To be totally honest with you, I hadn’t even heard about Oslo until a few months ago when my friend Sam went on a trip there and couldn't stop talking about the incredible architecture of the Opera House. When I first did a rough-sketch of my route two weeks ago, I considered adding Norway in, but thought maybe it made more sense to save money and spend more time in cheaper countries. Then, coincidentally, my friend Kathryn took a Norwegian vacation while I was in London, and her pictures of the fjords just sealed the deal for me. As my friend Megan wisely advised me, it’s important to find the right balance between planning your trip too tightly & knowing where your breaking point is. I’ve realized that the sweet spot for me is 1.5 locations – I need to have the next city’s transportation & accommodations booked, and then at least the 2nd city’s transportation booked since that determines the previous city’s length of stay. So while in Copenhagen, I booked my tickets to Oslo! Unfortunately at this point, I was still a rookie traveler (oh how I’ve gained so much wisdom in just a week..) and yet again idiotically booked a mid-day-daylight-sucking flight. While this gave me more time in Stockholm, I think mornings are essentially a waste because very few things are open before 9am besides coffee shops. Nevertheless, I had about 20 hours in Oslo to make the most of it!
I felt like this was the first night I started getting more into the groove of the freedom that comes with solo traveling. I set out with rough destinations in mind, but then took the liberty to stop in a random Christmas market for an hour because the Norwegians are way more generous in terms of free samples and who doesn’t love free samples? I was delighted to discover one of my new favorite treats: Kransekake, an egg white & almond flour cookie that has a macaron-like flavor but is firm yet chewy in consistency! I bought a bag because I couldn’t justify taking more than one sample and knew I would regret it otherwise.
Side Note: Interestingly enough, I also stumbled across a UNICEF stand at the Christmas market that was raising funds for the Syrian refugee crisis. I shared with them about the spontaneous fundraiser for UNICEF that I decided to throw before I left the States and they were elated to hear how many people had joined in! For those of you that don’t know, I felt called to move beyond liking Facebook statuses into actually doing something about it: I decided that if I could find 50 friends to donate $20 or more to UNICEF, I would donate $1000 myself. Thus far, we have about 35 people who have already donated, and I would truly truly truly appreciate if you considered being one of the last 15! Shoot me a message with a screenshot of your receipt to let me know you’re in!
For dinner, I did some research beforehand for some cheaper eats in Oslo since I heard prices can be exorbitant. I found some recommendations by a travel blogger, The Fluffy Mojito, and picked Fiskeriet because of their famed fish & chips. I did, in fact, receive an incredible dish that was superbly fried on the outside yet flaky on the inside. Even better, though, was finding such wonderful company during my meal with one of the girls who worked there, Christine! We had such a great chat about our own travel experiences, our backgrounds, and places we still wanted to go. She recommended that at some point I try and squeeze in an extra visit to Passau, Germany and hilariously said "I thought I was in a fairytale...and I live in Norway which most people consider a fairytale!" Christine, I hope that you are reading this - thanks so much for the great conversation! It's been so strange to eat meals by myself, but having a new friendly face to share a conversation with makes things so much more interesting.
Speaking of being alone, I had my first experience of being supremely weirded out. I had heard great things about the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park and saw that it didn't close until 9pm or so. I spent 45 minutes walking out of the way to go see it thinking it would be a small cluster of sculptures that could be done in 20-30 minutes. Instead, I realized it was an extremely vast park grounds with sculptures scattered around...and barely any people. The weather was particularly misty in Oslo as well, so factor in poor lighting, fog, and sculptures that were all in weird human form, and I noped noped noped my way out of there. There was a part of me that was frustrated because I just wasted an hour and a half of walking, and barely went in, but it just seemed like a prime scene for a casual Wednesday night murder and I didn't quite have that on my bucket list. On my way back I was trying to think what the situation would be like were I traveling with others. To be honest, it was so empty that I don't think I would have gone in even if I was traveling with another girl friend. In fact, I'd probably hope she suggested we turn around so I didn't have to admit I was creeped out. Would it have been different were I traveling with a guy friend? Possibly. But the minute he expressed being creeped out, I would have bolted too! Alas, sometimes you just have to skip out on the fun to make a wiser decision, but just remember those wise decisions lead to even more fun! Hooray for no murder!
If you're planning your own trip...
- Anker Hostel - my first non-recommendation! Or rather a semi-recommendation, because it seems like hostels are sparse in Oslo in general. I found the place to be rather drab and sterile, unfortunately. The interaction with the staff was rather transactional & they weren't particularly helpful. There weren't enough outlets in the room & the WiFi barely worked outside of the lobby.
- From the airport, I took the local NSB train which was cheaper (although a little slower and less frequent) than the express train
- The front desk person at the hostel said everything was walkable in Oslo, but I wonder whether it would have made more sense to get a transportation pass of some sort. Distances weren't impossible for most things, but I had to walk over 45 minutes to get to the sculpture park. It wasn't as compact as I expected!