|September 27, 2010
We had a bit of a hectic morning today as my mum’s alarm didn’t go off as expected. We were up a bit later as a result and left later than we had planned. My dad was driving us to the airport and with the early morning traffic it could’ve easily taken us 3 or more hours to get there. Thankfully the traffic wasn’t too bad and we were at the airport around 10am for our 1pm flight. We had plenty of time to check in, grab some breakfast and a bottle of wine in duty free for tonight and catch up with some travel journaling!
The flight was just over 2 hours and left about 45 minutes late. We were both glad we had food at the airport as they didn’t serve a meal on the plane (which we were expecting; thanks BA!) and we were both really hungry by the time we landed. We knew Norway was going to be expensive and with the airport being almost 50km from the city it was no surprise when the single train tickets to the central station cost almost $20 each! The journey was only about half an hour and we soon found ourselves at the large central station trying to find our bearings and our hostel! We’d managed to grab a couple of maps at the airport and found our hotel was less than 10 minutes walk from the station and we were soon checked in there, too. We were in an 8-bed dorm room but unlike some we’d seen recently this one was a good size and we had plenty of space for our bags.
We didn’t have much time to stop though as we were meeting one of Elizabeth’s old friends for dinner at his apartment. She had met Martin over 10 years ago and hadn’t seen him since. When we decided we were coming to Oslo she had emailed him for any tips on what to do and see and he had invited us over for dinner and also to his parent’s cottage this weekend. He lived on the far side of the city from us but we decided to walk as we thought we could do with the exercise. Unfortunately, the route given to us by Google took us along a tunnel with no pavements so we had to look for an alternative! The walk took us about 45 minutes so we were grateful we found the address easily and were welcomed with a nice refreshing gin and tonic! It was of course the first time I had met Martin but we had a really great evening with a lovely home-cooked lasagne and the bottle of wine we had bought with us. We also got to meet his flat-mate and plan for the weekend and before we knew it the time was well past 11pm. Not wanting to walk for 45 minutes again, Martin showed us the very close subway station which took us back to the central station in under 10 minutes – much quicker than walking and a lot less effort! We both had a great evening and were really looking forward to the weekend, too but right now we were both looking forward to some sleep!
September 28, 2010
Today was our first full day in Oslo but neither of us was in a rush to get out of bed, choosing a long lie-in over an early start! By the time we did finally emerge it was almost lunchtime and we decided to treat ourselves (i.e. not have a sandwich but eat at a restaurant!). We found an Indian restaurant which did a lunchtime buffet and was only a 10 minute walk or so from the hostel so we made that our first stop for the day. We were pleased to find at least a couple of other customers eating there but we wouldn’t have been deterred had it been empty or packed. It smelt good in there and we were so hungry by this point and we tucked in. We ordered a naan to accompany our curries and between us we tried all four of the dishes on offer. These were chicken, vegetable, chick pea and lentil versions with the vegetable being both the most spicy and the most enjoyable, for us at least! Unlike Denmark and Sweden, most restaurants in Norway offer free drinking water if you order food so at least we were able to have a drink with our lunch without feeling like we were paying $7 for a small Coke! We soon left there suitable stuffed and although it cost us over $30 for both of us it was worth every penny and set us up for a nice afternoon stroll.
We had decided to walk along the river in the city today and the weather had certainly helped us. It was a lovely bright day although it was quite cold in the shade but by the time we were walking around that didn’t matter too much. The riverside as we left the central area wasn’t particularly pretty and some of the areas looked a bit dodgy. Once we were clear of that area and heading north the area around the river brightened up and looked much more like we had expected. The park areas around the river were very clean and well kept and the flow of the river downstream even meant there were some small waterfalls along the way as we headed uphill. Along this stretch of river there were also lots of old buildings which looked like old factories and mills which had been converted and it certainly added to the scenery and made for a very enjoyable walk.
On the way back to the hostel we stopped for groceries picking up stuff for sandwiches (today was only a treat, after all!) and some soup for dinner tonight along with a couple of local beers to try and some other drinks. It didn’t take us long to get stuck into the soup either. The pleasant weather and clear skies here are quite misleading as it certainly isn’t warm and it was good to have something warm for dinner. The local beers, called Ringnes, were pretty good too. After watching a film on the laptop we were both feeling quite tired and so it wasn’t long before we were both in bed and dozing off!
