I have to admit that the rare occasions on which I see 6am are usually somewhat miserable affairs - the dregs of a night out, the final few hours before a coursework deadline, the dreaded breakfast shift at a hotel summer job. At 6am last Friday, however, things were a little different. It was a bight, beautiful late April morning and I’d just arrived in Oslo, Norway, feeling astonishingly fresh given that I’d had just four hours of broken sleep on the overnight bus from Gothenburg, Sweden. I applied my makeup using a hand mirror on a bus terminal bench and set off to explore.
By 9am I had already stumbled across Louis Vuitton, found the royal palace and located Åpent Bakeri, where I had a very Norwegian breakfast of fresh bread, stirred jam and coffee. Feeling refreshed, I wandered along the brilliantly named Gyldenløves Gate towards the Vigeland Sculpture Park, where I perched myself on a bench beneath the clear blue Scandinavian sky and began to draft this post, such was my excitement.
Pretentious notebook scribbling over, I ventured into the park itself. A key Norwegian tourist attraction, the park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist and houses the life works of Gustav Vigeland. There were hundreds of sculptures set against expanses of grass and I found the experience thoroughly breathtaking. The quiet of the early weekday morning only served to amplify the magnitude of the sculptures, crafted from granite, bronze and wrought iron, and the comparative insignificance of the few people wandering between them.
Many awestruck minutes later, I left the park and walked back through the city centre towards the Oslo Opera House. Again, I was left speechless. The Opera House is a huge building, built with sloping white ceilings which you can walk over, and at the top there are breathtaking views of the Oslofjord (interestingly, not a genuine fjord in the geographical sense of the word) to one side and the growing city to the other.
I’m not sure quite why I fell so much in love with Oslo but I know that my amour was at its peak either atop the Oslo Opera House or looking down on the Vigeland Sculpture Park. There was something about the city which just grounded me and left me dumbstruck in a way that very few, if any, cities ever had. There was a sense of the incredible, usually only seen in natural phenomenons, yet Oslo has somehow created it with the clever placement and combination of the natural, the old and the new.
Feeling completely inspired by the sheer beauty of the city, I finally climbed down from the roof of the Opera House and back towards the royal park in order to find the Oslo Litteraturhuset (in English, simply ‘Literature House’) which I’d read was the perfect place for a book lover to eat lunch. The reviews were not wrong. I walked into a large, open room, one half of which is a book shop and the other half houses Kafe Oslo and its delicious lunch menu. I opted for a chicken and apricot terrine on rye and the most delectable sorbet I have ever had for dessert (unfortunately I show my true colours as a rookie lifestyle blogger here and have to admit I got swept up in the eating and forgot to take any pictures...oops). Even the cafe walls were lined with reading material and it was a wonderful place to while away a few hours.
Litteraturhuset was situated next to the Palace Park so after lunch I wandered back towards the Palace to watch the changing of the guard, which happens around one thirty in the afternoon. I was lucky enough to visit in one of the summer months (as deemed by the royal house, although the temperature wasn’t quite withstanding by this point) when the Norwegian military band marches through the city centre towards the palace in time for the changing of the guard. Quite a crowd gathered and it was another quite spectacular event, only heightening that “something special” feeling I already had about Oslo.
Once the guard was safely changed, I meandered around the city centre some, browsing the many shops and taking a couple of coffee breaks. I later attempted to find the Grünerløkka district, which was the old working class neighborhood, now home to an array of cosy cafes, exciting bars and vintage dens. Sadly, I got a little lost on the way and most of the shops were closed by the time I arrived, but it was a nice place to wander around on a late Friday afternoon nonetheless and, from the look of the shop fronts, it looks like I missed a fantastic opportunity for some vintage rummaging.
One more coffee break in Grünerløkka and it was time to head back to the city centre and take the bus back to Gothenburg. On the journey home, trying to ignore my aching feet, I reflected on my whistle stop tour and officially awarded Oslo the much coveted position of my favourite European city, knocking Budapest from the top spot. It’s hard to explain without sounding horribly corny but I left Norway feeling like I’d taken one huge breath of fresh air. I find myself getting mild Paris syndrome about most places I visit, as they just don’t quite live up to the enormously high expectations I have of them, but Oslo surpassed all I’d hoped for and more. Congratulations Norway, I’ll be back soon, and hopefully for at least a whole day next time.
Vigeland Sculpture Park
Vigeland Sculpture Park
Oslo Opera House
Oslo Opera House
Modern Oslo Architecture
Kafe Oslo, Litteraturhüset
Norwegian Military Band
Changing of the Guard