My Travel

Oslo, Day 5. Rådhus and Popsenteret

I have stretched this last post quite a bit, or rather posting it, and therefore extended the Oslo experience… Oh, Oslo. You have won my heart.

With these feelings tugging on the sensitive strings of my soul, we got up to fill up our last full day in Oslo. The perks of having an evening flight is still having enough time to do things after checking out in the hotel. We left our bags and off we went. The Oslo City Hall had been popping up in front of us the previous days as we returned by different routes from our various escapades. I had read that it was free and it seemed fitting to visit this building (completed in 1950) which was important to Oslo before leaving the Norwegian capital.

A short ride in the tram and we hopped out at the familiar dock from where we had made the beautiful ferry trip on the Oslofjord. It was another gloriously sunny day and I couldn’t remember when I had last taken so many unfiltered Instagram photos. We confidently proceeded to the front part (as I thought) of the City Hall facing the water, to discover a polite note on the door that said the main entrance was at the opposite end. We could have actually walked straight there from the National Theater, but maybe the subsequent discovery would not have left such a strong impression otherwise.

The part of the City Hall which one usually sees when out and about is noticeable, but not necessarily immediately arresting. It deserves a closer look, a longer stop to see that this facade already includes some reserved, but artistic details among its marked rectangularness and red brick. But the main entrance took me completely by surprise.

I had read about it, or maybe I had not read enough. A beautiful clock adorned one side of the facade in front of us, while numerous carvings, engravings and sculptures stood out from the stone parts of the display. Everything you see is responding to events in Norway’s history and also depicting scenes from Norwegian mythology, like the colourful murals lining both walls stretching towards the entrance. My favourite? The three valkyries. And once inside, the quite dignity of the spacious, light-flooded main hall and its beautiful upper floors make for a joyful and respectful observation of wall-high murals depicting life and work in Norway, especially after World War II.

In short, don’t miss this, the City Hall is an absolute must among (free!) places to see in Oslo.

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After that we dashed to the Popsenteret for some afternoon fun, Oslo’s museum about the history of Norwegian pop music. Slightly hidden in a courtyard situated parallel to the street listed online, the Popsenteret is an interactive museum. Inevitably and quickly we walk past an exhibit about the band A-ha and I start singing along. “Taaalking away/ I don’t know what I’m to saaay/ I’ll say it anyway/ Today’s another day to find you/ Shyyying away/ I’ll be coming for your love, OK?/ Taaake ooon me (take on me)/ Taaake me ooon (take on me)/ I’ll be gooone/ In a day or twooo…” Ach, the memories! Such nostalgia. There’s also a booth for recording yourself and a drum set with some headphones where we let loose. The results did not sound bad at all!

A very special city, indeed. A kaleidoscope of impressions, experiences and memories. Oslo!

My Travel

Oslo, Day 4. Oslofjord and Skybar

We made it back to town with time enough to run by the nearest 7-Eleven and grab a snack, which felt routine by now. Then we caught the last ferry from the B1 dock right opposite the City Hall. My friend had recommended doing this, as the ferry is included in the Oslo Pass transportation and it goes around several islands in the Oslofjord, providing stunning views everywhere you look. We sat outside, of course, with the fresh fjord winds blowing in our faces.

My guidebook mentioned this trip, saying taking it was like a refreshing morning shower. If you are slightly sleepy from the day’s activities (which we weren’t, I mean, vikings), this is the thing to do to wake up again before proceeding to the evening. Not a trace of the morning fog was to be seen. From this:


To this:

Photo credit @juniperlu

Photo credit @juniperlu

We could not have asked for better conditions to be out on the water. Going out on a boat on a fjord is on the list of things to do when one is in Norway (so is swimming in one, just need to wait a few months). The round trip takes an hour and you find yourself completely submerged (pun!) in the stunning, raw beauty of the landscape around you. The air is so clear, you almost forget that you are travelling around a city, ducks and seagulls occasionally bob along the boat on the water, and the islands of the Oslofjord are dotted with the already mentioned colourful quintessentially Norwegian houses.

Cities built near the water certainly have an advantage, and with my love for Hamburg and its rivers already going strong, it was easy to open up my heart to Oslo too. Especially because Oslo, like Hamburg, is also a city with character and individuality. But the connection to water has always been a special thing for me. On and on we sailed, watching small waves splash upon the fjord. It was very peaceful and after the first stop there was just one other person on the top deck besides us.

By the end of the trip my fingers were stiff with cold despite gloves and I made dancing motions with my legs until we docked again by the City Hall. A very good tip for making a trip around the Oslofjord without paying additionally for a tour and with the added freedom of simply observing quietly as the ferry makes its way around the islands.

The low budget section of my guidebook listed one particularly intriguing item, which we left for the evening. A short walk brought us to the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel not far from the Central Station. As we approached it, we saw what we were looking for: a circular glass lift made its way up one side of the building, all the way to what I knew to be the 34th floor. After asking at reception where to go, we ended up using the normal lift (so ask how to find the glass one). It took us to the 33rd floor, but one short flight of stairs and a helpful sign later, et voilà, welcome to the Skybar.

