We were heading to one of the costliest cities in the world. It’s the capital city of one of the Scandinavian countries. Guess which city?
Yes, it’s Oslo in Norway. Norway is also amongst the top countries with a high human development index, which is calculated based on the life expectancy, education and income. We’d set foot in this expansive and expensive country on a ten-day sojourn. For me, it was a second visit in less than three years. Yes, I loved to go back for it’s a traveller’s paradise thanks to its blaze of exquisite natural beauty.
We were excited as the plane made its descent into Oslo that morning. After exiting from the airport, we headed straight to the tourist information centre where we picked up a local map that came along with an official guide to Oslo. There was a separate booklet for bus routes. Surprisingly, these were for free. We then travelled to the room we’d rented out. We dropped our luggage, freshened up and set out. On our Lonely Planet guide, we’d marked a few places we wanted to visit. We used a metro to reach the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, which was opened as recently as 2010 and it could be seen from many vantage points in Oslo. We walked uphill and we were offered a panoramic view of the city. We then saw the gigantic ski jump structure that was made up of thick steel. Skiing competitions are held on this steep slope. From a distance, the shape of the ski jump area somewhat resembled a dinosaur to me.
Well, skiing as a sporting culture is believed to have started in Norway and Sweden thanks to the climatic conditions where winters are snowy and severe. Norwegians are known to be born with skis on their feet! Every household would have a wide collection of skis and boots for various types of skiing. To experience at least some virtual skiing, I hopped on to a ski simulator by paying 60 NOK. (The Norwegian currency is Krone.) I felt like a skier as I descended into a snowy, steep surface at 130 km/hr in a virtual skiing avatar. I quite enjoyed it. 🙂
We then went to the city centre taking a metro. Hungry that we were, we went looking for a restaurant for some good veg grub. It so happened that we chanced upon an Indian restaurant that was recommended by Trip Advisor. We decided to have a full-course North Indian meals, vegetarian of course. It felt quite homely there. Surprisingly, we saw cycle rickshaws (three-wheeled cycles that enable ferrying passengers) near the city centre! We also got a view of the ancient Oslo Cathedral from a distance.
The next day we visited the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo. Every year, Norway recognizes people who have promoted world peace in various ways and honours them with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. The “Nobel Field” section was visually appealling with a display of long strands of blue fibre optics and on top of which digital portraits and biography of the prize winners starting 1901 were planted.
A section on women activists called “sheroes” was quite nice with sketches about their achievements. The “sheroes” were none other than the Nobel Peace Prize winners for 2011, and here goes their names: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakel Karman.
We “gave peace a hand” as we left our handprints on a digital screen. Within the Peace Center, an exhibition with Afghan women in focus was also quite absorbing. Yours truly ended up buying a magnetic bookmark (with Mother Teresa’s photo on it) as a souvenir.
As we stepped out and started walking, we got to see some popular buildings like the City Hall, Parliament, National Theater, etc. We had planned to meet our friends R & S in Oslo. They lived in Jøvik, 120 km away from Oslo. We had some refreshments at a cafe and then the two couples (R & S, P & me) headed to the huge Vigeland Sculpture Park where we spent time walking around and chatting up.
The sculptures all along the park (left, right and in the centre of the park) were modelled single-handedly by artist Gustav Vigeland. There was one 14-metre high sculpture in the centre that was particularly eye-catching. It was called the Monolith and built using one single stone and it was supposed to consist of 121 human figures. During my earlier visit, my host-friend T had taken me to the Viking Ship Museum where huge ships from the viking times were on display.
We bid goodbye to our friends, picked up our luggage from our lodging, had wholesome veg dinner at another Indian restaurant and left for Trondheim (500 km north of Oslo) by a night train. Wow, the train was super cool, fast and clean! You know what place I shall cover in my next blog. 🙂