Oslo is having a heat wave! We slather on sunscreen and forge forth in the wonderful +30 degrees Celsius weather daily. Olso’s lengthy pedestrian street, Karl Johan gate, is high octane with its flood of people and street performers (of which my winning choice is battery boy). Tantalizing odours wafting out of eateries, shopping galore!
Our Norway Pix
The architecture showcases the Scandinavian flair for design. City Hall is where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on December 10th every year.
The National Theatre is another stunner with statues of two of the country’s famed authors, Ibsen and Bjornson posted like sentinels on either side of the entrance.
Down by the fjord we walk along the promenade; this once shipping area is now filled with shops and yet more restaurants and funky cafes perfect for sipping an icy beverage. At the end of the promenade a bit of gravel and grass is being well utilized for hot bodies sunning themselves and kids splashing about in the shallow water.
Seeing Akershus Fortress across the water challenges us to move along to its medieval walls dating back to 1299AD. The fortress complex includes Akershus Castle from around the same time period, which was remodelled in the 17th century. Tours are available and it is also used for state events today.
In the oldest area of town a fountain with a stone sculpture of a pointing hand is where the Danish-Norwegian King Christian IV decided to rebuild the city after the destructive fire of 1624, proclaiming “here the town will lie”. He named the town Christiania after himself (being a humble soul) – which it kept until 1924.
Whenever I pop into a shop along our walks (which I often do) and I find Rick missing when I’m done browsing, I just check the street for electric vehicles and he’ll be there. He got the chance to talk to a Tesla owner/test driver, and gleaned the following particulars: The best speed for battery efficiency is 80km per hour, wherein the vehicle can be driven up to 500 km on one charge. Charge stations are ample from Norway to Italy, and at these Tesla supercharge stations it takes 40 minutes to charge up. Not so efficient when charging on Olso streets – here it takes 33 hours to charge, but parking while charging is free for electric vehicles. This fellow also test drove a Tesla from Vancouver to Los Angeles and San Francisco to New York which have good charge station infrastructure, free to Tesla owners – so progress is being made in this regard in North America although we seem to be far behind Europe, based on the variety of electric vehicles we see on the streets here.
Our grand finale for Oslo is the Royal Palace to see the digs of King Harold V and Queen Sonja. At the top of the wide staircase approach is the equestrian statue of King Carl Johan, who initiated the building of the palace (one of the kings during the 400-year period when Norway was absorbed into a union with Sweden). Upon the dissolution of this union in 1905, Norway’s first “chosen” monarch was Prince Carl of Denmark who took on the Norwegian name Haakon VII, commencing in a succession of heirs to present day.
We join the crowd gathered and watch the changing of the guard – great pomp and ceremony. Then it is around to the back for our tour of this royal residence, which with 173 rooms is conservative compared to others in Europe.
Our guide, Elizabeth, introduces us to about a dozen rooms, each with its own distinctive décor and story. One of my favourites is “The Bernadotte Parlour” with portraits of members of the Bernadotte dynasty, started by King Carl Johan.
I envision myself lounging in the rich comfort of the earth-toned bedchamber for guests, until Elizabeth bursts my bubble, “You have to be a president or head of state to stay here; Churchill and Mandela are some guests who enjoyed these environs.”
The Great Hall (Ballroom) is truly grand and a fine room to wind up the tour – our heads full of Elizabeth’s facts on the historical and political aspects of the country’s royalty, and her fun gossipy tidbits, such as one king always having a boiled egg by his plate at formal diners, in case he didn’t like the dishes served to guests.
Bergen time!The Gem of Norway
Our 7-hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen is a great way to see the countryside. Sunny blue skies contrasted by emerald grasses and jade green forests and water, water everywhere! Villages are on waterways, roiling rivers often run alongside the rails, bridges looked down on lakes of cobalt blue, and H2O is in the form of glaciers as we pass 1222m above sea level at the town of Finse.
We spill out of the train in Bergen, toss our luggage into our comfy room at the Basic Hotel, and are off to soak up the city’s charm. Surrounded by seven fjords and seven hills, it was the capital of Norway during the 12th and 13th century. Around 1360 Germany set up the main trading offices for the Hanseatic League in Bryggen (The Wharf). It soon became the main hub of Scandinavia boasting a population of 15,000.
This old quarter is now a UNESCO site. We are transported back to yesteryear as we walk over the creaky timber alleyways between the buildings that were rebuilt after the 1702 fire that reduced the city to cinders. The interior of one of the structures, now the Hanseatic Museum and Schotstuene (fraternity house) where the long-ago merchants met and no doubt many a beer was guzzled.
Further along is the fish market heaped with delicacies of the sea, such as salmon, caviar, calamari, whale steak (which locals defend as being from the sustainable Minke whale). Seafood can be purchased for home cooking, or like most travellers, we request our choices (namely salmon and shrimp) to be sizzled on handy grills. Other stalls are piled high with reindeer and elk sausage.
Pingvinen (Penguin) in Bergen is where we dive into traditional fare.
This little informal restaurant is where local folk come for the tasty recipes like they would find in grandma’s kitchen. I ask for Lutefisk (made by soaking cod fish in lye made from birch ash…which my former mother-in-law served up each Christmas to the delight of my Norwegian father-in-law). The server says, “No, we don’t have it today.” Double darn!…but what we do feast on is delectable.
Rick and I share two dishes. Fish stew, which surprisingly is a mound of mashed potatoes mixed with shredded Pollock and bits of bacon – but oh the flavour – so divine we scoop it up with tablespoons in between bites of crunchy flat bread spread with butter. The second dish is Garlic-baked Hake – this 2-inch-thick flaky white delicate tasting fillet is a winner, served with creamy mashed potatoes as well as new spuds boiled in their skins, and stocks of asparagus, all swimming in butter. We leave nary a morsel!
It is back to Oslo for a few more days before catching yet another train – this time to Sweden. Our thoughts as we end our Norway stay is that its history and vibrant culture are as dynamic as the ice-age-gashes that fashioned the fiords and the country’s remarkable natural beauty.
Norway is known to be pricey for travellers, but not to be missed! Our costs for accommodations, food, entertainment and travel within the country came to $250CDN a day.
Book: “The Royal Palace Oslo” – by Nina E. Hoye (for all you want to know about Norway’s royalty & palace, copies can be purchased at the Royal Palace gift shop).
Basic Hotel Bergen