Oct 28, 2006

Rural sprawl

Thursday I flew to Oslo, to attend an "open house" for the printing industry. I went with my boss and a co-worker who's a printer (I'm a graphic designer, in case you were wondering). I have not flown to Oslo since the new airport at Gardermoen opened, about 10 years ago. I also had not flown with the newish Norwegian airline, called - appropriately - Norwegian. Nor had I flown since the new restrictions on hand luggage and safety checks were put into effect this autumn.

Business trips are a series of taxis, flights, newspapers, coffees, phone calls, papers, and back again. And the 50 minute flight to Oslo is a sure place to run into other co-workers.

We took off in the dark since it was before dawn. We landed in gray and low clouds. My first impression of Gardermoen was that is was typical of the modern style of commercial buildings: A lot of stone floors, accented with warm, narrow-slatted wood walls and skylights. I prefer our local one, with an interior from the decade before: Much more white.

The amusing thing about travelling with others is how it pulverizes one's own sense of responsibility. If I travel alone, and the taxi is stuck in traffic, I worry about missing my flight, big time. But travelling with three others, and one of them my boss, left me feeling that it didn't matter what would happen since we'd be three in the same boat. Since I tend to be a Responsible Person And A Tad Anal, being able to relax, actually going into a frame of mind where I didn't bother to check times or anything, was different for me. The one time I did pipe up, was when we got into the security check line only five minutes before our plane was due to take off. I got us to go change our booking to a later flight.

When Norway was discussing where to put its new national (main) airport, one of the cons regarding Gardermoen (a former military airport) was that it too often got fogged in. Still, they went with Gardermoen, and then the building of the airport express railway caused other troubles and scandals, like blasting a tunnel so table water started leaking, leaving a number of locals with dry wells. I was thinking about that as we sped through a bucolic landscape, dotted with yellow-leafed trees, and dreamy with drifting mist.

Oslo is Norway's capital and largest city, and the greater Oslo area numbers one million. (Norway's population is 4.5 million.) We drove around in sections that were built up in the 1960's and 1970's, climbing up a hill in low clouds to our destination. Instead of taking the train back to the airport, we took a taxi the whole way. With a pre-agreed price, it was cheaper for the three of us. I sat in the back, watching mist and fog roll through the low hills, seeing one farm after another pass by, and I suddenly realized that the big city wasn't that big. Cities in the US go on and on and on, while here, it was just a few miles before the highway left suburbia and ribboned past barns, fields and silo bags.

It is so easy to believe that we've taken over every bit of nature and built everywhere, because of all the urban sprawl, but my trip to Oslo showed me that there is still a lot of rural sprawl, too.


Tim said...

I remember that thought all too well ( this post. ) Pookie & I used to live in a small town south of Gardermoen - Kløfta - and we both worked in downtown Oslo. I can remember even seeing barns and fields just outside the very main city block of Oslo, and thought that was very odd upon seeing that the first time.

I think Scandinavia (excluding Denmark) is vastly different than the U.S. or western civilization in general, seemingly that it's more as if Norway, Sweden or Finland have made an agreement with nature, and have mixed with it rather than take it over.

Keera said...

Good post about Norway's relationship with the great outdoors. (Go read Tim's post, folks!) One advantage to all this trekking in godforsaken heather and granite is that Norway has excellent topographical maps with trails marked.

Scandinavia doesn't have enough people with which to take over the countryside. Norway's almost as big as California, but California has 30 million more people, but there is a sort of rural sprawl to California, too, thanks to everyone bunching up in the cities and a huge number of national parks and forests. I think what Norway lacks is the true suburb, that built-up phenomenon that sprawls near a town, but is not in it.