We made our way across the cosy, dimly lit room, claimed some armchairs right by the enormous windows spanning the area, and just stopped to look. Because the nighttime view of Oslo from up there was indescribable. We just stared for a while, and all I could do was sigh. Besides armchairs, the windowsills are wide enough to sit on. The atmosphere was once again incredibly relaxed, as were the guests around us, and any small worries I had about dresscodes and such evaporated.

The drinks menu held some intriguing titles, and at first I went for a cocktail containing “traces of alcohol” called Smell of Flowers, which was fun to ask for, even if in the end my receipt said VIRGIN BREEZE. The drink was tasty and indeed flowery, and as I leaned back in my seat, cocktail glass in hand, drinking in (another pun) the view of Oslo and its diamond lights spread out below, I thought, wow, what an absolutely fantastic moment.


After asking at the bar, we found the glass lift, and I was glad I had a drink before going on it, because I did have to close my eyes for the first few seconds during descent. After that we went up, as we had originally intended, and then back down again, and it was indeed worth it. A fitting end to our last evening in Oslo.


My Travel

Oslo, Day 3. Harbour and Vigelandsparken

No, day 3 is still not over! “And I just can’t get enough/ And I just can’t get enough.”

We took the tram (Oslo is the only city in Norway with trams, or trikken, by the way, and I think the last time I rode one was in Prague) to Aker Brygge, one of the most convenient points to get out at if you want to explore the square around the City Hall, as well as walk along the harbour by the Oslofjord. We walked along the right-hand side, if you face the fjord, with the still cloudless deep blue sky reflected in the water and the afternoon sun contributing to the impression that everyone around us was also on vacation, despite the fact that it was Wednesday. Fancier-looking restaurants filled with guests lined the promenade, along with ice-cream kiosks, and more attention-grabbing modern Oslo architecture popped up, in brick, glass and steel. We fantasized about what it must be like to live in an apartment with such a view and were enchanted with the observation point at the end of the walk, opening up to yet another breath-taking vista of the Oslofjord. Why is everything so beautiful?!




To the left of the observation point (which turns out to be right by the Astrup Fearnley Museum of modern art, the cool building with the slanting roof) is a bathing area. Some are sitting on the sand, relaxing in the sun, but one guy in bright blue swimming shorts (yes, I have an eye for details) catches my attention. He’s quite tanned for this time of year and he’s the only one on the higher bit of wall clad so modestly. No one seems to mind or really notice, though. And like it’s the most natural thing in the world, he leaps in to the water, while his dog tensely watches. Just a refreshing dive. I pull my hat down more snugly over my ears and wonder about coming over here again in the summer.

After that we were ready for the next item on our Oslo list – Vigelandsparken. On to the tram again and past some very pretty houses. The park consists of five parts, all together combining 212 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. Materials include bronze, granite and wrought iron. That intoxicating feeling of space and calm enveloped us once again as we entered through the main gate, also a work of art on its own, and proceeded along the bridge stretching ahead of us. The bridge was lined on both sides by numerous sculptures, and after viewing quite a few more than expressive works concentrating on the nude human body in the Munchmuseet earlier, I was unusually conscious of the fact that all these figures were also naked. The figures depicted men, women and children caught in active movement, interacting with each other, and we quickly discovered the best game in the place – imitate the poses and take pictures. Keep a lookout for the Angry Baby (how most of the visitors refer to it) on the left, or auf Deutsch The Angry Little Boy. Due to excessive instagramming on the go, my phone also decided to chill when we got to the park, but my friend very kindly lent me her’s after seeing me fidget. Vigeland’s sculptures are a source of endless thoughtful discussions. “What did he mean by this one? This is quite interesting… Wait, is he throwing the baby?”

Photo credit @juniperlu

Photo credit @juniperlu

A large fountain with more fascinating sculptures follows the bridge, and even if it’s obviously not turned on yet, it’s fun to walk on the edges and scrutinize the more mythical depictions in front of us. I’m enjoying the people theme, it makes me think and feel very absorbent of Oslo’s local flair.


Some steps need to be mounted after the fountain, and we find ourselves on one of the most famous parts of Vigelandsparken, the monolith. 121 figures carved from stone silently tower above the park. They took 14 years to finish. Visitors sit on the steps surrounding the monolith, and once again some of the sculptures provoke a reaction best described as “Um…” Bottom line, though: the whole structure is mesmerizing.

Photo credit @juniperlu

Photo credit @juniperlu


Photo credit @juniperlu

Photo credit @juniperlu

All this monolithic viewing required a meal of respectable proportions as well, so we settled down in Kaffistova to some traditional Norwegian food and a discount with the Oslo Pass. What a day.




My Travel

Oslo, Day 3. Operahuset

Do you know how sometimes you get very excited about seeing a particular landmark when you travel, you read up on it, you hear about it from other people and keep going over the same parts in your city guide (yes, I like to have a book with me), but then you arrive there and your excitement is not only confirmed, but immediately transcended? That was what it was like for me with the Oslo Opera.

