Day 21 Oslo, Norway

30 Jun

Day 21 Oslo, Norway, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

The harbour was buzzing late into the night as the locals make the most of almost 24 hours of daylight, but it’s deserted and still, as is the water, when I surface for breakfast. Breakfast is in the Snackkan cafe, which must make all it’s money during summer and be dead through winter. The Swedes like to have a boiled egg, sliced, on rye bread or a cracker, sometimes with a dressing that’s like mayo but not. It’s delicious, especially when the eggs are warm and the bread is freshly baked, and even more delicious accompanied by fresh coffee, fresh juice, in such a tranquil setting. Reluctantly, only when so full I fear another bite will cause an explosion, I load the bike and set out onto the Swedish back roads. I follow the coast of what is either the Baltic sea or the Oslo fjord, I’m not sure which, and it is sensational. Empty of traffic, great weather, long flowing bends, and scenery that starts to get much more hilly (not quite mountainous, but working in that direction), and the bike fits in well. It’s fast enough for me to enjoy the ride, but not so fast I feel in danger, stable and dependable enough to enjoy the turns, but not so sporty that I feel the need to get knee down on every bend. I pull in at Fjallbacka, a small harbour town that is so picturesque in the sun it defies my descriptive abilities, and makes me want to sell everything and buy a yacht. Sitting on the water’s edge at the marina, I enjoy a cappuccino and watch the locals and tourists enjoying the water, before heading back out onto the brilliant roads, heading for Norway. Disappointingly, there’s no sign for a "welcome to Norway" photo op, and I only realise I’ve crossed the border when I notice that the white line down the middle of the road has changed from white to yellow, the signs advertising accommodation change from "rum" to "rom", and a glance at the map confirms my suspicions. The road, like all border roads everywhere, needs work, at least by local standards, and the terrain is a bit scruffy, for a while, but then it climbs up through a pine forest and twists along the side of the water, giving a taste of what’s to come in Norway. I’d rather be riding through that forest, across that field, and over that mountain than looking at it from the tarmac, rather be setting up camp in that idyllic pasture by the lake than the municipal site, but this isn’t Mongolia, it’s Europe (although, wild camping is allowed in Norway, so I’m eagerly anticipating reaching the northern wilderness). One of the pleasures (usually) of travelling by bike, is that because you’re out in the open, you smell things. I remember the smell of wild flowers and herbs as I rode through them in Mongolia, tracking across the plains. Now, I get that strong pre-storm smell of ozone, and just as I’m thinking I’ve been in heaven all day on these roads, the heavens open and I’m brought back to reality. I instruct the gps to stop faffing about on back roads and make haste to Oslo. The rain is little more than a shower now, so I head out to acquaint myself with the town, where I have two more days before I head for the coast, then north all the way to Nordkapp, the northern-most point of mainland Europe, then Finland, and the Baltic states. But for now, welcome to Oslo!