A Scandinavian Winter Part 1: Ten Things about Oslo
Can’t turn down a great flight deal. In January of this year, I spent almost two weeks touring four European countries, three of which were Scandinavian. Yes, it was cold, but nothing a little preparation couldn’t handle. My first backpacking trip was a new challenge, but turned out to be the best idea. With many stops along the way, packing lightly was the best option. Myself and best travel bud, landed an amazing, open-jaw flight deal with a combination of flights with Norwegian and Ryan Air. (Open Jaw Flight: arriving at and departing from two different airports.) It went a little something like this:
JFK -> Oslo $81 (Norwegian)
Oslo -> London $27 (Ryan Air)
London -> Copenhagen $12 (Ryan Air)
Copenhagen -> Stockholm $11 (Ryan Air)
Stockholm -> JFK $196 (Norwegian)
The next four post, will detail my experience in each country.
First Up, Oslo, Norway!
Oslo was my favorite of the four-country tour. First, let’s chat about the immediate need for me to adjust to the weather and aimless stares. The stares, I would assume, were because of my radiating melanin, but you learn to take these things, not as negative, but, as positive encounters. It validates that you are in uncommonly, chartered territory, embrace it!
I’d like to share ten highlights during my time in Norway:
1. The Water — Oslo has the BEST water, I’ve ever consumed. Our Airbnb host recommended that we avoid buying bottled water, and embrace the tap, but I didn’t think it’d be that great. Cold water from the tap would frost glass cups. If I lived in Oslo, Evian, Volvic, and Figi would be obsolete.
2. Espresso House — The Scandinavian equivalence to Starbucks. Amazing pastries, BTW.
3. FOOD! My favorite dining experience was at Rorbua — reindeer, moose, deer and whale were on the menu. If you are looking for authentic, Norwegian food, this is the place to go! It also provides great views as it is on the Marina. Saray (Turkish) and Villa Paradiso (Italian) were a couple favs. Norway is known for its high currency value, so I will admit things, especially food, can be a bit more expensive than your typical date night.
4. Noble Peace Prize Museum — President Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the many other award winners had various features throughout the museum. I, pleasantly, learned about Wangari Muta Maathai (#BlackGirlMagic). Dalai Lama was a limited exhibit, but was funky and interactive. I will say that during the time we traveled to the museum, there was a Targets exhibit which depicted images of how the enemy was created in various parts of the world. It was soul clenching, focusing on the skills and tactics of countries when preparing and at war. I think it was a part that I could have stood to skip.
5. Oslo Vinterpark Tryvann Ski Resort — Because we traveled during the middle of winter, who wouldn’t want to hit the slopes? A half hour train ride and half-mile walk up to the resort, made for some spectacular views. We went later in the evening catching the beautiful sunsets. For those that still have their hands on their college ID, Friday is the best day to visit for discounted prices. Of course, I stayed on the bunny slopes as it was my first time skiing, only snowboarding once in the past. I always make an effort to notice the children of the country. In this case, children as young as five skied as if it were the first thing learned out of the womb. Children are so fearless!
6. Public transportation — As many European cities, public transit is based on the honor system. Be sure not to get caught by the ticket maid!
7. Syrian Refugee March — Our first night in Oslo, we were wandering the streets and ran into a march welcoming the refugees. Everyone carried torches as they chanted in the streets and listened to others soapbox in the middle of the crowd. Pretty AWESOME experience.
8. EXPENSIVE booze! History tells us that in Scandinavia, Norway in particular, was once a country of high alcohol consumption thus the government decided to slap a crazy tax on it to diminish excessive purchasing. Just look for Vinmonopolet on sides of buildings, but be prepared to spend pretty pennies on bottom-shelf alcohol. They’re actually few and far in between.
9. Magic Ice Bar — Cold, but oh so fun! Entry was around $15 and included a signature, alcoholic beverage. We were provided large cloaks that we wore atop our winter coats. Wearing gloves, scarves and a hat wasn’t such a bad idea either. The music was great! The bar was a gallery as well, featuring many imitated ice sculptures of famous pieces of art. Most visitors stay in for a maximum of 45 minutes.
10. Oslo city pass — For museum lovers and students. The city pass is an economical way to see many of the cities attractions including using city transit. It can be bought at the airport or Reuter building downtown. Be sure to mention you’re a student!
Oslo was my first experience traveling to a country during its winter. From my photos you will notice I invested in snow boots (uggs won’t work) a coat that could endure -15 degree Fahrenheit, snow gloves and a balaclava, all necessary. The key to everyday attire was layers! Oh, and hand and feet warmers (cheap at Dicks) were our saving grace while skiing. Many prefer travel during the warmer months, but I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything.