This morning Mark and I left Antwerp for the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which no one actually calls by that name. Everyone calls it “den Bosch” for short. Right now it is late at the hostel in Oslo, where I am happy both that they have free Internet as well as QWERTY keyboards. No more constant backspacing to make corrections. We were in den Bosch to visit Mark’s friend Judy, who is a Canadian by birth but who now lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two sons. We did what every Netherlander does: went for a bike ride into the city centre. It was quite strange to be in a city where cyclists have clear smooth bike lanes and they have the right of way in most cases. I was amazed that cars knew to stop for us, and by “us” I mean quite a lot of people, as everyone in the Netherlands rides a bike. We parked our bikes in the city’s downtown underground bike garage. In Canada we are so behind when it comes to making the cities bicycle-friendly. The city centre has a statue of the painter Bosch, he of so many nightmarish paintings, yet since all of his work is now outside of the country, there is no Bosch museum to speak of. During our ride back to Judy’s house we had a lengthy wait as a drawbridge lifted and three barges passed by. The queue of cyclists behind us was incredibly long.
Judy drove us to the train station and we took it to Schipol, then caught our flight to Oslo. This is Mark’s first time to Norway yet my first time to Norway south of the 70th parallel as all of my prior trips to this country have been Arctic adventures. We arrived at the hostel at 10:30 p.m. and just came back from a walk around the city centre, which was teeming with club activity. We found a late-night Turkish (?) restaurant and had a quick burger and kebab. Tomorrow our train to Bergen leaves at noon, so this is just a quick stopover. Mark has some errands to run; specifically he is on the lookout for Norwegian women’s sweaters, and while he does this I will check out the bookstores (already found a couple during our evening walk) and also check out the royal palace. What an interesting tidbit: of the five countries we are visiting, four are monarchies: Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway. I saw the royal palaces in Amsterdam and Luxembourg-Ville (or Lux-Ville, as everyone writes it).
My suitcase weighs 27 kg yet my backpack is really a back-breaker because I have crammed it full of books. I might not buy any more books during the rest of this trip, but I will check out the bookshops nonetheless. The only things I will likely get in the towns along the coast will be postcards.