My brother, sister and I are rather competitive with each other. We compete with everything from getting our seatbelts on in the car first, getting out of the car and touching the front door first to who can get to the bathroom first and effectively bar the sibling with the direst need from entering. We are a ruthless bunch. However, one type of competition cannot be measured by speed, talent or cleverness. It is the acquisition of countries.
This type of collection started when Jeff and I were young with bodies of water. Mostly pools, ponds, streams and lakes. By collect I mean which of the latter he would fall into, with or without help. Thus Jeff learned to swim when he was quite young. I cannot correctly remember the number of duck poop laden ponds he fell into, but it was quite high. This is also the origination of Jeff’s unhealthy fear of ducks.
Now that we are older and Jeff can very effectively avoid my push, the bodies of water are no longer fun. Now we collect countries.
The rules are simple and differ from those of collecting states. For countries, one must eat in the actual country. The Great Manitoba Debate of 2006 settled the airport issue. You must leave airport ground completely and have a meal prepared in said country. Layovers in airports DO NOT COUNT.
That’s it. That’s the rule.
Now, one would think living in Europe, I might prevail in this contest; There are so many countries within spitting distance. But alas, no. Miranda caught the travel bug early. Trips abroad with her dad and her children’s chorus have given her a four-country lead. She toured Europe before I had a passport. She’s collected Australia and New Zealand and those two countries, my friend, are hard to collect indeed.
Jeff, well, Jeff is afraid to fly so his country count is rather low. He does, however, have Sweden which neither Miranda nor I have. It’s the jewel in his crown.
Well, that was until Friday. Last Friday, Sparky and I drove across the 8km bridge/tunnel from Copenhagen to Malmö, Sweden. We got gas and picked up some cookies and coffee. Thus I ate in the country.
Before I go on with the story, I must tell you a little something about Sparky. Sparky is the kind of husband that encourages his wife and supports her in all her efforts. Sometimes Sparky’s support rolls over his wife and crushes whatever will she might have into smithereens. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s just the thing a girl needs.
Sitting there with coffee and cookies, Sparky thinks. He thinks about the number of countries I have. He thinks about which countries are close by. He thinks and thinks and thinks. He is not a bear of little brain.
What did this thinking produce? Norway.
So we did it. We drove to Oslo. That’s right. We DROVE to Oslo, Norway. We stayed an hour and turned around and drove home. It was awesome. We even saw the polar day, which means that it never got dark. Ever. To compare this road trip with a drug trip is not without validity. Most of the time it felt surreal. We were like the British Empire, the sun never set upon our skin.
There was a moment where we thought we could drive to the Artic Circle. It would have been so cool to drive that far north, be so high on the globe, to be farther north than either one of us thought. We had only an Schuler atlas published in 1986 to gauge how far the Artic Circle was from Oslo and in that book it didn’t look so far. We contemplated it for a good hour.
Being a former college student, I know how quickly a good trip can go bad. Driving to the Artic Circle sounded like a really cool idea, but could in fact be the tipping point into the badlands. So we settled for Oslo. Yeah, settled for Oslo.
By the time we got home Saturday evening, we were wrecked and exhilarated. And filthy. Did I mention that we drove straight through, sleeping briefly at rest stops? It took 7 hours from Malmö to Oslo. It took 19.5 hours to drive from Oslo to Boweltown, including 2 sleep stops totaling 6 hours. To do the math, we drove 26.5 hours total in a 32-hour period.
We thought we could take a ferry from Oslo to Kiel and we could have, but it was a 23-hour ferry ride. Sparky had work he needed to finish so we opted for the drive. I brushed my teeth at a rest stop in Sweden on the way back, but that was it.
The best thing about this trip is that Sparky and I NEVER ran out of things to talk about. I don’t know anyone with whom I can travel better. We didn’t fight or disagree once. Even when he said I had monkey arms like Pete Sampras. Dude, does he know how to complement a woman or what? He tried to take it back, tried to say he said something similar, but not quite the same, but you know once those words are out of your mouth, you can never pull them back. Monkey arms… I suppose that was better than wide ass, I mean, white ass, very white ass.
This week I’ll post more about our stay in Copenhagen and our trip. Copenhagen is expensive, but gorgeous. The Swedish language is just German in disguise and Norway is pure heaven. Seriously, the most gorgeous country I have ever driven through. And believe it or not, Oslo is one happening city. Everyone was partying and really, really drunk.