We went to Oslo, Norway in July 2012:
Swedes tend to take off time for their semester (vacation) in late July. That means when most people who work on Malmen, the airbase Matt works at, aren’t there, he really has no need to be there. If the planes ain’t flyin’, then they don’t need fixin’. Last year, the base shut down for one week and we decided we should take a trip with the free vacation days.
Our first idea was to go to Tallinn, Estonia, or to any one of the Baltic countries, since it’s pretty darn cheap to travel there from here. But since the trip was literally last-minute, we couldn’t find anyone to take the dogs for a few nights – that means they had to come with us. Road trip! Our second idea was to drive up to Ålesund, Norway because it looks like this:
But then there weren’t cheap hotels available that would take dogs, and it was a really long drive, and we promised to watch our neighbor’s cats and couldn’t be gone that long anyway. So we’re saving that for another Norway trip in the future, because there is no way I’m not seeing that with my own eyes before I leave Europe. This too.
So, we were just like…let’s do Oslo! Matt had some Best Western hotel points racked up from staying at the local one here in town when he first moved here, so we cashed those in to stay at the Best Western Karl Johan right in downtown Oslo. Since we had the dogs, they gave us a room without carpet, which happened to be located right in the front of the hotel with a view of Stortinget.
I’ll get to that in just a minute.
At this time, we had a rental car that didn’t have a built-in GPS. We’d been lucky up until that point and had fancy rental cars with GPS included, but not now, and we hadn’t yet taken the plunge to pay for all new European maps to upgrade our own GPS. For some idiotic reason, we thought we could just make do with some Google maps directions, a Swedish road atlas and my cell phone with GPS.
All was well until the Norwegian border (where I immediately spotted two moose!), because, uh, duh guys…your Swedish cell phone doesn’t work in Norway unless you want to pay bank to use it there. Of course, we only got totally lost once we got to metropolitan Oslo area…right when we needed GPS the most.
Long story short, we found our way to the front of the hotel without any accidents or (too many) laws broken. We checked in, found the parking garage we needed to use, then made our way up to our room with our two cooped up, crazy-ass hound dogs in tow. What a spectacle…
Our room was definitely one of those fancy hotel rooms you WANT to stay in when traveling in Europe. High ceilings, fancy molding, old wood floors, views of historic buildings, modern interior, etc.
However, there was no air conditioning and it was muggy hot. Piper was her usual livid pissed self when she’s in uncomfortable surroundings, and claimed the armchair in the corner of the room and proceeded to pout any and all time she spent in the hotel room.
Pete was so anxious he couldn’t stop moving, so we allowed him to lay on the bed for once just to calm down.
We had arrived in the early afternoon, and made a quick trip to the
System Bolaget liquor store for Norwegian beers (we like to try local stuff) and another place for some snacks. We each enjoyed a beer that afternoon, then decided to get out and explore ASAP.
I was like, “Let’s just set out on foot and walk to parks around the city!” What else are you going to do with two dogs, anyway? Not shop, not go out to eat, and certainly no museums, am I right? We set off towards the Royal Palace, a couple blocks away, not only because it’s a Royal Palace (!!!) but because it’s surrounded by a huge park we could walk the dogs around.
The goal was to walk all the way to Frogner Park (Frognerparken) where I wanted to see the Vigelund Sculpture Arrangement. On our way from the Royal Palace to Frogner Park we passed by a café that came highly recommended, Åpent Bakeri (a chain, so there’s a lot around the city), and we made a note to stop by once while we were in town.
About a block or so later, we passed a hole-in-the-wall sushi place that had a crazy affordable daily special (foreign concept in Linköping) which we took advantage of, and, yeah, it was super delicious. We were in heaven! Eating outside the little place on a (practically) miniature café table right on the street lined with gorgeous drool worthy posh buildings. From there all the way to Frogner Park is just block after block of incredible architecture (the Uranieborg neighborhood). I can’t imagine living in one of these buildings, but I would absolutely die to one day. SO BEAUTIFUL, OSLO.
My photos cannot do the area justice, mostly because I was walking along gaping at each building, each balcony, each detail…and not taking enough pictures.