There are so many things known about Norway’s largest music and performing arts institution to make it intensely interesting. We walked from the Munchmuseet – it takes about 20 minutes (17 at a brisk pace and without stopping to briefly get your bearings with the aid of Google Maps – darn, it’s cool to watch that arrow move along with you). The sunshine was as brilliant as ever, and en route we walked right in to the Barcode District in Bjørvika, Oslo’s new financial and business area.

A tall bridge spanned across the distance, with a massive construction site and train tracks underneath, as literally bars of buildings rose from the ground, glas windows reflecting the blue sky twinkling among differently coloured concrete. These current urban planning projects may be getting their share of controversy, but I found the architectural view mesmerizing.


We hurried on, getting increasingly excited as the Opera came in to view. A quick dash along the side, as beyond us lay another enormous building site, and a quiet hope that we would indeed arrive at the main entrance. We did, and as I turned the corner, everything I had read or thought about the Operahuset was briefly wiped from my mind when I saw this.

IMG_20160318_104520It was a very clear, sunny day, made for showing off the Opera to its full advantage. But even so, nothing can take away the impression that this is both a building and a ship, seamlessly transitioning from one to the other as the marble roof diagonally meets the water on one side. White, blue, grey, marble, glass, stone – a bedazzling mix.

We arrived with 5 minutes to spare and I asked at the ticket office where to go, my German sensibilities forcibly colouring my aura. The clink of utensils on plates mingled with relaxed chatting in the café nearby and light flooded the spacious entrance hall.

Our charming and knowledgable guide won me over with his repeated “Come,” as we delved further and further backstage. Now, I have a romanticized view of operas and their world since I a) saw Phantom of the Opera with Emmy Rossum; b) ended up remembering the soundtrack by heart; c) interned at the press department of the Hamburg Ballet and was fortunate enough to go backstage at the local opera theater.

We went up to the higher rows of the largest stage, and we were very high up indeed. Darker wood dominated the space big enough for more than 1,300 people. Rows were mostly built in circular lines, making you think yet again of water and waves. Various detailed acoustic considertations were taken in to account when building, hence the different patterns on the velvet covering of each seat. Each seat back also has a small screen on it, where translations are displayed in 8 languages! Most progressive opera house in the world, or what?

I want to go see a performance there so badly now.

Masses and masses of complicated looking equipment loomed around us backstage. We heard singing, saw ballet dancers pass as we walked through the dance rehearsal area, and I happily recognized a Norwegian poster for Swan Lake. Most places where people worked and rehearsed seemed to have a lovely view, though all female members of the ensemble get dressing rooms looking out on the water. “Have to be nice to the ladies”, our guide said. Some 4,000 costumes are made for productions and the sewing area looked large, intimidating and incredibly efficient.

After the 50-minute tour ended, I had many questions, of which I got to ask two, but ours was not the only tour scheduled. Later I once again joyfully buried my nose in my guidebook again.

What is repeated about the Oslo Opera – it was built to touch, to feel, to experience – is true. That accessibility and space is immediate. Your experience of it doesn’t start with a purchased ticket for a performance – it starts before that. You can walk on the Opera, around it, sit in the sun, picnic on the roof and marvel at the incredible way modern Oslo architecture blends in with the local landscape.

Do You Remember, one of my favourite songs by Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun, performed on the roof of the Oslo Operahuset in 2012.

My Travel

Oslo, Day 3. Munchmuseet

Post-Ylvis and after staying up until 2 AM, we were ready for some more culture and observations. A quick look at the map proved that fitting two activities in the first half of the day would (probably) work out, so off we went to the Munchmuseet (free with the Oslo Pass). Sunny weather continued to accompany us as we followed signs that conveniently popped up every few meters (I LOVE that, it’s like someone is reading my mind and encouraging me at all the right moments. Thou shalt NOT get lost!).

The fact is, everyone knows Edvard Munch’s work, even if they don’t know him. Certain images have made their way around the world and it’s another educational stop on the way to discovering Oslo, as well as Norway’s modern art history. Part of the museum is under reconstruction and closed. The building is white, rectangular, streamlined and filled with light inside, like many others in Oslo. The security check before entering the exhibition surprises me at first, before I remember that the Munchmuseet’s version of Scream (1910) was stolen in 2004 and later recovered.


Scream was not displayed this time, but I immediately recognized Madonna, looked for a while longer at The Kiss, shivered by Murderess and found Despair unexpectedly arresting. The way the figure in the painting stood was recognizable and provoked sympathy, in addition to the special satisfaction I get from just a on point depiction of human feelings. The exhibition combined both the works of Edvard Munch and Robert Mapplethorpe. The (nude) human body was a focal point of the work presented, which is fine, as it has been thus for centuries in art. However, I was still grateful for spotting a sign with “Warning: sexually explicit content” on it, and rounded the corner with caution. With good reason!

A stop at the museum café is a satisfying conclusion to the Munch experience. True, one cake slice cost double what I would pay in Hamburg, but it was delicious and hey, an absolute scream.