On Friday Scotty and I took a quick trip over to Norway! I know that most normal people living in Edinburgh probably don’t head north on a vacation in November but we decided to take advantage of some £5.00 airfare and add a country to our list. Neither of us had been to Norway and didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that I probably wouldn’t see the dramatic fjords and mountains that make Norway so beautiful but I was excited to explore Oslo. So we booked our airfare…and then discovered that Oslo is the world’s most expensive city!!! Oops. Scotty took care of all the rest – booking rooms, figuring out how we get from the airport to the city (a 2 hour bus ride that cost more than our flight!), and all those other details. I was left to figure out what we should check out once we got there.
On Saturday morning we made our way through the cold to the National Gallery. There we saw some beautiful pieces of art – most famous, of course, being Munch’s The Scream. Following that we went to the Royal Palace. Lucky us we arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard. Norway has compulsary military service for men lasting 6-12 months and it looked like this group of guards was a fresh batch of recruits. I think I must be getting older because some of these soldiers didn’t look like they were more than 16!
It was fun to see the soldiers and watch them carry out the ritual of changing guards…for about 20 minutes. After standing around for that amount of time in the freezing cold, Scotty was no longer impressed:
We made our way back into town to check out the Christmas displays at the city center. We stumbled upon a father/daughter team singing Take Me Home, Country Road! It’s always funny to hear a classic American song sung in a foreign country.
I was thrilled to stumble upon a gorgeous flower market and had to take some pictures….
At this point we were a bit chilled through so we stopped for some coffee. For as cold as Oslo is they have amazing outdoor dining facilities. Everywhere we looked people were sitting outside around tables warmed by heat lamps and bundled under blankets provided by the restaurant! We decided to try one out for our coffee break! It’s amazing how much of a difference a blanket can make for warding off the harsh cold.
We were both very surprised by how Oslo has been globalized. As this was my first visit I don’t have anything to compare it to but it seemed that prosperity has brought Oslo more than its share of global companies – there were new buildings housing company headquarters for businesses like Turtle Wax, L’Oreal, McDonalds, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, at every turn. Most of these buildings looked as though they had been built within the past 1-5 years and the shopping centers were stocked with all the usual brands: Gap, Zara, H&M, BCBG, etc. I guess the economic boom that Norway experienced a few years ago really brought some huge changes…at least that’s the feeling one gets while in Oslo. Anyway, one of the the new buildings in the Oslo Opera House. It was just opened last year and is amazing! To me it looks like a big iceberg floating in the fjord. The outside is covered in huge slabs of solid Carrera marble! Each one was individually sketched in a 3D computer program before being cut in Italy and shipped to Oslo. This allowed a level of precision that would have been impossible 15 years ago before such programs existed. I thought it was amazing.
After making our way all over the outside, we went inside to check out some of the details.
After warming up for a little while inside, we went to what we thought was the Architecture Museum…but no, it was National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design and pretty much all I can say for it was that it was warm…So we were really disappointed to walk out of this “museum” and find that the actual Architecture Museum was next door and closed for the day. Oh well. The Nobel Peace Center was next on our list so we started walking in that direction only to stumble upon a great Christmas Market. Unable to resist the pull of all the lights, music and wafting scents of mulled wine, we wandered through. There were bonfires, warming tents, booths selling deer skins and antlers, Nordic sweaters, and even macaroons (I enjoyed one for you Ashli!). It was such a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and experience a little Nordic culture.
Finally, we made it to the Nobel Center where they were featuring an exhibition called “From King to Obama” featuring major peace-prize winners from Martin Luther King, Jr. to President Obama.
They also had some interesting Obama-themed products, as seen below:
Interesting. We next wandered around the waterfront and a newly developed area that was quite impressive.
After dinner we made our way back to our hotel and passed this group of street performers. I think they were actually from Mexico! And they were paying the most enthusiastic version of Jingle Bells I’ve ever heard. The best part about it was that they didn’t know any of the lyrics except for the chorus!!!! So they just kept filling in the chorus for the verses – with tons of style and charisma. They had gathered quite a group around them and everyone was cheered by their boisterous, if redundant, rendition!
At this point we were pretty exhausted from a really full day of sightseeing! The next day was just as busy and I’ll get that post up soon.