Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 35-36: Oslo, Norway: expensive and cold, but nice

Oslo is the capital of Norway. That’s where most people’s knowledge of the country mostly ends. It’s not Europe’s most popular destination as Ryanair’s ¾ empty flight from Berlin shows, however it is a pleasant place to visit for a couple of days.

The journey begins with amazing views from the airplane as you approach the airport (Rygge), a lot of half-frozen islands will present themselves to your view and it might be one of the best landscapes I’ve seen from a plane apart from maybe only the Alps.

Weather: Norway is not a warm country by any means, however what you should know is that Oslo’s dry and sunny -15C actually feels better than Berlin’s cloudy chilly 0C. There is no wind, or at least there wasn’t any when I was there, and I could easily afford walking for 5-6 hours straight without actually even being cold. Of course the usual winter set of a hat, scarf and gloves is required, however you might be surprised how comfortable this weather feels.

Expenses: be prepared to cash out. Coffee and a muffin to go will cost you at least 4.5EUR. My trip to the grocery store saw me empty my wallet for 13EUR and all I bought was 0.5kg mushrooms, some grated cheese and crisps. But I suppose it doesn’t hurt to remember that also is the world’s most expensive city before you book those plane tickets.

Transport: a 24-hour transport pass will cost you about 9EUR. But I wouldn’t recommend splurging on it, because you can freely walk in Oslo from point A to point B without even starting to get tired. That’s why I didn’t really understand why the transport network had to be so extensive in the downtown area as the city is flat and the distances are not long.

The main street of Oslo is Karl Johans gate, it starts directly at the main train/bus station and leads up to the Royal Palace, which, by the way, is the most boring Palace that I have ever seen in my life (I won’t be bothered to even post a picture of it). The exterior doesn’t make it different from any other building in the city, it’s just big, so maybe that’s why they call it a Palace. Akershus Festning, on the other hand, is a location worth stopping by: it is an old fortress that is partially used by the Ministry of Defense at the present time (you'll be amazed by the shabby old buildings that they are based in) and is not only interesting looking itself, but it also presents some great views of the Oslofjord bay.

The Opera House is an interesting building that you can actually walk on. The roof starts at the ground and goes up to the level of the ceiling over the stage. Not far from the central station you can see the Oslo Cathedral, but blink and you won't notice it, it's a small church that looks very tame.

I went to Oslo without reading any travel guides or information about the city and in the end I was glad I didn't, you don't really have to know a lot before you get it, everything is out there in the center, at the airport you should just pick up a free map and you're ready to explore.

Opera House

Breathtaking view from the Opera House


City Hall overlooking the bay

Akershus Festning


Norwegians plug their electric cars into sockets on parking lots, otherwise they won't start

Oslo has some of the fattest and biggest seagulls I have ever seen, they particularly enjoy crowding up on top of the Opera House


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