It had taken us most of the day to finally get across the border into Norway. I was worried about the cost of the tolls, so decided to pick a route that would avoid the toll roads, which didn’t help with us making progress. Even in the miserable rain, this road was certainly more scenic, but we would never make it to Oslo today at this rate. We were passing by woods, lakes, and beautiful little red farm villages – I did wonder if there were any other colours of paint available.
I continued to try and find a shop that had gas bottles, as most shops will be closed tomorrow (Sunday). It turns out that Norway is a different bottle standard again… But, we managed to find a new regulator (199NOK – €20), we just had to swap the bottle. We found automatic gas bottle vending machines, and I thought that this would be perfect, however, it seems to scan the replacement bottle, and noticed it was a different size/shape, and wouldn’t allow me to swap. There was an option to purchase a new bottle, but it was 799NOK (€80). I tried at a few petrol stations, however once they saw that it wasn’t a Norwegian bottle, they wouldn’t allow me to swap… I was losing faith, and starting to accept that maybe I’ll have to swallow that €80 fee for a new bottle.
We continued driving, not desperate yet to replace the bottle. We have it running on 12v while driving, being careful to switch it off when we stop, as it’s rather a power hungry device, and the temperatures are quite cool overnight, meaning everything stays quite cool.
The area was reminding us quite strongly of driving through Hokkaido. The houses are similar shapes, as is the landscape and weather. I almost fooled myself on a few occasions that I remembered where I was – and had never been here before.
In a day’s travel, we’d only managed to get just east of Oslo. We gave up driving any further and parked for the night, slightly frustrated and tired. Tomorrow is a new day.
We woke and thought it was a little silly to not go and visit Oslo while we’re this close. We didn’t have any pressing timeline constraints, other than getting to our friend’s parent’s house in Verma.
I came here way back in January 2004, and my only memories were of a freezing cold city, sandwiches that cost more than a meal at home, and a really cool statue park – though, we were only passing through on a snowboard trip, so didn’t do the usual sightseeing.
I’d remembered statues of men attacking babies, as well as a giant column of people stacked on top of each other, but not too much else about the park. I had enjoyed it, so was keen to see it again to see how my opinions and perceptions had changed.
We were lucky that it was a Sunday, as parking was free. We were also unlucky that it was a Sunday, as it was super busy! We had the park to ourselves when we visited last time (on a freezing cold January), and hadn’t expected to be visiting with tour bus groups. The statues were just as awesome as I had remembered, which is unusual for me, as I don’t really care much for sculptures. I can’t really say why, but there is something about the emotion shown in his people that I find enjoyable, and somewhat relatable, unlike the renaissance Italian sculptors.
There were dozens and dozens of statues, old and young men and women. Standouts are definitely the man flinging babies, as well as the baby having a temper tantrum. I overheard a tour guide saying that it was very unusual to show a father spending time with his children, and this artist was considered a little revolutionary for his sculptures that showed this.
I also loved the panels below the fountain, showing death in various forms, as well other panels showing animals attacking babies – hard to tell if he liked children, or hated them sometimes.
But, of course, the main attraction is the giant monolith at the top of the park. It’s an incredible sculpture, made up of dozens of twisted bodies stacked on top of one another in a complex knot.
It was surrounded by other stone sculptures, showing much more fragile people, rather than the young healthy men/women in bronze on the bridge, showing more complex relationships.
The park was incredible, it just would have been nicer to have been there at a quieter time.
Viking Ship Museum
There was one final attraction that I wanted to see, and the title is pretty self-explanatory. There is a museum with some of the ships used for viking burials. Risa wasn’t so interested, so instead went to the nearby Cultural Museum, which was an open air museum of buildings from around the country which have been relocated here, as well as examples of clothing and common life – which I wasn’t so interested in seeing, and worked out perfectly.
The Viking Ship Museum was a lot smaller than I had thought, comprising of a single cross shaped building housing three examples of ships that have been found, as well as their included artefacts.
