From Copenhagen we caught an overnight ferry to Oslo where our friends Mae and Tulpesh met us at the port. Together we drove up to the mountains around Sjusjøen for a weekend at Mae’s parents’ traditional Norwegian cabin. This trip was a long time in planning: we first talked about doing it at least three years ago and it’s so great that we were finally able to do it! It was a short but very enjoyable weekend filled with catching up, eating Smash and tacos, eating lots of other food in general, enough Icelandic schnapps to give the three of us that drank it crazy dreams, hiking, picking wild blueberries and playing Uno.
At the end of the weekend we drove back down south, stopping for some delicious boller on the way. We spent the rest of the week (26 Aug – 1 Sep) staying at Mae and Tulpesh’s lovely apartment just outside of Oslo, although we did take one night out to do a slightly mad “day” trip to Bergen.
We were so fortunate to be able to stay with Mae and Tulpesh. Not only because they’re lovely and it meant we got to spend lots of time with them (and their cats!) but it also saved us an awful lot of money. There’s no way around it: Norway is expensive. Accommodation, food and drink cost at least twice as much as they do in London. Deli de Luca became our standard go-to for reasonable lunches and as for dinner, we were spoiled by Tulpesh’s excellent cooking almost every night. (Interestingly though, intercity rail travel is significantly cheaper in Norway than the UK, so it’s not all bad.) We look forward to returning the favour when they eventually visit us in Melbourne! :)
Four things you can do for free in Oslo which are particularly great on a clear sunny day:
- Climb all over the Opera House – make sure you go inside too.
- Explore Frogner Park and see the uniquely human sculptures by Gustav Vigeland.
- Go for a stroll down Aker Brygge.
- Wander around the Akershus Fortress complex, which also gives you a great view of the harbour.
There are some excellent museums in Oslo, especially on the Bygdøy peninsula. Our favourites were:
- Viking Ship Museum, Bygdøy. It features the two best-preserved Viking ships in the world and lots of other artefacts.
- Norsk Folk Museum, Bygdøy. There are two parts: a particularly brilliant open air collection of buildings from different periods and locations, and indoor exhibitions about Norwegian costume, hunting and crafts.
- Holmenkollbakken ski jump and museum. The top of the jump offers a fanastic view of the Oslo fjord.
Bergen is a short flight or a 7 hour train journey from Oslo. We squeezed in a very brief visit by taking a morning train there; spending the afternoon, evening and following morning in Bergen; then taking a late afternoon train back to Oslo. It was a little exhausting but worth it for the train ride alone – which, personally, I think was even better than Bergen itself.
The ride is justifiably considered one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. It’s also the highest altitude rail line in Europe and the train passes by every manner of scenery along the way: farmland, isolated cabins, small villages, green fields, tree-covered mountains, rocky mountains, small rivers, waterfalls, lakes of different colours, ice, snow and even a glacier. Book online in advance and it will only cost a fraction more than the Heathrow Express. (You use your booking number to collect the tickets from a machine at Oslo station, you don’t need to print anything.)
In Bergen itself we:
- Browsed the Fish Market (touristy but worth a look).
- Explored the shops and alleyways of Bryggen.
- Rode the Fløibanen funicular up to the top of Fløyen mountain for a great view. If you have time there are several hiking trails up there too.
- Visited Old Bergen. This is nice, particularly if the weather is good, but not essential (especially if you’ve already been to the Norsk Folk Museum in Oslo).
The Leprosy Museum and Bergen Aquarium are supposed to be quite good too and we were interested in the Bryggens Museum but didn’t have enough time. Of course, if you have more time (and money) you can also take one or multiple boat trips out to the nearby fjords.