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Arendal adventure

Tarold began speeding in the rental car up the largest hill in the center of Oslo. We had already driven all the other streets—why not try this last plan? As we followed this immense hill round and round, up streets that could easily send a speeding car, such as ours, careening off the edge and down onto the housetops below, I felt my stomach drop within me. I was getting carsick. This was not the adventure I had counted on! My mind wandered back to all the events that had lead up to this day—all the things I had overlooked for this one trip to Oslo.
I was already enjoying my first summer out of college as I traveled to Norway with Tarold and Kelly Lindvigsmoen and their son, and my good friend, Logan, Despite plans to make our home base for the journey the small town of Arendal and stay with Logan’s grandmother, a native Norwegian who did not speak a lick of English, I knew I was in good hands. Tarold and Kelly were both fluent in Norwegian and had visited the country many times.

After landing in Kristiansaand and renting a car, we embarked upon an hour and a half air-conditioned car ride through Norway’s gently rolling green hills and lush country side. I was enthralled by this gentle landscape, and before I knew it, the car was suddenly turning off a gravelly road and into Logan’s grandmother’s drive.

Quickly, I was introduced to Logan’s grandmother, Grandma Lindvigsmoen, and I instantly fell in love with her. Her wide sweeping gestures, wide smile, rollercoaster vocal intonations, and thick bottle cap glasses made her adorable and made me feel right at home; all except for one thing—her speaking Norwegian.

Finding myself nodding my head “yes,” accompanied by a smile to just about everything Logan’s conversational grandmother suddenly inquired, I soon noticed she found it odd that I did not respond to any of her questions. As a matter of fact, throughout the course of my two and a half week stay, she didn’t ever appear to realize I didn’t speak any Norwegian at all. She kept on telling me stories and smiling as if I knew exactly what she was saying. This made me laugh.
Despite not understanding a word of the Norwegian I was now immersed in, I was beginning to learn a great deal about Arendal. Resting on the coast of Norway’s southwestern tip, Arendal is a city boasting about 40,000 inhabitants. As the website, Arendal, the town described, Arendal is rich in history and was called the “Venice of Scandinavia” for some time because it was built on seven islands. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Arendal was one of the largest and most important towns in Norway, for it was an important center of shipping and trade. On one side of the town lay the ocean, while lush forests inland made practically any outdoor recreation possible: skiing, hiking, fishing, trail running, cycling, swimming.

Arendal’s seventy degree weather in the spring and occasional showers were great for fair-weather lovers, but Arendal’s showers were enough to keep the countryside green and flourishing; they were also perfect for those who enjoyed curling up in a cozy chair to read an engaging book by a crackling fire.

During one particularly warm and lazy late-May day in Arendal, the sun, high in the sky with clouds nonchalantly fading across the sky, adventure called—and I answered. Coaxing Logan out of the house, away from the comfortable armchair in the living room overstuffed with furniture and books, we began an adventure: down the road from Grandma

Lindvigsmoen’s which led to the Ocean below on the left with another road forking to the right and into the forest, we chose the path that lead to the right.

We began hiking on a simple path, but soon encountered several trails connecting with the first. After taking the path we felt would be easiest to find our way back on, we wound through a dense forest of pines, stepping over the ever increasing rocky path. As we hiked past stone fences bordering the property of  a house that was partially concealed by dense pines fifty yards away, Logan informed me that many of these stone walls were ancient boundaries set up by Vikings themselves; they were used to clearly define boundary lines of property.

The terrain increased in ruggedness as we continued; various rock outcroppings began to appear. They dwarfed Logan and me and were everywhere. Amazing to gaze at, they were especially fun for bouldering—small-scale rock climbing involving clambering up boulders without the use of ropes.

We now found ourselves in what seemed to be the center of the forest—a place where a number off paths took off, once again, in many directions.

As I talked to Logan about The Lord of the Rings movie we had seen on the plane flight over, Logan commented that many of the concepts behind the Trilogy were found in Norwegian mythology. Many of the mythological concepts including trolls and sword naming, such as Sting or Glemdring, originated in Norwegian mythology.

I surveyed the landscape: dense green pine towers rose in the air; giant rock outcroppings studded the earth—the giant playthings of giants who had long abandoned their toys. I imagined small trolls, not the malevolent and colossal trolls often found in literature, but small, curious, mischievous trolls, peeking out from behind tree stumps or small boulders long enough to catch sight of his long nose, rosy cheeks, and twinkling eyes. I could see how such mythology had evolved in the Norwegian culture.

Hiking back out of the forest an hour later and down the same path towards the sea with Logan, I began realizing the adventures Arendal held, and just out the front door of Grandma Lindvigsmoen’s house, too. Nonetheless, my mind hurried off to the bustling city of Oslo, Norway’s capital, and all the excitement it promised. The next day, we would be in this grand city—the city that was known worldwide for its ludicrous traffic and in-your-face personality.

However, we were not going to limit our experience of the city to a simple car ride. While we were there, we were also going to visit the Viking museum, the Kon Tiki museum, and possibly the Hollen Kollen ski jump—the jump used in the winter Olympics Norway had recently hosted. I was ecstatic!

