Oslo: The A-Team Reunited

September 6, 2016 - 7:36 pm No Comments

Emerging from Oslo Central Station, the streets were filled with people who were smiling, laughing, going places. Street performers played music and danced on flattened cardboard boxes. Norwegian flags hung from buildings. Homeless people sitting on either side of the pedestrian streets. There is an energy here that Stockholm didn’t have.

The Airbnb apartment that we booked for Oslo was not ready yet, so we parked ourselves at a pub for a drink and a bite. We saw a bunch of people walking around with German soccer jerseys, and a quick look online revealed that there was a match between Norway and Germany that night. We decided to go for it and splurged on some tickets.

But before the game, we headed to Martine’s place for dinner. Martine is Jerry’s Norwegian wife, and the whole reason Jerry is here in Oslo. Her family lives in Asker, a small town just outside of Asker and a short train ride away. Jerry had no idea that Doug made the flight over, so when Doug showed up with me and Conrad, it was quite a surprise. The A-Team was finally reunited.

After dinner, we headed down to Ullevaal Stadion for the soccer match. Doug and Jerry are huge soccer fans, so this was quite a treat for our first night in Norway. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me into the stadium with my camera because it was a “professional” camera, so the others went in while I spent a half hour being led around by incompetent ushers and security guards and circling the stadium looking for the ticket office to store my photo gear for the game. Missing the national anthems and the first few minutes of the game for this pissed me off.

Germany v. Norway at Ullevaal Stadion

On the way home, we spent $57 on a short taxi ride. The lesson is to not take a taxi in Scandinavia if there’s traffic.

Over the next couple of days, Martine and her father took us around Oslo to see the sights. Her father had some insider Norwegian knowledge for us and explained that the name Norway comes from the old English words for “northern way”. The temperature changes here are remarkable. Direct sun in the middle of the day is quite warm, but when it goes behind clouds later in the afternoon, it gets downright chilly. Layered clothing is key in Oslo.

The Boys with Bronze Statues of Norwegian Explorers

First stop was the Kon-Tiki Museum, dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl, the famous Norwegian explorer and adventurer who sailed the open sea on a raft for 101 days in an attempt to prove that human migration could have occurred from South America westward. Modern DNA methods (which could have saved Thor a lot of trouble) reveal that migration probably occurred in both directions.

Kon-Tiki at the Kon-Tiki Museet

And then to the Viking Ship Museum, which featured the remains of ships, pieces of weapons, and tattered pieces of clothing that have been excavated from Viking burial mounds along the Norwegian coast.

Oseberg at the Viking Ship Museum

Oseberg at the Viking Ship Museum

Gokstad at the Viking Ship Museum

Then the Norsk Folkemuseum, a plot of land with reconstructions of traditional Norwegian houses, barns, and churches.

Gol Stave Church

Inside Gol Stave Church

Inside Gol Stave Church

The Boys at Norsk Folkemuseum

Traditional Homes at Norsk Folkemuseum

The Akershus Fortress, built as a castle and prison in the 13th century, had creepy little girl sculptures all over it.

Sculpture at Akershus Fortress

Sculpture at Akershus Fortress

Sculpture at Akershus Fortress

After a busy day of walking around, the Oslo Opera House was a nice place to finish. We parked ourselves on the promenade that makes up the building’s roof and watched the sun fade behind the clouds over the Oslofjord.

Oslo Opera House

War Requiem at Oslo Opera House

The Boys at Oslo Opera House

The next day, we headed to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Ski Jump Tower, which was used for the 1952 Olympics. It’s still used for competitions in the winter, but it’s pretty quiet during the summer, with a few tourists walking around and taking the elevator to the top for some views over Oslo. In the museum, I learned that humans have been skiing for five thousand years, and that battles in the snow were won by Norwegians on skis over Swedes on horses during the Napoleonic Wars between 1807 and 1814.

Me at Holmenkollbakken


Elevator in Holmenkollbakken

Jerry, Oliver, and Me at Holmenkollbakken

Then to Vigeland Sculpture Park, a huge plot of land filled with fun and intricate stone sculptures by Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland.

Vigeland Monolith

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Angry Boy at Vigeland Sculpture Park

Frogner Park

Our last stop was the Royal Palace, home to Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja. The lack of security around the palace and everywhere else in Oslo is strangely comforting.

Royal Palace

Oslo seems to be the melting pot of Scandinavia. Because of multicultural nature of the city, hard for me to distill a Norwegian look. The locals I’ve been able to pick out look more or less like the Swedes. But I have to challenge the survey results showing these people to be the happiest in the world. If, by happiest, they mean the fewest problems and the fewest enemies, then I’m on board. But I’m not sure that’s the best definition of the word. To me, happy people show a passion to be alive, find enjoyment in just about everything they do, and share an excitement for their sports or their arts or their country. The people of Scandinavia don’t have any of that. The people of Italy and Brazil seem much happier to me.

On our last night, we decided to treat ourselves to an authentic Norwegian dinner of reindeer, moose, whale. Reindeer and moose both taste like your standard red meat, perhaps a bit more like lamb than steak. Whale is dark, a little dry, and feels a bit pasty in the mouth. Not quite as good.

Wine Toast at Rorbua

As vibrant as the Oslo city center seemed during the day, the city is dead at night. To be fair, we were in Oslo on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. But even so, it’s a pretty big city, and we were shocked that we couldn’t find a bar or a club with any life. We even went to the neighborhoods the locals recommended and found nothing. Our nightlife has resorted to visiting the pathetic strip club next door to our apartment. Bottom line, Oslo is not a place you come to for fun.

At the crack of dawn tomorrow, we head off to explore the fjordlands on our Norway in a Nutshell tour. For three days, we’ll be taking trains and buses and boats through the mountains and fjords of western Norway.

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