If there was one question I’ve been getting over and over again, it’s “Why are you going to Norway in the middle of Winter?” Well here’s my answer!
My second trip started even earlier in the morning this time. With a super fun alarm set for 3:45 am, I was off to the airport by 4:50 in order to catch our 7:15 flight from Gatwick to Oslo! This trip was a little different because instead of traveling with a group, it was just my friend Annie and I. Although it can be fun traveling with a lot of people, it was a lot more relaxed and less chaotic traveling with just one!
Getting from London to our Airbnb in Oslo was pretty simple. Our flight was smooth, I slept the whole time, and we took a bus to a hotel about a 10 minute walk away from where we were staying. Our Airbnb was towards the center of Oslo, on the border of the Sentrum, St. Hanshaugen, and Grünerløkka neighborhoods. The location was perfect. We could walk anywhere we wanted, there was a very cute shopping street just around the corner, and it was a very safe neighborhood! Even better, the flat itself was adorable and our host was incredibly kind. Big fan.
Once we settled in, aka dropped of our bags, we ventured off with a vague idea of what we were doing. Our host, Marthe, told us to check out the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, located on the harbor of the Oslo Fjord, so we basically decided to go there. On our way, we passed through the gardens of the Royal Palace! We got there in time to see a little bit of the changing of the guard, but it started to rain so we proceeded on our way to the museum.
As with Copenhagen, one of my biggest tips is WALK. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll stumble across and see! On our way to the museum, what did we see? The Nobel Peace Center! It was right near the water and a very cool thing to see in person.
We made it to the museum after only a 15 minute walk (and trying to figure out where exactly the entrance was…). The museum itself is pretty tiny, it didn’t help that one of the wings was closed for the installation of a new show, but it was more than worth it. This little museum in the middle of Norway has some of the most well known contemporary artists in the world. The exhibition we saw is called “The World is Made of Stories”, which plays with the idea of learning through others, the media, and culture. It really pushed the boundaries and made me think about everything from history to politics to the concept of memories. They even had some of Damien Hirst’s pieces from his notorious ‘Natural History’ collection. They are gruesome, yet intensely thought provoking.
I would highly recommend this museum to anybody who likes excellently curated contemporary art, or just wants a break from the cold!
By that time it was just reaching 5:00 pm and we were pretty exhausted, so we set off in search of food! We ended up walking about 40 minutes to the neighborhood of Grünerløkka to go explore the Mathallen Food Hall. The walk there was neat, we stumbled upon a windy street with tiny houses!
The actual food market itself was very cute and reminded me of a mix between NYC’s Chelsea Market and Smorgasburg! There were restaurants as well as stalls, so I definitely recommend it for some yummy treats.
Since it was 5:00 in the afternoon, it was only appropriate that we celebrate our arrival into Norway with a proper beer. Inside of the Mathallen Food Hall is Smelteverket, which is home to Oslo’s longest bar. It was easy to get a seat at one of the airport tables and after a long decision process, Annie and I both decided on getting a Løkka IPA. We wanted to get something that was from Oslo and the Løkka IPA is brewed by Grünerløkka Brygghus in Oslo, so it was perfect! A lighter and fruity IPA to warm us up in the cold weather.
By this time we were pretty hungry, so we ventured off to find somewhere to eat. We debated eating at Mathallen, but wanted to explore Grünerløkka a bit more, so we headed out. We walked around for a while but didn’t anything that particularly interested us (or our wallets!), so we decided to head back in the direction of our AirBnb. After about 45 minutes of exploring, we decided on a restaurant called Pizza Crudo. Fairly priced and located back towards the harbor of the Oslo Fjord, it was a great choice! I got a pizza with prosciutto and arugula and essentially inhaled it because I was so hungry.
We headed back to the flat and went to the bed soon after because we were set to wake up early in the morning for a train ride to see a fjord! Little did we know how Saturday was going to end up…
Heading out into the dark at 7:00 am, Annie and I headed off to Oslo’s Central Train station to start our journey out to Flåm in order to see the Nærøy fjord, a UNESCO world heritage area. Of course, both of us were PUMPED. A huge part of Norway is its fjords and beautiful landscapes, so we had decided to pay the extra price and take the Bergen Line train to Myrdal where we would change to the Flåmsbana to get to the fjord, which is considered one of, if not the most beautiful train journey in the world.
Everything was going according to plan for the first four hours of the trip, and it was stunning. Absolutely gorgeous. All of the sudden you go through a tunnel leaving Oslo and BOOM! Mountains, trees, snow, and lakes! Here are some pictures that honestly don’t do the scenery justice that I took during our travels on the Bergen Line towards Myrdal:
About 45 minutes before we were supposed to reach Myrdal, we passed through a tunnel and all of the sudden our blue skies turned to gray as we entered the middle of a blizzard! Cue me snapchatting it and making a terrible “Frozen” joke.
