There was nor way we were missing out on...Oslo!

Trip Start May 27, 2011
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Trip End Jun 19, 2011


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Where I stayed
Comfort Hotel Xpress, Oslo
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Norway  , Oslo,
Sunday, May 29, 2011

DAY 1

Since the loads on SAS were looking poorly, we thought it would be best to try their first flight to Oslo. Unfortunately this left at 7.15am, meaning we had to be awake at 3.50am for our 4.20am Hoppa bus transfer. Clearly safety before schedule is their motto, as SAS didn't open their counters until 6am anyway. A girl in the queue even fainted from the wait! But she recovered before Ted and I could jump into action and try out our Flight Attendant first aid training.

There was still no guarantee of seats, so we went and had bagels for breakfast and came back later before flight closure. There was no need to be worried - we got seats anyway, and made the insane run through security to the departure gate. Unbeknown to us, SAS don't provide the luxury of food and drink like Qantas do, so since we had no Norwegian kroners, we had to starve for the next two hours. Even a glass of water would have been a luxury!

When we arrived in Oslo, we walked through the enormous glass airport, collected our bags and went to the airport rail transfer. Unfortunately for Ted, the lower part of his backpack had opened so we suspect there might be some stray underpants floating around the baggage belt. We'd been warned that Norway was expensive but, good grief! I think the railway lines were paved with gold as two tickets into the city cost $56. On the plus side, the ride on the speedy train through the countryside was spectacular, with beautiful fields, wooden cottages and quaint towns. We love Norway already.

Upon arrival at Central Station, a Norwegian girl turned to me during disembarkation and started prattling at me until I could politely tell her I couldn't speak the language. Apparently she needed help with her luggage and had mistaken Ted and I for local Norwegians (with our Aussie accents?). Ted and I then started the trek to our hotel, got lost, and then returned to the station to ask for directions at the Tourist Info. Finally we arrived at 10am before being advised check-in wasn't until 3pm (???) so we stored our bags and went to get something to eat. We were pretty wary of what to buy since we're budgeting and Norway is expensive, so we settled on a kebab and hamburger (both with corn on them). One sad truth is that Sydney really isn't much cheaper anyway.

The city is pretty easy to get around so we didn't need public transport for sightseeing. But it's so empty! Clearly, Sunday trading hasn't taken off yet. Our first stop was the Royal Palace to call in on King Harald and Queen Sonja, who were home as the flag was up. The walk there through the city was beautiful as Oslo is so clean. The palace was amongst beautiful gardens and had some photogenic guards too. The men in Norway are huge! It makes us feel like Gary Coleman at a Harlem Globetrotters game.

After this we went to Vigelandsparken which was about 15 minutes walk from the Palace, which was totally worth it. The park is huge and features an abundance of flowers and nude statues. It was definitely a highlight. You could easily spend a day here, and probably fit the whole population of Oslo in there too.

Ted decided we should take an alternate way back to the city so, after diverting and seeing every Oslo neighbourhood possible, we finally arrived at the harbour. We love the harbour, as it's reminiscent of the Foreshore in Newcastle, or a (much smaller) Darling Harbour in Sydney. Suddenly the weather took a turn for the worse as our beautiful Spring day became a Winter rainstorm. Most of the sights from then weren't as interesting, including City Hall which seemed to be trapped in the 70's, and the superficial looking Opera House which I couldn't help comparing to Sydney's. But the city is so wonderful, even a change in the weather couldn't turn us off.

We returned to our hotel to check-in - it's one of those funky new age places that has free internet, free coffee and kids young enough to be my own, running the place. We walked around the area looking for somewhere nice for dinner, but decided to settle on somewhere cheap instead, hence our meal at the local Vietnamese restaurant "China Garden". We did surprisingly well considering the wait staff couldn't speak English and we couldn't speak Norwegian. The weird thing is that "Kylling" means chicken. After dinner, we went to a local venue "The London Pub", ordered two beers, then realised we'd already blown our weekly budget, and went back to the hotel afterwards.

DAY TWO

Today we had arranged to hire a car for a chance to see the Norwegian countryside. Since Norway is such a long country, we knew we were pretty limited with just day use of a car but we also knew we'd do the best we can in such a small amount of time.