We finally arrived at some side entrance to Frognerparken, and walked through until we found what we were looking for. Frogner Park and the Vigelund Sculptures are AMAZING! What a beautiful place! If you go to Oslo, just go enjoy this park and soak up all that it is and has to offer.
We moseyed back in the late evening through empty streets, and arrived at the hotel when it was dark. We watched a little bit of TV, split another beer, and people watched outside the window until it was time for bed.
Another day of exploring Oslo by foot (with dogs) and by bus, and boat (!) were coming up the next day.
Luckily, there were signs posted at the entrance that said dogs were OK to go in too.
We walked around and took in views of the fortress, city, water, and incredible buildings that make up Oslo.
After that we walked all the way back to the Åpent Bakeri we had seen the day before, past the Palace, and had a lovely lunch (we totally recommend it!). We then decided to leave the dogs (who we hoped were good and tired after miles of walking in the past 24 hours) to go see the Viking Ship Museum. To get there, we were to take a bus from Strandgata, in downtown, over to the borough/peninsula/neighborhood Bygdøy where the museum is located.
Since we’re totally awesome people who totally ace public transportation maps, we got on the right bus…going the wrong direction. We realized this when the bus kept going in the opposite direction for so many stops, and eventually stopped at the bus depot in, like, way north Oslo. (I have no idea now, a year later, why we didn’t get off sooner?) So we asked the driver, “What do we do now?” and he was like, “Catch this bus going the other way. Stop is over there.” And he pointed us to a sign across the street. Our bus tickets were still good for an hour (day? I can’t remember, it was a year ago) so we didn’t have to buy new ones, and ten or so minutes later we got on the same bus, this time going in the correct direction. Fools.
Insider Travel Tip: Take public transportation! It really is a great way to see the place that you’re visiting, especially if you take it in the wrong direction first. Holla! You are welcome for that valuable information, by the way.
A million hours later we finally made it to museum. It looks like a small church, and it is SO WORTH SEEING. There are three real viking ships inside, along with tons of artifacts found on the ships when they were buried so long ago that Americans can’t fathom time in that way. The ships were found buried in the ground, over 100 years ago, but they are ships from before 1000 A.D. They were used as burial chambers, essentially, for prosperous people and loaded with treasures from the Viking times.
I’ve always told Matt I’d like a “Viking funeral”, if/when I die before him, of sending my body out to sea on a raft set on fire – seems dramatic enough – but after seeing these ships…I’m going to modify that and demand, now, that I be buried in intricately carved ships along with copious goods and treasures, to be found in a thousand years and marveled over.
After we finished drooling over Viking carvings and immaculate ships, we decided to walk from the museum to the edge of the peninsula which faces Oslo city. We bought an ice cream treat to share along the way, and talked about what it would be like to live in the houses that we passed (again, so incredible). It was a lovely, low key walk, and we ended up taking more public transportation directly back to downtown Oslo – this time a boat!
Since we left the dogs alone in the hotel room for the afternoon, they were good and annoyed when we returned. We took another stroll around the park that surrounds the Royal Palace and really thought about the fact that our shelter-rescued hound dogs from rural Virginia now use Palace lawns as personal….areas, if you know what I mean.
I do so very much appreciate that park areas in Scandinavia are not only beautiful, historical places, but that people use them as well. Recreation, leisure, and children and pet activities are all taking place in the green spaces. Just be sure to show the proper respect and clean up after yourselves, but that should be a given. Walking around the Royal Palace I came to realize that Norwegian children are probably the cutest I’ve ever seen EVER, and that Norwegians are really very nice people – part of the joy of having dogs is sharing them with dog-lovers around you 🙂
We left early the next morning, back to Sweden, but not without a couple wrong turns out of Oslo first (of course). It was a long drive back, and a very short trip, but I can understand why Oslo is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit. The cost of things will surprise you (very expensive place!) and the language sounds like Swedish, but different (it was explained to us (by a Swede of course) that Norwegians speak the old norse language still because they haven’t evolved like Swedes have, har har har!). I hope to go back someday and explore more that the city has to offer, and we both hope to visit more of Norway in general, soon.