Day 1: Discovering Oslo

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We have gotten off to a good start for this vacation. Best decision we made was to fly Economy Comfort on Icelandair. That got us access to the clubs in Dulles and Reykjavik and the same seats as business class from Dulles to Iceland. We did our best to sleep on the two flights, and got to Oslo not total zombies.

We took an express bus from the Oslo Airport to the center city. Without a map or a GPS that could find a satellite, we decided to take a taxi to our hotel. It was a great decision. The taxi driver said we were just 1km away, but he saw our luggage and could sense our long journey, so he told us to get in. He recounted his experience from last Friday, being just a few blocks away, hearing the explosion that feeling the shock waves. He said the center city had been deserted the first 2 days after the attack, and he hoped that tourists would come again to experience Oslo, saying it is beautiful and safe. We told him that is why we came, because we had wanted to see Norway and now we could add our support.

Our check-in to the Hotel Bristol was funny. A very pretty, perky hotel clerk told us how much she likes the USA and is happy to have Americans visit. Ellen offered her to go stay with our kids while we were gone. The clerk immediately asked if we had a son, and when she was told he was 20, wanted to know if he was single and handsome. She then said she wanted to Facebook him. Ben, you are welcome!

Our room is perfect for our needs. On the small side, it has a queen bed, a nice bathroom and fast Internet. What more could you want? We rested for a short time and then headed out.

We hadn’t meant for the bombing to be the early focal point to the trip, but our location just steps from where it happened gave us no choice. The taxi driver had pointed the sites out to us, the flowers that marked where the dead were found, the buildings that had all their windows blown out, the Domkirke (church) that had become the central mourning site.

We watched as Norweigans came to these sites to bear witness. We saw workers still putting plywood up, the police tape still blocking roads, chain link fences that had become memorials. To us who lived through 9/11, it was all too familiar. We saw the media trucks with their satellite dishes, reporting the grim news. The block of nothing but flowers in front of the church, with Norwegian flags sticking up, showed the pain and the national pride all in one. Ellen and I bought a flower to add to the piles.

We went into the Domkirke, where an orchestra was practicing for a memorial concert and mourners were lighting candles and writing notes. Just very powerful and moving scenes.

The mood in Oslo was not all somber. Away from the sites, life seemed close to normal. We stopped for some cold drinks, and took advantage of our latest technological travel wonder. Ellen had bought several guidebooks via Kindle, and we had downloaded them to our iPod Touches. We plotted dinner, which was at Brasserie 45 near the National Theater. We hadn’t eaten much today, but wanted something light. I had chicken stir fry, Ellen had salmon.

We walked back to our hotel, seeing more flowers in a fountain and in front of the Parliament building.

At our hotel, we bought Oslo city passes, which include museum entry and free public transport. For the next 2 days, we’ll do regular tourist stuff. We feel we’re off to a good start.

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