Finding friends in Norway
Along with John Schot, IFOR's Director, I recently spend five days in Oslo, Norway. The week began with a planning meeting for a conference, co-sponsored by IFOR and UNESCO, and a dinner served by our local hosts at the University of Oslo (HIO). We assisted IFOR's NVE program director Eva Fussinger, co-ordinator of the four day conference on "early childhood education," facilitated at Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus, and attended by a majority of Norwegian and Swedish educators. I'm involved in organizing a subsequent publication on the program with Eva, a publication which is fully supported by a grant and John was additionally responsible for doing a presentation. John and I ended up with a fifth day in Norway when our flight from Oslo Lufthavn was canceled due to a snow storm at Schiphol in The Netherlands. That day was no fun, I can assure you, as we tied desperately for over an hour in -12c weather to find a bus that would take us to our assigned hotel.
Other than the lay-over, I would say we had a great time! Our hotel in Oslo, Cochs Pensjonat, was a block a way from the Royal Palace (Slottet), two blocks from the conference, and a kilometer from the harbor. Oslo is an incredible city, sitting at the end of a fjord and surrounded by mountains that spill into the sea. At night you can see the ski lifts cascading down the hillsides seemingly right into the city. The first thing to strike me was the transportation tunnels: huge, sterile, concrete tubes running deep into the earth to the trains below. We were told by a taxi driver that within a year all autos will also be underground. There seems to be a lot of "quiet wealth" exhibited, everything stately and grand and architecturally well planned.
I appreciated all that our personal-hosts Trond, Heidi and Jörgen did for us. Heidi and Jörgen are an older couple, long-time peace activists, and have two houses located near and in the harbor. We ate several wonderful meals at one of their homes and spent a great deal of time visiting contacts there. Trond, as well as Jörgen on a separate occasion, gave us several terrific tours of the city, one of which was of a long park system along the Akerselva River, where many old factories are being converted into art studios and restaurants. We hiked downhill along beautifully intertwined trails for several kilometer, ending up at the Oslo Opera House, which literally juts right out into the harbor.