Baltics Day 5: The Six Hour Nighttime Adventure

Day 5: Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Today I woke up early around 8am to continue my family ancestry research. I first enjoyed the massive (free!) breakfast spread in my hostel which consisted of various deli meats and cheeses, salad toppings, cold potato salad, fruit, hot baked beans, breakfast potatoes, turkey meatballs, five types of sliced bread, three types of juice, a cappuccino machine, and a few types of tea. Amongst other items, I tried the turkey meatballs and they were out of this world. Too bad tomorrow I’m getting out of here too early to have breakfast again!

I went straight on the train to the archives after breakfast. I originally didn’t plan to spend too much time there, but the rabbit hole of information kept me there from opening until 2pm just before my subway ticket expired.

Today I discovered yet another one of Magnus’ siblings. I knew from the note on Magnus’s baptism record that there was a change that occurred in 1900 by his father, therefore I knew the father (Halvor) was alive in 1900, and I could check for his name in the 1900 census.

In the 1900 census it marked him as living with his wife and child, Lars. Halvor had a new occupation listed this time around, as he was now a sort of local police officer/official that was common for the time amongst the agricultural community. Lars was new, as he was born in 1870 and not in the census info I uncovered for 1865. I was able to continually go down the line for Lars to uncover his children’s and wife’s name from the later census info and baptism records.

I had to abruptly cut my research at 2pm since my metro card expired at 2:15p and I couldn’t buy a new one on the train. All in all, I uncovered nine people that weren’t previously in the ancestry info my aunt Jill uncovered. I confirmed birthdates and emigration dates of Magnus and most of the other new additions to the tree. Although I didn’t meet any actual relatives while here, I do feel like I got something accomplished.

Once I returned to the city center, I went into the Town Hall, which is most famously known as the location where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held. I used the restroom here and it occurred to me: this COULD BE the toilet that Michelle Obama used! Or that Malala Yousafzai used!!! The things you can experience in your travels, let me tell you.

After checking out Town Hall I walked to the Grunerlokka neighborhood which my hotel receptionist called the “hipster area” but it was also the area I uncovered while searching for vintage shops. I didn’t find anything super exciting, so I instead sat on the terrace of Café Edvard to get a snack and use their wifi. The café barista was impressed that I deduced the word “svart” meant “black” since all the other types of tea were pretty obvious. She also liked my blue hair. We’re best friends now.

Cafe Edvard

While sitting outside the café, a stranger asked me for directions and I successfully guided her. See? Here in Oslo I can GIVE DIRECTIONS and in Copenhagen I was a freaking mess trying to get around. It’s so much easier to get around here.

I was somewhat in a rush to get back to the hostel around 7pm since that’s typically the time people congregate in hostel lobbies discussing their night ahead. I rushed back to the hostel…and no luck in the lobby. As I mentioned before, this hostel is like a hotel and has no social life. However, I went to my hostel room and found a new roommate struggling to get his comforter in the duvet cover and assisted him. His name was Marco and he is from Florence, Italy. We chatted a bit, and he told me he was in town just a couple nights for a work thing. He works in psychology and there’s a sort of conference here in town, so he comes here every once in a while, but it’s always so quick that he never sees the sights. I tell him I am about to explore the fortress, return to the hostel, then head out to the sculpture park and some bar I discovered on Spotted By Locals for music and dinner. He is going to eat on his own, but he’ll join me for the park/concert.

LARP in action
I wander off to the Akershus fortress, where I encounter a group of what I assume to be locals LARPing in the courtyard of some of the buildings. In other words, they are dressed in plainclothes and medieval smocks with real metal swords and wooden shields, having swordfights. You know, the usual. I am the only non-participant in the square, so I covertly record them on my camera to include in my travel video.

On the wall of the fortress, I find myself an audience in three guys who are amused by me taking 10-second timer photos with my camera that require me to run up and down a hill over and over. “Need some help? Or carry on…it’s quite entertaining.” “Ok, then I shall be your entertainment.” I got my photo, then went over to chat with them. They are pretty drunk, or I assume so since they are surrounded by about 20 empty beer cans amongst the three of them. The chatty one is a local and asks me what I’ve seen and insists I go to the sculpture park, which I told him I already had plans to see. He throws a few more suggestions in and I tell him I’m departing tomorrow first thing, so I guess it’ll have to wait until next time.

