Oslo: Day 1

Flying into the Oslo Gardermoen airport, we get our first glimpse of Norway and it is strikingly green and lush (left). After getting through customs and the train ride into town, we glimpse a row of consulting offices with fun and cool modern architecture next to the station (right).

Walking towards our Airbnb rental, we find ourselves at what appears to be an unoccupied pink office building under renovation next to a replica of Noah’s ark (right upper, with pink building visible behind it). It turns out the GPS coordinates for our apartment were a few blocks off, but we got a nice walk in on the harbour walk.

At the apartment building, we follow instructions that feel a little like a spy drop. We get into the building and have to locate the correct fire hose box, inside of which is a lock box with a numerical code, from which we retrieve the keys. After successfully completing our mission (the apartment is a small but beautiful loft with 2 story windows), we head out for a long walk.

We are greeted by a small cavalry on horseback on our walk around town (left upper). You may notice that many of the riders are women. At the Stortervet flower market near the cathedral, a statue of 16th century King Christian IV points to the site of the city’s rebuilding after the original Oslo burned down in a fire (right upper). He named the rebuilt city Christiania in 1624, and the Oslo name was not used again until 1924. He was a popular and diligent ruler for 59 years, the longest of any Scandinavian monarch. A few blocks away we find the new City Hall (left lower), where we see many ladies and gentleman in traditional dresses and suits (left lower and right lower). The outfits are beautifully embroidered with flowers and embellished with metal buckles.

A few blocks away, we find lunch at the Amundsen Bryggeri, where the Amundsen burger is flavorful and yummy,  accompanied by fries and peppery ketchup. We discover Crabbie Ginger Beer here from Edinburgh that is delightly fizzy and just lightly sweet. Happily full, we join a hop-on hop-off bus tour for a few hours. The route loops all through the city and outside, including several marinas and the king’s farm en route to the Maritime museum and the Kon Tiki Museum celebrating Thor Heyerdahl, an adventurer I first learned about in 4th grade. He is one of the reasons we made the trip out to Easter Island earlier this year. In the late 1940s, Thor Heyerdahl and his fellow adventurers built a small balsa wood raft – the Kon-Tiki – and successfully floated from Peru to Tuamotos (left) to test a hypothesis that French Polynesia could have been settled from South America in pre-Columbian times. The journey took 101 days, and their only back-up was radio communication relay with the Norwegian embassy in Washington DC. Less than 10 years later, he organized an expedition to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) to study the moai – the giant statues. When we were in Easter Island, we saw several rafts in the ocean modeled after the Kon-Tiki (right). Easter Island is about half-way between Peru and Tuomotos, slightly to the south.

We also see the Nobel Peace Center (left) – the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year on Dec 10 at Oslo City Hall – and the most exclusive neighborhood in Norway (right). This area is home to the most expensive home in the Nordic region (not just Norway). In 2014, an apartment here sold for $5.8 million at a price tag of $3650 USD per square foot.

Back in town, we take a quick nap, then head out at 9 pm to catch the sunset. Today, sunset is at 10:20 pm, with sunrise at 4 in the morning. Oslo is beautiful at sunset. On the harbour, the Opera House is a striking white carrera marble architectural work of art (left and right upper). The textured marble planes emerge smoothly from the water to climb in angled terraces overlooking the harbor. You can walk all the way up to the top of the opera house roof, but take careful not to trip as there are many small ledges on the way up. The view though, especially at sunset, is worth the climb. A concrete tube next to the Opera House is a popular photo spot (right lower).

The downtown walk up Karl Johans Gate is also completely different at dusk. The cobblestone pedestrian avenue is lined with shops and restaurant with outdoor patios filled with people talking and laughing. The UEFA Champions League soccer finale is on tonight, and people are very excited. Every once in a while, you can hear entire blocks cheering. Astonishly (to us), one of the most popular places is a cluster of American restaurants (second from right) – including the Hard Rock Cafe Oslo and TGI Fridays – that sits just a few blocks in front of the Royal Palace (far right). The royal family lives in the palace, and the palace park is open to the public.

A short walk through the National Theater grounds in the Studenterlunden Park is a beautiful and quiet finale to our day. What adventures await us tomorrow?

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