My final two days in Norway were polar opposites. I realized I should have done more research and booked the morning flight back to Oslo instead of making sure I had plenty of time to get to the airport – and that there might be something interesting to do in Kirkenes.
I never travel on ships so hadn’t realized I would get kicked off early in the morning and wouldn’t just be able to store my luggage and wander around town. You can buy an airport bus transfer from the ship so that seemed the most sensible route to take.
I did read a really good novel (Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter) and wrote some of the material for this blog but Kirkenes airport is a really boring place to spend a day.
It did make me extra excited to be back in Oslo! It was pretty late but I caught the penultimate train from the airport to Oslo S (the main train station in the center of town). It really is the way to go. Much faster than a taxi at a fraction of the price. It appeared you might be able to save even more by going on-line and pre-booking your ticket.
It was a bit of a walk to the new hotel but very do-able. And I was greeted by fireworks! That always makes one feel special 🙂 This time I stayed at the Grims Grenka, a more typical choice for me. It’s a chic, modern boutique hotel with a trendy bar and restaurant attached (Madu). There is also a rooftop deck bar! It was pretty chilly and not too interesting but at least I saw it 🙂
I think it takes a bit of time to get Norwegians to warm up to strangers so you are not likely to make a lot of new friends on a quick visit. But there are definitely some interesting Norwegians out there.
I hadn’t planned on making a big day of it – and was enjoying sleeping in a proper bed again – so got a late start. I would recommend starting earlier but my whirlwind tour of Oslo was a lot of fun.
As already noted, individual tourist attractions are priced quite steeply. I think the goal is to con tourists into buying a city pass 🙂 If you aren’t up for five museums in one day, it is questionable whether it is a great deal. You should certainly do the math before signing up.
If you want to hit Bygdoy, the Oslo Pass is good value. You will need to see at least three museums to really make it worthwhile but there are five worthy of consideration all close to each other and none really require a long visit. You will also get the ferry ride (stunning on a blue sky day) and a discount at Celcius Kafe, which I discovered on the first visit and was going to check out anyway.
So, to the crazy Norwegians… if you follow my route, you will hit the Fram Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum (I wasn’t planning on hitting so many so just caught the end of the film at the Kon-Tiki useum – plan your schedule to be there by noon).
The adventures of Roland Edmundsen and Thor will blow your mind. Not too many people decide they should be the first to check out the South Pole (he did plan on being first at the North Pole but some American beat him to it). You get to see the ship, pretend you are living in the ice at the Antarctic and see all the meticulous preparation that went into making it a success. Apparently Norwegians also ski with sled dogs – how they beat the Brits this time 🙂
The Kon-Tiki voyage seems even more insane. Why not sail across the Pacific on a raft made of reeds? That doesn’t seem hjgh risk, does it? Especially when you are afraid of water and don’t know how to swim… but they made it! Again, the details of the adventure are fascinating.
And your next visit to a Tiki bar will be more meaningful 🙂 It was especially cool for me as I HAVE been on a reed boat – Lake Titicaca is mentioned in the museum’s exhibits. For those unfamiliar with the quest, the goal was to prove a boat made of plant material, rather than wood, was capable of a transcontinental voyage and the South Pacific may have been populated by people from the Inca empire.
To get full value from your pass, finish the day by checking out the real Viking ship at the Viking Ship Museum (also some of the best souvenirs) and the Folk Art and Open Air Museum. It’s the perfect place to finish as it has the most to see so, depending on how fast you have scurried through everything else, you can linger here a little.
And get some exercise walking to the top of the hill to see the Stave Church. There are also lots of other interesting old buildings that have been transplanted to the museum to provide a view of Norway a century away or more. The Norwegians are famous for their folk costumes and handicrafts. I hadn’t appreciated that there was so much variety. It’s a bit like Scottish tartans; almost every village seems to have its own take on the national costume.
If you go this year, you will also get to see a great exhibit on the history of Norway and why 1814 matters so much. Apparently it’s Napoleon’s fault. He really tried to mess around with Europe. As usual, the British were fighting with the French and flinging their imperial might around. So Norway got a chance to break away from Denmark to establish its own constitution, only to have the efforts foiled soon after, as it exchanged a Danish monarch for a Swedish one.
It did manage to break away from absolute monarchy though – and eventually became an independent state in 1905. I did find it amusing though to see how the monarchy kept sticking around, elected by the people. Electing a king? It didn’t seem there was a choice of candidates…
I should note some tips re: directions. I don’t think Oslo gets a ton of tourists. The directions I got from hotel staff were vague and not very helpful. If you are staying at Grims Grenka, do turn right and head for the water. When you get there though, ignore the signs and don’t assume (as I was told) that the ferry will be obvious. You will need to turn right and walk through a few other boating options until you see the right sign. I did manage to identify ALL the ship options that dock in Oslo and got some extra exercise 😉
It is not too far to walk between the Fram Museum and Viking Ship Museum but there will be no signs to guide you. I think normal tourists don’t do this… I did end up on a local bus, taking me even farther off-route… and saw some lovely residential houses. It’s a gorgeous neighborhood so, if you have the time, it’s nice to walk. And there are frequent bus stops… so, be smarter than me and start reading the detailed local maps sooner so your walk will be more focused!
Of course, you can also follow my lead and ask a local for directions J Definitely follow the signs back to the ferry! And, if you just miss it (as I did), plop yourself down on the deck and sip a beverage while watching all the sea traffic in the harbour.
Once you’ve used your pass to get a deal on dinner at Celsius Kafe, listen for Irish music across the street. I think it’s called the Dubliner. Just listen for the music… If you are lucky, you will also get to see a great authentic Irish band, which will put a smile on your face.
And possibly you will finally get into several conversations with locals. The Irish music seems to bring out a gregarious side I hadn’t expected. You might even have some Norwegian guy seem to feel he can sustain a relationship with you just based on the fact that he loves the Montreal Canadiens – and you are Canadian…
Apparently you have to stay up late – and listen to Irish folk music… but not all Norwegians are reserved… the trip ended on a high note!