This photo was worth the embarrassment of running up and down a hill

I returned to the hostel and met up with Marco. We left around 9pm to go to the Sculpture Park. If you know me, I walk super fast, and Marco does too, so we were thrilled to have someone to walk and talk with that could keep our pace. We zipped to the tram stop, and once it arrived, realized we had to buy tickets ahead of time. Marco wanted to “act Portuguese” aka hop on and never pay, but I already drew attention by asking the bus driver about tickets. Cover blown! Oops. We got off and ran to the store to get tickets. We waited again for another tram and off we went.

It was well past dark when we got to the Vigeland Sculpture park, and we assumed things would be well-lit as the park is open 24 hours. However, many things weren’t. We wandered around in the darkness with our flashlights, first uncovering a modern sculpture consisting of large fiberglass tubes. We next found a sculpture of a man holding up two others in a sort of acrobatic pose. My favorite, though, and by far the most impressive, was the Monolith. It’s a tall tower with human bodies carved into it, surrounded by dozens of other human statues in various poses expressing the human experience. There are children fighting with parents and siblings, lovers caught in a kiss, and elderly couple on the verge of death, a man struggling to lift up an ailing friend, a woman tenderly washing another woman’s hair, and many more. It was very emotional and all expressed in their bodies, since the faces were mostly expressionless. Marco liked that it was dark, because “when you see less, you see a lot more.”

the monolith

We walked around looking for the infamous crying baby statue, as I’d seen it on various postcards already and knew it must be important. We looked and looked, expecting it to be its own whole monument. However, as we exited the park on a bridge covered in smaller (4 ft or less) sculptures of people in various poses, we stumbled upon it amongst the hundreds of other statues. For being so famous, I didn’t realize it would blend in. For whatever reason, people love the “Angry Baby” statue and often take pictures holding its’ hand (which the park discourages) causing the left hand to be golden in color. It’s definitely a weird statue.

By the time we leave the park, it’s midnight. As I mentioned previously, I discovered a bar called Revolver on Spotted by Locals, which happened to have a live band playing at 10am. There were a couple openers and I figured (hoped) it would go late. We get on the tram, after I had fully explored the map, and determine where we need to get off. Marco teases that I’ve seen more of the Oslo paper map than of the city itself. Ha.

Marco took this picture to mock me

So begins our adventure to find Revolver bar. At one point the road changes “levels” in a way, so we have to take stairs to get above the ground level we were currently at. We take the stairs, but now this upper level has no labeled streets. I know we generally have to head north, but we’re a bit lost. We ask a girl who lives in Oslo for her help, and she is unhelpful. We start walking north, then find a street sign, and therefore are able to find ourselves on the map. We walk about 20 more minutes and HOORAY we find the bar. It’s now around 1:30am.

The bar is very hipster, with no less than 20 men in flannel shirts and beards and arm tattoos, but still non-threatening. I ask if they have live music. “We did, earlier.” Okay. Do you have food, then? “We did, earlier.” Well where can we find some food, then? “You won’t find anything around here with food at this hour.” Well screw you, you unhelpful wannabe Portlander. Now I’m determined to find food, even if I’m not super hungry (why am I not hungry, btw? Last I ate was a cookie 9 hours ago), just to prove him wrong. Also we take pictures outside flipping the bird at the bar’s sign, because, well, we’re mature.

As we depart, we pass by the staircase where we originally came up to this street level…about 100 feet from Revolver. We should have just gone north right when we ascended, but instead we walked west, then north, then east, then south, covering probably 2 miles of ground, when it was all completely unnecessary. You live and you learn.

Marco and I walk some more and come upon a fast food burger place. I suggest it, even though I really don’t want it. Marco says we’ve come too far to settle on fast food burgers. We uncover a mini-golf bar with the doors wide open, despite it being completely dead. I’d be willing to give up the food search if mini golf were involved! The bartender informs us that they just closed a couple minutes ago. GAH! However, she is much nicer and more helpful than the Revolver dude. She tells us there’s a sit down restaurant up the road called Café Sofia. We go, and the terrace is hopping at 1:45am. We order drinks and food, but nothing too special: I got a grilled salmon with steamed vegetables.

We walked home from the restaurant, fully fed. While it took us six hours (we returned to the hostel at 3:30am) to simply go to a park and eat dinner, it was still a fun adventure that allowed us to see the city at night.