I went to Oslo without any preparation beforehand other than a suitcase and a plane ticket. The only thing I expected was to find the likes of Thor or another Norse deity. I was pleasantly surprised by what I encountered…
After my previous travel experience, I had a bit of anxiety in the back of my mind about what it would be like there. I flew in budget style, arriving at the city of Rygge and driving by bus to Oslo. Upon arrival I was surprised about how green everything looked. And not just green, but perfectly manicured stretches of forest you only see in fairy tales, even after reaching the city. The whole thing makes you want to sing the entire soundtrack of the movie Frozen (Norway was an inspiration for the animated landscapes of the movie, after all). I can only imagine tourist must burst into song when they visit in winter.
What makes the city so interesting is that the green blends in nicely with a very urban setting, bustling with activity. The city is very much like any European metropolis with lots of traffic, high-rise buildings, and lots and lots of people, yet the air feels extremely clean. I other words, the city has all the convenience of a modern city without all the environmental hassle that comes with it. Everything just looks very clean and organized. It is delightful! All this green means there are a lot of attractions which happen to be parks. My first stop was the largest in the city, Frogner Park:
This park is famous for its large installation of sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland; in fact, you will hear this park being called Vigeland Sculpture park for that reason (even the tram stop to get there is called Vigeland). The permanent art installation contains sculptures representing the human condition. You’ll find beautiful pieces such as the ones below:
But you will also find pieces that convey more “rare” emotions of the human condition…. like this guy:
Thor was, alas, not at Frogner Park. Maybe I would have better luck in the city center.
The city center has a wide variety of landmarks, all in different architectural styles which makes the sightseeing experience quite the treat. You have locations like the Royal Palace, the Storting building (where the parliament is based) and the National Theater which show you a 19th century architectural style. Then you have places like the City Hall (the venue of the Nobel Peace Prize award) that are more 20th century, and even super modern like the Oslo Opera House.
There were many Thor-looking dudes in the city center, but not the man himself. I have to tell you though, if white, light-eyes, Viking-looking is your thing, you must come to Oslo and feast your eyes. They all look like they’d be named Sven, Per, or Bjorn.
If 19th century is way too modern for you, you can always go to the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History) and kick it medieval style. This place was the first open air museum in the world and it displays several aspects of Norwegian life, from housing to traditional dances, across time. Several locations within the museum looked like vikings could come in at any moment and pillage from these little villages. Our tour guide, who explained various fun facts about Norwegian life back in the day, looked like he could be one of those vikings (and he was just fooling us with his “I’m just and old-timey Norwegian peasant” outfit)… Maybe he works for Thor. Or the boss, Odin….
And now that we are discussing the topic of vikings, in the neighborhood (called Bygdøy) of the Norsk Folkemuseum you will find a bunch of other museums dedicated to Norwegian maritime life. I visited the Viking Ship Museum, which is not that big and may not seem worth the money, however; if anything go to support their conservation efforts. The impressive ships and artifacts date back between 843 to 900 AD and they are rapidly degrading. I guess this would not come as a surprise considering the are FROM FREAKING 800 AD! On the plus side, you can also enter the UiO (University of Oslo) museum (located more in the city center). If the ships and the sea are your thing, you may want visit the Kon-Tiki museum, the Fram museum, and the Maritime museum, all in the same area. By Thor’s hammer, there’s so much love for the sea in Oslo!
Of course, when your view looks like this, it is hard not to dedicate your life to those mighty waters:
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you probably saw many snapshots of my trip. That’s because there is free WiFi pretty much everywhere: restaurants, museums, you can even catch some of the signal from different places while in the street. That is of course if you actually spen any time in such places. Oslo has a reputation for being ridiculously expensive, and let me tell you, the city does live up to it. I did not have a single drop of alcohol while on holidays in Oslo. Somehow the idea of paying the equivalent of €12 for a beer seemed preposterous! At least the city is entertaining enough as it is!
Oslo seems to have an obsession with sculptures. Not only do you find tons of them in Frogner Park, the city itself if full of them. At some point some city planner though “we need more sculptures, people!” and thus Ekerberg park was born. You also get a marvelous view of the city from the park. Bear in mind that to enjoy all the sculptures at the part, you need some good hiking shoes, or at the very least, good knees (which, unfortunately I lack at the moment).
As for Thor, I did eventually find him and in the most unlikely of places: the bus!
I think it was his day off because he was dressed like he was going to hang out at the Oslo fjord to catch some sun. Other hints this was his day off included not wearing an armor, nor hammer. Maybe this wasn’t really Thor, but just another Bjorn.
Make sure to go to my tumblr site to see full-sized photos (as well as a couple of extra pictures!)