I turned 31 this weekend, and to celebrate, Al planned a surprise weekend getaway for us to Oslo. He didn’t tell me where we were going until the night before, but, as I mentioned, he gave me cryptic little clues along the way.
On Friday night, we took the train to Stanstead Airport and flew to Oslo. When we got off the plane, it was rainy and cold and so dark we couldn’t see anything out the windows of the shuttle bus to the city center. But the next morning, when we emerged into the Oslo daylight, we saw this:
As you may know, I’m a sucker for fall colors. And Oslo seriously kicks butt when it comes to fall colors, you guys.
Apart from goggling at the beautiful leaves, Al and I packed a lot of stuff into our brief weekend in Oslo. On Saturday morning, we walked around the city and took in the major sights. As it turns out, there aren’t a ton of “major sights” in Oslo because it’s quite a small (but very pretty) city. First, we checked out the Opera House, which was designed to look like a glacier floating in the harbor. It’s a pretty stunning sight from afar, and it’s even cooler to be able to walk on top of it and get a view of the city and the harbor.
In the afternoon, we headed to the excellent Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Part of it is a traditional museum, indoors, with exhibits behind glass (including an exhibit about Norway’s long knitting tradition!). But another part of it is an open-air museum full of traditional Norwegian buildings (farmhouses, storehouses, lofts, churches) with restored interiors that you can peek into. Many of the buildings (such as the Stave Church, which was originally from circa 1200) were refurbished and brought to the park by King Oscar II in the 1880s.
My favorite exhibit was an apartment building that you could walk through that showed various apartments of both fictional and real families from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. Since Al and I saw Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House here in London for Al’s birthday a few weeks ago, we were interested to see the recreation of the Helmers’ (fictional) apartment (it was cool!). After that, we also paid a visit to the Viking Ship Museum, which, I’m sorry, was overrated (and kind of a rip-off). Save your krones and just go see the cool open-air cultural museum.
For my birthday dinner, we ate at the wonderful Smalhans, which specializes in fresh food and organic wines. We had an eight-course dinner and it was SO delicious. After dinner, being the big nerds we are, we set out to find the apartment of Harry Hole, one of our favorite (fictional) alcoholic Norwegian detectives. After some searching, we found it!
We also found Harry’s local bar/restaurant, Schroeder’s. We were going to go in, but it actually seemed to be full of locals (like, REAL locals) and we got intimidated. But we saw the outside, so. Mission accomplished.
On Sunday, we spent part of the day wandering through the sculpture garden at Vigeland Park, which includes more than 200 sculptures designed by Gustav Vigeland. Some of the sculptures were nice. Some of them were weird. And others were, frankly, disturbing. See for yourself.
After gawping at the weird sculptures, we went and grabbed some lunch at a cozy cafe, where I chowed down on elk tartare (first time for everything) and Al had a tiny bowl of French onion soup that cost more than our monthly rent in South Africa (well, almost). But it was worth it! It was such a great birthday weekend! I’m so glad I got to see Oslo, even if only for a weekend. Thank you, Al, for a great trip. Now let’s get planning that weekend trip to Finland…