Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Aspie Traveler Day 5: Riding the Rails Oslo to Bergen and Back

As with the previous days jetlag made its awful appearance at 11PM last night and kept me up until 1 and then I awoke once again at 5 and at that point there was no fighting it and it was now just a countdown until 6:30 when the hotel breakfast would begin.

          There was a high level of anticipation as well which wasn’t helping my sleep cause as I had a train ticket to Bergen at 8:25. There was little to no chance of oversleeping seeing how I went to bed at 7PM the previous night, but I was filled with anxious butterflies on the journey I would be taking. I dreamt about it all night and sure, for most people a train journey would be nothing special but there were two elements in play here. The first was that this has been declared by many websites, “the most scenic train ride in the world” and secondly there was a great sense of adventure as this would be the furthers I have ventured from “home” with home being the hotel in all my previous trips. Sure, in Amsterdam I went to Birmingham but I met up with Wil so I had a guide and in Tokyo I went on a guided tour which limits the sense of adventure of being on one’s own. And sure, a train can only go in one direction and not off the rails (hopefully not!) but in whatever happens I am alone; no phone, no familiarity, it would just be me observing the world.

          After breakfast it was 7AM and it’s only an eight minute walk to the station but I was eager so off I went. It was bitterly cold in the damp air and there weren’t many people out yet. There were more than yesterday for sure, but I could go a couple blocks and see nary a soul. This changed as I turned the corner near the Opera House and turned towards Oslo Central Station. Again, there weren’t a multitude of people but the air hinted that a day in a busy city was about to begin.

          Inside the station life was zipping by and was a gigantic contrast to the coming to life streets outside. I was so early my train wasn’t up on the big board yet which gave me time to take a train station selfie. I also went to the 7-11 (like Tokyo they’re everywhere!) to get an energy drink (unlike Tokyo they’re highly expensive here… Although everything is to be honest) and then I sat and just soaked in the moments watching people run
in a desperate attempt to catch their train to others that were much like me and just waiting. For this Aspie Traveler project I have gotten rather good at killing time by just watching and thinking. These thoughts would pay a huge dividend in just less than an hour.

          7:50 hit and it was 35 minutes until the departure of my train and the big board said “track 3” so I went that way expecting to board much like one does an airline at times almost an hour early, but the train that was there was labeled a town that had a couple accent marks and an “o” with a slash through it (I have no idea how to type that) so I stood on the inside of the terminal. Others were there standing and I very much hoped that they were awaiting the same train. How could I find this out, though? I could show one of them my ticket and give a motion with my hands in an inquisitive manner, or I could just verbally ask as I haven’t met a person yet that doesn’t speak English, but I did none of those things. The craftiness that I’ve learned being on the autism spectrum kicked in and I noticed an elderly lady had her ticket out but the ticket was out of my visual range so I inched towards the door as if I were looking for something and I then glanced down at her ticket and saw, “Bergen” and then I knew I was in the right place so I’d wait with the group.

          As I took my place back in line I thought about this crafty play I did and this went with the thoughts I had when I was sitting just a couple dozen minutes prior and in a flash I understood in greater depth my Game Theory concept I wrote about in Finding Kansas and have presented on hundreds of time but now I have a new depth to it. Picture it this way; I’ve talked about rules being important for as long as I’ve been writing, but in terms of establishing relationships I think I have at least a vague concept of the rules. However, if playing Monopoly were a metaphor for having Asperger’s, think of it this way; you’ve read the rules, the players have their pieces, each player has the right amount of money totaling $1,500 and play is about to start. Or is it? In this version of Monopoly let’s say there’s no dice and the concept of dice or movement is not covered in this version of Monopoly so then what happens? Even if you understand the rules you can’t really grasp it or utilize it because the game can never start. That being so how could one ever come up with the optimum trading strategy? The game would be in stasis forever and this is what I feel Asperger’s has a hand in at times. Granted, there are times when the proverbial game does begin, but often times there’s that ginormous barrier that prevents the play from beginning.

