After 2 1/2 weeks in Oslo, it is time to travel over to Bergen, Norway for more adventures. The train leaves early Saturday morning for the 6 hour trip that so many people have told us is incredibly beautiful. Our time here was spent here with the usual tourist things like museums, but also spending time at local pubs and coffee shops interacting with the locals as much as possible. Luckily they speak English very well in Norway – not as well as the Swedes we met in Stockholm last summer, but English still is commonly spoken.
Our last night here was spent walking around our the neighborhood of our AirBnB apartment and picking up some fast food at a local Middle Eastern take-out restaurant. We have learned how to avoid the tourist restaurants with their average food and high prices. Yes, it is expensive in Oslo, but if you get an apartment you can cut cuts with breakfast at home and going to restaurants where the locals go, as well as “take out” places with very healthy foods.
Some things about Oslo we were prepared for by reading in advance, but again there were a few surprises too.
- The weather was a little cooler than we were expecting. Highs in the 50, 60’s, and a few days in the 70’s for the time we were here. Rain – it has rained much more than we had anticipated. Oslo folks keep telling us to be prepared for rain when we go to Bergen. What? What was that stuff falling to the ground so often while we were here? Hint, hint, it wasn’t snow.
- The ethnicity of our neighborhood! Norway has taken in a lot of refugees, and we were pleased to see the diversity that it has brought to this city. From 1990 to
2015, 738,000 people immigrated to Norway from countries outside the Nordic region, and 141,300 of these were refugees. Norway has refugees from over 169 different countries.
- The people are incredibly nice! They seem generally kindhearted, but there is still this culture of not looking strangers in the eye that I feel a little disconcerting. Being a Southerner I find it comfortable to smile, say hello to total strangers, but you don’t see that here. Hugs? Don’t even think about it, Maggie.
- Diversity of food – we were pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of food – we had Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, French, Italian as well as outstanding local Norwegian seafood – OUTSTANDING! No, we didn’t feel the need or even see any restaurants that served Lutefisk. We did see brown cheese in the grocery store, and I regret not at least tasting it.
- Weird liquor laws which, every country seems to have. In Norway, you can only buy wine and liquor from government liquor outlets called Vinmonopolet.
- Fathers pushing baby carriages – we’d seen this in Sweden – it’s due to the generous family leave policy that the government mandates. It was good to be reminded that there are ways that a country can encourage strong families that the U.S. hasn’t begun to explore.
- We read that in Norway it’s not considered rude to bump into someone at the supermarket and not apologize. We experienced that ourselves. Some visitors consider this to be impolite, but this is nothing but a cultural misunderstanding. I stopped saying pardon me or I’m sorry after the first week to blend in better. When in Rome……
- Prices – yes everything is more expensive, but grocery store prices are not as outrageous as restaurant prices. Wine – about what you would pay at Whole Foods (I mean Amazon – snigger), but beer prices were absolutely ridiculous. $12/pint at most places. No Trader Joe’s here, but some pretty moderately priced grocery chains.
Leaving Oslo, Clay and I had time tonight to reflect upon the marvelous museums that we visited while here. We enjoyed sitting down tonight and “voting” for our favorites. Our favorites were very similar, but we both compromised a little and came up with – in order – our favorite museums. Check out our blog if interested in finding out more about our impressions of these. Please understand that we did not dislike any of the museums , but wanted to order them, as any good engineers (retired) would do.
- The Fram Museum
- Kon Tiki Museum
- Maritime Museum (#2 and #3 a real toss up)
- Vigeland Sculpture Park
- Norwegian Resistance Museum
- National Gallery
- Norsk Folk Museum
- Nobel Peace Center
- Munch Museum
- Ski (Holmenkollen) Museum
- Historical Museum
- Viking Museum
I know that Oslo is not on everyone’s tourist bucket list, but we honestly enjoyed our time here, and if ever by change or design you find yourself in Scandinavia, I would recommend considering Oslo too!