Travelling means different things often. Some travel for a holiday, others like us to discover the world. What is the difference you wonder? Well, travelling for a holiday often means a lovely relaxed break at a luxurious spa or resort in a scenic location. Travelling to discover the world? Well, that means lugging backpacks, hunting for bargains for rooms, tickets and even the best ways to move around. That often means that you get back home, in need to soak your feet, pamper your skin and with a backpack of clothes to wash…but what makes it worth it is the memories that you come back with. New places, new discoveries and most importantly…people and seeing their countries to their eyes. Following their suggestions, discovering the local quirks and secrets and concluding that this world is not as bad as the politics that sour it. It is true that most European capitals begin to resemble each other, differing just a tad bit in grandeur and scale. But that should be no reason to feel been there..done that now, should it?
So here we are in Oslo…braced for a boring city, as reiterated by several friends who have been here before and surprisingly, guide books too. Friendly tip 1: Ditch pre-c0nceived notions. Take all the advice on where to travel and how to travel till you actually begin the journey.
Once the travels begin, let yourself be surprised and overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Don’t let someone else’s experience be your guiding bible.
We crossed over from Copenhagen to Oslo in a cruiseliner. Woke up to a sunny but slightly nippy day and clambered to the topmost deck to experience the scenic crossing of the Oslofjord into the bustling city.
Highly recommended, but remember to carry Norwegian currency. The last point that they accept Danish Kroners are on the cruiseliner. That said the city centre, Jerbanetorget, is not too far away. You can find money exchanges there. Friendly tip 2: You are better off without paper currency. Use the card, pay online. If you are from countries where you need to convert your currency first into USD, GBP or the Euros, perish the thought.
Oslo is a relatively small, cosy city. Walk around. If you have a couple of days, grab the Oslo pass. It gives you access to museums and various modes of public transport including the train, tram and the buses. But look hard at what you want to do in Oslo and select your pass accordingly. Most museums in the Oslo city are shut on Mondays. And on Thursdays, entry to their lovely National museum is free. ( Thank me later!)
What were my absolute favourites:
- Walking around on a bright and sunny day along the main tree-lined Karl Johann’s gate and realising several of Oslo’s landmarks are on that very road!
- Sitting on a bench, eavesdropping on the conversations of elderly Afghani men trying to follow snatches of their conversations while the Oslo Jazz Festival played in the background.
- Sipping a glass of Claude de Val Blanc in a restaurant set in the oldest house in Christiania – the town built by Christian IV. Oslo was known as Christiania up till the early 20th century, the Norwegian king Haakon secured Norway as a separate kingdom from Sweden.
- Watching the Oslo harbour from atop the Akershus Festning. Take a book and grab a bench and just spend a couple of hours dividing your time between reading and staring at the blue blue seas and skies
- The ferry trip to Bygdoy – the museum island to take in the Viking museum, Kon-tiki museum and Maritime museum.
- Trudging through one of the biggest and prettiest cemeteries and nearly getting lost there, while on our way to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. The sculpture park was a sight to behold and to think, one sculptor sculpted and designed the mammoth park.
- Some quiet time spent wandering through the Nobel Peace Center and the powerful messages of peace and reconciliation.
- I haven’t even got to the Munchmuseet – that hosts the second largest collection of Edvard Munch’s paintings after the Oslo National Museum. It is tiny and while we were there, I discovered the work of Jasper Johns.
- Ohhh..and our Air B&B hosts, William and Sofie who opened their home to us. They gave us a peek into the lives of the Norwegian. (Sofia is Swedish, but William believes Norwegians are the most adaptable of the Scandinavians!)
- Ohhh and talking about people, a big shout out to Gert too ( we talked for over 5 hours but never asked him his surname!) Gert, the retired electrician who was our co-traveller on our Oslo-Bergen train journey, pulled out all the reserves of his limited English vocabulary to tell us about Norway and its people. Final friendly tip: If anyone tells you that Norwegians are neither as friendly as the Danes or social, tell them that’s because you did not smile and say hello. Everyone acknowledges a friendly gesture..even the shy Norwegians!!
So next time someone says nothing much to do in Oslo…refer them to this post!!
(For more photos, check out our Instagram feed: travel kathas)