular views. And of course there are several museums that focus on Norwegian and Viking culture.

One can easily spend two full days visiting Oslo but make sure it is in the summer!
As for the marathon I leave with mixed feelings. They screwed up my entry form; i.e. they lost it. No matter, I went to the problem desk and got re-registered. At least I was able to find someone who could assist me in English. But all the written race instructions and info was in Norwegian. And after charging $50 for the entry fee I had to pay $15 to get a T-shirt!
Then I decided to go to the rice party since it was the cheapest dinner in town – only $5 which is a bargain in Norway. (more later on prices in Norway). Since this is really considered a local race they don’t advertise outside of Scandinavia. As a result it is small; 1500 half-marathoners and 500 marathoners. There were only three entrants outside of Scandinavia; a German, a Brit and me. And I couldn’t find the Brit at dinner so I had nobody to talk to again! And they conducted all the presentations in Norwegian!
The race started at 1:30 pm on Saturday at the Bislett Stadium. Track enthusiasts will recognize that track as one of the main venues in Europe for track events. I just don’t understand why the Europeans start most of their races between 11am and 2 pm. It was too damn warm by start time –low 70s! The marathon was twice around the half marathon loop that was three concentric loops around the downtown core and Vigeland Park. But the loops overlapped so it was very confusing which direction to go, etc. Oh yeh! They had signs and were shouting directions –in Norwegian! I had to concentrate on what kilometer I was on and when I arrived at a junction I would shout the next km and someone would point in the right direction. Pain in the ass but it worked! And I ended up running by my hotel on Karl Johan Gate four times. By the fourth time my hotel room was calling to me “Come lay down, have a beer; come lay down----------“ You get the idea!
On top of all that the course was very hilly and we got to repeat those hills many times and by the time the first half was done there were no more sponges and very little water left. In other words they don’t get an ‘A’ for logistical support. But somehow in spite of all these obstacles I was feeling great and got into a ‘zone’ right from the start. I had decided to go out at a sub-8 minute pace and hold it until the end or I crashed –whichever came first! I don’t know why but the crash never came and I finished the race feeling good in 3:25:37! That’s my fastest time in eighteen months so obviously I am very pleased with that performance!

After the race I decided to treat myself to another reindeer steak at one of the finer restaurants on the Aker Brygge since I don’t plan on going back to Scandinavia for awhile. Now I need to fill you in on prices. Norway is one of the most expensive countries in Europe! I just don’t understand how anyone can live there? A beer at a pub runs $6 to 8. On the Aker Brygee, $8 to 10! A personal pan pizza and pepsi cost me $15 at Pizza Hut. A Big Mac is $9. Don’t even think about wine with dinner. A bottle of house wine is $30 to 40! I felt a bit guilty about paying $30 for a reindeer steak until I checked a beef steakhouse; a 16-oz T-bone was $50, a 12 oz Filet -$70! And from what I can determine all other living expenses are proportional.

But do not let that stop you from visiting Norway. The west coast of Norway, from Bergen all the way up above the Arctic Circle has the most spectacular natural scenery in Scandinavia. The mountains rise up out of the sea and go along the fjords for mile-after-mile of awe-inspiring beauty. It is similar to the scenery in Alaska but more of it and I think more forests and greenery on the mountains. It is truly one of the prettiest parts of Europe! And of course it should only be visited in the summer preferably June when you would have the summer solistice and 20+ hours of daylight.
Hope you can make it some day. It is truly a lifetime experience and memory!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work. general health