Annie Bananie en Europe

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Norway in a Nutshell, part 4 – Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park in Oslo

So, in the previous post, I mentioned that there is a park in Oslo that displays hundreds of sculptures of nude humans in the most bizarre positions that you could imagine. That would be the Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park. I won’t do much explaining – the photos will speak for themselves.

Upon entering the park, you’re greeted by gates that illustrate nude women or men walking alongside each other. Rather than solely nude, some internal body structures, such as muscles and bones, seemed to be highlighted here too.

The sculptures in the park are works of Gustav Vigeland, a Norwegian sculptor. I was rather impressed at all the different positions that were presented by the sculptures, most of them very peculiar while some even resembled the art of acrobatics.

Here are some of my favourite ones…

…in more acrobatic positions. The one with the man and the four babies was probably the one that stood out the most for me. I wondered if he was actually an ogre that ate babies…or a dad that just really liked juggling?

Not a fan of the single baby ones, mainly because they (or just the angry one) remind me of crying babies. Sorry, just not that fond of babies most of the time…

I’ll end this post with the Monolith, which is a gigantic column of nude figures embracing or just wrapped around each other, a clear phallic symbol. And with this we conclude the Norway series, have a nice day ๐Ÿ™‚

Norway in a Nutshell, part 3 – Oslo, the capital of Norway

Though Oslo isn’t officially part of the Norway-in-a-Nutshell itinerary (read about part 1 and part 2), it was one of the endpoints and served as the base of my short exploration of Norway. I had actually considered going to Oslo during my earliest solo travel adventures, when I was staying in Belgium. But after finding out that Oslo Rygge Airport (with unbelievably cheap Ryanair flights from Belgium) was >60 km from Oslo itself, I gave up the thought of a weekend trip to Norway. (I ended up going to Luxembourg instead, a much more feasible choice from Belgium.) Alas, the trip to Oslo finally happened 6.5 years after its earliest inception – better late than never, right!

With all the gorgeous natural sites that Norway has to offer, I think Oslo is often overlooked as an interesting city to visit. I felt similar when I was reading reviews about Warsaw, the capital of Poland which is skipped by many who preferred to visit Krakow instead. Well, turns out that I really liked Warsaw, so this once again proved that online comments are to be taken with a grain of salt ๐Ÿ˜› Time to head out and see what Oslo is really all about! (The trip was three years ago so I have to recall a lot of the locations from vague memory…!)

It was mid-October and thus mid-autumn when I arrived in Oslo. The changing foliage transformed Oslo into a golden city, certainly a different type of beauty compared to the quintessential fjords and valleys of Norway, but no less impressive and spectacular.

City exploration here and there. These photos were taken around the Akershus Festning (Fortress), located right by the waterfront in the city centre.

Encounters by the waterfront included a seagull and a sculpture of a nude lady. And this would be the first of the many more sculptures that I’d see in Oslo.

Seems like Oslo loves its nude sculptures and here’s another one in the city center, right in front of the City Hall. In fact, there is a huge park dedicated to sculptures of nude humans arranged in all sorts of bizarre, twisted positions. It was so peculiar that I have decided to dedicate an entire post to it…coming soon!

Let’s return to the autumn displays, shall we. Somehow this post has turned out to be more of an appreciation of autumn colours than a tour of Oslo itself, and I don’t mind that. The trip itself did not focus so much on landmarks and tourist attractions and was more like a leisurely walk in the park.

I guess it is fitting that I arrived in Europe for the first time in the autumn and now I will leave it behind in the same season. Oslo, being the final new city I visit before I end my days of long-term residence in Europe (as I had mentioned in the first Norway post), will remain in my mind as that place that, with the most beautiful golden season, bid me farewell on behalf of Europe.

I’ve always liked seeing cities in the evening, and the Opera House in Oslo offered a wonderful view of the harbour. If there’s a colour that’d remind me of Oslo other than gold, it’d be blue – deep, dark blue that represents the seas and skies against a harbour that is lit up in the evening.

Another view of the waterfront from the Opera House, with the “Gule Sider” building on the right (I’m guessing it’s the “Gule Sider” from searching Google Maps and images).

