Oslo, Norway

While my ancestors are from all over, I most strongly identify with my Norwegian heritage, as my paternal great-grandfather immigrated to America when he was a little boy. I remember my Grandma always wore traditional Norwegian dress at Christmas, so it was cool to come to the homeland and see some of those same outfits. Norway is also home to some of the funniest advertisements and lots of trolls. After being here for a few days, it is pretty clear where the makers of Frozen found their inspiration. While it didn’t snow while we were here (thank goodness), it was pretty rainy and gray the entire time. We still got out and made the most of it, but it also gave us a chance to play more cards.

The first thing we did in Oslo was go to the National Gallery, partly because it was raining and partly because it was free on Thursdays :). The gallery gave a nice summary of Norwegian painters throughout history, and we even stumbled upon a painting I knew — The Scream! That was a cool surprise. Our last day here we made our way to the Multi-Cultural Museum. The exhibits highlighted the Roma population in Norway, the refugee camps in Lebanon, and the many activists working in Norway to protect human rights of different groups and bring about social change. It was a very interesting and thought-provoking museum. Besides the museums, we also visited the botanical gardens and the Oslo Opera House. The Oslo Opera House is right on the harbor and is designed so you can walk right from the sidewalk, up the slanting roofs, to the very top! Oslo is full of very unique architecture.

After climbing the opera house, we went to one of Oslo’s fjords — an island carved out by glaciers. Though not as famous as the fjords in northern Norway, we still enjoyed wondering through the wooded center and climbing on the rocks along the shore. It was a nice relaxing afternoon listening to the ocean lap against the stone beaches. Also just outside the city is a very popular park called Sculpture Park. I bet you can guess why. As we walked through, we enjoyed the only sunshine we had on this leg of the journey, which made for some pretty great pictures. All of the sculptures are of people, and most of them are pretty dynamic. Here are just a few of the ones I liked. The baby throwing a tantrum is pretty famous — its on the cover of all the books in the gift shops — but I am not really sure why.

For me, the highlight of Oslo was going to the ski jump complex. We walked 4.5 miles each way (transportation is really expensive here and we had time to kill) to get to the mountain. We first came across the practice jumps, where you can see how skiers progress to the insane feat of professional ski jumping. There were 5 jumps in total ranging from a little one that would only put you in the air for a second or two to the full size. As we continued up the mountain we saw the main ski jump used in the 2011 World Championships. It was also the sight of the Olympic jump back in the 50s, but the jump itself has been redesigned since then. Before exploring the jump, we had lunch sitting in the stands of the biathlon arena and walked around the shooting range a bit. We toured the ski museum, which highlighted the origins of skiing for the hunt, defense, and eventually sport, and showcased some famous Norwegian ski treks, such as being the first people to reach the South Pole or travel across Greenland. At the end of the museum, we took the elevator to the top of the jump and took in the views of the surrounding mountains and the coastline of Oslo. Looking down the jump, you can’t even see where the skiers land. It must take nerves of steel to stand up from that seat and go shooting down the slide. I think I will stick to just regular downhill skiing.

With another destination complete, we are looking forward to meeting up with some friends and enjoying the beautiful weather in Amsterdam over the next few days. Then Matt and I will split with him going to Israel for Birthright and me continuing the Euro-tour in Germany. How am I only 16 days from WI?

Peace, Love, and Trolls,