Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Farvel, Norge

I had a goal of posting this earlier, but settling in, working, and hanging with the new puppy here in the U.S. really made our first few months back fly by!

I guess I also wanted to wait to say farewell to Oslo until we'd been back for awhile, and I'd had time to let my mind wander back there, since it's been full speed ahead since July. I think I'm there now, as in the past few months I've had many flashes of our Oslo life pop in my head and make me smile.

First, I'd like to say goodbye to our fantastic apartment. I said goodbye in person in late August, before the movers arrived and I cleaned the place for three days straight. I wasn't so sad to say goodbye after all the cleaning, but now I'm remembering her fondly :) Since it was so cold in Oslo for so long, and since going out was so expensive, we spent a lot of cold, dark winter nights in this cozy place, and hosted a lot of dinners and parties here. I absolutely loved the large, open rooms with tall ceilings and lots of windows that let in tons of light (very important in the winter, when you need all the light you can get!).

I always found it hilarious/unforturnate that this place didn't come with a heater (it was Norway for crying out loud!) and we had to heat it with a small space heater (strategic door closing was key for making that work).

Anyway, here she was in all her glory at the end of our stay:

The living room.

The other side.

The cozy blue fireplace that I LOVED.

The tiny yet handy balcony. We used this as an extra beer frig in the winter, and both summers I filled the flower box with colorful stuff and herbs. We also grilled out here constantly - it was never too cold for some grilling. It was so nice to have a balcony!

From the outside. We were the second balcony from the top.

Our street. That moving truck belonged to the people who moved in after us - they actually moved in the very next day after I handed over the keys. It was crazy to see someone else using our balcony already!

This green building was two doors down from our building, and it was my favorite building on the block.

Loved this corner, especially when the ivy started to change colors in the fall.

We were very lucky to find a great place on one of the prettiest streets in Oslo (in my opinion, at least).

Fall was in full effect when we made it back to Oslo for a night to pick up our huge bags at the end of September. This gorgeous church was just behind our apartment building, and Ken and I always loved the ivy that covered this wall in the fall. I was so happy to get one last glimpse of it.

Close up of the colors.

So I don't forget some day: We thought our belongings were leaving Oslo when the movers packed them up on August 30th (pictured above). We thought we'd travel for a few weeks, then only have to go without stuff in Portland for about two weeks when we got back. This, however, didn't happen...our stuff sat at the port in Oslo until late September, and we finally received the shipment in Portland on December 3rd. A little over two months in an empty apartment was definitely a lesson in patience, but it could have been worse I suppose!

The running and biking trails were another place where we spent a lot of our time in Oslo. She had plenty of good trails to tear up in the months without snow on the ground...

The path along the Akerselva was one of my favorite places. The way up to Maridalsvannet was super hilly and wore me out every time, but it was beautiful with the peaceful water flowing along the whole way (and the way back down was fun). We found a little swimming hole close to Maridalsvannet that was so nice on the few warm days this summer!

The path along the fjord from Bygdøy to Aker Brygge (then on to the Opera House if I was feeling frisky) was my main trail, since it was a quick jog down from our apartment. I had a beautiful, clear night for my last run there at the end of August, and spent some time walking around and soaking up the scenery after. The art museum, sculpture park, and beach were new additions at Tjuvholmen that popped up just at the end of our time in Oslo.

The Oslofjord from Aker Brygge in the moonlight.

Always the boats.

In case you couldn't tell from reading this blog over the past two years, I love food. And the restaurant food in Oslo was either: a. really expensive, or b. not very tasty. Thus, I learned how to cook. And I want to remember one special place that made my two years of involuntary culinary training more bearable:

Centra, you were a doll. Thank goodness you were only a 15 minute walk from my apartment, because you were the closest thing to a proper grocery store that Oslo had, and I needed you dearly. 

Just for my own amusement, I'll add a photo I took on my last trip through Centra. There is a phenomenon in Norway that involves metallic tubes of squeezy cheese with various bits of stuff added to it. For example, you can get shrimp cheese (rekeost). Or ham cheese (skinkeost). Or bacon cheese (baconost). There were only two I found to be acceptable/not gross: the jalapeño cheese, which actually tasted like white queso in the U.S., and one that I tried on our last night in Oslo (thanks, Hal) called "hot taco" that tasted like the queso from Taco Bueno (an Okie thing). Anyway, every grocery store has a big display of the various tube cheeses, and I found them to be hilarious. They will always stick out as one of my quirkiest memories of Norway.

Speaking of tube cheese, there are a couple of events I failed to document earlier in this blog for one reason or another that I'd like to remember. One of these events was a tube cheese tasting competition that Ken organized at his office.

The tube cheese lineup.

Oscar, ready for the taste testing.

Ken, facilitating the competition.

And the winner was...Therese! 

Another event I totally failed to document on this blog was a visit from our fun friend Elia from Portland, who came to Oslo for a couple of days on her way back from a wedding in eastern Europe. Elia's visit fell just between our trip to Stockholm in late July 2011, and our trip to Italy at the beginning of August 2011. I got behind on blogging at that point, and totally slipped up on blogging Oslo happenings between. Anyway, Elia - I'm so sorry I didn't write about your visit sooner, but thank you so much for stopping by to see us!

Exploring Hovedøya with the lovely Elia on a gorgeous day.

Dinner with Henrik and Elia at Delicatessen (my favorite restaurant in Oslo).

I also failed to document the month of July 2012, aside from the roadtrip through western Norway. There were a few other good times I'd like to remember from that month...

Fourth of July meatfest with Bethany and Abbey on Bethany and Jet's fantastic patio.

Working the American Women's Club bake sale at the Fourth of July celebration in Frogner Park:

July also included a day warm enough for a swim in the Akerselva with Anders and Ken...

And, our friend Victor from Portland visited us in Oslo in July, but I sadly don't have any pics...sorry, Victor! But thank you for the fun visit!

Alright, now it's time for me to get misty-eyed with the goodbyes. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to have the fantastic friends we made during our two years in Norway.

To all of our Oslo friends: you made our experience what it was, and we'll be forever grateful for the fun times we got to spend with you! We miss you to pieces, and really hope we get to see you again in the not-too-distant future. Thanks for the laughs and good times...you'll always hold a very special place in our hearts and memories!

And for my own amusement, a few quirky Norge memories:

The scary trolls.

My rocky relationship with the endless amounts of daylight in the summer (and my extremely rocky relationship with the darkness in the winter).

The insanely high prices ($8+ for a small bottle of water and one non-tasty snack bar).

Our fascination with the Norwegian version of the Kit Kat that you're supposed to eat while hiking or skiing.

Ken and I despised this broom, but for some reason I never bothered to get a new one (and we had to sweep a lot with all the cooking and company at our apartment). I took one last bittersweet photo of the disgusting beast when I finished cleaning our apartment and handed over the keys on the last day there.

Patriotic hot dogs from the Holmenkollen ski competition the first winter we lived in Norway. This is, perhaps, when we first knew we were living in a very special place.

Quirks and all, I will be eternally thankful for those amazing two years. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime and rare experience to get to live and travel in Europe. Thank you Ken, for this opportunity - we never could have done it without your hard work and adventuresome spirit. I love you to pieces, and I'm so glad we have this fun and crazy time under our belts before we start in on a new era of life. 

Merry Christmas! The past two years are one of the greatest gifts I'll ever receive, and my heart is bursting with gratitude this year.