Gosh so I’m back from Oslo!
I left early Saturday morning, and, I admit, as my alarm went off at 05:50 I did have a big feeling of despair and wondered if I should just hibernate in my flat all weekend and not go.
I couldn’t do that. Stephanie Scott is not a defeatist!
So off I went.. 06:25 I was in the car off to Stansted and boarded my early flight.
I was terrified of landing and having to navigate to Oslo Central alone. I was due to land at Oslo Rygge which was an hour’s drive away from the city! But I made it! Proudly I brought my return coach ticket, silently doubting I’d remember where to catch the bus back from on my return.
The scenery was beautiful on the drive. Just so much greenery, trees and woodland everywhere! I’d already decided the trip would be disappointing if I didn’t spot a moose.
I did have to use Google Maps to get to the apartment from the station. Never mind! It did get me there quickly, and my host, Renald, welcomed me into his home, gave me the keys and we got to know each other. The other host, Henrick, was off visiting family in Helsinki, Finland. Renald ran through a map with me showing me what’s best to do.
He had just finished baking banana cake as I walked in. It smelled amazing. A tiny part of me was wary - I’d just come into a stranger’s home and immediately accepted coffee and cake off him - there could have been anything inside it! But I’m glad I did - it was beautiful. I figured I’d be out in a busy place by the time anything would kick in, so I’d be OK!
It was already approaching 2pm so I headed straight out.
First job - find stuff. I walked to Karl Johan’s Gate, the most touristy street, and did a spot of shopping. (Didn’t buy anything - though almost bought a bikini that, using my confused maths skills, I thought was £6, but actually was £60. Whoops. That would have been a third of my spending money gone.)
Whilst wandering around I saw the impressive buildings of the National Theater, the huge university building and the Royal Palace from afar. The fountains down Karl Johan’s Gate were beautiful and full of people wading around.
I bought myself an Oslo Pass. For £30 I would get travel included for train, Metro, tram and boat, and free entry to all of the museums I wanted to go to. Seemed like a bargain!
The weather was beautiful, hot and sunny. All websites reckoned this would be the only day of sunshine - the rest held rain and storms. So, wanting to make the most of the beaut weather, I headed straight to the Radhusplassen pier to catch a boat trip. I had half an hour to kill before the next cruise. Scanning my map, I realised the Nobel Peace Centre was two minutes away (free entry, thanks Oslo Pass).
I admit, I do get a bit bored around museums, and, though they often make me feel cultured and make a trip worthwhile (as if I’ve engaged with the country rather than just drinking their bourbon), I do get bored easily and just want to get to the gift shop at the end.
This was different. I was actually amazed by a lot of the information throughout this ‘museum’. The start focused heavily on modern entities, such as social media, the psychology around its usage, and how affected it is by freedom of speech in different countries. I was moved by some of the exhibits, particularly some on different wars and chemical weapons warfare. Scary stuff.
The gift shop was pretty cool too. I was too stingy to buy a Nelson Mandela bracelet however.
Next, the boat trip. Two hours of going around the local fjords and viewing beautiful, remote islands on a cruise couriered by a young, yet hilarious, Norwegian girl. It was bliss in the sunshine. I took about a million photos, enough to annoy everyone with on Facebook later. We swept by some deserted islands, except for the occasional people diving in the cool water from its cliffs, feeling gutted I hadn’t brought my bikini.
One island of awesomely-huge summer houses was so clearly inhabited by several millionaires. I learnt that one owner, annoyed at having to walk down his short flight of stairs to get to his personal boat jetty, illegally carved into the cliff face and installed an elevator going right up into his house. He had to pay the government fines for it, but he could clearly afford to do so!
The boat pulled into the harbour at the end and there was loads of cheering and shouting in the air. Following the noise, I discovered huge open-air screens of the Argentina/Belgium World Cup game. It was so lively! People swarming everywhere, loads of beer and cider being drunk, burgers and chips being bought. Everyone was happy! I stayed for the first half then decided I should try and find some food.