          I remained in deep thought analyzing this concept as the sun was now coming up and I didn’t even notice it was now 9:05; I had been thinking about this for so long I didn’t realize we had moved. The train feels very much as if one is floating and I was oblivious due to the excitement of coming up with the no dice concept. Honestly, I haven’t had this level of thought excitement since I wrote “Film Theory” and I thought about how to fully utilize it and how to write it.

          It was now 9:45 and we were finally getting out of the Oslo metro area, or at least what I thought was the metro area, and the landscape was becoming, well, what I’d consider to be frontier material or perhaps the image you’d have of Norway with snow blanketing the ground and hills and mountains in all directions with snow covered trees sagging due to the weight of the snow. I was like a six year old bouncing from side to side of the train (there was no one else seated in my row) and I snapped photo after photo. The old couple behind me that I think were American were getting a little tired of my exuberance but how could I not be this excited? To see terrain like this isn’t something I get to see all that often. For those that see it maybe it isn’t that big of a deal, but even if I lived here I would still be bouncing off the walls because the natural beauty is to the likes that I’ll try and show in pictures but to see it firsthand is almost soul-cleansing and enough to, well it was for me, bring a person to tears. However, I was all but alone in this excitement as every other person in the car I was in was lost to some form of technology. Sure, I was using my iPad and iPhone to take pictures, but everyone else was either surfing the web or reading a book and I felt this strange sense of sadness as if I were bearing witness to this marvelous feature of nature and no one else cared. It’d be like hitting a hole in one in golf only to have no one else see it.

          A little over halfway in the journey we stopped in Finse which is the highest station on the NSB line at a little over 4,000 feet which is, I believe, over 400 feet taller than the tallest point in England. The conditions outside were that of which one would think of Norway; inhospitable, cold, and if one isn’t careful sure life threatening. The snow drifts with effortless precision had some structures fully buried minus a chimney, and even though the sun was fully shining and the reflection off the snow made one think that it was a warm day, the thermometer read -10C. I’d hate to know what it is in the dead of winter at night.

          After we left that station I got hungry so I walked one car back to the cafĂ© car and this was, for me, another one of those once in a lifetime of my goodness this is awesome experiences as I ordered food on a moving train. I decided since I was already pushing myself I should order something I had never tried so I ordered the lamb stew. It had lamb, obviously, but also potatoes, carrots, and celery and it was delicious! So what this means now is I’m in the clear as I’ve tried my one new food.

          Two minutes ahead of schedule we arrived in Bergen and I had an hour until the same train would carry me back to Oslo. I didn’t want to walk too far away as I’d hate to miss my train and be stranded in Bergen, but my first impressions of Bergen were that this too would be an amazing city to visit. The buildings appeared to be older than the part of Oslo I’m in. I’m not architect so I don’t know if I’m right, but the streets weren’t straight and the buildings were almost in a haphazard formation and then, as I looked to the north, was a gigantic hill with houses on top. It was all so, Norwegian I think is the right word, and I thought that if not for forfeiture of my train ticket it would actually be wonderful to get stranded here for an evening.

          Alas, though, I made it back to my train and the ride back was not easy. It was now dark and that made for viewing the scenery a bit impossible outside of this one neat water reflection shot. Also, I had not been up past 7PM on any of the nights I had been here and the train was scheduled to arrive back in Oslo at 10:25.

          Those around me slept with ease and left me with a big sense of envy. I’ve never been able to sleep in a moving vehicle and here, it would seem, each person does it with ease.

          With a couple hours to go I was now so tired I was shaking. I tried to sleep, but feeling the motion of the train and the lights on above would not allow it. By the time we got to the station I was to the point of feeling as if my entire body was on fire and I walked as fast as I could in the now frigid Oslo evening. As few people were out in the morning now fewer people were out. The only people I saw were a construction crew near the Opera House.

          The eight minute walk was done in less time and once I made it to the room it was just mere moments before I was asleep and my railway adventure across Norway came to a close.


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