Oslo was not as cold as I had thought it would
be for the time of year, in fact somewhat disappointingly it was warmer than Glasgow.
Norway was part of a union with Sweden until 1905 when it was granted independance,
now it is one of the few major countries in western Europe still outwith the EU. The
standard of living is very high, and as a result everything is a sight more expensive.
Our first Norwegian meal was at a burger joint called Jafs! (Norwegian for "big
mouthfulls") where I got the equivalent of a whopper (no chips or drink) for about
6 quid. The only thing that was cheaper here than in Britain, seemingly, was petrol.
Now that's saying something.
I visited Norway for the first time with my flatmate at the start of October 2003, hopping on a cheap
Ryanair flight to Torp, which isn't really anywhere near Oslo. We stayed in a place
called Asker, a suburb of Oslo with a friend of ours Al, which saved us a packet in
accommodation expenses! We also spent a night in a cabin up in the mountains, and had
a very expensive fiver-a-pint night out at a club in Oslo called "So What".
Karl Johan's Gate in Oslo is the main street,
full of fancy shops and theatres and things. In the distance is the Royal Palace.
It was surprisingly quiet for a late Saturday afternoon before the shops had shut
I thought, none of the frenzied bustling of British shoppers. I still don't know who
Karl Johan was...
Here is a statue of the first king of Norway after
the break-up of the union with Sweden, Haakon VII. He was very tall and worryingly thin as can be seen
by the statue, but he lasted as king for 52 years.
A view of one of the posher suburbs of Oslo, from the
top of Holmenkollen. One thing that struck me about Norway was the absolute abundance of
We stayed at Al's house in Asker for two nights, which
had a prime location on Oslofjorden, with views across the water and of the cruise ships
sailing up to the capital. There was a private pier on the water with a sauna hut built on
it so you could leap out of the steamy wooden room into the fjord for a refreshing dip.
Not such a good idea in winter though, the water near the shore freezes for four months.
Norwegians like nothing better at the weekend than to go
along to the ski jump and watch their loony bretheren leaping at 100mph off the
Holmenkollen ski ramp. As you can see in October the sport takes on a slightly different
slant, involving a spot of water skiing before a quick swim. It is drained during winter
and people leap for joy as they have done here for more than a hundred years.
This is quite a scary looking church, Gol stavkirke,
made entirely of wood and a popular tourist attraction in the Oslo Norsk Folkemuseum.
It was originally built in the 13th century, but has been relocated since then.
In Norway it seems that everything is made of wood, they can't get enough
of the stuff and there's plenty to go round.
Traditional log cabins are highly sought after in
Norway, these ones here are classic examples of the old architecture, complete with
a lawn on the roof for insulation. Cutting the grass is a bit awkward though.
I figured that Norway looks like what Scotland must have
looked like 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution when the whole of Britain chopped down
all of its forests. The scenery here at Haglebu, a tiny mountain village, is not as dramatic
as the west coast and the fjords, but nonetheless is still quite spectacular. These mountains
are over 4000 feet, and there is already some snow up there.
Our night up at the mountain cabin was a great
Norwegian experience, with Al, his family and some friends of theirs. After collecting
wood for the fire, we had a dinner of moose and potatoes, followed by a Norwegian liquor
called Aquavit. Aquavit is matured in a ship which sails over the equator and back, to mellow
the drink on the slowly rocking sea. The wood fire kept the whole cabin very warm, and we
sat up late into the night telling tales in a mixture of Norwegian and English.
Norway is perhaps most famous the world over for the
Vikings, famous for their pillage and plunder of much of Europe and North America. This is
the Oseberg Ship at Vikingskiphuset (The Viking Ship Museum) in Oslo, dating from around the year 850,
it sat in a royal burial ground for a mighty time, but most of the treasures were stolen from the grave.