Oslo: The Quiet Capital

The last stop on my trip to Norway was Oslo, the capital. To be honest, whenever I think of visiting Norway, I think of checking out the natural sights like the fjords and mountains. I don’t particularly associate Norway with large and exciting cities so I didn’t really know what to expect from Oslo.

I made my way to Oslo from Flåm via train and it was a longer ride than I initially expected it to be. Looking outside it honestly felt like half the time you’re just looking out into the tundra. The ground was covered in snow and the skies were covered in clouds so everything was just white. Then, we got closer to Oslo and all of a sudden it felt like we were in civilization again.

I arrived at about 7 pm so it was already night time. My accommodation wasn’t very far from the train station so I figured I’d just walk.

The Oslo Marina at night.

It was about a 15 minute walk and the city felt so dead. Like, there were almost no people on the streets and aside from the random street car rumbling by, there weren’t even that many vehicles on the road.

It was a bit odd since I thought the downtown core of the country’s capital and largest city would be.. busier. It wasn’t even all that late so I was just a bit confused.

I looked it up afterwards and found out that Oslo has a population of about 650,000 people, which is honestly not a lot. I mean, Ottawa has a larger population and I always associate Ottawa with being a small city.

“Hold up lemme divebomb these seagulls real quick.”

I mean, I guess it makes sense. All of Norway has a population of like 5.5 million people so you can’t really expect one city to have millions of people. It just felt weird though since I always compare Canadian cities with other larger European and Asian cities and so I always have this impression that our cities aren’t that big. But here I was in a city that was objectively tinier.

And so the end result was that the city just felt.. quiet. There were a few streets which were a bit more lively but if you even went a street over the amount of people would drop significantly.

I think as a tourist who enjoys walking around and exploring big cities, having a more lively atmosphere is definitely a plus. Although I can see how it might be a pretty nice place to live in though since there are definite benefits for living in a city with less people. It’s just less busy and less stressful I think.

Docks in the Aker Brygge area.

And I think that was the main thing about Oslo as a city. I could see it being a great place to live in and raise a family or something but honestly it was kinda a bit too quiet for my tastes. There wasn’t too much to do and everything was even more expensive.

For the most part, I spent a lot of time checking out museums and random sights around the city. One museum that I really enjoyed was the Nobel Peace Center, a place dedicated to showcasing the recipients of the award and to further it’s message.

They had a nice exhibition went I went called “Tell the World About Us”, a photo and story collection of people around the world who undergo systemic suffering and injustice. It was pretty dark and depressing but at the same time it was incredibly powerful. Really makes me think about how fortunate I am to live the life I do.

The Tell the World About Us gallery.

Another museum that I went to that was pretty neat was the Viking Ship Museum, which if you couldn’t figure out from the name, is about viking ships. It was a bit small but it had a few real ships on display which was cool. The vikings were a group of interesting people and so I’m always down to check out more stuff about them.

Other than the museums, there really isn’t too much to do in the city. They have this fancy opera house by the water which looks pretty cool, but if you’re not really into opera then you pretty much just go and check out the building and leave.

One cool thing I did though was take the metro outside of the city. When the trains are in the city they’re underground but after a bit they move above ground. The specific line I took essentially goes into the mountains so you have this pretty great view from the side of the mountain down to the city.

I missed the train but got this photo.

That in and of itself was a pretty neat ride. I personally like to people watch and observe how the local population lives their lives so it was cool since a lot of people had skis, sleds, or snowboards and just casually took the train up to enjoy a day in the mountains.

People always say that the Norwegians love their skis and honestly it was pretty wholesome to see so many families and school trips on the train with their gear. It doesn’t seem like it’s too much out of the ordinary but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.

At one point I even saw some people just casually ski/snowboard straight to the train platform. It was such a casual slide down to the platform and then dismount and wait for the train. Fairly common with bikes, but probably the first time I’ve seen it happen with winter sports gear.

Holmenkollbakken, a ski jump tower.

Anyways, the mountain itself had some pretty good views of the city. That was my last day in Norway and just walking around in the snow was a pretty nice experience. It was a good time to reflect upon the trip and to just kinda take it easy.

Speaking of snow, the weather wasn’t cold enough to actually have snow accumulate in the city, so the only place I saw it was outside of the city center. One thing I noticed when I was there was that they don’t salt the roads.

In Canada, every time there’s snow they pour literal tons of salt and sand on the roads which does a great job of melting the snow and ice but it creates this disgusting slush and brown snow. But in Norway, it didn’t seem like they even use salt. They just shovel the roads and sprinkle some gravel.

The end result is that the roads are clear and the snow still looks pristine. It was honestly really nice since I love the snow but it always ends up looking disgusting in Canada due to the salt and sand. It genuinely looked so much better without the salt and it’s definitely a lot better for the environment too.

A wintery road in the mountains.

Overall, Oslo was alright. I don’t think it’s the most exciting city I’ve been to. It’s quiet and there isn’t too much to do. Probably a great place to live in, but for tourism, it seems like it would be better off as a transit hub to get to other places in Norway.

I know I personally don’t really have an urge to go out of my way to visit it again, but if I was there for a night or two on-route to another city or something, I’d be ok with that.

Author: Gary

Explorer, Creator, Gamer. #IDKAIST MSc and #UOITGameDev Alumni.

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