It was incredible seeing this long, sleek, black ship on display. Thanks to its colour and shape, it looked like a ghost ship, or something quite evil.
These ships were buried complete around 1000 years ago, and thanks to some lucky conditions, some have survived in fantastic condition until now, with the ornate carvings on the bow still clearly visible.
The two other ships weren’t as fortunate, and are in a further state of decay. A fourth was found, but all that remained were the metallic fixtures.
There was a short 180-degree immersive cinema display that took place, showing the life and death of a chieftain, followed by the funeral and burial.
It was quite amazing the objects that they were buried with, all of which had elaborate carved decorations. They suggested that one of the decorations was even Buddhist in origin, which is impressive for a find in Oslo.
It was really interesting how much they could piece together from the little remnants they have found. They mention that very little remains from Viking Age for them to study, so even fragments of cloth are a big deal, and tell about their foreign trade. They also analyse the bones, telling stories about the lives that they think they lived prior to death – like scratching on the teeth indicating they were wealthy enough to afford toothpicks, or signs of cancer and arthritis.
But, being such a small museum, it didn’t take long to scour over every object on display – the same couldn’t be said for Risa’s visit to the cultural museum. I returned back to the car, and picked her up a little over an hour later, after she’d rushed her way through.
We decided to skip central Oslo, as the only other main sight was a town hall built during the 1950s – and post-war is probably one of the least visually appealing periods for buildings that I can think of.
We tried driving north and avoiding the motorways, as we’d heard that it was about €30 worth of tolls to where our friend’s parent’s lived. It started well, but we realised that it was really pointless, and gave in and accepted that we’d have to pay tolls. They were set up slightly different to we’re used to, where there would be many small tolls along a road, each before a new tunnel, or bridge. To avoid would require a hefty detour along narrow mountain roads. The tolling system is automatic, and invoices are sent out at a later date – sadly the invoicing is handled by a UK company, so it’s unlikely they’ll have any problems finding our car in the system.
We made up for the time we spent in Oslo, driving until 10PM that night, and still being 100km short of our destination. It was starting to get dark, and the rain was getting heavy, so at the next rest area, we gave up and called it a night. Tomorrow we will travel a little further north to try and find some elusive Musk Ox.
In a confusing continuation for the timeline of this blog, but predictable given our amended route, we were once again back in Oslo. Risa had wanted to try some traditional Norwegian cuisine, and had found a place in Aker Brygge, downtown Oslo. The area definitely screamed ‘young money’, feeling like Kings Cross, with expensive modern apartments/offices (coincidentally also including Google).
The restaurant is called Rorbua, and first impressions were mixed. The interior did look a lot like a small fishing hut – not that my knowledge of Norwegian fishing huts is worth anything, having never visited one. But, it had the feeling of a tourist trap. I tried to keep an open mind – and not look too long at the prices.
We ordered a small seafood soup, which was rich and creamy, and with a generous amount of seafood. We also grabbed a skewer of various local meats, including deer, reindeer, beef and whale – which I know is controversial for many, but to me it’s no worse than killing/eating any other animal. The problem is, we didn’t know which meat was which – we managed to guess the beef, and were pretty confident on deer/reindeer, which left us with the whale. This wasn’t my first time dining on whale – I’ve had it in Japan, but contrary to what many outside the country think, it’s not actually all that popular/common in Japan – and it was just as underwhelming as last time. And, to reuse that word, underwhelming is a great description of this meal – 350NOK (€35) for a few cubes of meat, and some delicious potatoes.
Fortunately we also ordered a stew, which was tasty. It used reindeer/moose, though trying to guess what the meat was proved to be challenging, as it all tasted quite similar/dry.
