Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two Days in Oslo (and a Mystery Sandwich)

Sorry yet again for the delay – I haven’t had much time (or have been too tired after full days of sightseeing and/or travelling) to write blog posts. While it seems a long time ago now, it’s a bit strange to think back and say “Oh, two weeks ago I was in this other country”. Anyhow, I am now in Amsterdam for one more night before beginning the Russian part of my trip.

I’ll pick up where I left off: 


Having just spent several days surrounded by amazing natural scenery and in smaller towns, it was strange to be in a larger city again. Oslo isn’t huge by any means, but compared to other Norwegian “cities”, it is giant. It is also more expensive, and it was in Oslo that I began my tour of India. No, I didn’t fly to India, I just began eating a lot of meals at Indian restaurants, which, while sometimes more expensive than Thai restaurants, still were reasonably priced (i.e. only 1.5x what I would pay in the US). I like spicy food as well, and Indian food certainly delivers.

Upon arriving in Oslo around 11pm, I found (read: deliriously stumbled) my way to my hostel (Oslo Hostel Central) and went to bed. Strangely, it was only me and two other people sharing an 8-bed dorm. After a good night of sleep, I woke up and got started wandering around the city. As I said, it was a bit strange being back in a city, but one can only enjoy fjords for so long before they all start to look the same.

One thing I learned quickly about Norwegians is that they love putting giant boats into museums. If they find a boat that won’t fit inside a building, they’ll find a bigger building. If they find an empty building, they’ll put a ship in it. Since it was supposed to rain most of the day, I figured I’d try to get all the museums out of the way first, then wander around later. I started by visiting the Viking Ship Museum which housed 3 original funerary Viking ships that were unearthed in burial mounds. Two of the ships were still in excellent shape, while the third wasn’t nearly as complete. The museum essentially had 4 wings, 3 of which held ships, and one of which held the various archaeological finds from the ships and surrounding area. The museum was nicely presented, and wasn’t completely overrun with people. I don’t think Oslo’s tourist high season had begun yet, something I am quite thankful for.

I later bought a shirt with this ship on it
Full view of one of the ships
Chariot found buried in one of the ships

My next stop was the Kon-Tiki museum, and… Can you guess what was inside? If you said ships, good job, you’re catching on. This time, the museum contained the Ra, a giant ship built of reeds according to Egyptian hieroglyphics and depictions of seafaring Egyptians from ancient times, and the Kon-Tiki raft, built out of materials available to ancient South American people. Both were the creations of Thor Heyerdahl, who wanted to test whether it was possible that ancient civilizations could have had contact with each other. The Ra was built to test whether the Egyptians and ancient South American civilizations could have had contact with each other, and the Kon-Tiki raft to test whether the South American civilizations could have had contact with Pacific Islanders (such as those on Easter Island). It was very interesting stuff, and also quite fun to read about the reception of his experiments. The museum also had a collection of artifacts from the Pacific islands… Even if it doesn’t sound that amazing, it’s definitely worth a visit. I wasn’t originally planning to go, but I decided at the last minute to give it a try, and I don’t regret it. Unfortunately my camera died during my visit to the Kon-Tiki museum, so I had to rely on my phone from then onward.

The Ra in all of its glory
Kon-Tiki Raft
Awkward Easter Island selfie

After finishing at the Kon-Tiki museum, I had a terribly overpriced panini and went across the street to the Fram Museum, which, surprise, surprise, is home to yet another ship: The Fram, a ship built to explore the polar regions and to withstand extremely cold and harsh conditions. While a lot of the information and displays were not that interesting, following various Polar expeditions and explorers through their journeys was quite neat, and actually being able to go onto the ship was also a lot of fun. The ship is ridiculously huge, and honestly I have no idea how they managed to get it inside of a building, but like I said, if there is one thing Norwegians know how to do, it is definitely how to put ships inside of museums. By the time I finished my third ship museum, it was closing time, so I wandered around for a while, then caught a bus back from museum-land to central Oslo. The hostel was really dead when I went back, so I wrote a bit of a blog post and went to bed.

Blurry selfie about to board the ship from the third floor
Neat lighting effects

The next day I visited the fortress overlooking the city, which contained the Norwegian Resistance Museum and the Royal Residence. The Resistance Museum didn’t have any big boats, but it did have a lot of fascinating information on some of the darkest years in Norwegian history – The Nazi occupation of Norway. 

One of the underground resistance newsletters

After a sobering hour or so in the museum, I headed for the Royal Residence, which was modest compared to many others that I have visited. There were some nice tapestries and a crypt, but it didn’t have the same over-the-top extravagance as many other Royal residences. I found it refreshing actually. 

A few tapestries in the medieval hall 
The reception room
Mirror selfies in richly decorated rooms will become a common theme

After that, I wandered around for a few hours before meeting a friend for coffee. We talked for a couple hours, and then he had to go, so I caught the tram over to Vigelund Park, home of a bunch of insane sculptures. Some of them were creepy, some of them were funny, some of them were disturbing, and all of them were crazy. It was a beautiful green space with sculptures scattered around, although many of them were concentrated around an obelisk at the center of the park. It’s tough to describe most of the sculptures, but hopefully a few pictures will do. Visit the park though, it's awesome.

The famous man-being-attacked-by-babies sculpture
Seriously, the babies are evil. I agree.
At the center of the park
Self-timer? Yes, I do believe so.

The next morning I woke up ungodly early to catch my flight to Reykjavik. Since I was missing breakfast, the hostel kindly offered to prepare a to-go bag with breakfast for me, which I accepted. When I looked inside though, there was a yogurt, an orange juice, and a mystery sandwich. The mystery sandwich looked rather terrifying, and I decided I didn’t want to start my day off with mystery meats and god knows what else. I took it with me anyway, and on the way to the train station, I figured I’d try to give it to one of the homeless people whom I had seen digging through trash cans looking for food the day before. I found a guy along the way who was weeding through a trash can and offered him the sandwich… He took it, looked at it, sniffed it, and threw it in the trash can. I guess I probably made the right call to not eat it, but I definitely should have taken a picture of it.  Anyhow, I’ll pick up next time with Reykjavik, and hopefully that won’t be too long from now – I need to get caught up with my trip!

Final thoughts on Oslo:

Lodging: Oslo Hostel Central – the hostel was very conveniently located and easy to find, and the facilities were impressive. Everything was very clean, the breakfast was great, the dorms were big, and the staff were friendly. Unfortunately, there weren't many younger or solo travelers staying there, so it was fairly dead socially.

Duration: 3 nights, but only 2 full days – I thought 2 full days was enough for Oslo, especially since I had just come from fjord country. The Oslo fjord isn't that impressive, and since I was not interested in doing any further fjord cruises or something similar, 2 days was enough to visit some of the interesting museums and wander around the city. I suppose I could have spent a third day in the city and been occupied, but my wallet thanks me for doing otherwise... Oslo is so expensive.

Hopefully in the next couple weeks I'll start to catch up on my trip. I have posts written for Reykjavik and Scotland, but I haven't sorted through the pictures yet.

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