Sunday, 7 June 2015

Don't Panic

According to the psychologist, the one problem I have is saying 'yes' to things too often.
I kind of associated saying 'yes' to things unexpected with saying 'yes' to possible adventures and thus not be left at the end of my life thinking: sheesh, wish I had done more.
Therefore, when a friend asked if I wanted to join her and her parents on a cruise to Oslo from Kiel, I thought: this could be cool. Oslo! Why not?!

The problem arises when you realise that I am a naive idiot: I thought the point of the cruise was spending time in Oslo, and not spending time on the ship. Why would I want to spend all my time on some enormous vessel where everything is massively expensive and there is nothing really to do? Alas, apparently most people go on cruises for the ship and not for the destination.

Last Monday we drove to Kiel with this nice guy Henrik, a student doing an internship in Leipzig at the BMW plant. Then we met my friend's parents and wandered around Kiel for a bit since we were rather early and the ship wasn't leaving for a couple of  hours. Her parents are cruise-people. They had been on a cruise to Göteborg the previous days and enjoyed talking about the enormity of the vessels; they liked comparing the two ships as they were loaded in the harbour; they kept going on and on about how large the ships were. For cruise-ship people, this is certainly an important aspect of cruising. For non-cruise-ship-people like myself it is worth mentioning once, at most.

We finally boarded and found our way to our cabins, which were spacious enough with two beds and a little bathroom. Then, with a throng of other people, we headed to the upper decks to see the ship leaving the harbour, as in Titanic when everyone is waving at the people down below from an impressive height. Except that it was nothing like in Titanic: everyone crowded around the railing in their all-weather jackets, taking photographs of the firth as the ship propelled itself forward. No one was waving because no one cared whether the big white thing that left and came back daily was leaving. We weren't going to start new lives in a New World or drown in icy waters. Basically, as I gathered later, most people were there for the food.

Then the wind and cold became too much, so I passed out for a little nap as my friend explored the ship with her parents. As part of our deal we had booked the dinner and breakfast-buffet options, which meant that we basically stuffed our faces with way too much food. I think there is something in the illusion of having paid for something and then having to get as much as possible from it. Well, let me assure you, we had our fill.

Baltic Sea.
The Storebæltsbroen, a bridge linking the Danish islands. 
The next morning we finally cruised into Oslo. That, I'll admit, was the coolest part of the journey: slowly entering the harbour with a great panorama of the entire city. It reminded me of how travel must have been decades ago, of how back then there wasn't the same expectation of velocity, of getting somewhere as fast as possible. My own grandfather emigrated from Germany to SA by taking various ships down from Venice and along East Africa to finally reaching Durban.

Propelling into Oslo
We didn't get to see much of Oslo since we only had four hours there. Or rather, 3 hours, as the disembarking and reembarking takes a while. With the parents we caught a tram to Vigeland Park, a park filled with sculptures all made by the same artist. Then we went back into the city to meet Ivan, a friend who by chance had relocated to Norway. He showed us around a bit and we ended up drinking a cappuccino at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (without going into the museum). Then we headed back to the ship, boarded, again watched as we left the harbour, again ate too much at dinner, and said our goodbyes in Kiel as I went to Berlin and my friend and her parents went back to Flensburg.

Green Oslo. 

Vigelund Park. 

Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Price ceremony is held. 

Adventuring, a little at least. 

Ivan told us about an essay by David Foster Wallace entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again where Foster Wallace describes his week-long cruise from Florida to the Caribbean. Our trip was a lot shorter and less sunny, but I'd also not do it again. The point of going somewhere is to actually see the place you were going, to spend time exploring the nooks and crannies, and maybe go into a museum or two. I had looked forward to seeing Oslo, and yet there was not enough time. had we stayed a night or two, perhaps I wouldn't be so negatively inclined. Although it was a great bonding experience and lovely spending time with my friend's parents, it really is for other people. I don't even know which kind of people, really. Cruise-ship people, perhaps. People who like going crazy at buffets. People who only buy all-weather clothes. People who buy cigarettes in cartons at the Duty Free store on board. People 70+. People amazed by the size of things.

Not me though. I am not one of those people.

Oh, one bonus of the duty free store on the ship: they had The Chocolate Block wine, one of my favourites. But it cost R300, so I thought: "Rather not". 


  1. I wonder if we can group Cruise-ship people with Camping-caravan people?

    1. Haha, propoably. But to each his own :)