Fjordian Slip: Welcome to Norway
Scandinavia Part Two
Norway is what you should picture in your mind when you think of Scandinavia. It’s quintessential Scandinavia. It’s like how when Americas picture Germany (beer halls, lederhosen, folk dancing) they area really picturing the province of Bavaria. All of Germany isn’t darting around in lederhosen, but that‘s the image we have. Norway is like that; it’s concentrated, distilled, Nordic culture. It’s Vikings, fjords, and frighteningly inhospitable landscapes not so much tamed as just dealt with. The country was built, maybe more like carved, out of a starkly beautiful - but deadly - landscape by people that obviously still had several pints of Viking blood coursing throughout their veins. It also makes manifest how much I lack any Viking-ness, despite my fair skin and blue eyes. As I wrap my scarf snugly around my neck, sip my hot mocha latte, and bemoan how cold it was on the walk through the city square (where many of the sidewalks are heated to keep the ice at bay)I think ; no, I wouldn’t have made it as a Viking. But, I certainly could make it as a modern day Norwegian.
Because Norway is fantastic, even if it is one of the most expensive places in the world to visit. Everything is somehow more expensive than you would think (especially alcohol - Norwegians love drink, and it’s kind a problem, like it is for most of Scandinavia) especially for things commonly used by tourist, like hotels and taxis. Despite all this, and the high tax rate the Norwegians have, they still managed to rank as some of the happiest people in the world. I suppose the world class cities, combined with world leading social services, and heavily subsidized healthcare, and rich natural resources help a bit. Also, they come in second in the world for per capita coffee consumption, behind only Finland, so it’s already a place after my own caffeine soaked heart.
I landed in Oslo, the gorgeous, high tech capital city, which was still partially covered in snow. The high speed train drops you off into a city that blends old European charm (not THAT old, by European standards) and modern contemporary architecture is immediately appealing and right up my alley. From the gorgeous opera house that guards the harbor's, to homes and high-rises that dot the city, there’s plenty to look at. It’s also a very hilly city, especially coming from the Florida-like flatness of Copenhagen. Renting a bike might not be the best choice here, not with the great public transit and overall walkable size of the city.
The city hosts a booming foodie scene (the Scandinavian culinary revolution that started in Denmark has by all accounts spread through the greater Nordic region), great museums, and plenty of entertainment for any tourist. The only downside to the visit was that the National Gallery, which holds the famous Edvard Munch painting, The Scream, was closed as the collections were being moved the brand new location, opening next year. I’m so bummed, I could scream. But I didn’t. Ha.
Still, there is plenty to see and do, and with a couple nice days free of freezing rain, I channeled my inner Viking and tried to spend the time outside exploring. Failing at that, I headed to some museums.
While the Viking Museum is fun, the Fram is where I would spend most of the time. It’s a museum and tribute to polar exploration as well as a showcase of some of the toughest bastards you probably have not heard of. People like Roald Amundsen, who - among other things- led the first expedition to cross the Northwest Passage, the first expedition to reach the South Pole, survived polar bear attacks, and purposefully let his ship get frozen in the ice to drift with the ice across the North Pole. He perished during a rescue mission for another ship, and reading about him makes me wonder what I’m going to be remembered for.
Probably not for fighting off polar bears, and I’ll just have to be okay with that.
My last stop the day was the Vigeland Park, the world’s largest sculpture park made by one person. It’s open year round and a blast to visit. If it’s nice out, it’s worth the walk to get there, but if not, the tram stops right in front. The sculpture are … art, I’m pretty sure, but a great spot to take photos and go for a stroll. Copenhagen was great, but if you squint a little, not even that much, it could be Amsterdam, or maybe even (if you squint a little more) Stockholm. That’s not a bad thing, but Oslo won’t ever be mistaken for any other city. I’ll back when it’s not so damn cold and wet. So that one week in August, I’m guessing:)
Where I Stayed: City Box Oslo - Great Little high tech hotel in the center of the city near the train. Tiny rooms, but you should be out exploring anyways.
How I got here: Quick flight from Copenhagen, $99 on SAS. Or was it Norwegian?
Vigeland Park and the full gallery below.