I said at the beginning of the post that Oslo is overlooked as a travel destination but I was glad to have stayed and explored for a couple of days. Not as glamorous as say, Prague or Paris or Budapest or Rome, but there was a certain sense of comfort and freshness wandering around in a city that wasn’t just full of touristy landmarks. With this, my short trip to Norway came to an end, as did my days in Europe… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Norway in a Nutshell, part 1 – From Oslo to Bergen

The final trip and new European destination before I left Glasgow and long-term residential status in Europe in 2017 was to Norway. Well that was a mouthful. Basically, I had to leave after my three-year term was up in Glasgow, but not before a final adventure, mostly solo. I had planned a weeklong trip, 4 days in Norway and 3 in Bordeaux, where I’d be visiting old friends and meeting new ones (one who ended up being my husband, just had to mentioned that ๐Ÿ˜› )

The trip was made more pleasant by two things, first one being free flights from KLM! I had reward miles accumulated from previous trips with KLM and so I utilized them to the fullest and got free tickets from Oslo to Bordeaux and Bordeaux to Glasgow (only had to pay for the Glasgow to Oslo leg). Very much appreciated that, thank you KLM!

The second pleasant thing was the “Norway in a Nutshell” (NIAN) tour package, which I guess could be considered as the “beginner’s guide to Norway” package that is officially advertised in Norway. I didn’t book the tour through the official web site though, but I did book every leg of the exact itinerary, separately by myself (NIAN-DIY, as they say on the Internet). It was completely doable and by doing this, I saved quite a lot of money even though it was a bit more hassle, but the trip was exactly the same as if I had booked through the agency ๐Ÿ˜‰ The description of the NIAN tour is as follows:

The Norway in a nutshellยฎ tour takes you through some of Norway’s most beautiful fjord scenery. You will experience the scenic Bergen Railway, the breathtaking Flรฅm Railway, the Aurlandsfjord, the narrow and dramatic UNESCO-protected Nรฆrรธyfjord and a bus trip through the beautiful scenery of Western Norway. From May – September, the bus trip includes the steep hairpin curves of Stalheimskleiva.

Sounds intriguing? Yes it was, and it was every bit as beautiful as it sounded, even as a solo traveler. Let me give you a brief guided NIAN tour right here, in two posts.

As I had limited time, I followed the classic route with no add-ons or options (also because Norway was super expensive…) The first leg was a train trip from Oslo, the capital of Norway, to the city of Bergen. It was mid-October so I did expect snow eventually, but not before coming across some beautiful scenery along the way.

Such amazing colours! Sometimes I unrealistically dream of living in one of those small red houses surrounded by hills and valleys and lakes. The trees in the backdrops are like keys on a xylophone that give off the most melodic sounds, even when they can’t be more silent.

Gradually the scenery began to change and colours were replaced by pale white, though still beautiful nonetheless! There seemed to be many lone houses dotted here and there, literally in the middle of nowhere.

And some parts reminded me of the Scottish highlands, which I adore and can’t get enough of. This photo reminded me of the area around Glencoe in Scotland.

Here here we arrive in Bergen, after something like a 6-hour train ride from Oslo! This is the view from my hotel room. I’d be staying in Bergen for one night only before making the return to Oslo the next day, seeing the famous fjords by boat and taking the train on the Flam railway along the way.

I arrived in Bergen at around 3 in the afternoon and knew that it’d be getting dark rather early. I wasted no time exploring Bergen with the few hours of daylight left, passing by some public art along the way. I strolled around the city and wandered toward the the harbour, which was lined with quaint, colourful houses. Of course, my main destination was Flรธyen, where I’d see Bergen from a high place, preferably after it got dark.

I took the Flรธibanen funicular, which took me to the top of Flรธyen (a hill in Bergen) in a few minutes. It was late afternoon but the sky was still bright, so I took a quick detour from the lookout point and arrived at a lake (I believe Lake Skomakerdiket) hidden behind a forested area. Late autumn is the most spectacular season, wouldn’t you agree!

Back at the lookout point at Flรธyen, it was still not completely dark, but the view of Bergen was fantastic as expected. A thick layer of mist covered the mountains in the distance in a shroud of mystery.

Not wanting to get back to the city too late, I descended by funicular and wandered around a bit more before grabbing a simple meal and resting for the night. I stumbled upon a well-lit area of wooden housing but there was not a soul to be seen or felt, so I wondered if I had by mistake trespassed into a private residential area. “Baklommen” seemed to be a bar though. Maybe I was there too early and the nigh life hasn’t even begun…

Final look at Bergen with its brilliance reflected in the harbour. You could even see the lights of the Flรธyen funicular leading to the top of the hill behind the houses. It was a short stay, but a lovely one nonetheless.

