When visiting someplace new, first impressions can make a big difference. A single day can determine if we want to return, what we think of the people, and how much we’ll talk about it when we return. The first few hours can set the mood for the entire trip.
Fortunately, Oslo was a delightful introduction to Norway.
The Extra Day
We weren’t even supposed to have a day in Oslo. However, when we booked our flights, we noticed we would save some dough by flying out a day early. We didn’t mind extending our weekend, so we went for it. We’d just patter around Oslo until our friends flew in the next day, then we’d all head out together.
I’m so glad we had that day.
We were dead tired when we arrived. After nearly 24 hours of traveling (car, wait, bus, plane, run, wait, plane, train, wander, streetcar, walk, crash), we were understandably exhausted. We were welcomed in by our Couchsurfing hosts (and to think, we considered getting a hotel instead!) and met the charming Sputnik. I called her Spuds.
Our hosts invited us to a graduation party that night (it was being hosted at their place, so we couldn’t have said no if we wanted to, but it sounded fun), and we somehow managed to find our second wind. However, as the apartment filled with strangers, we became a bit overwhelmed, so we made our escape to walk the city for a bit.
We were directed to the nearby Vigelandparken (it pays to stay with locals!), and we were captivated by all of the beautiful statues throughout. We wandered the many acres, I took pictures, and we observed the fellow visitors.
We couldn’t believe how many people were out in this park after 10pm, but when daylight stretches to midnight (and beyond) in the summertime, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.
Throughout the park, we also noticed the pungent scent of burning charcoal. However, I couldn’t see any grills. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that many of the groups of young people picnicking on the grass were accompanied by portable grill pans – effectively disposable roasting pans filled with charcoal. What a fun way to barbecue! We never got a chance to use one, ourselves, but we’ll add it to the list for when we go back.
The evening wasn’t quite done with us, though. As we started to make our way back, Aaron noticed a bizarre light pillar in the sky, just above the setting sun. I tried to photograph it, but like so many things, the sight was far more spectacular in person.
The party was still in full swing when we returned, but by then, we had no trouble falling asleep amidst the noise.
The next morning, our wonderful hosts treated us to some Norwegian breakfast on their small balcony, overlooking a quaint courtyard. Spuds prowled the railing while we nommed on oatmeal and “brown cheese” – a goat cheese usually enjoyed on crackers with breakfast.
Armed with more tips from our hosts, we set out to explore the city.
We were told Oslo is a car-unfriendly city. Fortunately, we didn’t have one. And the ones we did see were mostly electric or hybrid. Most walked to where they needed to go, and buses and trams were plentiful. In general, we found Norway to be quite environmentally conscious, and we were pleased to be in such a clean city.
We started with the Royal Palace, watching the guard marching out front and people enjoying the surrounding gardens. I even caught a group selfie in action.
For such a high latitude (comparable to Anchorage, Alaska), it was unseasonably hot – the hottest they’d seen in several years. Even at this early morning hour, I was too warm in anything more than shorts (and I have a high threshold).
The path past the palace led to the city center – cute streets lined with flower beds and storefronts.
Because I was halfway around the world, I agreed to help my sister in catching some Norwegian Pokemon. Service was surprisingly good all throughout Norway, so we sought Mr. Mime wherever we went (and we successfully caught a few – for both us and her). Yes, we’re geeks; don’t judge 😉
One of the highlights of the day was certainly the Opera House. While the architecture was beautiful inside, it was the ability to clamber all over its roof that made this structure so interesting. The roof slopes all the way to the ground, so visitors can walk right up on top, exploring the multiple levels and enjoying the view of the city.
It was very hot, and the sun was quite bright.
Next, we strolled through the marina, snatching some fish and chips for lunch before discovering the posh waterfront area.
It vaguely reminded me of Portland’s south waterfront, but this took it to a new level. Boardwalks stretched over small canals and between condo buildings – almost like a modernized Venice. There, we discovered not only a man-made beach (where everyone was trying desperately to cool down), but also a glass elevator.
The elevator was clearly a tourist trap, but we didn’t mind. It was fun to sit above the city for a few minutes.
Our time drew to a close, and we returned to pack our things and head back out to the airport, where we’d drive off into the countryside for a week before returning to fly home.
Camping Above Oslo
We had one more chance at Oslo at the end of our trip, but we were already quite fond of this little city. Our last day brought us back to where we started, and we established ourselves at the Ekeberg campground to await our flight the next morning. We had to be up by 4am, so another Couchsurfing option was off the table, and camping sure was cheaper (and more pleasant) than an expensive hotel.
This being the end of our trip, we were once again quite tired. So we forewent the exploration that our friend entertained in lieu of a quiet evening at camp. We Jetboiled our last meal, we admired the sunset (golden hour lasts three!), and we explored our immediate surroundings.
I’m glad we didn’t end up back in the city, as we discovered countless art installations in the adjacent Ekebergparken. An assortment of video feeds played on a loop in a wall, and weird cool whip people hung from the trees. We caught some more foreign Pokemon.
I couldn’t settle down for the excitement of the beautiful sunset, but we ultimately retired for the night, knowing we had an early and long day ahead of us.
For the first time the entire trip, we finally witnessed sunrise the next day (when it rises at 4am, it’s no wonder we slept through it). Our time done in Norway, we bid our farewells to this delightful city, very happy with our time there.
Have you ever been to Oslo? Which new city gave you the most memorable first impression?
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