As promised, I plan to gush and gush and gush and gush about my love of the city of Oslo :) I only spent 2 1/2 days there, but that was enough to cement the place in my heart forever. I figured it was only fair to express my excitement about this great Norwegian city before I hit up it's Swedish counterpart (Stockholm) this weekend. When I told all the Swedish people I know (my mentor teachers, contact family, students, etc.) how obsessed I was with Oslo, they all said I have to reserve judgement on favorites until after I visit Stockholm. I look forward to seeing what the Swedish capital has to offer; but I have to say, it has some stiff competition in Oslo! But, one thing that may push Stockholm a little ahead in the rankings is who I get to see there...my cousins Mary-Katherine and Joe :) They will be meeting me in the lovely city and we will be spending the weekend sightseeing in Stockholm. Not that I don't love all the people I've met here, but it will be nice to see some familiar faces (aka people I have known longer than 6 weeks). Needless to say, I'm VERY excited!
Alright, back to the important stuff...OSLO <3 Now you may be wondering, what made this city so great? I would answer...what didn't? Sure, I may have been swayed by the perfect weather, the breathtaking sunsets, the lovely flowers everywhere, the picturesque harbor, the great public transportation, or the meeting of old friends...but that wasn't all; there was just something about Oslo that I was drawn to. I know that it is weird to say that about a random city that I spent less than 72 hours in, but there was just something compelling about it. [I told that to Tine (an old friend of my mom's), who I met up with while in Oslo, and she said to come back in a few months when the darkness and cold kick in...I may feel differently]!
So, when we [we= myself, travel buddy- Gary, and housemate, Swaroop] arrived in the wonderful city, we spent the first few hours just walking around, taking in the streets, the people, the views. Our hostel was a good bit away from the bus station, so we did A LOT of walking. Luckily, there was a lot to see on our way. We saw the outside of the Norwegian Parliament, took a picture with the guards at the Royal Palace , and walked through some beautiful gardens before finally making the trek down Embassy Row towards our hostel. After thankfully dropping off our backpacks, we headed back into town. I had spoke to Tine (who lives in Oslo) before we arrived, and as an Oslo resident, she had some great suggestions for what we should do each day. So, at her advice we headed to a place known as Aker Brygge and its surrounding areas. Tine described it as a place similar to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. She was exactly right! Except, this place smelled a little better and had an old castle on the edge of it. We decided to make our way up to the hill where the castle sat, overlooking the harbor--what a wonderful spot! I could watch the sunset over the water and the city center of Oslo. It was breathtaking. And, if you know me, you know that I have an extreme soft spot for sunsets. It was my paradise! So naturally, I took entirely too many pictures (I don't regret a single one of them though)! Afterwards, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner. And I really mean treated! Oslo is amazing in every sense of the word, except in the money sense. When I heard it was one of the most expensive cities in the world, boy, it wasn't a joke! Thank goodness the dinner was delicious, or else I would've been quite upset. Needless to say, we chose McDonald's for lunch the following day to make up for the price of dinner! After dinner, we headed to the Opera House. It was right on the water and all lit up! It is very new (built in the last few years) and you can actually walk all around on the roof of the building. It was a very cool, liberating feeling.
For sake of space, I will skip through to the next day. All Friday night involved was one very expensive drink 78NOK (~$15 USD) at Paddy's Irish Pub (nod to Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and another long walk home. But, boy did we have big plans for Saturday! We were scheduled for a tour of Parliament at 10am, but took a quick trip back to the Opera House beforehand to check it out in the light (just as awesome)! We took a guided tour of the Norwegian Parliament (learned a good bit, always nice!) before heading to say hello to Barack, Al, and Nelson at the Nobel Peace Prize Museum. They had some very modern displays and some interactive elements. You could actually leave a posted note on a display wishing luck to a refugee hoping to get papers into Sweden. It was quite interesting!
Again, at the suggestion of Tine, we headed to what is known as Museum Island. It is a short ferry ride from Aker Brygge over to another portion of the capital city that boasts some really great museums and some beautiful houses. We spent the afternoon exploring a Viking Ship museum, a Norwegian Holocaust memorial museum, and a maritime ship museum before heading back to the city center to meet Tine and her family for dinner! SIDE NOTE: For those of you who have no idea who I am talking about when I refer to Tine, I will try to explain (though I may get the story a bit wrong?). Tine's family moved to my mom's neighborhood from Norway when she was in high school (I think) and she spent a few years in the US before heading back to Norway. Some of her family still lives in the US and some still lives in Norway. Luckily, we keep in touch with parts of her family! So, when I found out I had the opportunity to go to Oslo, I figured it would be nice to have some inside information. Through my mom, and Tine's sister, Ingrid, I figured out how to get in touch with her, and she was happy to offer some ideas for sightseeing and we even decided to meet up! Granted I hadn't seen her in maybe 8 years? So we were both curious as to how we would find each other :)
We met up with Tine, her son, Anders, and his friend, Sebastian, and headed to dinner at a waterside restaurant on a cute little island. Again, there were lovely sunsets and great company :) Even though I had only met Tine once or twice, it felt so comfortable to be hanging out with her! Her and I got the chance to catch up on family stuff, too. We really had a great time with her, Anders, and Sebastian. I was very glad I got to see them. They were so talkative and loved answering our questions about Scandinavia and Oslo. Even if we did all order giant American-like burgers, it felt like the perfect Norwegian dinner :)
Onto a quick Sunday recap: in the morning, we got up early, checked out of our hostel and headed to Vigeland Park. To put it simply, the park is filled with open spaces, waking paths, beautiful flowers, and LOTS of naked statues. Some were beautiful, some were humorous, but nonetheless, the park was buzzing with activity on the Sunday morning. Lots of joggers, walkers, tourists, groups just moving through it. It was a great day to be outside! We spent the morning taking lots of fun pictures (and lots of flower pictures, for me) before heading off to see the paintings at the Munch museum across town. Now apparently, not too long ago, the famous painting by Munch--The Scream--was stolen from the museum. But, this was not a high-tech, fancy operation. Oh no. According to Anders, the people who stole it quite literally lifted it off the wall and walked on out. Obviously, the painting has been recovered and the security has been beefed up substantially since then!
We wrapped up our Oslo trip with some kebabs and a curbside view of the Oslo Marathon which was being run that morning. Maybe next time I return to Oslo (in the distant future), I will run the Oslo Marathon. I can't think of a better place to check that off my bucket list than this wonderful city that was so good to me :) Again I emphasize though...DISTANT FUTURE!
Hope you can gather by my constant use of emphatic adjectives that I truly did love the city of Oslo! Forget the I <3 NYC t-shirts, I'm making an I <3 OSLO one :) Can't wait to see what they city of Stockholm has to offer! I'm ready to check the next Scandinavian capital off my list. Off to review my lessons for tomorrow...it's my first supervisor evaluation, ah! I'll post pictures in the following post! I took nearly 500 (?), so it may take a bit of time to choose....
Love to all back home <3 Happy fall!