Hot dogs around the world

There seems to be a phenomenon where hot dogs have become popular all over the world. Putting aside local delicacies and cuisines, who could resist a good ol’ hot dog as a form of comfort food? Indeed sometimes a hot dog is the best thing out of a bunch of choices, especially for the budget-conscious traveller. After going through my collection of photos, I found out that I too have had many a hot dog throughout my travels. Let’s take a look.

(Date eaten: January 27, 2014) Baejarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavik, Iceland apparently literally translates to “the town’s best hot dog”. The joint was in a corner, not so easily noticeable, but supposedly there is always a line up. I went for a hot dog one day because as you may have realized, Iceland is rather expensive and I didn’t want to be TOO broke. The hot dog looks humble and nothing too fancy, and I can’t remember what that sauce was, though I’d guess that it’s some sort of mustard. I do remember, though, that I loaded the bun with a thick bed of crunchy onions underneath the hot dog itself, and the onions did turn out to be the highlight. RATING: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†โ˜† (7/10)

(Date eaten: May 3, 2014) TORONTO STREET MEAT! This isn’t technically a travel hot dog because I live in Toronto but c’mon, we can’t miss out on Toronto hot dogs because they are so damn good, perhaps the best I’ve ever had. Not only do you have many types to choose from (Italian, Polish, German, all beef, etc.) but there are rows of toppings and condiments to go with the already delicious hot dog – your typical sauces like BBQ, ketchup, mayo, plus pickles, hot peppers, onions, jalapeno peppers, etc. etc. etc. I usually like a perfectly grilled spicy Polish dog with mustard, ketchup, pickles, fresh onions, and crunchy onions, enough toppings to compliment the hot dog but not so much that it oozes out when I bite into it. Oh my goodness my mouth is watering just thinking about it. So unhealthy, yes, but a guilty pleasure when I visit downtown Toronto and one of the more unconventional “must-haves” of Toronto – at least in my eyes. RATING: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜… (10/10)

(Date eaten: December 24, 2014) Hot dog #3 was from a Christmas market in Prague. I only got this because I was there on Christmas eve and many stands were almost closed when I arrived (it’s a tradition for locals to eat a big meal at home on Christmas eve). This was one of the few things that were available. This was evidently a very long hot dog, and I added the classic condiments, ketchup and mustard. Tasted quite good, plus points for size ๐Ÿ˜› RATING: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜† (8/10)

(Date eaten: March 20, 2017) I’ve also had a hot dog at the University of Glasgow cafeteria when I worked there, which was not like me at all because I usually don’t get things like pizza or burgers or hot dogs at the cafeteria (and I rarely go there anyway). That day I saw hot dog on the menu and started to have a huge craving for it, so I took one and added an order of potato wedges to go with it. The hot dog was rather average but not horrible, and it was enough to quench my cravings so I was satisfied. RATING: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†โ˜† (5/10)

(Date eaten: October 16, 2017) Away from the centre of Oslo stood a hot dog joint, Syverkiosken, like the one in Reykjavik. Again, as a budget-conscious choice (since Norway too was soooooooo expensive), I went for a hot dog – or two, because I was hungry. The interesting thing about the hot dogs here is that they put a piece of flat tortilla bread on each hot dog. And the hot dogs already came stuffed with toppings – one had potato salad and the other I think had shrimp salad, if I remember correctly. They were both really good but the one with potato salad caught me off guard – I didn’t know potato salad would be such a good compliment to a hot dog…INSIDE a hot dog! Plus points for uniqueness! RATING: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜† (8/10)

(Date eaten: November 19, 2017) Finally, JAPADOG. So this is supposed to be a thing that is unique to Vancouver and I had to try it. Japanese style ingredients + hot dog? WANT. During the three days I was in Vancouver, I ate twice at JAPADOG but only took this photo of the first meal with the classic “kurobata terimayo” (with teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed) and a side of karaage, or Japanese fried chicken. Good? Yes you bet it was good. It was like biting into a hot dog and a takoyaki at the exact same time – imagine THAT! The hot dog was a bit on the small side but hey that’s typical of Japanese food items – small but delicate. RATING: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜† (9/10)

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