Little did I know that this blizzard would end up being the bane of Annie and I’s existence. Just 10 minutes before we were supposed to reach Myrdal, the conductor announced that our train was to be diverted to another station to wait because the tracks right before Myrdal had lost electricity. They didn’t know how long it was going to take, so Annie and I cancelled our tickets to Flåm and I am very grateful we did because guess how long we were stuck in this pretty much abandoned station? Drum roll please….
SIX WHOLE HOURS.
It was…. It was… Yup. Thank God Annie remained calm during it all otherwise I think I really would have lost it. The station was full of snow so we stayed in the train for the most part, even teaching some Norwegian boys how to play hand games and making friends with a couple who was also headed to Flåm. Here are some photos of the station:
Around one hour in, we were feeling this picture pretty hard:
This is when probably the most exciting part of our journey happened: The door to the end of the earth (or so we were convinced). Annie had noticed a door in the side of the station that seemed to lead to a waiting room, so she went to explore. About a minute later, she came running back onto the train and insisted I come with her on the brink of a panic attack/sheer joy??? Cautiously, I followed.
We went through the first door, which led to a normal waiting room. Nothing more than a few chairs and old magazines. It was the next door though that led to a shanty entrance way constructed of 2x4s and was filled with snow. Upon opening that door and entering the little entrance, we were met with another door, a door that was frozen and full of snow. With a deep breath, I pushed it open and was met with PURE. WHITE. NOTHING. There was NOTHING but snow!!! It was like looking at a sheet of computer paper- NOTHING. After my brain basically exploded, I took another breath and peeked my head out. Far out in the distance was some power lines (I have no idea how they were still standing in all the wind) and a few houses COVERED in snow. Annie and I grabbed a few photos and then ran back to the train!!! It literally felt like staring at death. Note the look of pure terror on Annie’s face.
The next few hours passed, we received some free food and water, but it was all very tiresome. Eventually the train was pushed by a diesel engine to Myrdal where instead of going on the Flåmsbana, Annie and I were able to switch to a train going back to Oslo because it was about 10:00 at night. In order to get rid of some the pain of the day, we invested in a few beers on the train. As you can see, we were thrilled.
We didn’t end up getting back into Oslo until about 12:30 am, then took a taxi back to our AirBnb and passed out.
Even though our trip didn’t go as planned, I wouldn’t say that it was a total waste. The train ride out there was beyond beautiful and at least we got a good story out of it! Half of the education you get while studying abroad is from traveling, and this certainly was an amazing lesson in patience, adaptability, and “going with the flow”.
Sunday was our last day in Oslo and we were determined to make the most of it after our little train adventure. We slept in a little, but headed to Café Laundromat for a late breakfast. I ended up getting a bacon omelette which ended up being more like a frittata, but it was excellent! And of course, I got a cappuccino. #TreatYoSelf
Once we had had our fill, we walked about 25 minutes to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. It was a fairly sunny and warm day out, at least for Norway, so it was nice to be out and walking (especially after being on a train for 15 hours. That’s right, 15 hours). The park itself was beautiful and the sculptures were, well, interesting. They were all naked and slightly communistic? There was a fountain that featured 4 people holding up the basin that reminded me a lot of the fountain in the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter Movies/Books. Overall, I would say it’s a definite must because it’s pretty high up in the city so you get some great views and get to look at some neat art!
After we strolled through the park, we went on another long walk back to the harbor of the Oslo Fjord in order to see the Akershus Fortress and Oslo Operahuset. On the way, we managed to see a good part of the city and its beautiful architecture:
Unfortunately, Akershus Fortress was closed, but it didn’t matter! The fjord itself was absolutely beautiful. What is really interesting is that since Norway is so far north, the sun never really goes over head, so it constantly looks like the sun is about to set! This worked out great for taking photos.
We made our way to the Oslo Operahuset, about a 10 minute walk from the harbor. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip! You can walk up the outside of the theatre and get amazing views of Oslo and the Harbor, and the Oslo Operahuset is just gorgeous.
After spending some time just enjoying the sun from the roof of the Oslo Operahuset, Annie and I headed to Espresso House, a Norwegian coffee chain. I got a cappuccino and chocolate chip muffin and we enjoyed the last bit of sunshine.
Our Norwegian adventures ended with us heading back to the airport via bus only to learn that our flight was being delayed an hour and a half! Obviously, we were not having any luck with traveling. We made the best of it though and invested in a bottle of wine and a deck of cards and made it home in the wee hours of the morning.
Overall, I would give Oslo/Norway a solid 9.5! Unlike Copenhagen, it felt like a very liveable city, even though it was quiet. Everybody was very approachable and spoke to me in Norwegian before my American accent and confused look gave away my country of origin. However, it was a very expensive city once again, so we made sure to get snacks and only do breakfast and dinner! I really want to go again sometime in the spring/summer and see the Fjords. I would highly recommend Oslo to anybody looking for a more off-beat and relaxed trip!
Now it’s time for me to go. Tomorrow is my birthday (HOW AM I TURNING 21. HOW???), so some friends and I are going to dinner tonight to celebrate! They are all in the business school and are heading to Rome with the program tomorrow and I have class most of the day, so tonight is the big celebration.