Although Oslo is neither the Mediterranean nor the South Pacific, the city can satisfy many of these requirements, whether it’s downhill skiing or waterskiing.
Oslo is situated at the very end of the Oslo Fjord, which — though not as breathtaking as the even more spectacular examples in the western part of Norway — is still singularly impressive. It often seems that all available light is delicately focused on this narrow inlet of the sea, and painter Edvard Munch spent most of his life screaming, trying to capture this. This fjord also has historical weight, as the name ‘Viking’ derives from Viken, the name of the land and hills surrounding this fjord.
Arriving in Oslo by sea as the morning light licks the traveller with the first-born lash of dawn is as magnificent an introduction to both the city and the country one can find.
So with the fjord in front, hills on every side and a main river, Akerselva, cutting through its middle, Oslo is immediately close to nature. Not that they’re all outdoor junkies, but nature is omnipresent, within easy reach, a constant reassurance. When the strain of urban living becomes too much, one can always escape. The city itself is, in the words of Dolly Parton, a ‘Coat of Many Colours’, its boroughs changing from urban intensity to lazy village peace in just a few blocks, and its geography makes it a compact, intimate and easy space to navigate, nearly everything is within walking distance.
You can sail from the narrow inlet of the inner fjord all the way out to the open sea. Jump on the boat at the pier in front of the City Hall, and the vessel will take on a ride to Son, a lazy seafront village 50 kilometres south. (And then you’ve just reached half way out the fjord). Hang at the beach lido, eat at the harbour café, and buy some sailor accessories. Then jump on the boat in the afternoon back to Oslo. Get the sand between your feet, salt in your navel, wind in your hair, and fjornicate!
Fancy a swim? It helps to have skin as thick as a seal, or at least a head as dense as a whale’s, but, if you do, the swimming possibilities are amazing.
The fjord comes to life during the short, bright northern summers. There are over 40 islands in the inner Oslo Fjord. The biggest islands are Bleikøya, Gressholmen, Lindøya and Hovedøya. At Hovedøya, the closest island to the city, you’ll find the ruins of a 12th century monastery. Further south, the undeveloped island of Langøyene has both sandy and rocky beaches, including one designated for nude bathing. Gressholmen is populated with rabbits, fun for the most part — especially for children — irritating for others, as they do populate like rabbits. They’ve tried to eradicate them all, plenty of times, but bunny friendly anarchists have managed to rescue some cute specimens, and put them back onto the island after the authorities massacres.
It’s impossible to get to this wonderful place without a boat. So, if you’re not from around here, and you don’t have a boat, put on your best blue striped sweater and head for the nearest harbour, its time to make friends with a sailor. Steilene is a small group of Islands south of Oslo and west of the peninsula Nesodden, with great scenery: the fjord, the boats, the landscape and the city. It has the longest and most beautiful sunsets. At the main island there’s a guest harbour with a café that sometimes is open, barbeques, plus an old factory building where they used to arrange dances. On one of the other Islands there is a massive oil tank that you can climb into. Someone put up a rave here once back in the nineties. The name itself, Steilene, refers to the bloody history of the islands as a place where people were executed. Steilene comes from ‘steile og hjul’, loosely translated it means ‘pole and wheel’, which is the name of an old execution instrument where you tie the punished to a wheel and crush his bones with a club, then you dismember the body and put the pieces up on a pole as a warning for crew on boats who are considering mutiny. Smart, as it’s just in the fairway to and from Oslo. What was the point of this again? Yes, it’s worth the visit. Wonderful place.
Text by Sondre Sommerfelt, he is also the author of Oslo — A Poor Man’s Connoisseur Guide to Happy Living in One of the Most Expensive Cities in the World — get the hardy copy or visit the Facebook site