June 24-26, 2016
We got into Oslo a bit later than we had hoped for after a delayed flight, but the process upon landing was pretty simple. We found the Flytoget Express Train and took it to the Nationalthetret station. All we had to do was swipe our credit card at the turnstyle. We didn’t even get a ticket.
The train was quite full, so we sat on our luggage until we arrived 20 or 30 minutes later, I think after about three stops. We walked a few short blocks along the side of the park to our hotel, Hotel Christiania Theater that was in an absolutely perfect location. I really scored on this place, especially given the price. The only downfall was that there wasn’t any A/C, and it was unseasonably hot in Norway, but I suppose a lot of hotels don’t have A/C in the nordic country.
The extension of Slottsparken located directly in front of our hotel was home to the gay pride festival. After dropping off our luggage, we took a quick pass through this free event before we hung a right and headed toward the water front, only a few blocks away. Much to our surprise, some of the streets were barricaded and masses of people were lingering around listening to live music. We found out that some of the biggest Norwegian bands were playing at a free concert that is held once a year. Locals idled their boats in the harbor to listen while others held parties at their boat slips at the docks. Who knew we’d pick the weekend in Oslo when everything was happening.
We strolled the harbor and found a place for dinner, Louise Restaurant & Bar. It was a very popular seafood place. I think it drew some locals as well as plenty of tourists due to its location on the water along with several other restaurants. David was happy to get the seafood platter…his favorite. We shared the large dish. I can’t say it was the best I have ever had, but it was a nice meal and atmosphere. We enjoyed a relaxing evening and prepared to sight see tomorrow.
Since neither of us are the best at going to museums or castles, we looked for outdoor sightseeing activities. Trip Advisor suggested to see Nordsmarka, Holmenkollen and Sognsvann Lake. It was an easy 20 minute subway ride out of town. We made a few mistakes along the way, however. First, we bought a more expensive train ticket instead of a subway ticket. The lady at the snack shop in the station said we could still use it for the first hour, so that wasn’t too bad. Then upon the recommendation of some travelers on Trip Advisor, we took line 1 to the Frognerseteren station. If we had to do it over again, we might have picked the Holmenkollen stop or even gone all the way to Sognsvann Lake and walked uphill to Frognerseteren (more later).
There weren’t many signs upon exiting the subway, and we were basically trying to find a trail in the woods that took us to Sognsvann Lake. The woods were more like a cross country ski resort. Several trails led to different restaurants, lakes, and viewpoints in the Nordsmarka Wilderness Area. We stopped a few people to ask where to go, and in broken English (far better than our Norwegian), they told us the easiest way was to walk down this road.
We ended up walking to the ski jump that was used in the 1952 Olympics and has hosted the World Cup Ski Jumping Competition several times. The jump was enormous and is used for ziplining in the summer. We didn’t do this, but the whole complex made us realize why the Norwegians are so good at skiing! The roads around the area are marked for summer blading courses, so when there isn’t snow athletes skate around the courses. Ski trails are everywhere and there was even another ski jump where people practiced jumping in the summer. We actually watched someone jump!
After a short time at the ski jump, we ended up walking back up the road we had just walked down and stopped at the top of the hill at a restaurant with an awesome view of the fjords in the distance. This is where I wished we ended up for the day as opposed to starting for the day. From here we followed a maze of trails downhill to Sognsvann Lake. While it was easier to walk downhill through the lush forest on this humid day, we found the lake destination to be anti-climatic. It felt like we arrived at any city park with several people sitting around the lake and swimming.
I think it would have been fun to start at the lake and walk uphill to end the day on the patio at the restaurant to enjoy an amazing view. Regardless, it was nice to be able to explore the wilderness with only a 20 minute subway ride. It only took us about half a day to come and go, hike a few miles, and check out the ski jump. We could have easily turned into a full day had we really understood the area. But this gave us more time to explore Oslo, as we were only there for about two days. We ate lunch in the park across from the hotel and just as we prepared to leave the gay pride parade marched by us. The parade was pretty big and even the Oslo police participated in the marching.
The afternoon took us to Bygdoy Penninsula. We purchased tickets the Bygdoy Ferry. There were several ferry options and mini-cruises available to go near and far, but we just picked the ride that took us to he Viking Ship Museum and Polar Ship Museum and back. It was a hop on/off ferry that was diligent about checking tickets. On our ride over to Bygdoy, which can be seen from the harbor, we shared the ferry with several people attending a wedding!
