Back in 2004, I jumped on a subway train in Norway. It was my first time visiting the country that was to steal my heart. I had little knowledge of where I was going that day, or what would happen, other than I was headed for a ski jump outside of Oslo, which had panoramic views and a ski museum.
You know that feeling of confusion you have when orientating yourself on a public transport network, in a new city. I felt like that. With the aid of some young Norwegians, my young son and I found the platform and the unmanned train – a curiosity for us, as there are no metros in Australia.
Without station reminders or announcements, we sized up the young passenger sitting opposite for advice on when to depart the train, in order to go to Holmenkollen station and ski jump. The passenger was not only keen to help out with the required information, but offered to take us home for dinner and to meet his family! I politely declined the invitation, but thought how open and kind Norwegians were. Albeit a little too friendly towards strangers.
Believe it or not, that summer in Oslo was hot, especially after walking for several kilometres up Norwegian roads with a laden backpack from Holmenkollen station. It may have been a bit of jet lag, but I was tired.
Walking to Holmenkollen Ski Jump
After walking those few kilometres, or so it seemed, I spotted the ski jump ahead, and also the road to it winding round and round the mountain for another kilometre or so. If you have traveled with kids, you’ll relate to questions like: – Are we there yet? How much further etc. etc. My son was a stoic, but I feel sure he was making plenty of facial grimaces behind my back.
It was with that thought in mind that I spotted a narrow walking track up a grassy slope on the side of the road, that appeared to lead directly to the ski jump, I thought a short cut would save us time and energy.
With only a slight hesitation, my 11 year old and I took the track up the grassy slope.
A little over halfway up the hill, with images of mountain goats flitting through my mind, I pondered what I, as a 41 year old Aussie Mum, was doing. I wasn’t young and fit anymore. No sooner had I thought that, than I had to reach my hands forward to the ground, as I climbed, just to maintain balance.
“Oh uh, Mum. It is getting steep, really steep.” I heard from my son.
“Don’t stop now, we’re so close to the top; just keep going,” I urged him, not wanting to lose any of my forward momentum, lest the slope become too much, for me.
At that moment, ‘Olav,’ who had, in all possibility, been trained during the Nazi occupation of Norway, appeared at the crest of the hill, standing feet astride, hands on hips, in an authoritative stance.
He boomed out at me, in English, “You can’t come up here. Go back!”
“Oh, wait – Why not? I said as I scrambled the last few steps of the slope. “I mean, I’ve paid already. I have an Oslo Card,” fumbling in my pocket for the 48 hour tourist card that allows a visit, to any tourist attraction in Oslo, for one pre-paid charge.
Olav, his name emblazoned boldly on his badge, in ‘Arial black font’, glared at me.
I prattled on, stupidly thinking he had misunderstood. “Oh – you Norwegians. I thought you were all so nice and welcoming….” I stopped mid-sentence thinking how silly that sounded.
To which Olav repeated his intimidating mantra a little louder this time,
“GO BACK. YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE COME THIS WAY.”
A sickening feeling of guilt crept into my throat as I realized that the short cut path we had taken, that would save us some time and energy, had NOT led us to the entrance of the ski jump, but had in fact, led us inside the museum itself. Olav thought we were trying to gatecrash, without paying.
A quiet Aussie accent reached my ear. “Let’s just go back, Mum.”
I turned to my son, “Yeah okay, I made a mistake; we’ll just go down again and walk the long way around.“
I took a few steps off the edge of the slope and was shocked to see just how precipitous a slope, we had scrambled up. I nearly lost my balance, just looking down.
It dawned on me that going down was not even going to be difficult, it was going to be downright dangerous, especially carrying a heavy backpack. I could see that one of us would surely slip and potentially break a leg or something. Any alternative was better than that.
Gathering courage I didn’t know I had, I turned back again towards Olav, his implacable face and overly muscular body still blocking my way into the ski jump museum.
“Look – I’m really, really sorry, I just can’t go down that way. I’m more than happy to pay a second entrance fee, if you want. I never intended to avoid payment or do anything wrong. I am from Australia, I didn’t know.” I was blabbering quickly now, like a child caught with his hand in the candy jar.
“I am more than happy to buy another ticket. I do have an Oslo card, so it’s all paid for, already.”
I hadn’t explained myself well, as Olav remained unconvinced.
“Then why did you come up this way?” he spat.
“Because, I thought this path was a short cut.”
He looked bemused. I started to consider whether the phrase, “short cut,” might be lost in translation. So I continued:
“It is so very hot today and I thought it would save us walking in the heat.” Olav’s face showed no indication of relenting.
“Mum, c’mon let’s just go.” My son started walking down the precipitous slope again. I wavered.
What should I do? It was clear that Olav was not ‘feeling the love,’ the other Norwegians had shown us, so I made a bold decision. Fight or flight must have taken over.
After muttering under my breath to give myself courage, I said:
“Look, I’m not going to potentially break my leg going down there, when I have already paid to go into the museum,” I said with as little nervous emotion as I could muster, at that moment.
“So, I’m just going to run over there to the ticket office and thrust my Oslo card at the attendant, cos I can’t, I just can’t go back down that slope.
“Why not?” – Olav again.
“I’m terrified I will fall.”
“Okay, then,” was his final response. To my complete surprise, he turned his back and walked away.
I literally ran over to the ticket office, to show them my Oslo card, my heart beating wildly for the next ten minutes, or so.
There was an awkward moment when we spotted Olav again, in another part of the exhibit, but he remained silent, a serious nod to us the only acknowledgement of our previous terse interaction.
Friendly Friday Blog Challenge – Meet One Person
This is not my typical travel story, but as this is Sarah’s first week hosting the Friendly Friendly Blog Challenge, I wanted to post an interesting story of someone I had met in my travels.
Have you met someone interesting on your travels and wish to share a story or photograph about it? Someone who might be a little friendlier than Olav?
In her post, Sarah writes about her guide in Senegal, called Cheikh.
I will be back hosting the challenge again on Friday 13th August.