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.

Sognefjord: The King of the Fjords

So normally when I write blog posts about where I’ve been, I typically just write about cities. But, on my trip to Norway I spent some time outside of the cities exploring the fjords, and I really wanted to write a separate post just about them.

The entire concept of a fjord is so cool and I’ve always wanted to go check them out.

I mean, it’s a narrow strip of water surrounded by tall mountains that go on for kilometers at a time. As a dude that comes from a city with no mountains or seas, everything about a fjord just seems so amazing.

An overcast day at the fjord.

So, when I was planning my trip to Norway, I made sure I spent some time actually in the fjords. I found the Norway in a Nutshell tour which seemed like a great fit since it meant I could check out the UNESCO section of Sognefjord on the way to Oslo from Bergen.

That was all I really needed to hear. I ended up booking my itinerary myself through the transit sites instead though since it was cheaper to do so. The end result was essentially the same but I just saved a couple hundred crowns.

The fjord experience started off at Gudvangen, which is at the base of Nærøyfjord, the UNESCO section of Sognefjord. The moment I got off the bus I was instantly in awe at how beautiful the place was and it was only just the beginning.

The view at Gudvangen.

The weather was a bit overcast so it was super dramatic and there was no wind so the water was so calm. It was beautifully epic. The water perfectly reflected the mountains and the clouds and it looked like a giant mirror.

It was so amazing to just stand there and look out over the water.

Then, I got onto the ferry which traversed Nærøyfjord and made its way to Aurlandsfjord, another branch of Sognefjord. The ferry itself was also quite cool. Very modern boat and it was purely electric so it was both quiet and environmentally friendly.

The Power of the Fjords.

The view was unbelievable. I did a fjord tour when I was in Bergen but this one had taller mountains and calmer waters and so the atmosphere was just so amazing. I pretty much just stood on deck in the wind for the entire two hours of the tour and just took it all in.

Every time I think about Norse mythology or the vikings or whatever, I think of people in small wooden boats just traversing the fjords. In my head, I’ve always kinda imagined it to be so serene and so epic. And honestly, despite being on a tourist tour on an incredibly modern boat, it still felt so awesome.

By the time the tour was almost over and I could see Flåm, the village where we’d be docking at, I was actually kinda sad. It was such an enjoyable experience that I wanted to just stay on the boat. But alas, I had to depart.

It’s impossible to appreciate the scale of things from a photo.

Typically, Norway in a Nutshell tours would continue on from there and go to Oslo, but I decided I wanted to stay the night in Flåm to spend more time in the area. I booked a snowshoe hike ahead of time and despite it being a bit warm and not snowy, we drove up to the mountains where there was snow and managed to do a bit of a hike.

The endpoint of the hike was this awesome section in the mountains that give this incredible view of the fjord below. After spending two hours on a boat looking at the fjord, it was breathtaking to see the fjord from above.

A view of Aurlandsfjord from the mountains.

Finally, I concluded my amazing fjord day with a “viking dinner” at the Ægir Bryggeri, a microbrewery in Flåm. That was by far the nicest dinner I had during my trip to Norway (and most expensive) and the beer was also fantastic.

Overall, that was honestly such an amazing day and probably the best day of my time in Norway. I had really high expectations of the fjords before I went to Norway and I’m glad to say that it really met my expectations. Seeing the fjords in person really cemented the idea that Norway has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

I really can’t wait to go check out other fjords now. Not just in Norway but in other countries too. I’ve heard that Iceland is also incredibly beautiful and certain parts of Canada also have them too. I can’t really articulate how cool they were, you just have to see them in person.

Bergen: The Gateway to the Fjords

As part of my two week vacation in February, I had a chance to visit Norway for the first time. I’ve always wanted to see the Norwegian fjords and the release of God of War last year reignited my interest in Norse mythology. So, when I was deciding on where to go after London, I figured Norway would be a good option.

