Fjords, Ships, Dry Heaves and Where The Bloody Hell Am I?
I always thought of Norway as far off and a land as exotic as Timbuktu. I
had visions of reindeer, fjords, glaciers, Vikings, and the cliched
notions went on and on. The opportunity arose to visit while
backpacking around continental Europe, and I seized it with both ignorant,
grubby, Texas hands of mine. I was going home out of Glasgow, and I
thought it would be exciting and pseudo-romantic to cross the North Sea
by ship, stopping at Shetland and Orkney Islands on the way. It turned out to be
the most stomach churning, expensive, funniest, scenic, uncommunicative, fuck-up of a detour.
Going to Norway, I depart out of Amsterdam, Holland. I make it across the
continent just fine, traveling though Germany and Denmark, and being
utterly fascinated with the train uncoupling and boarding the ferry.
While traveling through Denmark, I noticed there were an unusually large
amount of young Europeans. I struck up a conversation with a Swede, who
looked about 16, and found out Roskilde was going on over the next couple
days. “Wow! Roskilde!” I exclaimed, not having a clue at the time
what the bloody hell it was. Come to find out that the stupid, ignorant,
uncultured Texan that I am, Roskilde was just the biggest concert event of
the year. After hearing the line-up, I was ready to cash in my BritRail pass and go. I would pay almost anything to see Tori Amos, Black Sabbath, and Bjork, but
alas, my more practical side prevailed.
Little did I know I was
embarking on an adventure of Tolkienesque proportions. Upon arriving in
Scandinavia, I asked someone who was wearing an official looking costume
which train I took to get to Oslo. He smiles at me, points very
definitely at one and I board. A few hours later I am utterly lost in
the scenery of lakes, mossy outcrops of rock, forest that I swear elves
still reside, when my ticket is finally punched. I ask the ticket-punching dude
when I’ll get to Oslo, and he gives me a “look” and calmly tells me we
are on our way to Stockholm.
Stockholm. As in Sweden? As in NOT Oslo, and not Norway. My main
concern was getting booted off the train for not having a ticket to
Stockholm. Well, this Texas girl was very happy to discover southern
hospitality is alive and well with the Vikings. The ticket puncher took
me to an unused private first class sleeper car. He told me he would have
someone wake me up in the morning to get me to the proper train. He left
me alone to enjoy two bunk beds, a closet, and a wash basin. I was soon
sleeping the sleep of the innocent.
I woke up on my own about 6 a.m., and peeked out the window. Holy crap, it is bloody bright, I thought. Bloody midnight sun! But wait! What the? What the hell is that? Holy
crap, it’s a hot air balloon. There are 9, 10, 11 – damn, how many
are there? I think there were at least 15 of them in the arctic blue sky
that crisp early morning. Their vibrant colors peppered the sky, hovering
gracefully over the tree line, and I sat there in my bunk, face and hands
smashed gracelessly up against the glass, staring at the sky, a lone tear
ran down my face. I was knocked out of my reverie when the same man
knocked on my door. He told me I had five minutes to get my stuff
together. They were making an unscheduled stop to deposit me at a train
station in Flen. There I could catch a train to Oslo.
I sat outside at the train depot for several hours, soaking up the quiet,
inhaling clean air, ignoring the cold, the hunger, the numb butt, and
finally boarded the intended train to Oslo. Scandinavia is really
beautiful. You can stare out the window for hours on end and not get
tired of the scenery. This is a good thing, because I don’t remember
how long it took me to get to Oslo from Flen, but I know it took me about
eight hours to get to Egersund from Oslo. I arrived at 9 p.m. Wednesday
night, and I’d boarded my train in Holland at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
I enjoyed nine relaxing days in Egersund before braving another train to
Bergen. Bergen is just northwest of Egersund along the coast. More
accurately, it is above Egersund, separated by fjords. Meaning there is no
direct train route to Bergen. You get on the train in Egersund and go
eight hours east to Oslo, then get on another train, and go eight hours
west to Bergen. And so, I spent another sixteen hours staring out a
window, only this time, I didn’t get a sleeper. I sat upright for
almost sixteen hours. Between dozing and sleeping, I woke up around 4 a.m. and
there was my train, crossing a glacier. The sun sat far away on the
horizon, bathing the land in a very soft hazy light. Along the train
tracks, there sat this impossible thatched roof cabin, and a stream ran
past it and under the train tracks. How badly I wanted to jerk the
emergency cord just so I could walk out onto this massive arctic blue ice
field. I could feel the cold air seeping into the train car. I had another
tear or two.
I arrive in Bergen finally and prepare to embark on my ship. In my hustle,
I fail to pop Dramamine. If you have never been on the North Sea,
prepare to puke technicolor rainbows. An hour out of the fjords, the
seas are rocking. I go to the stern of the ship, stare at the horizon,
think of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. I even get as far
as girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, but nothing stops the
waves of sea-sickness. And I guess the raindrops on roses took a cue,
and the rain really began. There was horizontal rain, horizontal wind, churning
waves and a more churning stomach. I spent about eight hours out on
decks praying to God to forgive whatever heinous sin I had committed. I
dragged my ass to the side of the ship and begin to dry heave into the waves
crashing below. Once I get below decks, I find an available toilet that
I can rest my weary head on for a few hours till I stop shivering. I
finally go to sleep knowing that the border police will be around to
check my passport in a few hours.
I wake up the next morning, thinking “Damn it! I missed Shetland. I’ll
just get off at Orkney.” I ask one of my bunkmates when we
dock in Orkney. She gives me a very strange face and tell me we are not
going to Orkney. That boat was in Shetland, this ship is now going on to
Iceland. Okay, now I’m having a coronary. I’m going to Iceland, and
this ship does not get back to the Shetlands for another ten days and I’m
leaving out of Glasgow to head home in nine days. Shit. Where the
bloody hell are the Faroe Islands?
Next thing I know, I’m on my way to the Faroe
Islands; this cluster of islands half way between Iceland and Scotland.
There is one flight a week out of Faroe to Glasgow, and lucky me, it
left the next day. Lucky, lucky, lucky me – the cost was the bargain price of $300.
I took a one way, one hour long flight on a twin turbo prop plane. And I
got to wander around an amazing island, the likes of which I have never
seen before. Craggy cliffs, shades of green, the ocean and its unbridled
energy, sheer desolation at its best. Before that, I was wandering alone for hours lost
in thoughts of the sea, puking and wondering where the bloody hell I was at that moment.