The next day, we drove three and a half hours through the lush Norwegian countryside to Oslo. After I encountered turnabouts for the first time—circular roads that redirecting cars to other roads and served as stoplights—I realized Norway had only one problem with building roads through its interior: mountains of rock (the rock formations present in the forest are no less abundant in the rest of Norway’s geography). No matter, there was an easy solution—dynamite! As Logan and I discovered, these fluorescent-lit tunnels, which sometimes lasted a good minute and a half to drive through, made excellent places to showcase large lung capacity.

After countless tunnels pervading solid rock and more lush Norwegian countryside, we arrived in the outskirts of Oslo. Our first stop was the Viking museum.

Upon entering the building, two awe-inspiring Viking ships came into view. The ships were discovered in Viking burial mounds located in a Norwegian’s backyard. As a common practice, Vikings would lay their dead to rest in the ships the deceased owned, along with all of their valuable possession they would need in the next life. Sometimes even their servants were buried with them.

As I reflected upon the various earth mounds I had encountered in the forest skirting grandmother Lindvigsmoen’s house, I was suddenly inspired to embark on an excavating trip of my own. Hall upon hall filled with displays of artifacts decorated the museum: clothing, tools, weapons, jewelry, religious objects—all of which were made of the highest quality and with the greatest imagination. The Vikings were truly a highly artistic and innovative people. As I examined these artifacts, my former image of the Vikings as an uncivilized people quickly evaporated.

After we exited Oslo’s Viking Museum, we entered the Kon Tiki museum, which was right across the street. Kon Tiki was the name of a raft with which a group of Norwegian scientists had ventured into the heart of the Pacific. The purpose of the voyage was to test whether people could migrate from the farthest Pacific islands to South America using only primitive transportation. With the experiment, the scientists proved that such migration was possible. As well as the raft positioned in the center of the museum, replicas of the stone idols that adorn many of the pacific islands decorated the museum’s walls.

The Hollen Kollen ski jump, the one used in the winter Olympics hosted by Norway, was next on the list of things to see. However, we didn’t know where it was exactly. We got back in the car and continued the journey.

I had my first taste that this would not be the smoothest ride when, within thirty seconds of the quest for the ski jump, we suddenly swerved inches away from slamming head on into a car coming the opposite way. We had almost run a stop light. Frustrated drivers passed us as our car rested in the middle of the intersection, while innovative gestures of the hand were directed at us. Despite these reprimands, Tarold’s driving got no better.

At one point as we lurched through Oslo’s overcrowded streets, I nearly volunteered to drive. I could drive stick, and upon hearing the grunting noises coming from the driver’s seat, I took it that shifting gears was about as daunting for Tarold as if I had greased the wheel and gear shift with Vaseline, smeared the windshield with mud, and asked him to drive through an obstacle course filled with giant orange cones, the ones that are nearly three feet tall.

As Tarold continued struggling to get the car into second, and the same streets kept reappearing, I realized we were lost. It was late afternoon, daylight was running short, and all our stomachs were beginning to growl. Tarold was barely avoiding collisions with cars, bikes, civilians—really, whatever was in his path—and we had still not found our way to the ski jump. Suddenly, Tarold began to speed up the largest hill in the city’s center.

We had already driven all the other streets, why not try this? As we followed the roads around and around this immense hill, up streets that could send a speeding car easily careening off the edge and onto the roofs of the houses below, I felt my stomach plummet within me: I was getting carsick.

Kelly was on Tarold’s case for the past five cars that he had nearly hit, Logan was anxiously staring out the window watching the sun sink lower and lower in the sky, while I was simply doing all I could to persuade my lasagna lunch from making a second appearance.

It was at this moment of waning hope and sure defeat that the car rounded yet another curb; the sign at the end of the street read: “To Hollen Kollen Ski Jump.”

“It’s a good thing the sign’s so visible!” I weakly said with a chuckle as I fought against the still-pervading car sickness. We all smiled though, and the tension of the day began to drain away.

The Olympic structure really was as impressive as we had heard. Welling up from the hill’s base to kiss the feet of the dark rain clouds overhead, the jump dwarfed even the great city below. After getting out of the car to explore the structure further, the wind battered us into submission; we decided to call it a day.

On the trip back to Grandma Lindvigsmoen’s, a stop at a Norwegian fast-food restaurant was enough to quell my hunger and my still-lingering carsickness. When we pulled up to the house three and a half hours later, I was mentally fatigued, physically ill, and socially burnt out. Though, after a good night’s sleep, I was back to my normal self.

The day after our journey, I sank into the worn leather armchair in Grandma Lindvigsmoen’s living room, and reflected on the adventures I had experienced both in Oslo and the forest in Arendal. The best adventure in Norway had clearly been the one only feet outside Grandma Lindvigsmoen’s front door; however, it was the adventure I had rushed to get through, while all the time, I looked forward to a grander one.

Getting lost in Oslo, sitting in the middle of an intersection in a rental car, and driving in endless circles around a single hill—I smiled at the memories of how our trip to Oslo had turned out exactly opposite of what I had expected. At that moment, I resolved to enjoy the here and now, for this was where the best adventures began.

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