One of the first things a visitor to Oslo will notice while walking along its charming streets is the sheer number of blonde haired people who reside here. Growing up in the US, it was not Norway but Sweden that was always referenced to as the land of beautiful buxom blondes. Yet when I finally got the chance to visit Stockholm, I was surprised to find that this stereotype did not appear to be true. So it has come as a bit of a shock to visit Oslo and find myself surrounded by so many golden haired people. Possibly 75 percent of the women and 50 percent of the men here fits this description. It is so pervasive that I am beginning to suspect that a mad scientist has been secretly cloning this population over the past forty years. One of the interesting bi-products of these follicle tendencies is that blondes do not appear to draw much attention to themselves. This would makes sense considering that they blend right in with the local population. Yet it is still surreal for an outsider like myself to walk into a shopping mall and be confronted by dozens of six foot tall blonde haired women. It then dawns on me that maybe my own brown hair is considered exotic and even desirable by the local female population. I guess only time will tell whether or not this hypothesis of mine is correct.
An activity that I genuinely enjoy engaging in while visiting foreign countries is checking out the local television stations. Since I have no idea what is being said, I find it both challenging and enjoyable to try and figure out what is going on in these broadcasts. My current trip is no exception as I flip through the channels in my hotel room each morning before breakfast. A program that is currently grabbing my attention appears to be some sort of Norwegian dating show. I normally wouldn’t have much interest in a program like this since American reality shows have become so common and staged over the past decade. Yet there is something special here that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’m referencing to the fact that the date is taking place on horseback in several feet of snow. I guess when the winters are as brutally cold and lengthy as they are up here, young people will do whatever it takes to find a potential mate. The other aspect of this show that strikes me as uniquely Norwegian is the fact that both contestants openly express their desires to settle down and have kids. This again is not something you typically hear Americans talk about on a first date. But considering that most marriages will eventually result in children, perhaps young Norwegians are actually quite wise to discuss these issues this early on in the dating process.
One of the tourist sites in Oslo that I am told I must visit is the Holmenkollbakken ski jump. Located on the outskirts of the city, this sports facility is striking to behold even on a snowless Autumn afternoon like today. I can only imagine how thrilling it must be to visit when it’s covered in snow and filled with thousands of cheering spectators. Even someone with little interest in winter sports will most likely enjoy this spot due to the outstanding views of downtown Oslo it provides. Having reached my quota of photographs for the day, I meander around the premises and unexpectedly come across a skiing museum. Not feeling particularly enthusiastic about paying the $26.00 entrance fee, I instead check out the gift shop next door in the hopes of picking up a souvenir or two. It is while strolling around the aisles of this establishment that I come across some traditional Nordic sweaters. Made by the Dale of Norway company, these sweaters are apparently of a high quality and as a result are quite expensive. Assuming that they cost somewhere between one hundred and one hundred and fifty dollars, I am keen to try one on and possibly even make a purchase. What I don’t expect, however, is for the price tag to inform me that they cost between three hundred and three hundred and fifty dollars. A feeling of shock comes over me at the thought of this extravagant price. Yet at the same time I am also strangely intrigued at how something as simple and old world as a sweater could be so prohibitively expensive. Do these sweaters contain some supernatural powers that only the citizens of Norway are privy to? Perhaps these mystical fabrics hold the secret to Norway’s success at the winter Olympics. Despite my fascination, my inherent fiscal prudence thankfully kicks in and I leave the shop without making a purchase. Yet I have no doubt that sometime in the next week I will again be tempted by these mysterious threads.