After a rather harrowing drive on icy roads beginning before 4AM, Malin and I made it to the tiny airport in Lulea, only to discover that she would only have half an hour with me before her parking time would expire. Tragic in an airport where security is still kind enough to let anyone come up and wait at the gate until departure time. We got in as much conversation as we possibly could in those last fleeting moments, and then the clock separated us once again, and great distances were soon to follow. I passed through the security gate, and wanted only to be at my next destination. There were, however, two flights that had to take place before that would happen.
My first flight was fine. I even managed to read a bit, and - wonder of all wonders - they actually fed me! It's become such a rarity these days, and after all the money I spent to get on the plane I wasn't about to waste a bit of the muesli and yogurt, the roll with meat and cheese. (happy eating sighs) After an hour long layover in Stockholm I was more than ready to be let sleep overtake me. Having slept less than three hours the night before, I was exhausted. I curled up in my seat, ready to drift off, only to find myself seated next to one of the most obnoxious passengers of all times! The guy would seriously NOT shut up! The WHOLE flight he droned on and on to the girl sitting next to him. And I'm pretty sure they didn't even know each other! The last half hour, at least, he was describing the wonders of his i-pod! As though most people don't have similar devices at this point in time. Granted, all of this took place in some Scandinavian language, but it was enough to drive me mad, as well as eliciting countless annoyed and half asleep sighs from me.
At long last we did arrive, and at least I was no longer plagued by the continuous chatter. I maneuvered the airport with surprising ease, and was soon on the train to Oslo where I quickly sent a text to Ester to let her know I was on my way. I got no response, but did my best to just zone out to the scenery of Norway in the dim morning light. When I still hadn't heard from her upon my arrival at Oslo S station, I decided to text her again...Still no response. I was a little worried, but decided to give her half an hour and then try again. After maybe 20 minutes (and no small amount of prayer) my phone informed me of an incoming text. The number wasn't identified, but it was definitely from Ester. She told me she was just going to do some shopping and told me to let her know when I arrived. Funny. Sorta thought I'd already done that. I quickly wrote back and told her I was there. A moment later my phone beeped again. This time it said it was from Ester, only the person was apologizing, saying that I had the wrong number. Hmmm...turns out she'd given me the wrong number. Oops. Ah well. All's well that ends well, and she arrived within ten minutes.
Things went much smoother after that. After a short shopping trip we went back to her flat for some lunch. She makes some pretty amazing focaccia bread. After eating we decided to take in some of the sights of Oslo. We went first to the Botanical Gardens, which are quite close to her flat. Opening the door to the gardens was a bit like walking out of the air conditioned airport and into the murky heat of Hong Kong.
We spent some time there, and then went around to see more sights. Sadly the pictures of the statues in the park are all quite dark, but there is this park full of sculptures depicting the life cycle. I don't know exactly how many of the sculptures there were, but it was pretty amazingly impressive. From there we continued through the city. We went through shopping districts, past cafe's, and by historical landmarks. Most impressive was our little walk by the Palace. It was more reminiscent of the White House than my general idea of a castle, but it was still pretty cool.
I must admit it kind of looks like it's snowing here, but I'm pretty sure it was just rain. My dreams of the winterwonderland of Scandinavia were a little bit crushed by the cold but rainy reality that I came into contact with. At least there was snow in the Arctic Circle!
We headed back to the house and had a bite to eat. I was happy to have a chance to just sit for a bit, and by 12 I could scarcely keep my eyes open and was happy to crash off to sleep in Ester's guest room.