Travel has been the universal catalyst. It has made men think faster, imagine larger, want more passionately. The returning traveller brings home disturbing ideas.
– Daniel J. Boorstin
I was nearing the end of my stay in the city of Oslo, when the realization dawned on me that I had yet to find what it was that initially sparked this winter adventure to the north. Analyzing the time and rescources I had left, I dug out a tourist map I had received in the first few hours of my arrival in the snowy landscape. On the map I saw traces of the past few days; the edges of the folds began to fade and tear, and the dampness of the paper made not tearing the map a real challenge.
Upon looking at the map, I made out the word “museum.” I had not seen this museum before, despite its location being far closer than many of the sites and places I had seen in the previous days. An idea that had not been considered before made finding this museum an intriguing last minute goal.
I soon discovered that finding the building proved more difficult than I had first thought, rather than a square grid-like system, Oslo’s streets span out like a spider web that only a local would be able to efficiently navigate. To make things more challenging the streets are poorly labeled and every road is parralled with buildings that constantly make for a enclosed canyon like feel. Finally after many wrong turns and the many distractions of the beautiful Norwegian women walking by, I found the building.
I entered the building and a calm-voiced lady welcomed me, telling me the entry-prices and that I had to check in my backpack. After stuffing my bag into a small locker she handed me the corresponding locker key, smiled and gestured me towards the exhibition entrance.
I passed artifact after artifact, telling the stories and history of this cold crisp land. The inspiration and surge of finding the building began to die down and I began to feel a bit doubtful about spending what little time I had in a museum. But upon turning a corner I walked into an unexpected set of depictions and artifacts.
Depicted life size on the wall was a man in confrontation with a great bear with only a spear as reasurrence to his ill choice in opponents. Intrigued, I read the little informational squares scattered throughout the room, more thoroughly than the previous rooms and I came to understand that this man was a representation of the Sami people. And far more surprising was the cultural practices of the Sami that I had read in the room, and how they were in a lot of ways similar to my own people across the sea.
My mind opened abit more to understand that the word indigenous is applicable to the European cultures in many more ways than I had previously thought.
Finally after a few more exhibits, I arrived in the world I was looking for and was accuratley greeted by a wall of ancient swords. I found something I had hoped to find in my travels to Norway. The metal works of the Vikings; swords that were crafted and weilded by people of the renown Norse warrior culture.
My intrigue leaped into a frantic questioning of the security guard if he knew any blacksmiths. He barely spoke english, but I think he understood that he didnt have what I was looking for.
After a good long examination of the ancient craftmanship, I left the exhibit and walked the remainder of the tour to find the counter lady again. This time, however, I noticed a replica sword behind her counter and asked if I could hold the far too shiny sword. I was suprised by how top heavy the sword was, and wondered if it was me that needed to get stronger or if the sword was poorly made.
She then asked if I liked swords and I responded that swords were the reason I came to Norway. She was intrigued when I said I was a blacksmith, and I told her how I was inspired by the ancient Viking metalwork and was in search of Norwegian blacksmiths whom I could chat with and hopefully learn from. After hearing of my unfulfilled mission she went to the back of her counter, pulled out a city map, and gestured for me to come over.
She began to tell me of an interesting female friend of her’s who owned a coffee shop, where the friend was a simple shop keeper during store hours but after closing went behind her store and proceeded her craft at her forge. I began to laugh inside as to the coincidence of the situation, and we began to discuss the confusing details on how to get to this coffeehouse/forge.
I roughly knew the direction I needed to go and set out walking. I got to a point I considered about half way, where I could see a familiar tram-stop and the snowy hill peeking out above the buildings. I looked at my iPod and realized that the train taking me to my next destination was set to depart in another 45 minutes, about the same amount of time it would take me to walk back or walk to the woman blacksmith. It was a moment I remember well, the blacksmith in one direction and the departing train in the other.
I made a decision and moments later I made the train just in time. After catching my breath, I sat down and leaned against the large window. The train departed very smoothly and I watched Oslo’s city lights streak past. Finally when we were out of city limits I kept my attention to the black sky, hoping for a chance to see the northern lights.