Hello from the other side of the pond! Today marks my first week in Europe, however that is slightly misleading considering I have not actually moved to Spain quite yet. Tomorrow evening I am off to Barcelona to begin my semester of study abroad, but first, here’s an update about my past week in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and Oslo, Norway with Knut…
I began my quick visit with Knut in Rotterdam, which is the home city of Knut’s university, Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). While Knut attended a mandatory school training session, I explored Rotterdam a bit on my own. Although I did not get too adventurous, I did enjoy a nice afternoon running around the Kralingse Plas, a picturesque lake filled with sailboats and swans that sits in a beautiful park located just two minutes from Knut’s new apartment. I then walked into Rotterdam to grab a coffee and some groceries. Just passing through the brick streets lined with Volkswagens and bikes gave me a feeling of excitement as I realized this European-esque setting wouldn’t be gone in a week, but rather I’d be experiencing something much different and yet equally European for the next few months.
The next day, Knut and I set off for Oslo to reunite with his family who I have not seen in a year. We boarded our 3:00pm flight on time, unaware of what the next few hours would bring. Of all my travels, this one was perhaps the most frustrating and genuinely unlucky of my life. As you may have guessed, we suffered a very excruciating delay. When I say delay, I do not mean that the screen simply flashed “DELAYED” crushing our hopes and dreams, but rather we faced a more entertaining situation.
After seating ourselves comfortably in seats 11A and 11B and cracking open our freshly bought books, we were disturbed to find that an hour had passed and we had not moved. Finally, the plane began to roll down the runway and we exhaled. But that wasn’t the end. We were then told there was a technical issue and another hour passed. Finally, the plane stopped in the middle of the runway and four armed military men boarded the aircraft. They approached a man seated a few rows behind us and ordered him to exit the plane. As the man obediently followed the order and the pilot apologized for the “dramatic passenger” over the loudspeaker, more military men with quite large guns passed by. It was dramatic to say the least. However, it still wasn’t over. After a few minutes, we were notified that there was coincidentally a technical issue as well, and we all needed to exit. With little help from the airline, we were two of the lucky 16 people to get seats on the last flight to Oslo of the night. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait until the next day to arrive in Oslo. However, our midnight arrival caused us to entirely miss the family dinner Knut’s sister had arranged. We were amused to find the story make Norwegian national news the next day.
Despite the trouble making it to Oslo, our stay was absolutely wonderful. We began Saturday morning with a breakfast on Knut’s deck and then a scenic run/climb nearby Knut’s “hjemme” in Tranby, Norway (a town just 30 minutes outside of Oslo). After cleaning up, we then drove into Oslo for the afternoon and enjoyed strolling through the streets, shopping, and eating ice cream along the harbor. Some of my favorite tourist spots include the Castle and the Oslo Opera House. After sightseeing, we returned to Tranby just in time for a dinner with Knut’s parents, which was complete with a traditional Norwegian “kransekake” for dessert.
The next day, the four of us ventured back into Oslo for more sightseeing. We started by walking through the famous Vigeland park, then stopped for a classic Norwegian waffle and coffee. As the weather turned rainy, we decided to explore the indoor Nobel Peace Prize Center. I had no idea that the Nobel Peace Prize was a Norwegian award, and I found the museum to be surprisingly interesting. The center currently has an exhibition on the controversial 1936 recipient, Carl von Ossietzky, who won the award for speaking out against the Nazis. The center also includes an exhibit on the 2015 recipient, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a room dedicated to Syrian children, and an area explaining the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. Although I cannot guarantee the exhibits are always as informative and interesting as they were when I was there, I highly recommend spending an hour or two exploring the museum while in Oslo.
We ended our day in Oslo at Knut’s older sister’s beautiful flat. Set on a charming side street in Oslo’s older, more historic neighborhood, the flat boasts intricate moldings and strikingly high ceilings. Sigrid’s husband, Øyvind, did the majority of the cooking while the rest of us spent time catching up and taking turns holding Sigrid and Øyvind’s six-week-old son, Olav. We then enjoyed a classically long Gjertsen-style dinner as we talked about what we all did over the past year and I practiced my self-taught, Duolingo-learned Norwegian. This dinner was probably my favorite experience I’ve had in all of my trips to Europe because I was able to really interact with Knut’s entire family at once. In fact, I had actually never met is older brother, Ole, until that night. Being with the entire Gjertsen family was a great way to end my stay in Norway.
On Monday morning, Knut and I woke up early to spend our last few hours in Oslo. After being to the city many times together, we spent Monday simply strolling through the streets and enjoying each other’s company at cafes along the harbor. Despite the apparent chill that exists even in Norway’s August, Oslo is definitely one of my favorite cities. I don’t know if that’s only because I enjoy being where Knut is from, or that I truly love the modern buildings juxtaposed with the historic architecture, but Oslo is definitely a city that I look forward to coming back to.
Today, I am writing this article from Knut’s apartment back in Rotterdam. With less than 24 hours until my flight to Barcelona takes off, study abroad is feeling a bit more real. As this is my fourth trip to Europe since July 2015, it feels relatively normal to be in Europe with Knut. However, tomorrow begins my solo journey. I won’t be alone in any sense as I have an entire group of Vanderbilt students joining me, but I will learn to be much more independent as I won’t be exploring with a native European any longer.
Wish me luck as I get ready for the next chapter in my travel book. Goodbye the Netherlands and ¡Hola España!