May 01 2005

Mother-approved entertainment (on a budget)

So if you happen to be in central Denmark or southern Sweden and you need a cheap and easy way to entertain your senior-citizen parent for 36 hours, my mother highly recommends the “Oslo Boat”…which is what the big DFDS Seaways ferry between Copenhagen and Oslo is commonly called around here. Even the questionable weather did not dampen her enthusiasm for this quickie trip.

We boarded in Helsingborg on Friday afternoon amidst heavy cloud-cover and fog (soon followed by rain)…which meant we couldn’t really spend a lot of time on the outdoor decks. So instead we parked ourselves at a table next to a window in the only smoke-free café on board (the ship is of Danish registry, which means you can smoke just about everywhere, drink beer for breakfast and shoot narcotics in the public restrooms without fear of reprisal) and pretty much stayed there the entire evening. We talked, ate, read, knitted (Mom only) and generally had a lovely evening watching the Swedish coast slip by.

We retired to our tourist class cabin (located underneath BOTH car decks somewhere near the bilge pump probably) around 11:30 p.m. It was small but at least we didn’t have to share it with anyone. (Dr. Darling and I took the Pearl of Scandinavia home from Oslo last summer and bunked with two other people…talk about cozy!) The hum of the engines (which were probably right underneath us) created just the right amount of white noise and vibration to put us both to sleep really fast…and if it weren’t for the VERY drunk men who stumbled past our door around 3 a.m., I’m sure I would have slept straight through until the alarm went off. We were both secretly glad when the purser announced that EVERYONE had to be off the ship from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. even if they were booked in the same cabin for the return trip that evening. I’m guessing Oslo isn’t nearly as beautiful or fun when you’re nursing a whopping hang-over.

The weather in Oslo was similarly gray when we arrived…but cleared up beautifully by mid-afternoon. We got off the boat and directly on to a guided tour bus which helped us get oriented to the city. This was my first visit since completing the Norway Guide last fall and it was really cool to see so many of the locales I had “fact-checked” for the publisher in London. Mom LOVED Vigeland Park and we both enjoyed the tour of the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. After the tour we had coffee at a little café outside city hall, where a bunch of people were becoming Norwegian citizens and were decked out in Norway’s national dress.

We met my Oslo friends Anna and Tony for lunch…and then hiked around the Akershus Fortress until it was time to get back on the ferry. The weather was much nicer by this time, so we sat outside on the sun deck for awhile after departure. The Oslo Fjord was just as impressive this time as it had been on my first trip through it last summer. We splurged on dinner at one of the fancier restaurants (something that Dr. Darling would NEVER have done) and then hit the sack fairly early as we were scheduled to arrive in Helsingborg at 7:15 the next morning. This time I was awakened not once but THREE times by people talking loudly (in Danish) in the hallway. I could not for the life of me figure out why these people had to stand outside our door to have conversations at midnight, 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., respectively, until the next morning when we noticed there was a wall-mounted ashtray right outside our cabin. Aaaaarrrgghh! (At least we didn’t have to smell the smoke all night.)

Once we got off the ferry we had a nearly 40 minute wait for our train. Turns out there’s not a whole heck of a lot to do in the Helsingborg central station on a Sunday morning except fend off homeless people. Normally I try to give them a few coins but we didn’t have any cash on us. (Oslo can be easily navigated with nothing but a credit or debit card.) One dishevelled gentlemen tried to sell us a postcard that had a black & white photo of a very sad looking woman on it that said something like, “Greetings from the Homeless in Helsingborg.” Even if I’d had some cash, I would not have sent this particular postcard to my worst enemy, which I suspect is part of a pretty successful marketing strategy. Of course it would probably be much more effective if he didn’t have a box of wine swinging from his other hand.

At any rate, we eventually caught our train and were back in the apartment in Malmö before 10 a.m. (Dr. Darling even had the coffee going!)


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