I was told to steer clear of Karl Johan’s Gate - far too expensive. But I didn’t know where else to go. I wanted somewhere quiet where I could chill out and read my book. Off onto a side street (I admit I did stumble down it following tattoo studio signage), I discovered a cute little American diner-themed burger joint. It’s the sort of place my mum would have run away from, as it was empty except for two people sitting outside smoking, not eating. Mum would rather find a place buzzing with folk, with an hour wait for food! I’m more keen on finding hidden treasures. Just because no one else has discovered it doesn’t mean I can’t, right?
I was glad I trusted my instincts. I wandered in, and the menu had about three items on it, all in Norwegian. The hippie barman explained them to me. I wrinkled my nose at the vegetarian option - he must have understand my meaning, because he brought my burger out to me red and bloody. It was delicious. I would never have thought to put coleslaw in a burger before, but was it amazing. £15 burger. Worth every penny. Particularly as the only food I’d eaten all day was a hot dog. (although I’m not complaining, the ‘dog’ was spiralled in bacon).
Exhausted on only four hours sleep from the night previous, I happily gave up for the night about 8pm and walked back to the apartment, stopping to collect some breakfast for the next morning of berries and apple juice. I managed to get incredibly lost and found myself in a super dodgy area of Oslo. A bloke feigned to grab my crotch as I walked down the street! If it hadn’t been so busy I would have hit him! Not wanting to make a scene, I sidestepped, gave him the dirtiest look, and wandered off fast.
I was a bit nervy sleeping. No lock on my room, the best I could do was to put my bags inside the door hoping if someone tried to open it, the noise would wake me. However I was too tired to worry about it for long. It started storming, but even the lightning through the thin curtains couldn’t stop me sleeping.
Until 10:30 I slept! Shit! Considering I only managed one museum and a boat trip yesterday, I had a lot planned for the day.
Expecting rain, I was thrilled to see sunshine again and decided I should do the most outdoorsy plans I had.
To start with, the Sunday market. I stabbed in Bla Grunerlokka into Google Maps…and it led me to the infamous Sunday Market of Oslo. Except it was about eight stalls, and half of them were only selling food.
Disappointing, but on the way there I did come across The Pop Museum. Despite my research, I had no idea it was in this area. So I popped it…and was pleased to find everything was in Norwegian, as it meant I could just look at the photos.
I even recorded my own version of Livin On A Prayer whilst there in one of their recording studios! So, despite my communication issues, it was good.
Akershus Fortress and Castle was on my list next. It’s at quite a height and showed me some beautiful views of the water and islands, as well as the mountains behind Oslo. The castle was, well, a castle. It wasn’t outrageously cool, but I would definitely recommend doing it as it felt like an important part of Norway’s heritage.
My weather app suggested rain in a couple of hours, so I ditched my idea of visiting the Armed Forces Museum and headed straight to Bygdoy Island, or Museum Island. It involved another boat trip and I planned on checking out the beaches whilst there alongside the museums.
The Norwegian Folk Museum was surprisingly interesting, and I learnt a bit about Samis and Reindeer Nomads. I can’t really remember about either but it felt interesting at the time. I saw some traditional folk dancing, stroked a horse and wandered around a cabin that had an entrance that looked like the Ooga Booga character from Crash Bandicoot. It felt nice to go to an open-air museum as opposed to a stuffy indoor one.
Next, the Viking Museum. I was pleased it was small as I had lots left to do! It had three huuuuge viking ships, and I was actually amazed how long these things had lasted after being dug up from the sea! It was super impressive and I was eager to get a selfie with a viking boat in the background.
The Kon Tiki Museum was next, just a ten minute walk away. Again it was small, and I was shocked to learn that this bloke, Kon Tiki, actually built boats out of, well basically wicker, and sailed huge oceans on them. I stared miraculously at one of the rebuilds wondering ‘well that won’t go anywhere’, thinking of my old bathroom wicker bin. But I suppose it did otherwise they wouldn’t have made a museum out of it.
Whilst browsing the gift shop, a bus pulled up outside. Without thinking, I made a run for it and jumped on, only asking it’s destination once it had started moving. Phew, it was going to Huk Beach.