September 29, 2010
The weather in Oslo was pretty good again today so we decided to visit a few more sights.
We started off at the City hall which is overlooking the harbour in the city. The city hall is where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year and it was very interesting to see the area although it was hard to imagine the empty hall full of dignitaries and the pictures around the wall of some ceremonies did not really do it justice either. The walls themselves are decorated with paintings depicting Norwegian history including their occupation during WWII. The initial designs didn’t include this but as the war interrupted the completion of the buildings, the main two artists changed their designs when they were finally able to continue their work. Interestingly, both had been arrested by the Germans and had been interred in concentration camps until liberation and, given the history of these camps, they were lucky to have survived. There was also a painting of a poet called Bjornson. Outside of Norway he is probably almost unknown but he was the man who is considered the “father of Norway” and composed their national anthem.
Outside the city hall we sat by the harbour and had some lunch. We were quickly surrounded by sparrows and gulls trying to steal our bread. I threw a few scraps down and the birds fought for them but one particular gull managed to amuse us by leaping into mid-air to catch the bread before it reached those birds on the floor! To be honest, the gull was actually annoying me and the first instance of viewing his catching skills was when I threw a big lump at its head in an attempt to make it go away. The cheeky bugger just caught it and after that I made sure he had to perform tricks for his lunch!
The next stop was the National gallery where we were looking forward to seeing some of the works of Edvard Munch, including the famous “Scream”. We were worried it would not be there as there had been a special exhibit at the Munch Museum over the summer and they had it shown there. We were wondering if it had made it back to its proper home quickly enough for us but it appears there may well be two copies of the picture, anyway! Most of the art was by Scandinavian artists and was mostly landscapes and portraits, neither of which interested me greatly. It didn’t take us long to reach the Munch room and the Scream looked amazing close up. The colours are a lot more contrasted than the reproductions you see and it was one of those works which jumps out from a collection. There were also other famous pieces there I had seen before including Munch’s depiction of the Madonna (not the singer!) which was just as impressive as the Scream. I still preferred the latter though!
As we headed through the city earlier we had passed the cathedral and Elizabeth wanted to have a look inside. We decided to stop in there on the way back but it wasn’t much to look at inside really. Apart from some funky organ playing there was little of note in here with even the stained-glass windows being a bit boring!
For dinner I managed to conjure up a vegetable stir-fry. We hadn’t had anything like that for a while and it made a change from the pasta and chilli dishes I’d been making!
September 30, 2010
We were certainly lucky with the weather in Oslo and despite today being colder than the day before it was still a lovely sunny day. We walked to the Opera House and there we were able to walk up onto the roof to get some nice views over the harbour and the city. From there we followed the harbour around to the fortress. The walk was not the greatest or most scenic as much of the harbour in this area is working harbour and so there were lots of unsightly buildings and trucks milling around everywhere. Combined with a load of road works, this area was certainly not your average tourist walk!
We stopped first at the fortress visitor centre and here they had an exhibit on Bjornson and his life. He was not only involved in fighting Norway’s corner but often got involved in international debates and issues, too. The translated words of the national anthem were also shown and were quite up-lifting, unlike the rubbish us English (and Brits, too) have to put up with. We saw a small brochure pointing out a couple of art installations around the fortress so as the fortress itself was closed we thought we’d have a wander around and try to find them. The first of these was a list of names and words and countries all with the common theme relating to war and peace. The countries listed were all countries who are currently at war from Palestine to Tibet to USA and Afghanistan although it was amazing how many African countries were listed and how long some of these have deemed to have been at “war”! The second exhibit was supposed to be a scary, darkened cavern with spooky silhouettes inside. What I saw was much different – I saw a couple of torchlights, a disk circling with funny metal shapes on it. It wasn’t really creating much of a silhouette and certainly wasn’t scary or spooky! In fact, the most interesting thing we saw at the fortress was a woman taking a walk with her pet. This might not sound unusual normally but this time the pet happened to be a pig!
