The next morning, I met up with the three man film crew who I was to spend the next three days with here in Oslo and then Paris. Much to my relief, their command of the English language was expertly. It was to a level that they made sarcastic jokes in English with pitch perfect timing. People who take the time and amass the patience and understand to learn languages have always amazed me and on this trip I met a great many who spoke at two languages (sometimes three) with incredible fluency. It’s inspired me to try it myself.
Our first call was a good hour’s drive away from Oslo towards Kongsberg. We drive through a town called Drennan – locally translated as “the drink”. I learn that it’s perhaps not the most fondly noted place in Norway. The saying goes that Norwegians would rather rush through 10 drinks in an hour than spend an hour in Drennan. Soon after we drive through a 3.8km tunnel. It gets to a point where you think you’re driving at night. Towns, tunnels, snow, winding roads. This seems to sum up the landscape in this region outside of Oslo – small places with quickly little stories tucked away amid the snowy expanses and roads that cut a path through (or indeed under) harsh, beautiful terrain connecting these disparate dots. Then you’ll be surprised that a petrol station has its own record store with the likes of David Bowie, The Beatles, Soundgarden and Metallica on vinyl standing proud alongside pine air-fresheners.
We approach Kongsberg and I’m informed by the film crew (who are doing a great job of doubling up as tour guides) that the town was in the running to be the capital but was controversially overlooked. It also has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation and one of the highest education rates. But there’s a twist to this outwardly peaceful set of stats – the place is funded by the weapons industry thanks to a massive factory that props the town up financially. An ironic juxtaposition indeed.
We spend the day there filming and I’m taught some Norwegian as we go – the Norwegian for interview is… interview. That I’ll remember.
It’s a long day of work with multiple locations and quick set ups. I’m impressed at how dynamic the team is and how much can be crammed into a morning, afternoon and evening. By the end of the day (and one Thai takeaway and a bag of amazing liquorice submarines and King of Denmark sweets later) I am ready to call it a night. A walk back through Oslo at night reveals a surprisingly sedate city. Knowing that I’m up at just after 4 in the morning to catch an early flight to Paris, I get some much needed kip.
My start is so early that I miss breakfast at the hotel and just hot foot it down to the nearest train station that next to Oslo’s opera house. It’s early morning and still dark, the sun considering rising but hitting snooze on its alarm a few more times. The train is fast, efficient and direct to the airport – I think that Oslo would be an easy and inviting city to visit on holiday.
Nearing the airport, it dawns on me that in my two days here I have seen very little but also managed to venture off the beaten track due to work commitments. I feel that in observing people at work and people living that I’ve somehow managed to find a glimpse of the inner psyche of a place that had once been mysterious to me and bypassed the distractions that have been constructed more for tourists than locals.
My last taste of Oslo is literal and in keeping with what Norway is famed for – fresh fish dishes. My breakfast is a cocktail of prawns and crayfish in the departure lounge of the airport and ranks among the best food I’ve ever eaten while waiting for a flight. Bon voyage.