When I jumped off, a young girl was selling strawberries at the stop. I bought some, only realising after that they cost me £4.70. I’m terrible at this currency converter thing. It makes it worse that, to convert Krona to Sterling, you only need divide by 10.
I found a beach (hmmpff, actually the first beach I found was a nudist beach, it’s a sore point, I’d rather not revisit that memory..) and sat and ate strawberries, kicked at the sand and enjoyed the sunshine.
A visit to the Polar Fram Museum (again, another big boat that sailed around the Arctic), and back on the cruise for Oslo Central.
It was 17:30 and light was fading. A quick Google showed me that my main interest of the trip, to get up in the mountains, specifically via the Holmenkollen Ski Museum, opened until 20:00. I jumped on the Metro for the first time and took the half hour uphill journey towards the mountains.
Being at the top of the ski slope, I think I was actually pretty much at the top of Oslo. The scenery was beautiful and you could see for miles everywhere. I enjoyed a Latte at the top, taking loads of photos, wondering if next time I visit I should stay in one of the local hotels here.
Food was on my mind, and I had read about a small restaurant along the beautiful Aker Brygge quayside that had some traditional Norwegian food. I wasn’t disappointed when I found it and quickly ordered the fillet of whale, with mushroom stew and lingonbery sauce. It £35 for that, a Coke and a tip, but absolutely worth it for the experience. It tasted very similar to steak, so wasn’t outrageously different, but I was glad I tried it. The other option was reindeer, but that was even more expensive! I think it previously had moose on the menu too.
It was about 10pm, and I wanted a drink with a nice, night-time view.
Silly me. It stays light until gone midnight here. My ideal night was to head up to a super high-up bar and have a cocktail whilst taking in the lights of Oslo. I found a 21st floor bar in the Radisson Blu hotel, but it was still light! Still, I enjoyed a bourbon and ginger ale cocktail overlooking the tall buildings, the ‘Corporate Oslo’. Shortly after, I found a rock bar, had a cider, then realised it was midnight, I was slightly drunk (yes I am a lightweight now, what of it?) and I had a long day ahead of me.
I headed to the apartment and slept.
My final morning here, I got up quickly and headed out, again pleased it was sunny but aware storms were forecasted for later.
Renald recommended the Vigeland Sculpture Park I had dismissed, thinking it might be boring. But, with nice weather, I thought it’d be worth a shout. I’m so glad I visited as it was beautiful! Loads of weird naked statues, and some amazing grounds. I people-watched for a bit and saw some Asian ladies doing tai-chi, and a jazz busker. Popping in for lunch and a coffee in the shop, it suddenly started absolutely nailing it down outside. I made a judgement call and made a run for the station - and actually thieved a tray from the cafe to use as cover. I had no umbrella! I still feel like a criminal. But the tray has Moomins all over it, I’m in love!
I had to head home to ditch the evidence and meant to pick up an umbrella. I forgot.
I headed back out to do some more sightseeing but the rain was so heavy, so I took shelter in the Hard Rock Cafe (yessss think this is the 12th European one I’ve visited? Only 27 to go..) for a coffee and read until it died down. I had time for one last stop - the Opera House. It’s incredible - it has a massive glass wall with a huge slanted white marble roof you can walk all over. Many photos of the building and selfies in the glass later, and it was time to go.
I packed, handed the keys back to Renald and said my goodbyes.
The journey back to the airport was uneventful, except for a terrifically annoying toddler that wouldn’t stop singing. A few hours later and I touched ground in Stansted.
It was an amazing trip - I crammed in so much in the space of just over 48 hours. Would I go again? Maybe. I think I’ve done everything I wanted to do in Oslo. If I went back to Norway I’d absolutely go to Bergen in the winter, for the spectacular views of the snowy mountains. My boss also suggested Lofoten which is meant to be incredible. I’d only want to revisit if there was a chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
Okay, I didn’t spot a moose on my trip. But then I didn’t go enough into the mountains to see one. It was still amazing, and definitely not disappointing.
I highly recommend Oslo as a travel destination. If not mid-winter, then mid-summer. If you can, stay in a summer house on the islands and you’ll have the whole fjord as your swimming pool!