My Norwegian adventure started in Bergen, on the western side of the country. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway and is known for being situated right in the mountains near the fjords. Since my entire reason for going to Norway was to check out the fjords, it makes sense for me to start there.

Downtown Bergen on a rainy day.

Bergen is a pretty quaint little city situated by the water and surrounded by mountains. It was really neat because the mountains are pretty close to the city and they have a bunch of houses and other buildings on them. The day I arrived was somewhat rainy and foggy as well so it just made the city feel really dramatic.

The downtown core of the city is really walkable so I spent a lot of time just walking around the main harbour area. They have a UNESCO Heritage Site called Bryggen which is pretty neat. They’re a bunch of old wooden buildings that look pretty cute from afar but when you get closer you start to wonder when they’re gonna collapse since they’re all at like random angles and slanted.

Bryggen, a collection of old wooden buildings.

That’s probably the most unique non-natural sight in Bergen. Despite being the second largest city in Norway, it’s still honestly a tiny city since Norway’s population is so tiny. I mean, Canada has one of the lowest population densities in the world but the GTA has a larger population than all of Norway.

But, being a small city is actually super ok. The reason is because the natural sights of Bergen are awesome and to be completely honest, it would just be tainted if there were more people living nearby.

Bergen has a bunch of parks within the city that are nice to walk around. Even small and random parks are so scenic and relaxing to walk through. I spent like a solid day just walking around the city and checking out the random ponds, parks, and green areas.

A pond in Nygårdsparken.

They also have this funicular called Fløibanen which brings you to the top of one of the mountains overlooking the city. I went up there around sunset and it was beautiful. The city was bathed in this golden light and the sky was this awesome combination of pastel colours and it was such a treat to see.

I ended up walking around the mountain a tiny bit to kill time while the sun actually set and the night view of the city was just as beautiful. One thing I love about European cities is that they still use a lot of incandescent lights so it just gives off a warmer and more comfy feeling.

It was super windy that day and I got pretty cold while waiting for the sun to set but it was totally worth it.

Bergen after the sun sets.

Another thing that was totally worth it is are the fjord tours outside of the city. There’s a lot of parks, fjords, and mountains nearby Bergen so you can definitely spend a lot of time exploring them. I didn’t have that much time though so I ended up only doing one small excursion out, a fjord tour through Osterfjord.

That was my first fjord tour of the trip and I essentially just got on this boat and it brought us through one of the fjords there. It was again, a super windy day, especially when you’re on a boat in the water, but it was an awesome experience.

A boat in the Osterfjorden.

It’s pretty much everything I expected the fjords to be like, some tall mountains flanking a thin body of water. And it was so epic. At the end of the tour we saw this giant waterfall next to this small village and it was also so cool.

The plan is to write another more detailed post about the fjords next time, so stay tuned!

A giant waterfall.

Back in the city, they have a fish market nearby Bryggen. Apparently in the summer the market is larger and open-air but since I went in February it was indoors and a bit more limited. I was just walking around the fish market when I looked at the menus and realized they served whale.

Now, I love whales. I think they’re awesome animals and I generally don’t really approve of the way they get hunted.

However, I’m also a very curious person and wanted to try it. So I did. I felt kinda bad but at the same time I can now say that I’ve tried whale and my curiosity is sated.

A burger with a minke whale patty.

It’s an interesting piece of meat. A lot of similarities with beef but texture-wise it’s a bit softer and flavour-wise it has a much more metallic taste to it. It could be a higher iron count in the blood or maybe it’s the mercury poisoning. Who knows?

Nearby the fish market was this hot dog stand that served reindeer hot dogs too, so I also tried that. In a span of like two days I managed to check off two more animals on my list of animals to eat, which was kinda cool. Reindeer doesn’t really taste like anything special though, just tastes like meat.

Overall, Bergen was awesome. I went to Oslo later on in my trip but I would definitely recommend Bergen over Oslo. It’s just so much nicer of a city and there’s so much cool nature surrounding it. I would love to go back sometime in the summer and check out some of the other places I didn’t have the chance to check out this trip.