City Weekends

I came across the yearly survey over Norwegian vacation habits. The City Weekend is becoming a fixture, every other Norwegian do two and a half such trips on average. This is a direct consequence of low-fare airlines making direct travel cheap and convenient, and that the European cities are close by when travelling by plane. Australia and Africa are where people would like to go but don’t, while USA has become dramatically less popular as a tourist destination.

Weekends are popular as you use up at most a couple vacation days, while I like the short trips for not having to bring a full set of clothes, thus lugging closer to the ideal nothing. The most desirable city in Europe according to this survey is Prague, edging out Rome, the previous favourite. Outed. I was in Rome last week and I am in Prague right now. Rome and Prague have much in common. Both are friendly cities to ease in to, you adapt to them as you arrive. Rome with its layering of time, place, and food, Prague with its architecture of hospitality, both merging an intricate past with a live presence, unafflicted by the monoculture of lesser cities.

Rome is a city built on top of itself, jumbling the brutal with the renewal. With a hub in the Colosseum concrete island the grid traces a history of subjugate or be subjugated. Today Rome largely follows the one Spanish rule: Thou shalt not miss lunch hour. If you do your whole day will be wasted, and the most you can hope for is a better tomorrow. But if you can stick to this rule Mediterranean life can be very seductive.

I’d never been in Rome in January before. In very late February it felt chilly for almost spring, but 10C (50F) was balmy for midwinter. It is a stroll in the park, a recommended activity when in Rome. Prague in January means winter, making even Oslo feel warm. Having hibernated for centuries in the frozen Czech highlands I came prepared for the cold onslaught, and the light in the historical center as it is staggering past you is special.

Prague, at the too-convenient crossroads in Europe, has mostly tasted subjugation in its cycles of rebellion, glory, and repression. As a city it has evolved this trade or flight reaction. When free everyone flocks there, when not everyone flees. Prague provides the convenience that everything works, no strange plugs, free wireless connectivity (if at the oddest locations), a well-functioning extensive transport system, no phone troubles, no Spanish rule, no pain except for the tingling at your extremities.

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  1. Interesting post. I am from Denmark, which in this case isn´t so different from Norway. I reckon that the same pattern can be seen In Denmark – low priced airlines are doing their part, and a huge middle class with enough money to want to go abroad for the weekend.Personally i have done this for years. London and Amsterdam being my favourites – so I don´t suppose you can say that nice weather is the main thing for me ;-)Last spring I went to Norway – mainly because I wanted to walk in the “Hardangavidda” – which was nice. But i also spent two days in Oslo; I had never been there before and wanted to explore the city a bit. I have been driving my car in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Berlin – to name but a few. But I never experienced difficulties finding my way around a foreign city before I came to Oslo. It´s not because the size of the city – but the way the motorway system is consructed made me loose my orientation completely. Changing direction underground is a killer! Emerging on the surface after an underground merry-go-round, I didn´t know east from west anymore. I´ll never forget that! Oslo made a huge impression on me.


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