We had a pleasant sleep in our little inside stateroom and we knew that the Pearl Seaways would be well into its final leg up the Oslofjord when we awoke in the morning. Before grabbing our latte’s, I popped out onto the back deck and discovered we were in a thick fog and the ship railings and deck were covered in dew. A short while later, Bec and I went up to the top deck and found the fog had burnt off in the spring sun and the views were terrific. The water was flat and the tiny cabins and villages along the shore looked so idyllic.
Landing at the port, it was a short walk to our hotel in the downtown district of Kvadraturen. We popped over to the nearby Oslo Sentralstasion and received our Norway in a Nutshell tickets (more on that later). We grabbed a picnic lunch and caught the T-bane to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. This park’s highlights are the stone and bronze human figures by sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943).
We decided to walk back into the centre and made a coffee pitstop along the way. We soon reached the Royal Palace with views of the front façade and down the hill along Oslo’s main strip, Karls Johan. This street was a hive of activity with historic hotels, alfresco restaurants, open squares, and chic shopping. We found ourselves back at the train station and pulled up a stump beside many of the locals enjoying a beverage on the sun-soaked terraces. After our little break, we made the short walk over to the Oslo Opera House built to resemble snowfields and floating ice. The interesting thing about it is that you can walk on the roof which offers great views of the Barcode District and harbour. That evening, we found our way to the Summit Bar on the 21st floor of the nearby Radisson Blu. We savoured a couple of cocktails while watching the sunset over Oslo.
I had mentally prepared Rebecca for what would be a museum extravaganza and she was barely sold over the prospect of doing some shopping along Karls Johan. We walked over to the harbour in front of City Hall to catch our ferry to Bygdoy where Oslo’s best museums are located. Our first stop was the Viking Ship Museum. These burial vessels are well displayed and we both enjoyed the simplicity of it. Next stop, the Norsk Folkmuseum. Bec chose to enjoy a coffee in the café and start some research on Bergen, but I power walked through the sprawling open-air museum that contains Norwegian farming timber houses from different regions and eras. My favorite was the restored stave church from 1200 and the village built to resemble the surburbs of Oslo in 1900 (reminded me a lot of Calgary’s Heritage Village!). Final stop, the Polar Ship Fram which Bec took another “pass” on. Loaded with information, this museum focuses on Norway’s leading role in the exploration of the Arctic. Back from Bygdoy, we strolled the promenade of Aker Brygge down to the Museum of Modern Art.
That afternoon, it was Bec’s turn to take the lead. She led us to a famous street-side joint, Syverkiosken, serving pølse (popular Norwegian hotdog). From there, we walked down the Akerselva River towards Grünerløkka where I mistakenly ordered what I consider the world’s most expensive beer from New Zealand at a local pub in which Bec had hoped we would have tried some local brew. The last stop on Bec’s food & beverage tour was the Mathallen Food Hall. We had a browse around the market stalls and picked up some elk sausage and local cheese for later but felt as though we should have a proper Scandinavian seafood dinner. Bec went for the seafood soup and I had the fish and chips (it’s not just a British thing!).
OK. Back to Norway in a Nutshell. This tour starts from Oslo Sentralstasion and heads west across beautiful farm land into Norway’s mountainous and fjord riddled hinterland. The train climbed up and up to its maximum elevation of 1237 m where people were still in the midst of cross-country and downhill skiing. We changed trains in Myrdal to the scenic Flåmsbana which winds its way down through spiral tunnels and huge gorges. At the port, we boarded a 2 h cruise on the Vision of the Fjords that took us through some of Norway’s narrowest channels within Nærøyfjord, an Unesco World Heritage site. We jumped on the bus back up to re-join the Oslo-Bergen line in Voss and continued our tunnel-filled journey to Bergen.
Our good-luck weather continued in Bergen, but we found the city to be a bit deserted. We now understand that Easter is very important in Norway and even the Thursday (Maundy Thursday) is given as a holiday to make it a 5 day weekend. My imagination of Norway is that every family has a remote cabin and that the entire country is gathered round in these hidden family sanctuaries. And everything is closed! Almost everything. We walked around Vågen port to the old district of Bryggen. We had a coffee and the famous Bergen kanelbolle before stepping on the funicular to reach a spectacular view of Bergen. Bergen was once the most prominent city of Norway and many of its emigrants for the Americas left from this city. Gazing from there, I couldn’t help think about the journey my ancestors would have embarked upon from the port down below.
Walking back down the hill worked up our appetites and Bec had the perfect spot in mind, Pingvinen, a restaurant known for serving the city’s best raspeballer, a potato dumping sided by swedes and a sausage only served on Thursdays. From there, we stumbled across, what we thought was a bachelor party but, by the sheer numbers, must be an annual affair – a group of men cross-county skiing in antique equipment along the dry sidewalks. They were even skiing down the steps of The National Stage! We later ran into the skiers at the Vågen port confirming our suspicion that there was indeed alcohol involved. That night, we dined again at the Altona Restaurant & Wine Bar in our hotel and finally tried a reindeer steak. (Somehow Bec managed to find a hotel with a wine bar in it).
So, that, in a nutshell, was our Norwegian experience.