Trip Start Jun 16, 2011
34Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Gro - (also known as Mary) who we had met in New Zealand in 2004 - and her sister met us at the airport with Norwegian flags - our first introduction to the patriotism of the Norwegians. After six weeks or so away, being met at the airport was very special and exciting. We then headed to Gro's mum's house which would be our base for our week in Oslo. When we arrived there was a home-cooked meal waiting for us. Yum!
We arrived in Oslo only two days after the bombing and the shooting so we were expecting the place to be a bit different to normal
The following day there was a minute silence organised by the Prime Minister which we watched on TV. There were no speeches, just the minute silence and coverage of the crowds. Everyone was very quiet and sad, but there was not as much anger as you would expect to find. There seemed to be a general disbelief that such a thing could happen in Norway. Later that evening we headed in to the city with Gro and her boyfriend, Ståle, and her brother and sister. A public walk was planned from the Town Hall to a plaza near the Domkirke (cathedral) in the centre of town - people would carry roses and it would be a gesture that Norwegians are against violence. We were waiting at the plaza as when the walk ended there were meant to be speeches and music, however, so many people had come (some websites I have read estimated 200,000 people, so about 1/3 of Oslo's population) that they weren't able to walk anywhere. Needless to say that roses were scattered everywhere around town and florists were sold out of stock of red roses.
We walked to the Domkirke, which is the same one that you would have seen in news reports with masses of flowers
We also drove past the island, Utøya, where the youth camp was being held. We didn't realise but it is actually quite a fair way out of Oslo, probably about an hour to an hour and a half. You can see the island from the road but it is a couple of hundred metres from the mainland. There are a few houses near the road on the mainland but it's a pretty country area. Again there were flowers about and the area was blocked off.
The rest of our time
While the terrorsaken did have quite an impact on our stay we were lucky to have some great tour guides to show us around. Our first day of exploring started with a trip to Frognerparken and the Vigeland sculpture garden
Next we went up the ski jump, Holmenkollen, which is a very new ski jump with a good 360 degree view of the city. We looked around the museum (about skiing but also Oslo & Norway) and also took an elevator that moved both horizontally and vertically to the top of the ski jump. After this we were starving and went for lunch at a place that was described as Oslo's 'romantic' restaurant. We then headed back to Gro's to meet the cats. They are two ragdoll cats - very cute and great temperaments for cuddles!
We had a couple of days out around Oslo - firstly to a bear park (Bjørneparken) in Flå that had some great bears but also other animals - and best of all no bear spray needed! Our favourite bear was a big brown bear, Rugg
We then drove to stay with Gro's father in Larvik, a cute little town not far from the seaside. We visited the beach and spent a day sunning ourselves (Norway's favourite past-time) on the rocks. We were careful with the sunscreening but the Norwegian sun seems to be a lot kinder than the Australian sun and the Norwegians tanned themselves without too much sunburn. That evening after dinner we went to a nearby town for a drink and a wander. The highlight was definitely the Hesteheimen (Horse House) in Stavern. Let's just say that if you go to southwest Norway and ask for directions to the Hesteheimen you may be looked at strangely – it is a place that is only on Ståle’s tour – and even then you need to have a bit of imagination!!
Our last few days in Oslo were spent relaxing and enjoying the sunshine with a combination of sitting in the garden and exploring the Nobel Peace Museum, Akerbrygge (like a mini Darling Harbour) and the Oslo Palace
We also cooked up a thank you feast for Gro and her lovely family of pizza (apparently the third classic Norwegian dish – only beaten by tacos and lasagne!). Shopping in a Norwegian supermarket was an interesting experience. Not only was it very very expensive but fresh food was in short supply compared to frozen food. They also don’t have any pumpkin.
We really liked Oslo but especially enjoyed getting to know Ståle and Gro’s family and seeing Gro again. Such lovely people!