Archive for the ‘swimming’ Tag

Summer weekend on the Oslo fjord

This weekend was the end of my first week in Oslo and a friend from work invited me to join her for a weekend trip to Hvitsten (White Stone), a small village halfway along the Oslo Fjord. We set off on Friday evening after work, and given how gloriously warm the weather has been this week (+/- 28 degrees Celcius each day), we were not the only people making a break for the coastline.

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Wenche’s summer house is a small wooden cabin, nestled among trees overlooking the water. She told us how they’d recently updated the interior, painting it all white (floors, walls, ceilings) and drastically reducing the amount of furniture. The result is an incredibly peaceful, light-filled space, and with the sun barely setting at this time of year in Norway, it was like being inside a cloud!

It was her first visit in a while, and Wenche was horrified at the length of the grass, especially as she knew her lawn mower was a temperamental machine that (literally and figuratively) wouldn’t cut it. But Anne and I were charmed.

Like Australians, Norwegians love the outdoors and do much of their summer living outdoors. Wenche’s home as an outdoor patio/eating/sitting area, like a half-cabin, with its own fireplace and chimney, long dining table and couch. We ate dinner there both nights. From here the sunset views (starting from around 10.30pm) were magnificent and lasted for hours. I have no idea what time the show finally ended, as I’d gone to bed. But we are nearly at the solstice here (the ‘turning of the sun’, as the locals call it in English) and there are very few hours of darkness each night. In fact, I don’t think it ever gets truly dark.

We swam! This was a highlight of the trip. We put on bathrobes made of light-weight fleece (apparently they are Turkish, and used in hamaams there) and walked a little way from the cabin to the local beach. Wenche recommended that the best way into the water was via the ladder, rather than from the shoreline. With the nip in the air coming off the water, I wondered if I really wanted to do this. “Oh. You’re not a real Norwegian,” said Wenche dismissively. That decided it, I was in.

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My God, it was icy. ‘Swimming’ is a misnomer; it was definitely more of a dip. No heads went under.  I went in twice on Saturday; the second time I managed 24 breaststrokes altogether before getting out. That was pretty good. A neighbour brought out a thermometer to check the water temperature – it was 14 degrees. And we went in twice – morning and afternoon! We cheered ourselves afterwards.

On Saturday I was excited to go to a local flea market. Packing for a 6 month trip where most of it is in tropical Sri Lanka, but 2 months are in much cooler Norway and Scotland, I knew I could use a couple of warmer bits of clothing. The Vestby Flea market (raising money for the local youth marching band) was right place to find these – I bought a warm Swedish-made merino jumper, and a pair of boots. I also found an atlas (my mental map of Scandinavia and northern Europe beyond the Baltic states and Poland had proved wanting in the previous night’s conversation) and an English-Norwegian dictionary. Anne found a very demure 1950s handbag. Good haul.

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Anne’s new handbag

We also visited Hvitsten village, which is an incredibly pretty little place, with views up the fjord out to the open sea, many beautiful wooden houses, a fairy-tale wooden church, and with its many manicured gardens and public spaces punctuated with figureheads from old ships. The story is, Hvitsten is home to a family that made its fortune in shipping. All the figureheads have been re-purposed as civic monuments after the ships they decorated were decommissioned. Many of the village’s public spaces, along with the church, were also gifts from this billionaire family to the people.

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The landscape is filled with wildflowers. Anne told me that purple and yellow are  considered “the colours of June”. As well the flowers that we picked near Wenche’s cabin, the roadsides were filled with giant pink and purple lupins.

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All very pretty, all very idyllic. Nice to see some of the Norwegian countryside (which is so central to Norwegian identity) so early in my stay here. I brought some of it back to my small apartment in central Oslo, the flowers posing here with my flea market haul.

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