I started this summer by flying with my friend Jacob to his home country for two eagerly anticipated weeks of perfecting my Norwegian, soaking up the cultural and instagramable sights, and enjoying more fish dishes than my pescatarian self could wish for. After stumbling across the hugely popular web series Skam a few years ago, I fell head first in love with the country and spent more than an acceptable amount of time researching my “future home” (job success dependant because, wow, is Norway expensive).
Norway, however, was everything and nothing like I expected it to be. No matter how much Jacob reassured me before departure that ‘Norway does have summers too!’, I wasn’t prepared for the 30 degree heat the country was enduring from a rare but persistent heatwave. Nor was I to perfect any of the basic Norwegian I already knew. You were much more likely to see me tight lipped and silent, refusing my receipt with a shake of the head because apparently even the way I said ‘nei’ was amusing to my friend, tour guide, and native speaker. Nonetheless, prepared to return all but bankrupt and thoroughly exercised (because it turns out everything in Norway is a hill), we were off.
I stayed just outside of Drammen, Norway’s fifth largest city. This was difficult to believe considering it’s a third the size of my home town, a place with nothing going for it other than the title of Britain’s Costa capital – speaking only to our collectively poor taste in coffee. I suppose that would be irrelevant except Norwegians are some of the biggest coffee drinkers in the world and it was a surprising highlight of my trip. An avid coffee drinker myself, it was hilarious watching Jacob’s family members successively ask him if he had ‘finally learned to drink coffee’ during his time at university. He is clearly a Norwegian anomaly and a cause for disappointment. The area, however, was breathtakingly beautiful and being on (you guessed it) a hill, you could see far out across the valley from the windows. The long evenings meant it was difficult to tell when the sun had set because somehow it remained light well into the night, and our purposefully slow mornings were the perfect post-exam wind down.
Jacob took me to all the great photographable spots in Drammen, on plenty of long walks, and into the museum gardens heavily populated by peacocks. We drank the nation’s own brand Fanta and saved money grabbing lunch in the form of pastries from the nearest supermarket. This would often lead to a debate over whether what we were eating was a roll, bun, or scone, and then over whose language was more indecisive in regards to naming its baked goods (English, of course). We went to the gorgeous coastal town of Holmsbu and ate mussels; swam in the lake with Jacob’s dog; adored the impressive amount of street art and stupidly hiked on the hottest day.
Our visits to Oslo were sweltering but precious. The Opera House was as architecturally stunning as expected. As soon as we arrived at Oslo Sentralstasjon we headed straight over to traipse up its sloped roof and take in the view of Oslofjord. Its interior was just as impressive, with toilets and a cloakroom just as worthy of space on my camera roll as the rest. Along with visits to the big sights like the Munch and Ibsen museums, Nobel Peace Centre, and Vigeland Sculpture Park, I even managed to drag Jacob tram first to some of the more personally exciting spots.
After embarrassing us both deeply by taking photos outside Hartvig Nissen school, there was no better way to end the two weeks than with a short weekend at Jacob’s family cabin. I daren’t try to describe how gorgeous this place was, situated on the south coast and lodged within a vast terrain of rocks that begged to be climbed over. The sun set pink every night and we spent our days taking his boat over to Risør or visiting Tvedestrand, a place otherwise known as ‘the book town’ (perfect for an English student). The evenings were spent drinking white wine, learning to play Rummy or darts, and miraculously mastering both. Jacob’s grandma was likely making either waffles or pancakes at some point or other, and I was quite honestly just happy to be there.
Leaving was painfully difficult, particularly the flying home alone element, but I am so grateful for my visit there. I even made it back in one piece, although I’m still as glaringly pale as when I left and just as unsure on the difference between a Fjord and a lake.