Our next stop, after lunch by the small lake in the fortress, was the Modern Art Museum. It seemed we’d picked a bad time to be in Oslo as a lot of museums and galleries seemed to be changing their exhibits from summer to winter. The Munch Museum was completely shut whilst we were there and this art museum was changing exhibits on the first floor meaning we only had one exhibit upstairs to look at, called “Goddess”. Goddess was god-awful. The point behind the exhibit was to show art created solely by women. In truth it was feminine bullshit, created by an illusion that these women weren’t recognised by the art world and most galleries around the world showed a small percentage of art by women. The artists and the signs around the museum were typically anti-male and seemed like pre-menstrual rants about how women artists were second class citizens. In reality, the “art” was of a poor quality and yes, it was that weird unexplainable contemporary stuff that means nothing to anyone but the artist but it was still rubbish. And that isn’t a sexist view, either. Joseph Bueys is rubbish. Cy Twombly is rubbish. Of course, this is all just my opinion and I’m sure many people would’ve liked and appreciated the displays here but neither Elizabeth nor I can be counted amongst those many people. In fact, the pro-feminist slant pissed Elizabeth off, too. In many ways these are the kind of women who would be angry about anything. Put them in an empty room and they’d argue with the wall. Those kind of characters. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of men like that as well but the male version causes fights in a pub on a Friday night while the female version just rants about the down-treading of the female of the species. One particular example gave a sarcastic list of “great” reasons why being a female artist was so good and it included things such as having to work extra jobs to make a living and never having to worry about career getting in the way of mother-hood. Do these “artists” not realise that these aren’t problems that solely they have? Do they not also realise that THEY chose their “career” path and that most male artists struggle to get noticed and make any money, too. For fuck’s sake, Vincent bloody van Gogh didn’t make any money on his paintings during his life and only the hard work of his brother’s wife after his death made his name as well known and world renowned as it is now. Many of the artists who we spend time admiring nowadays made a pittance during their lives and only became famous after death so why should these women, or any artist in fact, expect everything handed to them on a plate? As you might have gathered, we were not impressed!
Walking back we went past the city hall again and headed to Aker Brygge, a rejuvenated area by the side of the harbour packed with posh restaurants and way too expensive bars. We had picked up a little budget handbook at one of the tourist information centres and it listed what you should expect to pay for a regular beer. At the lower end it said that anything below 40 Krone (about $7) was a bargain, 50-65 Krone ($8-11) was normal and anything above 75 Krone ($13!!!) was way too pricey. You might’ve guessed already but just to make it really clear the bars we found in Aker Brygge were offering a beer for a bargain price of around, yup, 75 Krone! We decided to pass and using the budget guide we found some cheaper options to relax and grab and beer. The cheapest of the lot was described in the book as “skanky” so we skipped over that one but we saw one which did 3 beers for 100 Krone. It didn’t say what beer and what size but we thought we had little to lose!
We dropped my camera back at the hostel and crossed over the river to find this cozy bar called Rye’s. The bar was decorated with lots of American nick-naks and was supposed to resemble an American diner. We didn’t feel bad venturing here though as it was busy with locals and had cheap beer! They only served one beer and that was the Ringnes we had tried before and so I ordered three of those. They should’ve been 47 Krone each so you basically got the third one for free! Looking around the bar, just about every person had three glasses in front of them so it was obviously a popular deal! If only we’d known about it sooner! We sat and drank our beer and had a read through some of our guide book trying to work out what we wanted to do over the coming few weeks and, quite importantly, Christmas and New Year. It still seems like a way away but with needing to book hotels and transport we need to arrange some of this stuff fairly soon. The thought of Christmas must’ve got me a bit over-excited as I managed to spill half of one of the beers over Elizabeth and the floor so I guess our 3 for 100Kr deal didn’t work out quite as good as it should have!
Back at the hostel we used our remaining veggies and noodles to make another stir-fry but the sauce we had today (teriyaki) was quite bland and we were grateful that some of the people staying in our dorm had been to McDonald’s for breakfast this morning and had leftover salt and pepper sachets!