One interesting thing about Norway is how much they love their statues, as they seem to be in every town. I think there was even a statue for the man who built most of the statues. But the Norwegian accent is a real winner, and somewhat reminiscent of the Swedish chef from "The Muppet Show". The 20 hours of daylight is really wonderful, as there’s still enough light until 10pm to walk around. The women here too are beautiful, which should appeal to most of the men I know.

Our breakfast in a bag was waiting for us on our door handle, which ended up being pretty good value, so we packed a day bag and walked down to the Budget office. We ended up getting an Opel which proved pretty economical so, after figuring out how to exit the car park we were on our way! Fortunately joining the freeway north was very easy so all we had now was the long drive ahead. The weather was perfect, no rain and averaging around 20 degrees. Ted was very keen to see fjords, and was even showing a willingness to drive to Trondheim (about five and a half hours north of Oslo). I suggested that we see how the drive goes first before making such a rash decision. Our drive wasn’t as quick as we’d expected – plenty of road works and detours to ensure that you will not arrive as scheduled!

Our first stop was Lillehammer, home of the 1994 Winter Olympics, about two hours north from Oslo. Many times we commented on how the view was what we had expected from Norway – long green pastures, small wooden cottages, and more fjords than you could poke a stick at. When we arrived at Lillehammer, we decided to check out the Olympic Museum first and wondered what the entrance fee would be. Well, it ended up being nothing as there was nothing inside to see! There was even a whole tour group wandering around aimlessly, so Ted and I went for a walk to photograph the ski jump. For an even better view, we jumped into the car and drove up towards it. Again, it was a surprise – nothing was open again! If this had been in the USA, there would have been scores of tourists, a souvenir shop and a bear mascot dancing around to entertain the guests. We’re guessing that the Norwegians don’t have quite the same tourism flair as the North Americans. But on the plus side, there WERE no tourists, so we got some great photos without having to pay any admission.

We drove back down to the city to have a look around. Lillehammer resembles a Swiss ski village with a pedestrian mall and a handful of restaurants. We found a nice riverside restaurant where we decided to have lunch, until we saw that the spaghetti alone was $22, so we had coffee instead. The waitress there gave an honest opinion that there were not many different sights nearby, and that driving to Trondheim was completely unreasonable! So we decided the south of Norway was more appealing. Ted was also wary that we would drive all the extra way and the scenery would be just the same.

Ted and I stopped at a local supermarket to buy some supplies before driving off road near the shore of the fjord to have lunch. It was totally worth it. This was one of those rare opportunities to sit and enjoy Norwegian scenery during lunch, after a long drive. We then headed back south to see some other towns in the area.

We decided to head to Sandefjord as the lady from Budget indicated it as worth seeing. Again, we didn’t arrive as quickly as hoped, due to the peak hour traffic around Oslo. Once we were free from that, the drive was clear. Unfortunately though the weather wasn’t, as Norway again flicked the thermostat down on us. By the time we arrived in Sandefjord, it was overcast, cool and windy, with a town quite devoid of people. The harbour and town are both beautiful so Ted and I thought it would be a great place for dinner. After walking around for a while, we had to settle on the only place that was open…AGAIN!! I’m too embarrassed to mention it here. C’mon Europe – open your restaurants so we don’t have to keep giving our hard earned dollars to this child labour fast food enterprise!

The drive back was a breeze and, as we could return the car late, Ted was keen to arrive in Oslo late evening so there would be less traffic. It didn’t help when we didn’t know which exit to use so we picked a nice sounding one and arrived somewhere near the docks. Nothing looked familiar so we drove around until we saw the opera house and started map reading again. By the time we were in the center of town, our nerves were getting frazzled by all the dead end and one way streets. This wasn’t helped by the fact that we drove on the tram tracks instead of the roads, causing a group of nearby tourists to point and take photos. But we finally found the Budget office, with a possible decision to never hire a car again!

Tomorrow we have our train journey to Bergen, in the west of Norway, so we thought it would be smart to go to bed early and give ourselves one good night of sleep, since we’re currently burning the candle at both ends. I think Ted was asleep in ten minutes after all the excitement of today’s Norwegian adventures.

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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