Now comes the complaining. Skip a paragraph if you’re sick of it. There are very few on street parking options – and underground isn’t an option with our 3m high motorhome. There was a large outdoor parking area not too far from the restaurant. It wasn’t cheap (60NOK/hr), but we’d only be two hours at most. The machine accepted coins and credit cards. Except, it wouldn’t accept my credit card. Not a problem, I had 30Kr, which would last 30-minutes, long enough to download their application and pay for parking online. I went through the hassle of deleting drone videos from my phone to clear space, installed the application, and struggled through the setup – turns out if you want to park in a Norwegian location, you have to provide a Norwegian phone number. Easy Park is a misnomer. I finally get through all these hurdles, enter the parking location, vehicle details, and then get a message that ‘something went wrong, please try again’. I tried again, and again. I even uninstalled, reinstalled, and tried, and failed again. I thought I’d take our chances, and concentrate on enjoying our expensive dinner. We returned to the car park, saw the ticket inspector, and found a nice yellow parking fine on our van. I explained the situation, but it was pointless. He referred me to the Q-Park support – which are only available 9-2PM, and haven’t yet responded to my email. Very much not looking forward to paying a 600Kr (€60) fine, on top of our 750Kr dinner. Edit: They responded, and declined my request for an exemption, referring me to the external appeals process, which I’ll do.
It was 10PM, It had been a long day of driving. I’d had a somewhat underwhelming dinner, and been slapped with a parking fine. I was ready to sleep and hope for a better tomorrow. There is a free site in Oslo, but it’s at the top of a mountain, up past the ski jump and inside the clouds.
The clouds were still around when we woke up, which was something of a novelty – it’s been a while since we’ve woken inside a cloud. I’d forgotten about the parking fine (not completely), and was feeling a little better about everything.
We started the morning with a visit to Java Espressobar, a coffee shop in St. Hanshaugen, a rather affluent looking neighbourhood in town. The coffee was 45NOK, so we shared, with a plan to grab another to share later on. It was pretty good, and probably should have gotten my own. We had a quick walk around the area. While it was rather pretty, it was exceptionally quiet, so we kept going.
Risa read that Grünerløkka region is a bit of a hipster area. It was only a short drive, so we thought we’d at least drive by and look for a park – which was easy to find, though not free. It felt very different, filled with antique and trendy fashion shops. It was surprising to see how many young (wealthy hipster) parents were walking around with children.
We found a few nice pieces of street art – and some less nice piss scented alleys. Not sure why the two seem to often go hand-in-hand.
We kept walking, and ended at Blå, and some more really nice pieces of street art. I’m not sure who the artist is that makes these building sized black/white pieces, but I’ve seen a few and I’ve always loved them – and enjoy this much more than most traditional art galleries.
So, my thoughts of the 1950s town hall as being a boring red-brick building were so far from the mark it’s embarrassing. It’s true, it is a giant red brick building, completed in the early 1950s, but it’s far from the whole story. It’s a huge, dominating art-deco masterpiece, and I loved it.
It was a struggle to find a park, but eventually, right next to the town hall, we found a free 30-minute park and decided to do a little Extreme Tourism™. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded here every year (the rest of the Nobel prizes are awarded in the Stockholm Town Hall). You can freely enter, and the interior is truly beautiful, filled with enormous and colourful murals. We couldn’t but help be reminded our time in Russia with giant murals of a similar style, scale and subject.
There was likely much more to be seen in town, but we were keen to keep moving towards Sweden.
Recently the mechanism to flush our cassette toilet had become flimsy, and I took the opportunity to attempt to repair it today (after emptying and cleaning the cassette). It turned out that there was a ‘hidden’ screw that required an extra-long screwdriver to remove. So, my attempts to repair have failed, and we’ve ended up slightly worse than where we were before…
We’ve got a long drive ahead of us to Stockholm, especially as I opted to try and avoid the tolls as much as possible, which has meant we’ve taken a slightly more rural and scenic route. After nearly two weeks in Norway, surrounded by mountains, it was weird to be driving down here amongst flat agricultural plains, bathed in warm sunshine, broken up by dense pine forests and tiny villages of red wooden houses. It felt nothing like the Norway that we’d become accustomed to.
I was also amazed that we’d managed to travel over 2,500km in the two weeks that we were here. We didn’t manage to go as far North as I’d wanted, but if we’d continued on to Lofoten, I think we’d still be driving in Norway come September…