Monday, July 10, 2017

Norway Day 4–In Which We Leave the Mountains and Love Oslo


The Norwegians pride themselves on being a get-‘er-done kind of people. Need to get to Stockholm in the winter and all roads closed? Just put on your cross-country skis and stop whining. Lost in the woods and need something to eat? Just make yourself some reindeer moss soup and move on. Need a waffle hut at the top of a mountain? Done. There isn’t a lot of whinging here. The country is also swimming in oil and has managed their resources (mostly) well to the point that they are economically winning. Their expenses are less than their income, and imports are outweighed by exports. It’s also a highly socialist country with amazing welfare systems and benefits for its citizens including extended universal health care, minimum guaranteed pensions, livable wages and welfare, etc etc. Of course they pay for all this with high taxes, like a flat rate of 28% income tax for everyone (corporate tax is %25 but there is currently a move to reduce it by 1% to 24% which is being met with an outcry) and surtaxes for higher incomes as well. They charge a consumer tax of 25% on everything here also.

I wasn’t sure what I would find in Oslo in terms of diversity but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is not an entirely white city. We have come across ethnic neighbourhoods on our walks, and in the city centre it is possible to hear a variety of African languages and Arabic too. In fact the presence of refugees is noticeable here and I saw no evidence of anger or hate towards them. I witnessed a Syrian (?) family in a corner store where the young child translated Norwegian to her parents, who spoke back to her in Arabic. The little girl will likely learn English in no time as well making her fluent in no less than three languages.

The reason we were in the corner store is because we were getting some dinner. Our lunch the previous day rivalled the Copenhagen $90 lunch and so we were on rations in a bid not to break the bank. This city is by far the most expensive of any I’ve been in.

Anyway, that being said, there is much about Oslo that can be enjoyed without spending money – it is an architecturally beautiful city and we have spent much of our days here wandering the streets and admiring the gorgeous buildings, both old and new:




The most stunning building here, though, is the Oslo Opera House. We arrived in early evening and of course the sun was still high in the sky. It is possible to walk right up on to the roof of the building,which we did, although I was suffering from a kind of snow blindness due to all the white and light and was wandering around with my eyes closed trying not to fall off the edge.




Fortunately the inside was just as amazing and I didn’t need to continue acting out a scene from Little House on the Prairie where Mary has lost her vision.



On hot days, or if the mood strikes them, people swim in the fjord off the edge of the building. We just got as far as our feet.


We had once again lost track of time in the lightness of the evening and, in search of ice cream, came across a unique art installation on the harbour promenade that included, among other things, the world’s largest sauna:



When it’s not a sauna, it’s a bar and theatre space. There were a number of A-frame structures as part of this installation, all built after Viking Longhouses.



And also some little saunas in shipping containers with huge barrels of salt or fresh water that you could jump into after your sauna. Funky bars and food trucks completed the picture and we were happy to spend some time there people-watching.



It was now later than we thought but the place was still full of people and things to see on our way home, including this reminder that Norway is one of two whaling countries in the world, the other being Japan.


No, we didn’t try it.

The Royal Palace and surrounding park is right beside our guesthouse so we have been starting each day walking through its leafy green loveliness, and stopping periodically to have a giggle at the Royal Guard, who seem always to be changing. Zoe observed that their helmets are reminiscent of 1990’s hairstyles in which the pony tail was worn slightly to one side.


There was also a brief exchange between the guards which I am pretty sure went like this:

Guard 1: Anything to report?

Guard 2: No, Sir.

Guard 1: Nothing at all?

Guard 2: Well, I did find this spoon, Sir.

Guard 1: Well done, Centurion.

Guard 2: Thank you, Sir.

Anyway, they were quite charming, unless you got too close to the palace in which case they would march over and indicate, via semaphore I think given the wild flailing of arms that I witnessed, that an offense had been committed. The rest of the park is lovely and some how much nicer than our urban parks – more lush and clean.


This glowing cube is also the world’s coolest public washroom:


It was by now 3am or something like that and time for bed. More tomorrow including the angry baby statue and another dip in the fjord!

Thanks for reading,



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