The first thing you need to do before you go to Norway is tell yourself that you are going to be broke by the time you leave. After accepting this fact, you can then properly enjoy the city.
Oslo was quite a nice city. I was not expecting it to be covered in snow as it was, as all the snow has long melted in Lund, but I did happen to get one of the warmest and clearest days they have had this year, so snow wasn't much of a bother and weather was enjoyable.
The first thing I realized when I approached Oslo by bus, was that although I was expecting a fairly flat area like Southern Sweden, the region was actually pretty hilly. The second thing I saw, as the bus curved around the bay that the city sits on, and as the downtown came into view, was that the economic recession certainly had not hit this city! There were tons of large cranes and plenty of construction was evident.
Oslo felt like a city that is just starting to become Europe's Dubai. It is a pretty simple place in fact, but fancy architectural buildings and bridges seem to be going up quickly. The new Opera House is very impressive and has an amazing view of the bay, the islands in the bay, and the city.
I didn't have much of a problem meeting people at the hostel to go sightseeing with, and quickly went out with Kelly from Martinique and Fabio from Sao Luis in Brazil. We took the tram to Frogner Park (the one with all the impressive sculptures). Speaking of the tram I paid about $11 for a day pass, woohoo! Even though there are only about 900,000 people in Oslo, including the surrounding area, they have an extensive bus network, tram network, and a full subway.
I then met up with Kjerstin, the couchsurfer who was going to host me from Saturday-Sunday, and her boyfriend who had just moved to Oslo from Australia. She actually had somewhat recently moved to Oslo from another part of the country. But she was really awesome and very kind. She met me in central Oslo Saturday afternoon, and we did the tourist thing for awhile downtown. We had some lunch at a cafe, where I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu (hehe...) a single crepe filled with creme fraiche & a fruit, for another $11. Sandwiches ran around $20 or more! Add a drink in and your at $30 for a pretty simple meal!
After some eating, walking, and talking, a plan was set for the evening. To try some reindeer! Reindeer is really common in northern Norway, so it is readily available at the grocery store, as well as moose. We took the tram back to her neighborhood just north of the city center and made a grocery store trip. Reindeer usually comes in shavings (it is quite a tough meat so eating a steak isn't exactly a walk in the park on your jaw), and we couldn't find the right kind (or the right price), so we settled for moose shavings! Kjerstin cooked an uber Norwegian dinner. The moose shavings were cooked in cream with mushrooms, and the cream was reduced to create a thick sauce. One surprising thing about moose was the distinct smell. Unlike beef, it was extremely aromatic and smelled very gamey and wild. Oven roasted vegetables were had as well as I made some mashed potatoes and turnips Scottish style. Norwegian beers were also tasted, which were decent, nothing dark or heavy though, fairly light.
It says Velkommen Nick!
Sunday morning before I departed Kjerstin made a huge breakfast! The funniest part was she was talking about some syrup she bought that she was going to use with the pancakes she made, and when she pulled it out it was Aunt Jemima! haha! Breakfast also consisted of some very hard, tacky, typical Norwegian bread, topped with slivers of salmon and a medium white Norwegian style cheese. The salmon was excellent, and made the bread tolerable at most. Pancakes with bananas were topped with syrup, and lingonberry jam (like the Swedes!). Then she made some cinnamon rolls and I took a few with me for my enjoyable 7.5 hour bus ride home!
Also, my expectation of course was that there would be no beggars or homeless people, come on, this is Norway folks. But I was pretty surprised to see some here and there. Kjerstin said that she thought recently it was just legalized in the last few years or so. The other thing is that all the people who are asking for money or sitting on the street in fact do have at least a shelter or a place to live. Nobody is or should be spending the night on the street here.
What happens when you browse grocery store fish sections in Scandanavia:
The king and queens palace:
Toy or real?....Real.
Downtown and the old cathedral:
The big ass ski jump is in the background on the hill!! They just used it for the Nordic World Ski Championships last week.