Öresund, Kattegat and Skagerrak Oh My!

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.

Sparky suggested we drive to Oslo, Norway. We were in Sweden so Oslo should only be 200km away. (By the way, its not. It’s a long ass freekin’ drive. Remember, we were map free.)

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.

And I pooped. In every country.


16 thoughts on “Öresund, Kattegat and Skagerrak Oh My!

  1. I can identify with your experience. When we lived in Arizona, on a trip to San Diego we drove home through Los Angeles (4 hours out of the way) just to be able to say we saw the Hollywood sign. And on a camping trip to Prague and Budapest, we took a side trip through Croatia to the Adriatic coast on a sudden whim (this was 1995, the Balkan war was still going on).

    As for your rules for counting counties, I wonder if a layover in Iceland would count? We once flew IcelandAir to the States, and during the 4 hour layover in Keflavik we took a bus trip to a hot spring, even donning rented swim suits and taking a dip. Would that count as a visit to Iceland? (We did eat, but only at the airport restaurant.)

  2. My rule is that I have to spend at least one night in every country to add it to my list. If you only spent an hour in Oslo, you missed a lot. It’s a wonderful city and there’s a lot of other great places in Norway (like Bergen).

  3. The Partnerin and just about every German I have met thinks we Americans are driving-crazy … “Budapest, 10 Hours? No Problem!”

    So how did you convert Spartky to the Dark Side of the Atlantic?

  4. It is truly pathetic when one has to settle for Oslo. The only thing going for you is that you didn’t settle for Tulsa.

    Vernon Icaza, LIVERMORE, California.

  5. Copenhagen is excellent. I have been there a couple of times. Sounds like you had a great time.

  6. PapaScott: My brother and sister might have a problem with it, but you clearly left the airport. I would count it. In fact it sounds so cool. Sparky was wondering how we were going to collect Iceland. That is a perfect way.

    Croatia during the war, brave and should count double somehow, don’t you think?

    J: We’re going back to Oslo via plane next year. It was a shame we couldn’t stay longer, but the drive was an experience in itself. I like your over night count, but I’ve been to switzerland too many times not to count it and we usually just make it a day trip. I’ve seen enough. I don’t need to give the swiss any more moolah.

    Mike B: Sparky is the most american Kraut ever. In the US he refused public transportation because it was too dirty. He might not want to pay for parking, but he’ll drive anywhere.

    Vernon!!! I am truly pathetic, i know. If only our car was amphibious, it would have been Tulsa. I hear they dip babies in hot oil in Tulsa. Is that true? E-mail me since I don’t have your address.

    Haddock: Did you notice how wide the streets were? It’s a gorgeous city. I can’t wait to go back.

  7. You guys are so funny, It makes me want to beg you to adopt me into your family!

    I love taking driving trips, well we drive 4 hours every other weekend and it is then that we talk about everything and nothing, it’s great!

    You guys are the best couple for sure!

  8. You live the life I daydream about! Our big adventures consist of finding some out in the middle of nowhere estate sale place, so reading about your travels is quite exhilerating(sp?) ROFL

  9. A Sparky-esque bit of knowledge for you: Oslo was ranked world’s most expensive city by the Economist this year.

    Sounds like a great time, I think I need to get a car.

  10. Clarification: Eating cookies or non-ethnic food of the said country does not count. If your only way to count that country is your meal, then your meal needs to signify the country. I am sure I can get a second on this by the other wondertwin. It makes perfect sense. I don’t care if you become the Czar of Sweden, it is mine, only mine, and I’m not sharing.

  11. The second you started in about the monkey arms I started thinking about your wide, uh, white ass.

    Sounds like a blast!

    Jeff is obvs full of sour grapes here… but I have to say, I second the motion that it ought to be the food of that country, if it’s only a meal that buys you that country.

  12. This reminds me of how B and his first girlfriend would take a train to Poland so they could have sex on the train. The train was cheaper than a hotel room and virtually empty.

    What a fabulous trip that must have been. I am so envious.

  13. Jenn____ what did you do your cats? What happened to your brother? Does he retain his fascination for certain type of cars?

    You expect me to give you my e-mail address??? Life is not so easy. You must post something regarding the World Cup and then we’ll see about that.

    Oh – and I’m buying a home in Oaktown, just because I want to be like Too Short. He sure knows how to treat a lady.


  14. Oh – I had forgotten to say one very important thing – LACTATION!!!


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