As I mentioned in my last post, we took the DFDS overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo, arriving in Oslo around 9am or so. When we exited the ferry, we opted to take a cab to our hotel downtown to drop off our bags before we started exploring. It was pretty inexpensive and probably took less than 10 minutes.
Once our bags were stowed, we headed out toward the Oslo Royal Palace, stopping along the way to enjoy the gorgeous flowers and interesting architecture. The Palace is up on a slight incline/hill from the downtown area (off of Karl Johans Gate), with some very pretty views of the city once up toward the top. We started our ascent with jackets and pants, but after about 30-45 minutes, we were sweating. Oslo was probably the warmest city we’d visited yet. I’d wager it was in the 70s, maybe 75 in the sunlight. The grounds leading up to the palace were very pretty, with gobs of trees, flowers, and statues. Oslo was the first Scandinavian city with lots of flowers in the gardens. I was delighted by the colors, and even more delighted there were so many dahlias (thanks for the ID, Kate!).
Once we got up to the palace, it was quite pretty and peppered with informational signs. I don’t believe I’ve seen another palace offer so many signs with historical significance along with photos of how things looked at the time on the outside. I really enjoyed it.
One of my favorite informational signs highlighted the military marching in front of the palace. The best part about this photo is their socks. I LOVE their socks. I love the patterns, I love the stark contrast to their uniforms, and I love that they’re all wearing completely different socks. After seeing this photo, I informed Jim we needed to find socks like these (we did not) and bring them home. I’m starting to think I should just take up knitting and try to make some of these myself (though I do realize these are probably quite difficult patterns).
Our next stop was the Opera House, which is said to be the best example of Nordic architecture in all of Oslo (also the #1 thing to see in Oslo). As such, we figured out the Oslo metro (which I highly recommend) and were there in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, though, they were setting up for a concert and no one could enter the premises that day. This was quite a bummer, as we’d been looking forward to seeing the Opera House for quite a while. So, this picture of the outside will have to suffice for now.
In the lefthand corner of the Opera House photo, you’ll notice a row of buildings. These are called the Barcode Buildings, which are part of a larger project to redevelop the area with multi-purpose high rise buildings. We ended up showering in a hotel close to here after our overnight train ride back from Bergen (more on this in a later post). These buildings stand out compared to the rest of Scandinavia, as they’re much higher than any others we had seen and far more modern. In fact, Oslo looked the most like a North American city with taller buildings and such than the other cities we visited, which we found interesting.
Following our Opera House disappointment, we decided to take a trip out to the Viking Museum or Historisk museum & Vikingskipshuset. If you’re making a trip to do this, be well aware that it is quite the tourist destination. If you have a car, great. It’s probably a quick, easy drive. If you are a fan of on/off buses, this is a stop. Or if you’re into using public transportion, you can take a bus out there (this is what we did). The bus ride took maybe 25-30 minutes and dropped us off just outside of the museum. By this time we were starting to get a bit hungry. There is a little cafe (probably selling hotdogs and the like) outside the museum, but if you’re up for a five minute walk, there’s a really good cafe we’d recommend, instead: Café Hjemme Hos Svigers. This was a legit and interesting cafe with a friendly weight staff and fresh squeezed lemonade. Jim had a chicken avocado sandwich, and I had a tomato based fish soup (it was heavenly). I’m calling out the tomato base because the waitress asked me if it was OK because of the tomatoes twice. Apparently people don’t like tomato fish soups. I don’t know these people, but they apparently exist.
After lunch we made our way back to the Viking Ship Museum. We bought our tickets and tried to wade through the crowd. While Jim was purchasing tickets, I got to use a little of my Spanish with a couple who asked where I got my map of Oslo. Felt good to be helpful and to do so in Spanish. If you’re visiting, this place is crowded and full of tour buses. I’d recommend you take your phones (and headphones) and listen to the audio guide at each informational stop. It’ll block out some of the sound and make sure you hear all the information.
The tour was pretty cool and featured three recovered viking ships: The Oseberg Ship (the one you see with the ornamental elements), The Gokstad Ship (the full ship, less ornamental), and the Tune Ship (first ship to be excavated in modern times).
The Oseberg and Gokstad Ships were both burial ships. The Oseberg for two powerful women, featuring elaborate sleds, wagons, carved animal headposts, beds, horses, dogs, and cows (see photos below). While the Gokstad was for a powerful man, though it had been plundered and had fewer artifacts, but more utensils, tents, smaller boats (see below), and animals like peacocks.
I’d say something we found pretty interesting here was how small the ships seemed for carrying all of those things. Also, how low to the water the ships must’ve been. More than anything else, this makes me want to learn more about HOW Vikings were so successful in building ships and conquering areas. It’s pretty fascinating.
My favorite part, though, was a video on viking weaponry (up on the second level directly above the ticketing/gift shop). In this video you got to see how the vikings (probably) made a battle axe as well as see how modern blacksmiths make a battle axe and try it out. I’m in awe of the human capacity for making something no one had made before and for that tool to be sooo impressive and deadly.
Following the Viking Museum trip, we checked into our hotel (formally) and took a much needed nap. We agreed we were both suffering (a bit) from city fatigue. After a little relaxation, we opted for dinner and a movie. Not typically our MO in a foreign country, but it was a culture experience all the same.
To date, I have only seen movies (in theatres) in the United States, France, and now Norway. French movie theatres are similar to American ones. Norwegian theatres are a little different. We bought our tickets from the concession stand people, popcorn was already popped in bags behind a case (sort of like a cold case in the grocery store, but not cold), you select your seat (we have this in the US, but only in more boutique theatres…it’s probably my favorite), and there was a whole aisle of assorted licorice candy. We opted to see Bad Moms.
Mini review of Bad Moms – Overall, it was pretty funny and an entertaining way to spend an evening. It was nice to see a comedy in a packed theatre where everyone was laughing. I haven’t done that in a really long time. Kristin Bell, Kathryn Hahn, and Christina Applegate were the stand-out performances (in my opinion). Mila Kunis was OK, but I just don’t find her believable as a happy-go-lucky woman of two children. She seems more dark and moody to me. I think she was a bit miscast. Kristin Bell would’ve been perfect in the lead. Regardless, there was many a funny situation. Jim’s favorite (I think) was the little girl (Oona Laurence). I’d say see it if you’re open for a light-hearted laugh.
After the movie, we wandered a little and ultimately made it back to our hotel, as we had an early train ride to Bergen in the morning! More on that later…