Backpacking in Europe : Oslo

Oslo Harbor at night

The harbor of Oslo at night from the fortress.

     Oslo was a great adventure. The journey is memorable, because we almost didn’t make it to the airport. The city was nice and the people welcoming. The weather was ideal although it was already cold in October. Surviving three days in the most expensive city on Earth was a hell of a challenge, but an interesting experience!

The journey to Oslo

The story begins in La Rochelle, a small, lovely French city that fanatics of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers must remember. I spent the night there with my three friends, Americans and Canadian, because our flight leaves early in the morning. We woke up before dawn and left our hostel at 0720am. The flight was at 0930am. Two hours are enough, I thought, to be at the airport on time. It would’ve been fine indeed, without this incident that almost cost our trip in Europe.

As we arrive at the bus stop we realize we’ve just missed it. No worries, we wait for the next one. We have some time ahead. We finally get in a bus that is supposed to take us to the train station, where we have to catch a shuttle to the airport. I check that I have my ID card with me – I do it a lot when I travel – and I ask the others to check for their passports too. Being a European citizen, I just need my national ID card to travel, but as North Americans, they have to have their passports. The girls quickly check that they have it, but now, the worst case scenario happens. After two minutes, my other friend is still looking for it. We all start to worry. We look at him trying to find it desperately. After a minute, I decide :

‘Y’all, let’s get out of the bus. You’ll look for it outside so the bus doesn’t bring us farther from the hostel. If you forgot it there, we’ll run and get it’.

So, we all get out of the bus, two or three stops after we got in. G. rummages around in his backpack but we all know it’s not there. After 5 minutes, we have to make a decision. The hostel is far and we take the risk to miss our flight. I’m pissed, but I can’t abandon my friend here. Luckily, the bus that goes towards the hostel arrives and we get in. Five minutes later, I jump out of it and rush to the hostel as if I was chased by the devil. The front door is locked and I’m about to break into the building when a cleaning lady shows up and let me in. Out of breath, I ask her if she found a passport.

‘You’re lucky, I just found it on the floor and I was about to leave’, she says as she crawls along to the front desk.

‘Can’t you just hurry the dang heck up!? It’s not like we don’t have a flight leaving in an hour!’, I think. In this kind of situation, I feel like everything goes extremely slowly, and I want to shake people so they step on it.

She takes the passport and lazily brings it to me. She opens it and looks at me.

‘It’s not your passport. I can’t give it to you. Your friend needs to come and get it himself’.

‘You gotta be kidding me?!’, I say. ‘Why do you think I ran to death knowing there was a lost passport here if it’s not for my friend?’.

Fortunately, my friend shows up, out of breath too, and she gives him the passport. We go back to the bus stop running and tell the girls we have it! We’re all relieved but still worried. We take the bus which drops us at the train station. It’s 840 now and the check-in closes at 915! With horror, we see that the shuttle won’t be there until 855, so we call a taxi. We arrive on time at the airport and a moment later, we’re boarding. We can’t believe we’ve done it!

Oslo

We landed in Moss, some 40 miles away from Oslo. I was immediately seized by the purity of the air. On the way, I saw some of the Norwegian countryside. It was like I imagined it. Immense fir trees forests, typical farms and colored houses. I thought about my German friend I had met in Scotland, and who had had the chance to do some dog sledging in Lapland last winter. I told myself I was going to come back here with my mates and do some cool things like this.

Progressively, the city replaced the forest. When we got out of the bus terminal, I was immediately astonished by the architecture. We were surrounded by massive buildings that you can find in the centers of very modern cities. My two friends from Seattle, WA, were all exited. They told my Canadian friend and I that they felt like they were back in the USA. Everything from the air to the traffic lights reminded them their hometown.

Following my first visual impression, I soon realized it had been a while since I had traveled in a country of which I didn’t speak the language. Everything was written in Norwegian, and I couldn’t understand a thing. Luckily, most of the people could speak English, and one of our friends had taken some classes of Norwegian. I felt a little ashamed not to be able to speak even some words of Norwegian, but it is such a complicated pronunciation.

