After my work trip in Sweden, I decided to take a quick flight over to Oslo. I had been in Norway before, a few years back in a city called Bergen. Unfortunately, I let the shock of the expensive prices adversely affect my trip back then, so I came more mentally prepared this time.
Norway is expensive…probably because it’s very rich with oil money. Draft beer for 12 euros, draft of Belgian beer for 18 euros (they base the price on the alcohol content), dinner at Indian restaurant for one 75 euros. I could go on, but it really is manageable as long as you target cheaper alternatives. I hate paying that much for dinner, so for three days I lived off the free hotel breakfast, a falafel stand, and the local Subway.
The first evening I just hung around the area near my hotel…walked down the main shopping street, and caught a cool street band…not sure what that was all about…dressed up in costumes and taking donations for something.
I spotted quite a few cool looking pubs that I would go to…Irish pub, Scottish pub, pub named after Churchill. After stopping to get a good night picture of the opera house (which my hotel was right adjacent to), I called it an early night and went to bed, preparing for a significant upcoming sightseeing day. I started off the next day walking to the opera house…very cool design. You could walk all the way up to the roof, and get some great views of the water.
Next I went to Akershus fortress, the site of three things I wanted to see. The first stop was the defining moment of the trip for me…the Norway resistance museum. What would you say about a story involving a sneak attack on a country, a traitorous turn by one of its leaders, a vicious occupation by Nazis for 5 years, a resistance that kept on fighting back despite executions and sentences to concentration camps, an exiled king communicating to his people through underground newspapers, messages using invisible ink, and a local assault on a heavy water plant by the resistance fighters that may have saved the world from Nazism? Too much for Hollywood?
Well it’s the true account of the Norway resistance…a fascinating story and a wonderful museum. I felt stupid after seeing all this, never knowing what these people went through. I remember the terrorist attack by Breivik a couple years back, which shocked me and the rest of the world. I remember thinking that Norway is such a nice country, with their massive social programs and high quality of life…could they handle something like that? Little did I know they already went through something so much worse, for many years…an occupation and subsequent resistance that ended up defining the strength of the Norwegian people.
This was easily one of the best and most captivating museums I’ve seen in Europe so far. I later found out that the Akershus fortress, where I was at, was the place they executed the Norwegian traitor Vidkun Quisling after the war. Quisling assisted the Nazis in planning the initial attack on Oslo, and later took control of Norway under the occupation and carried out Hitler’s wishes. He was a truly despicable human being. By the way, the title of this blog is also the name of a movie made in the mid 60’s about the Norwegian resistance…I hope to see it one day.
After dwelling on the resistance for a bit, I went to the Akershus castle. Very nice. A lot of very posh rooms, some swords and armor hanging on the walls, and a pretty cool walk downstairs to the ‘dungeon’ area. There was also the mausoleum, where many of the Norwegian royals were buried. My last stop at Akershus was the military museum. I thought it was cool how they spanned multiple centuries, from the viking times all the way through the current conflict in Afghanistan. This was a free museum, but also had the feel of a ‘recruiting’ tool…it was mostly in Norwegian as well so I didn’t get much from many of the exhibits…but still had a great time observing. On my way out of the fortress I caught the Norwegian guard having some marching ceremony which I shot a quick video of.
The next day I went to the pier for the fjord boat tour. I had an hour to kill before the boat left, so I took some pictures of the statues around the pier and the town hall. I swear, I’ve never taken so many pictures of statues in my life…Oslo must be known for that.
The boat tour lasted two hours, and offered some great, scenic views of the fjord. The inside of the boat was scorching hot, so I spent most of my time up front snapping pictures from one of the open windows. A fjord is basically a valley with water, and Norway is known for them. Most of the best known fjords are on Norway’s west coast, but the Oslo fjord was still nice.
I left the boat and went to the Nobel Peace Center. The guy who came up with the Nobel Peace Prize, though from Sweden, set up shop in Oslo, and that’s where they deliver the award each year. The recent award went to a commission for the elimination of chemical weapons, so there was an exhibit on that. I got to try on a gas mask for the first time since my time in Iraq…wasn’t as quick with it anymore but still got it on! I went to the hall of award winners and was quick to find mention of President Obama’s award in 2009, as well as other notable winners such as Mother Teresa. It only took less than an hour to get through the entire museum, not as big as I thought it would be.
My last half-day in Norway I made the long trek to Vigeland Park. It consisted of an array of statues, depicting adults and children in all different kinds of poses. The sculptures lined a bridge on both sides, and made for a pretty grandiose exhibit. Once again, Oslo and statues, they are everywhere!
I walked back to my hotel, grabbed my bags and was off to the airport…back once again to Brussels. What a great time, I took the most pictures here of any trip yet. I think I got lucky in picking all the right sights to see…there were no duds, everything was interesting with many picture-worthy scenes. I didn’t do a lot of nightlife here, that happens when the cost of a beer is so high…but I still ended up meeting some great locals at the Oslo pubs. One person I met had flown down from Tromso, which is a Norwegian town way up north, about a 2 hour flight from Oslo. It’s most known as a place to see the Northern lights. He remarked on how often he had seen the lights, I told him many people have that on their bucket list. He seemed more interested in getting down to Oslo a couple times a year, as the North of Norway sounds like there’s not too much happening in the way of bustling city life.
I’m glad I got a chance to come back to Norway, and to learn about and appreciate their role during the last great war. Not only that, but the weather ended up being wonderful, the best in Oslo for many months, according to the locals. This made for some great days walking around a very walkable and beautiful city.