We exited the ferry by more boat docks. David wants a sailboat, so we tried to go look at the boats at these docks, but they were much private and locked up so we wandered on to the Viking Boat Museum. As I said previously, neither one of us are big museum goers, so we were pleasantly surprised when we entered the main lobby (before paying), and we could see the boat on exhibit! No, we couldn’t enter the boat area and walk around it without buying a ticket, but we got a nice view, used the restrooms, and moved on in about five minutes! There is an Oslo Visitors Pass that covers subway rides and some entrances to museums and such, but we really needed to be there one more day for this to actually be beneficial.
After the Viking Museum, we wandered over to the Folk Museum and the nearby park, before we tired as we had basically been walking all day. We took the ferry to the next stop, but didn’t even get off the boat to see the polar expedition museum. We figured we got enough of that in Svalbard. We spent the evening wandering around the harbor again. Normally, I like to explore different parts of the city, but is was a nice, new area close to the hotel.
Our final day in the city felt like a whirlwind as we pounded the pavement. In the morning, we donned our rain jackets as we visited Damstredet and Telthusbakken, streets in the historical part of Oslo. The houses were quaint and cute and the streets narrow. We passed by a large garden, another park, and a beautiful cemetery along the way. We took a round about way back to the hotel and ended up strolling through Slottsparken by the Royal Palace.
After our stroll through the park, we stopped inside City Hall. We passed by it several times on our way to and from the harbor. The architecture from the outside made the building look quite boring, but David humored me and let me walk inside as I had heard it was worth the visit. It was. David even liked all the ornate rooms.
After a brief tour through City Hall, we took a long walk around the harbor to the Opera House. Along the way, we walked through the lovely grounds of the Akershus Fortress and marveled at the cruise ship docked next to it. There had to be 5,000 rooms on this boat. Also, in this area was a memorial to the MS Scandinavian Star. I must have been self-absorbed in college at this time. I had no idea the passenger ship was set on fire by the crew and 159 on board (about 1/3 of the people) were killed in 1990. The ship was burned for insurance fraud! Who could imagine the very people that are paid to protect passengers, set the ship on fire and abandoned it before the passengers could be helped to safety. I was just dumbfounded to learn this!?!
We eventually made it to the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet. This building was very cool and well worth the visit. We walked from the sidewalk right up the slanted roof to the top of the building where we looked out into the fjord. We really liked this! A late lunch called our name back at the harbor. The sky was still a bit overcast and rainy though we had some more time to kill before our evening flight.
Since David had visited Oslo as a kid, he decided he would just chill out while I took the subway to Vigeland Sculpture Park. He said he spent hours there when he was a teenager and didn’t want to go back. From the conversations I had heard, however, it seemed like a must see…that statues were everywhere. For some reason, I imagined sculptures just popping from the grass all over the place. It seemed unique. I was surprised when I got there to see absolutely lovely grounds. A groomed park with fabulous flowers and fountains and bridges with tons of statues! It was really pretty.
The park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. The park is home to more than 200 bronze, granite and wrought iron statues created by Gustav Vigeland. One of the statues on the bridge (there were like 58 or so), is of an angry boy. The layer of patina that turns bronze green from the reaction to the air had been rubbed off from people touching his hand. I thought perhaps there was some significance to this statue like it was good luck, but apparently people just want their picture next to it!
After seeing the gold colored hand, one tourist turned to her husband and said, “Look that statue is bronze.” He responded, “They are all bronze.” I’m sorry, but I had to laugh at her comment. And she wasn’t blonde!
Fortunately for me, it didn’t rain while I was at the park. I made it back to the subway after stopping to watch an American Football game (of all things) for a few minutes before the drizzle came. This was my last tourist stop in Oslo before we headed toward home. While we enjoyed an uneventful trip to Norway, returning wasn’t quite the same. We landed in London late. Stood in the immigration line for at least 1.5 hours while two of the three agents went on break. It was truly pitiful. And when they came back, two of three agents took forever to let people through. David made it through the line before me and while he waited he could see the computer screen at the desk I was at. He asked me what took so long? The screen was blank! I guess the guy didn’t have anything better to do at midnight.
Sadly, at the international airport of this giant city, the trains between terminals shut down late at night, so it became rather difficult to get to the Hilton Hotel at a different terminal. After a bus ride and an entry through an employee area, we finally checked in. I think it took us three hours from landing to get through immigration and to the hotel at the airport! This was all during Brexit by the way though I doubt that made a difference.
Our next flight to the states was rough at best. We again boarded the decrepit 747 operated by British Airways. We were several hours late, but have no idea why because we couldn’t understand anything announced on the PA system. Fortunately there wasn’t an emergency. The movie screens clicked in and out and it had to be 80 degrees on the plane with no way to adjust the temperature. For those who know me, everybody knows I am generally freezing on a plane. I felt sorry for other passengers. But all and all, it was a good trip, and I’m glad I could visit the arctic and Norway. ETB
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