We flew out of Iceland late in the afternoon, and between flight time and time difference, got to our hotel in Oslo at about midnight. The first thing we did there was put our bags down. The second thing we did there was discover they’d lost our reservation, at which point I became very happy that I had a copy of the booking confirmation on my phone. The third thing we did, after they’d figured out how to give us a room and taken us up there, was to fall asleep in a real bed for the first time in more than a week.
Tuesday morning, we woke up late and luxuriously comfortable in a hotel room ten times the size that our Snail had been, and proceeded to stretch, look outside and generally take stock of the situation. The first item on the agenda was laundry – a week in Iceland makes for great memories and spectacular photos, but results in a bag full of clothes that have been worn pretty consistently! So we packed up our laundry in bags and headed out to the only coin-operated laundry in Oslo, which thankfully wasn’t too far away on foot. It was a nice chance to get out and have a walk, and do a bit of casual navigation and sightseeing without the camera.
We made it to the laundry and found two other sets of Aussies in there, happily chatting away while things were spun dry, folded, aired and shaken out. It’s my experience that in Europe, the people you find in laundrettes are almost always Aussies, although I have no reason for this fairly reliable occurrence. The chap who owned the laundry offered to do our washing for us, but once we’d done the conversion from Norwegian Kroner to Aussie dollars, we were perfectly happy to do it ourselves.
Norway, in case you haven’t heard this or been there, is stunningly expensive to live in day to day. While Iceland was expensive for tourist attractions and food, everything in Norway costs more than in the other places we’ve lived and been. To give an example, we decided on a hot day to get ourselves two frozen yoghurts from a yoghurt bar, where we both got roughly two scoops of flavour and some toppings (fruit, candy, etc). This came to $30 AUD. Needless to say, we savoured them as best we could, given the price! As mentioned above, getting the laundry done by the owner would have cost somewhere in the vicinity of $140 AUD. Heck, all the clothes we washed wouldn’t have cost that much!
Clothes cleaned and repacked into bags, we walked back to the hotel room and laid out everything that wasn’t quite dry yet. We then went for a walk down past the stunningly beautiful Oslo Opera House, which was conveniently located directly across from our hotel balcony. The building itself is fairly new and was designed to look like an iceberg slipping into the water. Because of its open shape and easily climbed angles, it’s almost always covered in people – tourists, photographers, even locals playing soccer on the roof! We found a burger place and grabbed a quick meal and some wine, then went back to continue our newly-rediscovered love of sleeping.
Wednesday was exploration day, a plan I feel was endorsed by the Universe – giving us tremendously good weather. We started at the Opera House, doing a walk around, before striking up through the older part of town. We found an amazing church, and then (almost by accident) tripped over the magnificent City Hall. The City Hall is cavernous, and while the exterior is a bit drab and officious, the inside is decorated with murals and artwork across almost every surface!
We looked around the City Hall for a bit, marvelling at both the building itself (murals, stunning lights, paintings of the royal family, and a weirdly harmonious inconsistency of style which felt more like a walking through a zoo than an official building) and the people. We’ve seen a reasonable number of people with selfie sticks (always more in the cities) but in Oslo, people would film whole videos of themselves, manoeuvring the camera around so they are always in the centre of shot, always partially obscuring the thing they’re photographing. I find it incomprehensible, but then again, I don’t throw myself in front of the camera that often!
After City Hall, we walked down to the Royal Palace, which looks appropriately palatial, nestled within public gardens and facing proudly down a long boulevard. We walked a bit in the gardens, reading the history plaques and circumnavigating the sunbathing locals who’d taken their lunch breaks to head to the park and lay out for a bit of vitamin D.
From the palace, we took some back streets until we found Oslo’s Sculpture Park. The sculpture park is hugely expansive, and features the work of celebrated Norwegian sculptor Gustav Viegland. It caters for families, active Frisbee types, cyclists and more, and features this stunning promenade lined with Viegland’s typical sculptures, in different poses, moods and celebrations of human social behaviour. On a pedestal at the end stands his monolith, a rising obelisk of writhing human figures, all climbing to a central point. Designed by Viegland, it took years for a team of masons to complete, and dominates the park’s horizon.
We sat in the park for a bit, enjoying the sunshine and resting our feet, watching the comings and goings of Oslo’s active citizenry. Eventually, we struck out again, walking down to the harbourside and along the moorings to get to the Astrup Fearnley Museet, the modern art museum that’s taken up residence at the waterside. Here we found a public swimming area, where many Norwegians and tourists had taken up prone positions in the sun, or were frantically catapulting themselves into the cool sapphire water to find respite from the heat. We didn’t feel like being inside the museum on such a stunning day, so instead, we walked back along the waterfront to our hotel, enjoying the sunshine and ferreting out little views we enjoyed. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed a drink while the sun went down, and packed up our gear, ready to get going in the morning.
Thursday we packed up the bags and dropped them at reception when we checked out, so we could wander the city a bit before our train. We walked down so I could get a photo of the Barcode buildings, passing another little swimming area where locals were casually stripping down to bathers to underwear to enjoy the sun. We found some cool street art along the way, then picked up our bags and went to the station for our train to Bergen!
The Bergen train ride is regularly described as one of the most beautiful train rides you can take, and I’d have to agree. The view outside was always interesting, from alpine lakes and fjords, to tiny local towns, to vast expanses of haze-crowned mountains. We sat opposite a very loud Italian couple who had a different understanding of personal space, which made for many amused glances between Sarah and I as one or the other had their foot kicked.
We disembarked at Bergen, and hiked our bags to our Airbnb, taking in some of the vibe of the town. Our Airbnb was with a very enthusiastic young guy named Greger, who promptly showed us our room, invited us to the run of the house, and told us he was going out after he’d finished chatting to his mate about Bitcoin. Knackered as we were, we went to sleep pretty much straight after a nightcap. Sarah had a mattress on the floor, which she was happy to take to spare my back, but I don’t think it was quite what we expected! Still, dry and warm was all I was hoping for, and it was certainly that.
Friday morning, we woke up and it was raining. Hard. You know that kind of rain that sits halfway between sideways, rain-tossed mist and a gentle, nagging drizzle? Like that. We’d left our rain layers in the motorhome in Iceland, and while we were waiting for them to be posted to us, we made do by huddling under a tiny umbrella and using our bags’ water covers. We wandered around Bergen, first heading through the university grounds. The rain decided then that it preferred a much more forceful approach, and we took shelter under a bus stop while it thrashed and splashed around us, before finally tiring itself out.
We walked back through town, eventually making our way down to the fabled dockside area. We found the highly-recommended fish markets and walked the waterfront, stopping to check out the Rosencrantz Tower at the end of the bay. Wandering back through the old town and the iconic structures that make Bergen such a tourist attraction, we snuck up a sidestreet to get a reindeer-meat hot dog and explore a bit away from the heavily-tourist parts. Eventually, we’d wandered back around to the main mall, and walked down the peninsula to a little forested glade at the end, before returning to the fish markets to grab a couple of fresh salmon rolls for the train trip home.
We grabbed our bags from Greger’s, and walked to the station, stopping to sit and read a bit in the sun before boarding the train and heading back into Oslo. Our hotel for this last night in Oslo was a SmartHotel, and was the smallest room I’ve ever paid for. Ingeniously laid out, it gave us a fit of giggling as we tried to settle in. We found a Lord Of The Rings movie on TV and watched it for a bit before drifting off, knowing tomorrow would take us to Stockholm.