god jul to all & oslo: days 1 – 2

Merry Christmas to all!

This is by far the most wonderful time of the year, and I feel so lucky to experience Christmas in another part of the world, especially one as festive as Oslo.

Right now I am sitting in the hostel lobby using the wi-fi down here because apparently this is the only good location to get a connection.  I have been using Iwan’s computer every day to email my family, but unfortunately I have not been checking my emails or doing much of my other internet activities because we have been so busy with seeing Oslo!  Harry Potter is even on the TV in the hostel, but unfortunately it is in Norwegian.  Definitely not the same!

To just give you an overview: Iwan and I left Umea around 8 p.m. and got to the bus stop for Stockholm with no problem.  We traveled all night and arrived in Stockholm around 5:30 a.m., got coffee, and walked around Stockholm Central Station before getting on the train ride to Oslo.  The ride to Oslo was a good six hours, but I was able to sleep a little bit and relax.  More so than on the bus at least.

We met up with Iwan’s friend Joe at the station and immediately proceeded to the tourist information center to find out what activities we could do during this time of year when almost nothing is open.

That night we checked into our hostel (Anker Hostel) and set out in search of some dinner.  To be honest, I was not in the best mood from traveling for so many hours and not eating really anything with substance.  After searching for a place for nearly 45 minutes we settled on a restaurant called the Mona Lisa/Bar Grensen.  I had the most amazing bowl of fish soup with large pieces of salmon, mussels, shrimp, and vegetables, cooked in a cream sauce.  Normally I would not order something like this, but it was the perfect dinner for a cold winter’s night.  I could eat ten more bowls of that fish soup.  If you are ever in Oslo I would highly recommend this restaurant.  And they have an extensive wine and alcohol list.

We went to the church after that thinking the Christmas Eve service was at 6:00 p.m., only to find out it was not until 11:00 p.m.  They were however serving dinner and desserts down in the basement, so we went down there to check it out, and ended up staying more than two hours.  Everyone there were volunteers, and we all felt so welcomed with being served glogg and other Christmas treats.  They also sent us home with a little gift of a scarf and some chocolate… which I am planning on bringing home to my grandma!

We returned to the church at 11:00 p.m. and even though the service was in Norwegian it was the spirit of the service that felt so wonderful.  I actually miss church quite a bit.

After that we walked back to the hostel, I showered, and we all went to bed.  Long day.

The next day (today) we woke up, had a very light breakfast and set out for the city to explore some more.  Still most of the places are closed, but we were able to see all the outsides of buildings no problem.  (Sort of lame, but what can you expect?)  We got coffee at a small cafe, then proceeded to visit the Opera building, Parliament, the King’s residence/palace, the building where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, City Hall, Akershus fortress, and other various places among the sites of Oslo.  We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and I got chicken fajitas, which felt like a huge serving of home.  And finally, cheddar cheese!

Tonight will probably be pretty low key – I bought a magazine and some yogurt for dinner, so after I get off the internet that’s most likely what I will be doing.  The guys on the other hand might go to a bar or a club, I don’t know for sure though.  Right now they are trying to find something for dinner, but the only places nearby are an Arabic grocery store, a Russian grocery store, and a 7-Eleven.  Good luck with that.

Tomorrow we are going to visit the National Gallery (where the Scream by Edward Munch is located – yay cross off another famous piece of art that I have seen) and some other museums around town.  Supposedly normal life with resume tomorrow which hopefully means more restaurants and shopping areas will be open.  I need some wool socks!

Before coming to Oslo I thought there might not be much to do during the holidays, but we have managed somehow with filling our days with various options of entertainment.  Or maybe it’s just because we walk so slow that it seems like we get a lot done.

Lastly, I just want to tell everyone who reads this, Merry Christmas… even though it will probably be past Christmas when this gets read.  So in that case, a Happy New Year!  I hope the holidays bring you many moments of happiness and warmth for your heart.

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