Monday, June 27, 2011

NO - Røros

June 27                 Monday                               Norway                                Røros                                   

Catching a train is easy when you can roll out of bed and be halfway there.  Today’s destination was Røros, to which I probably could’ve taken a bus for a much faster, direct, and cheaper route… but the thought crossed my mind about 5 seconds after buying the train ticket.  Oh well… another slow but relaxing ride later I’d arrived in Røros – the gem of Norway, or so I’d gathered from my guidebook.

At my transfer in Hamar, I seated myself within the quiet car… the silence broken by a woman on her mobile phone.  Go figure.  It was especially ironic considering the Scandinavians really aren’t major mobile phone users… especially compared to the rest of Europe or even America.  I rarely see anyone talking or even texting.

I made my way around Røros’ train station and down toward my hotel.  While Lonely Planet had my hotel – the Idrettsparken Hotell – placed on the wrong end of the street – a 5 minute walk off – signposts fortunately guided me the rest of the way.  However, I soon learned that it wasn’t the most convenient location thanks to the train station itself.  The train station only accesses to/from the north, so if you want to get to the south side: a 15 second direct walk becomes a 10 minute meander around the end of the station and back again.  It made me really miss the former Soviet Bloc, where there wouldn’t be any walls, fences, or any other type of barrier… if you get hit or electrocuted: you probably should’ve paid more attention.

The town has one major pedestrianized street and another somewhat major parallel street that’s open to traffic.  Then there’s a perpendicular road following the railroad tracks which serve as the main route through town.  The two parallel streets were rather pretty, but absolutely not what I was hoping for.  I ended up getting more joy out of its root cause for existence: the remains of the mining town’s smelting operations.  Large mounds of rock made for a some very quick and easy hikes with some decent views over town, but the rooftops weren’t nearly as endearing as many other villages I’ve been to.

I grabbed lunch at the Kaffestugu Cafeteria.  My burger had an oddly shaped beef patty… shaped a bit more like a pancake than your standard burger.  Its beef was apparently some local breed of cattle, contributing to a rather unique taste… with a slightly crispy edge, it was actually rather tasty.  Though its bun kept up something I’d noticed in Norway & would continue to have issues with: their bread crumbles very easily.  Fortunately the cupcake I got for dessert – cherry-flavored – was quite tasty and had a great texture.

With plenty of energy in reserve, I walked northwest out to the Kvitsanden: mounds of sand deposited by glaciers in eons past.  I’d thought I’d made it to them when I turned back, but on my bus ride out of town the next day: I’d spot a small mountain of sand just over the crest of a hill where I’d thought I’d made it.  It was exactly the sort of mound I’d have quite liked to scale… oh well.  The walk itself was nice.

On my way back I took a path which wrapped around a small lake.  A footbridge crossed above a gravel path which continued out toward the air strip and I paused briefly to watch a plane take off in the distance.  Two girls were fiddling about to my left, and from the looks of it I gathered there were gearing up for an amateur photo shoot.  No diffusers or reflective discs, but they definitely had a couple changes of clothes and a rather large blanket which they certainly weren’t rushing about to set on the ground for a picnic… besides, apart from right on the bridge, there weren’t any grand vistas to be had for a picnic.  They also didn’t have any food.  So I knew something was up… especially because just as I walked off, they dashed a couple meters into the trees; I heard giggling emanating from behind me as I continued my walk.

When I found that the path didn’t seem to be taking me where I wanted to go, I turned back to the bridge, where I could make my way down and follow the other trail back to the road.  Sure enough: I was right on the whole amateur photography session.  However, ideas that were floating about in my head suddenly manifested themselves into reality as I came across one girl with a camera and one flesh-toned girl posing beside a tree.  As I type this, I feel like I’m writing a letter to Penthouse...

They clearly hadn’t heard me returning, as the girl’s face flushed with color immediately; but she followed with embarrassed giggling rather than a shriek of terror… so that’s good.  At least they knew the risk of their location choice.   So now it was a matter of how to treat the situation… walk off and leave them embarrassed?  Start chatting and risk being really sleazy and keeping the embarrassment going?  Or option 3… I am carrying a decent-sized camera and just happen to have a full lens kit with me.

I said don’t worry: holding up my camera I said “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”  Noticing that the one girl had a low-end SLR and a basic kit lens: I pulled my f/1.4 out of my pocket and offered if she’d like to use it.  They were also shooting at an odd angle to the trees and light… while it was cloudy, the nature of the trees still created some degree of lighting differential.  So for the next several minutes I lent my lens and helped coach on some good shots.  I’d hazard a guess that the girls were born after 1990… I’d guess legal, but I didn’t want to risk photographing anything illegal nor did I want to overstep the delicate social line that had already been laid out.  Plus thanks to the internet: who needs photos of random girls, anyway?  They did a wardrobe change and within perhaps 10 minutes or so I was on my way again. At least by the time I left she felt much more comfortable… so I guess I ultimately handled it well enough.

And that pretty much wrapped up the night.  I’d felt I’d done Røros in its entirety and there was still plenty of daylight out.  I spent the rest of the night battling internet in my hotel room… throughout all of Scandinavia: internet has been an issue at pretty much every place of lodging.  These countries need a serious influx of techies.  Granted, in this particular case it didn’t help that the couple running reception didn’t seem to have much interest in service.  It’s not that they were rude or anything; they just simply seemed highly distracted… like their mind wasn’t on helping their customers.  They seemed confused by the whole check-in process, confused when I wanted to buy an ice cream bar (my first one of the trip!), and confused when I tried to explain that they needed to reset their router.

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