Hei lesere! (“Hello readers” in Norwegian)
I spent the past few days of my spring break in Oslo, Norway where one of my sorority sisters greeted me with a nice warm hug!! I was so happy to see a familiar face from back home! She is studying abroad for a semester as well and I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to go visit her. The reason behind my title is because it was said by one of my favorite Disney movie characters, Olaf the Snowman, from the movie “ Frozen.” For those of you who aren’t aware, “Frozen” takes place in Norway in the fjords! My first day in Norway was cold and rainy and I regretted not bringing my big winter coat, but the other three days were absolutely beautiful, so as it turned out, I packed appropriately for the weather. I have never been anywhere like Norway and I absolutely loved it! It is not what you typically think of when you think about Europe, but it was magnificent, and I look forward to exploring more of Scandinavia later this semester. You’ll just have to wait and see where my next few adventures will take me…
I flew to Norway on Scandinavian Airlines, which was great and I highly recommend it if you are making your way to Scandinavia. They offer a new ticket called “SAS Go Light” which is a discounted ticket where you are allowed to take a purse and a carry on only. If you are just going for a weekend then I recommend looking into this option for inexpensive airfare. As I landed in Norway, my first glimpse was of snow and beautiful pine trees. It was absolutely gorgeous! I was so excited to explore this new country.
The Royal Palace
I met with my sorority sister at Oslo Central Station and she gave me a tour of her campus then we made our way through the main parts of the city. Since the weather was bad, we just did a few of the little things that we could get to easily by bus. We first explored the city by walking through a park that led to the Royal Palace of Norway. The palace was completed in 1849 and has 173 rooms. The current norwegian monarchs reside there and their names are King Harold the V and Queen Sonja.
We then walked by “the storting” which means the great assembly. This is Norway’s parliament building. There are 169 seats in their parliament and their current president is Olemic Thommessen who was elected in 2013. The next election will be held this September 2017.
The Oslo City Museum
This museum gave you a brief overview of Norway from medieval times up to present day and it discusses their social life, economy, and politics, and different demonstrations that have occurred in Norway’s history. There is no admission fee to the museum so I highly suggest visiting because it gives you a good overview about how Oslo evolved to what it is now. Oslo is the capital of Norway and it was founded by Harald Hardrada in 1040. The city is now the most populous city in Norway with the population of more than 658,000. The museum leads you through a maze of the different centuries in Oslo and discusses some of the major events that affected the city such as the massive city fire that destroyed the city in 1624 and WWII.
I could go on and on about the benefits Norway gives it citizens, but let me tell you they are very happy people overall and enjoy living in their country. They have one of the top education systems in the world, and it is unlikely to find a Norwegian that hasn’t completed a bachelor’s degree and even a Master’s degree. Also, if you have a baby in Norway, not only does the mother get paid by the government for a maternity leave, but the father gets a 12 week paid leave as well. It was quite interesting because in Norway you see more men with their children than the women. I could write a whole blog about the interesting benefits that Norwegians have, but you will have to look them up yourself! Their system is very interesting and visiting this country gave me an alternative perspective to a different way of living, especially in such a cold climate.
My friend informed me that many people living in Norway and many of her fellow classmates take vitamin D pills during the winter months because it is recommended to help avoid depression during the “dark” months when the sun sets around 3:00 pm.
Norway’s currency is the Norwegian Krone and if you haven’t heard, Norway is a very expensive country, so just be prepared. In order to save money, my friend and I just went to the supermarket because it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Eating out in Oslo is not cheap by any means.
~NOTE: Mostly everywhere accepts credit cards because if they didn’t, Norwegians would have to carry around loads of bills with them. For example, 50 euros is the equivalent to 458.58 Norwegian Krone (so I wouldn’t worry too much about exchanging money once you get there unless you need it for something specific).
Nobel Peace Museum
This is a MUST SEE!! This was my favorite museum out of the three that we visited. For those of you who didn’t know, the city of Oslo is the CITY that presents the Nobel Peace Prize every year and the royal family also attends. On the first floor, there was a brand new exhibit called Detours. It was about Syrian Refugees and I learned a lot of new information about the war and what these people are truly experiencing. I know this can be a very controversial topic, but the exhibit mainly focused on Syrian children, teens, and young adults and how they saw their lives change as the war broke out. It was a very moving and extremely sad exhibit. There was also a “Bias Bar” where people from all over the world who have visited the museum wrote down different bias or stereotypes of any culture or group of people in our world. It was very interesting to read and quite eye opening. I think this allowed me to have a better understanding of what is truly happening across our world today and has educated me more on various perspectives especially while I am living in Europe.
The second floor of the museum has a beautiful room of iPads with pretty lights all around them that display every Nobel Peace Prize winner and the reason they were awarded the honor. It was so neat to tour and read about the different winners and what they represented. It was also very touching to see the wall of all of the winners who were imprisoned when they were actually given the award. Many were exiled from their country, but this showed their dedication and passion for what they believed in. For example, Nelson Mandela and Elie Wiesel. The other part of the floor was an exhibit on the 2016 Nobel Prize winner which is the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. He was awarded the prize for his amazing effort to end the 50 year civil war in Colombia. He has helped the country make great strides and it was nice to learn more about him and his work.
Vigeland Sculpture Park
After we visited the two museums, we walked through the famous sculpture garden that was created by Gustav Vigeland. There are more than 200 sculptures in the garden and the park rests on the banks of a pretty pond. It is lovely to walk through on a nice day! I highly recommend taking a visit and enjoying the beautiful scenery. This is also located right next to the Oslo City Museum so plan accordingly.
Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower
This is definitely a MUST SEE! If you want some of the best views of Oslo you definitely need to take a visit, plus the Olympic ski jump is so cool to look at! It is also quite a steep climb, if you attempt to make it to the top, beware! There is a small museum behind the tower, but it was not open when we were there. The views are beautiful and this is where the ski jump event was held in Oslo for the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games. It is an amazing facility and you can actually zip line from the top to the bottom during the year when they are not holding an event. The ski jump was there before the olympics and there was a sign that displayed the transformation of the ski jump over time. There have been many events held here including multiple world championships.
Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera House sits right on the water near central station, so it is very easy to get to. It was opened in 2008 and is a beautiful modern structure. I suggest going to walk around the ornate patio around the building and snapping some pics. You won’t regret it.
Viking Ship Museum
The Viking Ship Museum is very neat and I suggest going if you have extra time to spare in Oslo. It is part of the University of Oslo and it contains three different Viking ships, articles that were on the different ships, and a video. This was very interesting because I learned that vikings believed in life after death and they would put their dead on these ships and lay them with food and important items so they could have a happy and healthy experience in the afterlife.
This is an absolute MUST!!! A ferry will take you around six different fjords and you can get off on any island you choose. The ferry goes around to each island every hour, so if you get off just know you have a full hour to explore and are not likely to find a bathroom if needed during the spring months. In the summer, a few of the islands have cafes that are open to tourists. Many people live on these fjords and have their own boats to take them into the town of Oslo. I suggest going on a nice day so you can have great views of the fjords and explore them when it’s not muddy.
This sums of my trip to Oslo and I had an amazing time! It was great to see my sorority sister and I am so glad I got to experience this beautiful city!
P.S. ”Let it go, Let it go!” ~Elsa