Sunday, December 13, 2015

Aspie Traveler Norway, Day 4: Standing Alone on a Pier

After a bout of jet lag I was able to get back to sleep, thank goodness, and I couldn't believe it when I slept to my alarm which was set five minutes before the hotel breakfast began. Much like the Amsterdam trip the hotel breakfast is one of the highlights and unlike Amsterdam the breakfast here is free which is awesome because everything in this city is so expensive!

What's the best part of breakfast? It's hard to say because the bacon tastes unlike any bacon I've had in the states. The eggs are firm and full of flavor, and the breads are a taste I haven't had in the states and even the milk is better and I'm not one just to eat cheese but the slice of cheese is the kicker that makes the king of all breakfasts. All in all it's just better, although one thing is missing and that is the waffles they had in Amsterdam. Ohhhhhhh, the waffles!

After breakfast I had to decide what to do with my day so I went to my room and did a Google search of, "things to do in Oslo on 12/13. This didn't get me anywhere because the way days are written here is reverse so December 13 is 13/12 instead of 12/13. Perhaps America is the only place that does it this way, but once I figured this out the first thing that popped up were train schedules. Trains? What do I want with trains? Well, I thought about making a day trip to Lillehammer, home of the 1994 Olympics, but $150 was a bit much for just a two hour ride. Then I noticed a cheap fare to some place called Bergen. I looked this up and quickly came across many websites that proclaimed this to be the, "most scenic train ride in Europe if not the world." The world? That's a bold statement but I looked at the prices and times and if I left on Monday it'd be about $104 but it I waited until Tuesday it'd be $74. I am on a tight budget but I have a major adventure planned on Wednesday and I couldn't afford the possibility of a delay of any sort so I attempted to book my single day, 13 roundtrip ticket online but the checkout did not like my US debit card (I probably should've told my bank I was going to Norway!) but thankfully Oslo Central Station is just a ten minute walk.

Walking towards the station I was taken aback at how quiet it was. I had been out the day prior on Saturday and people were mulling about, walking, and there was car traffic but on this Sunday morning the streets that had been full of life were now deserted. In Saint Louis I have noticed a small drop off of traffic on a Sunday morning but nothing to the extent of this now almost ghost town I was seemingly intruding upon.

I walked into the station and found my way to the NSB ticket office and I tried to use the self service kiosk but there was no way to guarantee a window seat and if I'm going to go on the "most scenic" train ride possible then gosh darn it I best have a window seat so I meekly approached a representative at one of the kiosks and I, for the first time, had a fear about English because I knew she would understand me. But, what if she didn't? Remember yesterday how I said that part of what makes this travel easy is the fact that I know I don't know, but now I was starting to grasp that even though I'm 6,000 miles away from home the similarities are much greater than the differences thus somewhat eliminating the alias I had developed.

After meekly approaching her she said something in Norwegian and I gave a blank stare to which I stared at her without being able to respond. This was new for me as before I'd have said, meekly mind you, "English?" but now since I knew she'd probably know this made it much more on the personal level and I had a rush of feelings; one was I felt bad I couldn't understand her but of course how could I, but secondly I was now falling into the trap of processing. What do I say? How do I say it? Eventually I did say "English" and she seamlessly spoke it with no accent (I am impressed by that if you haven't picked up on. Like, I'm in total awe!) and she informed me to go into the office and speak to another rep.

Another rep and another bout of Norwegian and another bout of processing. In the midst of processing I realized this was actually a good thing because I hadn't had any true Asperger moments like this in the previous trips so to be dealing with the social component of life was a good thing. After the awkward seconds passed and I meekly asked, "English?" he gladly obliged and said, "good morning sir, how can I help?" and I mentioned I wanted a ticket to Bergen the following morning and the immediate return trip with a window, please. He brought it up on the computer and I had a couple questions about delays and if the train I was going on would be the one coming back as the tickets are, "nonrefundable and nonexchangeable" but he assured me if I were late due to delay they would honor the ticket.

With the ticket purchased I left the NSB office and I stared out at the terminal in awe as the train terminal was just fantastic in atmosphere, architecture, and downright level of coolness. While train stations are the norm in Europe, and perhaps on the upper east coast of the US, they aren't something I'm accustomed to (you should see the Amtrak train station I drive by in Kirkwood, Missouri. Not that it is by any means bad, but it's just one small strip of a building and that's it) and to see the sign board and the smell of breakfast cooking by one of the eateries it was just all so, well, foreign.

From the station I took a walk which began very much like yesterday's and I ended up at the harbor.

It was 10:30AM and it's still unsettling to me just how low in the sky the sun is. It makes for a great way to know direction because you can never go wrong because which ever way the sun is most likely is due south, but at the same time my body is telling me it's almost late evening.

However, as mentioned, I was drawn to the harbor and I stood there just listening. The ghost town had now turned into a town of a dozen or so, but from the sounds of the water lapping against the wall to the sound of the gulls up above made for a tranquil state of being; as if this moment I was having at the end of the pier was mine and mine alone.

After having my time to myself I walked out and noticed that the sun so low in the sky makes for some unique photo chances and I just love this photo I took of this statue:

I spent the next three hours walking aimlessly to the west. By noon the streets had people but nothing like I experienced on Saturday. One of the reasons, perhaps, as to why less people were out and about was that most stores were closed. Yes, if you're in America you'll probably have to read and reread that statement but in the height of Christmas shopping stores are closed on Sunday. A lot of places to eat were closed as well making lunch a tough thing to find unless I wanted Burger King, McDonald's, or Subway.

When I got the distance I wanted to I turned around and started back and I noticed one major difference to my previous two trips and was the amount of ambient noise and in particular the amount of speaking I heard. Amsterdam was rather quiet and there weren't that many people having conversations in public; Tokyo had some people talking but it was always business folk, but here it seemed as if everyone were traveling with someone else be it a son, a mom, a girlfriend and all the while there was language being spoken.

During these walks I go without a map but again, navigating isn't that hard because the sun is south and my hotel is a few blocks north of the water so getting lost would be difficult and as I got near the palace I knew where I was and once again the sun allowed me to take a most intriguing photo:

Today might not have had the bells and whistles that some of my days have had but it was a good day. Tomorrow will see me on a train for 13 hours and that may give me time to write a lot more in the book section of this series, and then again if I'm writing that would almost be a crime as I should be watching the scenery; scenery I may never see again. I'm sure I'll balance it out and maybe staring out into the mountains will give me more time to think about the social interactions I experienced today.

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