Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Our Lifestyle Adventures: Beginning our Nordic Experience in Oslo

Friday, May 23, 2014

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Beginning our Nordic Experience in Oslo

tulips at the Parliament Square
a Nordic farm at the Folk Open Air Museum
(Note: Technically, we have begun a Northern European ( Nordic + UK) Swing. Nordic refers to the five countries of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark (plus its territory, Greenland) and Iceland while Scandinavia only refers to the first three. UK refers to Scotland, Ireland, and England)  

Spot 'MALAYA' , what I added
on the Democracy Wall
of the Nobel Peace Center!
As intriguing as the term Nordic is, so is the name of the city of Oslo. It has two meanings, "meadow at the foot of a hill" or "meadow consecrated to the Gods".  It is in fact a meadow shaped like an amphitheater surrounded by hills beyond which are the magical fjords of Norway, a country with an astounding long coastline and abundant resources from the sea and the forests.  Oslo is Norway’s capital ranked number one in terms of quality of life in Europe in the Cities of the Future 2012 report. But in 2011 the city also ranked as the second most expensive city in the world, after Tokyo.

at the viking Museum, beside the third best preserved Viking Ship in the world, the Tune
RA II at the Kontiki Museum
As of January 2014 Oslo’s population stood at almost 650,000 with an SMSA of over 1.5M, the fastest growing major city in Europe, with an astonishing growth rate of nearly 2%. The largest minority is Pakistani but there are, I was happy to find out, almost 5,000 Filipinos. Considered one of the safest cities in the world, it has also admirably ranked, for the past 4 years, first in democracy index (US ranks #15 and the Philippines #55) based on 60 indicators grouped in 5 categories: electoral process, civil liberties, government functioning, political participation, and political culture.

Founded around 1000 AD as a trading place, it was elevated as a capital around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark until the early 1500s and with Sweden until the 1800s and a fire in 1624 may have reduced its influence in the past, but never its charm. We visited many attractions, some free and others using a 48 hour Oslo Pass priced at 425 kroner for me and 215 for Bill as a senior. Those translate to $78 and $39 which include both admission fees and public transport. The attractions that charge no admission can all be reached via Tram #12 whose Hausmann’s Gate Station is right in front of our hostel.

Akershus Castle and Sea fortress
Oslo Cathedral
Two blocks from the Central Station, 2 stops from us, is the iconic symbol of Oslo - the Oslo Cathedral. Three more stops away are the National Theatre and Parliament that are at two ends of a garden of colorful tulips, art works, and a pond with a fountain.  A block away towards the water is the City Hall with its twin towers. At the back of City Hall, you can stroll to the left around The Akershus Castle and Sea Fortress that guarded the city since 1299. Beyond the castle and fortress is the famous National Opera and Ballet which features the largest walkable roof in the world.
Norwegian National Opera and Ballet
largest walkable roof in the world

the central Obelisk at the Vigelund Sculpture Park
On the other side is Akker Brugge which begins with the Nobel Peace Center and ends with the Museum of Modern Art.  In between are many shops and boutique restaurants along the waterfront.  The Nobel Peace Center has an ongoing exhibit about the democratization of the world through social media. I had fun adding my own wire art ‘MALAYA’ onto the ‘Democracy Wall’. At the 2nd floor, a tribute to all Nobel Peace Prize winners was quite moving…electric candles on wooden sticks around a dark room. About 20 minutes away from the city center are the Vigelund Sculpture Park and the Oslo Museum. The former is the world’s largest park of a single artist with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. At the Oslo museum near the Park, there is a delightful 20 minute film of the city’s thousand years.

original Stave Chapel @ Folk Museum
One day we took the Ferry #91 at the back of City Hall for a 10 minute trip to Bygdoy, the southern peninsula of Oslo. First stop included both the Viking Museum which featured the third best preserved Viking ship in the world (the Tune) plus 2 other ships, and the Folk Museum which replicated apartment complexes of early 1900s Oslo, rebuilt Nordic farms, and the original Stave Chapel which had been relocated. We saw a replica of this chapel in Rapid City, South Dakota and were now happy to see the original. At the Ferry’s Stop #2, the Fram Museum displayed the ship, the Polar Fram, the first to reach the North Pole.  Also at that stop is the Kon-tiki Museum where the original raft that traveled from South America to the Easter Islands in 101 days is highlighted. The third, the Maritime Museum had the oldest 2,200 year-old dugout boat found off Norway’s coast.

the Polar Fram
Ice Bar and Gallery
One night we felt adventurous, trooped to the city center, stopped by the Ice Bar and Gallery, donned the heavy-duty hooded jackets and gloves, and braved -5 degrees Centigrade for some cool cocktails served in ice glasses. Not only was it a bar made of ice but it also replicated in ice some of Oslo’s great works of art. The last attraction we visited was the Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Tower where the record of 142 meters was set in 2011. Near the top is the Ski Museum that displays the history of skiing. This trip brought us almost to the end of Metro 1 and the top of a Norwegian hill which offered a lovely vista.

Ski Jump at Holmenkollen 
lunch at Akker Brugge
Had we not obtained our Oslo Passes, all the museums we went to would have cost us 1210 kroners, not including the cost of transportation. Thus we saved at least 1200 kroner ($200) in all, more if we had not grown museum-weary. We did not even get to the Munch Museum. But we remained true to our one-great-meal-a-day policy: 1) killying (chicken)tagliatelle and laks (salmon) fettuccine at a trendy bar and restaurant in Akker Brugge, al fresco, on seats lined with faux fur, 2) more affordable lunch at the Folk Museum of laks (lightly smoked salmon) and reker (fresh prawns) open-faced sandwiches, very Nordic especially with light waffles smothered in jam and sour cream for dessert, 3) Middle Eastern spicy noodles and chicken vindalloo outside the Metro station, and 4) comfort Chinese food of wonton soup, egg rolls and fried rice at Oslo City (mall).

Nordic open-faced sandwiches
Anker Hostel
This was my first experience staying at a hostel. It was at a great location. Aside from being just several stops from the city center, it is also only 2 stops from the Central Station where 2 Airport Express Trains ran to and from the airport in just 20 minutes. But the room was bare, just twin beds, 2 chairs, and a table. It had a working stove, a tiny old ref, a kitchen sink, and a small bathroom. There were no services other than reception. We had no TV but our room looked out to a nice green view. But this is probably the last time we will stay at a hostel. It is definitely for the young, not the young at heart!

waiting for airport express train
Besides a great name and tradition, Oslo had an amazing public transport system.  The longest we had to wait for transport was 10 minutes because you had three options all the time, buses, trams, or the T-bane (Metro). Oslo is not only a meadow at the foot of the hills; it is definitely a meadow consecrated to the Gods, with plentiful water and forest resources, admirable and efficient systems, old and new charm, and inspiring works of men. Yes, it was expensive to stay there, even for just several days as we did, but it was worth every krone!  From now on, it will always remind me of water, wood, seafood, ships, tulips, sculpture, democracy, ice, hostel and kroner.
green and clean oslo airport


  1. very good coverage, tbanks. Liked the pics but am most interested in the ice bar! How long did you stay inside? The parkas looked pretty nice too.

    1. Thanks! We could stay only 15 minutes or so. It was too cold! and the chairs were also ice!!!


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