While I could probably continue to drag this out for a few more weeks, I've decided it's time to finish it up so I can get on with the other things that have been going on in days of late. So here is the final installment in the trip to Scandinavia:
Sunday was a pretty mellow day. Ester and I went to church in the morning and then made our way to the National Museum of Art. It was free, which was very cool, but naturally they don't let you take pictures inside.
I was so amazed to see so many amazing works of art. I saw original Van Gogh's and Monet's and Manet's and Picasso's. It was incredible. On the ground floor the main display was of a Norwegian painter whose name I can't think of at the moment. Anyhow, he did a lot of drawings for fairy tales, and I really enjoyed some of his swampy monsters. Very cool. Upstairs they had a nice display of the works of Munch as well. It was pretty amazing to see "The Scream." There are apparently two versions that are equally famous and amazing. The one we saw here wasn't the one that was stolen. But even that one has now been returned and can be seen at the Munch museum. We didn't have time to go there though.
After the museum we walked down along the pier and enjoyed the amazing view:
We also went to the Nobel Peace Museum, which was pretty cool to see. The rest of the day we mostly just relaxed, which was nice. In the evening Merethe and Tone came over and picked me up and we went back to Merethe's place. It was soooo nice to see them. I hadn't seen Merethe since she left Mother's Choice back in the summer of 2002! It was so surreal to suddenly be sitting in her living room in Norway. Just amazing. We had a nice little snack and looked at pictures and talked about the old days all evening.
Monday was New Year's Eve. We had the morning free, and most businesses and museums were closed, so Ester and I decided to go for a walk. The weather was far more cooperative this time than in Tonsberg, and we had an incredible - albeit icy and scary as I'll get out! - walk in the woods over Oslo. The trails are usually used by skiers in the winter, but we decided to risk it on foot. We both lost our footing only once, which truly was rather miraculous. And the views were quite spectacular.
There were actually people out ice skating, but I was having enough trouble staying upright on the trails that I didn't really want to risk it. We made it back just in time for me to make myself ready to meet up with Ellen, who I also lived with briefly in Hong Kong. She was there the last few months before I left in 2005. We met and walked around the city for a while and caught up on life. She's doing really well, and had great fun showing off her amazing little girl, Mia. After making sure that most places were closed, we finally found a cafe' where we could sit and visit for an hour or so. Sadly I wasn't taking as many pictures as I should have, and didn't end up with any good ones of Ellen, but this one is pretty good of Mia.
After a couple hours hanging out Ellen took me back to Ester's so I could take a shower and help get things ready for our New Year's Eve party. Merethe and Tone came over a bit later and we had a great evening hanging out together and eating WAY too much food. After all the meat, it was fun to have a mostly vegetarian meal.
Dinner and dessert were both incredible and I was soooo full! We had a nice time just sitting around and visiting. Merethe had to leave early, but I managed to get a good picture with her before she left.
Merethe took a taxi with us and left us as a church. We went to the Midnight Mass, so I ended up having both the early morning and the late night service experience on this trip. The service actually started t 11 and finished just before 12. We went out and found someone with a lighter so we could light our sparklers and usher in the New Year. Wow! 2008! It's just craziness!
We walked home amidst the "rocket's red glare," and did our best to avoid the flames falling from above. We managed to make it home safely where, naturally, there was more food to be eaten :) We sat around and talked until about 4AM. In all, I'd say it was a very successful New Years.
Tuesday was my last full day in Norway. Naturally we slept rather late. Ester had bought some American pancake mix, which obviously I was meant to be the expert at using. I did manage to make fairly decent pancakes, which we ate with some maple syrup. Tone had to get to work, so she left around noon. I had time to take a shower and start packing before Merethe came around 1:30 to pick me up. We had a great afternoon walking through the streets, spending hours in a cafe, then going back to her house to just talk and talk and talk. When you haven't seen a person for years it's easy to wonder how things will be when you suddenly see each other again. She had only just turned 20, and was not yet married the last time I saw her. I was just in my first year in HK, and was quite a bit younger myself. There are so many things that have passed in that time. And yet, as we sat and talked we discovered that, if anything we are just better able to relate to one another now. It was truly amazing and I am so thankful that we were able to have this chance to reconnect.
I had one last sleep (and naturally some more food!) at Ester's, and then it was off to the train station. I made it back to Cheb with no real problems, and life is now back to life. I feel so blessed to have been able to take this trip, and really hope it won't be so long before I see these dear friends of mine again.