I don’t know if you read or watched the Millenium trilogy but I felt like I was in the movie. Around me, everybody was speaking Norwegian, and looked Norwegian. They seemed easygoing. Back home, the dressing code is very strict and doesn’t let you much choice. I hate it. There is no diversity. People look like clones. If you don’t dress like everybody else, be sure that you will be judged. In comparison, I found people in Norway pretty relaxed with their clothing styles. I saw a lot of people wearing winter boots, big down jackets or even one-piece winter suits. Back home, a lot of people would refuse to wear such clothes even if they were about to die of hypothermia. But Norwegian people, they don’t care. They are natural. Whatever they wear, they wear it with style. I think it’s great.

During my stay in Oslo, I had the occasion to confirm that Norwegians are very nice and welcoming. They are most of the time willing to help. It’s easy to talk with them since they speak English very well. I think that’s because they have only few Norwegian TV channels. They have many American channels such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic or FOX, which are subtitled. So, they get to learn English by watching TV.

Oslo isn’t a very big city, but there are many things to see. I spent most of my time wandering in the streets. I went to parks, museums, and the castle of the Royal Family. What I particularly liked was the opera. It’s a marvelous modern building which architecture is very surprising. Pedestrians can go on its roof and admire the great view of the Fjord and its islands, the city and the mountains surrounding it. I also liked the fortress. The King’s guard was patrolling around the main building. It looked very authentic.

The only problem in Oslo is actually the cost of living, which is insane. I don’t even know if this word is accurate enough to describe the madness of prices of food and accommodation there. I thought there couldn’t be worse than Paris and London, well I was definitely wrong. I fed myself with ‘cheap’ bread and salami for two days. I allowed myself to order a salmon sandwich in a restaurant. It was very yummy, but it was kind of painful to pay $15 for a single slice of bread with salmon and salad. I spoke with a Norwegian about the high cost of living. He told me the base pay is of almost $4000 there. No surprise everything is so expensive then. It’s good for their imports, but extremely bad for tourism.

Anyway, so, that was my time in Oslo. I really liked it. I’ve learned and saw a bunch of interesting people and places. It made me want to travel in Scandinavia and northern countries. I will come back and do some outdoor activities there.

– October 2011

Oslo Palace City Center

The Palace of the Royal Family

Falls colors in the city center of Oslo

Falls colors in the city center of Oslo.

The Opera of Oslo Norway

The wonderful Opera of Oslo at night.

chilling out at the opera of oslo

Just chilling at the opera of Oslo.

Downtown Oslo

Downtown Oslo from the top of the opera.

The Royal guard patrolling at the fortress of Oslo

The Royal Guard patrolling at the fortress of Oslo.

The fortress of Oslo

In the fortress of Oslo.

In the fortress of Oslo.

In the fortress of Oslo.

Norwegian swag

Norwegian swag.

Peace messages at the Nobel Peace Center Oslo

Peace messages at the Nobel Peace Center, Oslo.

Oslo City Hall

The City Hall of Oslo at night. Interesting.

Oslo Norway salmon sandwich

The famous $15 salmon sandwich.

Oslo Harbor at night

The harbor of Oslo at night from the fortress

Modern district of Oslo next to the harbor

Modern district of Oslo next to the harbor.

Tree chair wall ghost

A Norwegian ghost haunting the fortress.

Sunset from the sky Norway

Sunset from the sky on our way to Poland.

Next destination of the trip : Wroclaw, Poland.

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8 Responses to Backpacking in Europe : Oslo

  1. Pingback: A Couple of Days in Wroclaw, Poland | Backcountry Tranquility

  2. naldsamonte says:

    Great pics. Wish that someday I can also go see these places.

  3. elizabeth says:

    Orel, you amaze me with the amount you get done while on the way to the airport. You always seem to make it by the skin of your teeth. I envy your youth, stamina, and adventurous spirit. As we say in Glasgow, Gaun Yersel Orel! :) On a side thought. No wonder they hold prestigious meetings and conventions in Oslo. The lowly peasants can’t afford to go there. :)

    • Ahahah I’d never thought about why prestigious meetings are held there. Everything makes sense now! By the way Elizabeth I will soon publish a post on a trip I did on the Isle of Skye. I thought you would like the pics and atmosphere.

  4. Jo Woolf says:

    I really enjoyed this post, and I love your photos.

  5. TBM says:

    Sounds and looks fabulous. I’m heading to Oslo this summer for 3 days and I’m so excited!

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