August 30, 2014
After we arrived at the Myrdal station from Flåm, we had to wait more than half an hour for our connecting train to Oslo. When it arrived we boarded and off we went. The scenery was beautiful, or at least it would have been beautiful if the line hadn’t been almost entirely in tunnels and under snow sheds. But when we got to Finse—where we had started our Aurlandsdalen walk four days ago—we came out of the tunnel and we could see clouds down over the glacier and rain pouring down.
Our journey to Oslo took about five hours, first through tundra and then through forests and then through farming country. We passed numerous small lakes along the way, as well as several small towns. After a while they announced that because of work on the tracks the train would skip several stations and go direct to Oslo via Hønefoss. This meant that we arrived in Oslo a bit early. We shouldered our packs and headed out of the side door of the station, and then walked the short distance to the YHA.
After checking in we took the elevator to our room on the 6th floor, where we got settled in. Rosemary checked the internet and to her surprise saw a Strava segment for a walk which Caroline had done in Oslo earlier in the day! Lo and behold, she had flown over for the weekend! (Caroline had originally thought of flying to Tromsø to surprise Rosemary on her birthday, but that was far too expensive, so now here she was as a surprise.) We brought her up to our room, and then went around the corner to the food shop so she could buy something to eat. Once back we sat in the hostel kitchen area and chatted until bed time.
Our room was rather noisy because the neighbours seemed to be screaming at each other a lot. After a while there were a lot of loud bangs. Gunfire? In Oslo? Surely not—and there were no sirens, so they must have been fireworks or something like that.
August 31, 2014
The hostel provided breakfast, so we went downstairs to meet Caroline at 8:30 am. Today was Sunday so no shops would be open, but the museums were. Our first step was at the new Opera house, which was apparently enormously expensive to build. It’s very attractive, being a shining white iceberg-like building. The lobby was supposed to be open at 10 am, but it didn’t open so after walking over the slanted roof we continued along the refurbished waterfront and a really nice sea wall.
The day was overcast but luckily not raining, so walking around Oslo would not be a problem. Around the corner was a monstrous cruise ship, the Royal Princess, which could hold up to 3,700 passengers. There were flocks of tour leaders shepherding bunches of them into a fleet of tour buses, so we squeezed through and hurried away. Farther along we came to Aker Brygge, a new and rather trendy area of shops and restaurants and apartments. The shops were mostly closed so the area was rather empty, but we walked around and checked out the architecture.
From there our route took us to a bakery on Incognito Terrace which had been recommended to Caroline. Here we had coffee, hot chocolate, and buns for a mid-morning snack. After we had finished we walked to the Saga Hotel where we had stayed 24 years ago—it was still there—and then down to the Royal Palace. It was nice to walk around the royal residence and see only a few guards standing on duty. It was too early for the changing of the guard, so we carried on back into the city again.
Not far from the palace was the National Gallery so we went into that. It turned out to be free on Sundays, which saved us some money but made it more crowded. This was a serious museum—one of the paintings was Munch’s “The Scream”. There were several other Munch paintings but most people seemed only interested in The Scream, lining up to get their pictures taken with it. There were also some Picassos (early ones) and Matisses. We recognized several artists from the gallery in Lillehammer which we had liked, and we did find the painting which was the view from Bjønnstigen in Aurlandsdalen and noted that birch trees had grown up to obscure the view since the 19th century!
After a few minutes in the museum shop we headed across Oslo again, walking through the streets towards the Grünerløkka area. Near a building with a blue “Ibsen lived here” plaque we stopped at another bakery for a bun and coffee, after which we walked up to the main cemetery to see the graves of Munch and other famous Norwegians. Continuing our walk we did a quick trip through the botanical gardens; by this time of year the gardens were almost finished but it was a peaceful place to wander around. The Munch museum was nearby, but 1,100 items of Edvard Munch artwork seemed overwhelming, so we decided to skip that one and headed back to the hostel.
Caroline had made a dinner reservation at a restaurant named Bølgen and Moi, in the Aker Brygge area, so we walked over there for 7 pm. It was a very good restaurant in a nice location and not too expensive, by Norwegian standards anyway. Caroline had a bowl of fish soup with a variety of fish and shellfish, and Paul and Rosemary had Angus beef burgers. Rather than paying 120 NOK for a dessert, no matter how excellent, we decided to go to the ice cream kiosk nearby and get ice cream cones for more like 30 NOK. Back at the hostel we had tea and worked on figuring out our upcoming trip to England.
September 1, 2014
Caroline had left this morning, catching an extremely early flight in order to be back at her desk by 9:30 am in London. So there’s just the two of us again. After a restful sleep we went down to the breakfast buffet at 8:30 am and made plans for our last day before flying home.
We had been looking at the possibility of walking the Pilgrim Way, a 640-kilometer route from Oslo to Trondheim. We hadn’t found much information about it in English, but its headquarters was here in Oslo. So we headed over to Kirkegata 34A, which turned out to be at the Oslo Cathedral. But when we got there we saw a notice saying that it had moved to the Gamle Kirke. So we followed the instructions, past the cemetery where Ibsen and Munch are buried. Initially we looked in the church but after walking around the building Rosemary noticed that the Pilgrim Centre was across the street.
The man there was very helpful. He told us that the Cicerone guide to the walk, which was out of print, was going to be republished, but by a different publisher. So we’ll have to keep an eye out for it. He also told us that if we wanted to go on the guided walk we should watch the website for more information early in February. The price he mentioned seemed extremely low by Norwegian standards, and he said that was because it was supported financially by the government.
From there we headed back to the shopping area to look at the sporting goods stores, and then we went to the grocery store to buy food for dinner. We went back to the hostel for lunch and then relaxed for a while before heading out for an afternoon wander.
We decided to walk up to Frogner Park, and on the way through the palace grounds we noticed it was just coming up to 1:30 pm. So we stopped to wait for the changing of the guard. This took about 20 minutes, with a lot of marching and turning around and stamping of feet. When it seemed to be more or less finished we carried on. The route we chose took us through Majorstuen, which is a noisy suburban area with big-box stores and shopping centres. More by luck than by planning we happened to find ourselves on a path which led directly to one side of Frogner Park.
Here were the famous statues by Gustav Vigeland. The park was very large, but was a good location for displaying the large bronze statues. Most of them were of nude people in various positions. The sun was shining so it made for a good spot to spend the afternoon. Heading back to the city we walked along a side street through an area with beautiful houses, which led us back to Karl Johans Gate. We stopped in at a large book store to look for a Norwegian cookbook written in English. The man there was very helpful and after some more looking around we bought a Scandinavian Christmas cookbook there.
We looked around the town a bit more before heading back to the hostel for dinner, our usual pasta. Tomorrow we would finally be going home.