We’re in Oslo, Norway — our final port of call. This is as orderly and pristine a city as I have ever seen. This time of year, it is polished and reflective. It is drenched and saturated with liquid sunlight.
We’re in the extreme northern hemisphere, so the sun rises around four in the morning and sets around eleven o’clock in the evening. The same inclination of the planet responsible for this trick of the light also positions the summer sun directly overhead for three or four hours a day.
This extended noon delights the locals, who, for six months of the year, see about as much sunlight as albino cave crickets might. But for fair-skinned folks like me, the extended daylight hours turn my skin from the color of cream to the color of tomato bisque in less time than it takes to boil a lobster.
Even if you manage to avoid a sunburn, you are not likely to avoid the stinging pain Oslo inflicts on the wallet.
I have only limited experience here, but I suspect that the word “Oslo” is Norwegian for “Americans of limited means really should consider booking a lakeside cabin in Utah.” If iOslo not the most expensive city on Earth, it is certainly the most expensive city I have ever visited. Nothing drives this home like the cost of food.
Clyde and I, imagining that we will save money by grabbing a quick snack from a street vendor, purchase two hot dogs and four bottles of water. The bill? Thirty dollars.
Later in the day, we walk the waterfront in an effort to find an affordable lunch. The fancier restaurants offer lunch portions of steaks and pasta dishes for upwards of $65.00 per person. The less glitzy eateries offer sandwiches or salads for $35.00 and up. A TGI Friday’s on the waterfront is packed with diners willing to pay between $30.00 and $40.00 for hot wings or caesar salads. Even fast food here has a fine dining price, with the McDonald’s charging $18,50 for a Big Mac, small fries, and small Coke.
A scoop of ice cream — a single scoop! — costs ten bucks.
We simply cannot bear it. In the full glare of the Norwegian sun, we trudge back to the cruise ship, where the food, though mediocre, is pre-paid.
Too late for lunch in the dining room, we find ourselves seated at the tables surrounding the pool. We heap our plates with prefabricated hamburgers and pre-packaged nachos. We say very little. From time to time, we look up at the polarized windows, stealing quick glances at the sparkling blue waters and gentle green slopes of paradise.