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Oslo, like a cabin in the woods

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye.. it also includes the inner pictures of the soul. – Edvard Munch, Norwegian painter and printmaker

As the plane touches down, virgin snow greets you. Upon entering the airport, you get the feeling that you are entering a cabin in the woods. But it is -12 degrees celsius outside (and that is on a good sunshiny winter day) and you’d much rather stay in this cabin, you would think. Maybe just enjoy some warm cocoa. But no, there is much to see outside. Even the freezing weather cannot keep you from enjoying this adventure. Think of the fjords, the idea of a cozy ski area, how more comforting warm cocoa is after such a day that leaves you out in the cold (literally)… Welcome in Norway… the home of the northern lights, the vikings, Ibsen and the Nobel peace prize.

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If the Dutch has hundreds of names for the word “rain”, the Norwegians must have thousands of names for “cold”. (I’m already shivering thinking about it.) It’s biting and nippy, glacial and shivery rolled into one. It’s that kind of weather that makes you think you will meet a polar bear anytime. It has the word “arctic” written all over it even when you don’t really know what “arctic” feels because this is your first time in a Nordic country. But however “arctic” it feels, Norway (or Oslo, where we were), has the kind of charm that is so unavoidable, you just want to go out and look. It is a mix of classy and classic. So classy it will leave holes in your pocket but you won’t regret spending that last Norwegian krone you have because the experience is all so worth it.

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Oslo in 3 days
Three days is too short to enjoy Oslo, or any place for that matter. But it is quite enough a time to know the city. From the Gardemoen International Airport, one can take the express train or any of the airport buses which go directly to the city center. Of course, you can also take a taxi. But if you want to stretch your NOKs, you would rather not do that. Once in the city, it is easy to find one’s way around. If staying for a weekend, or a long weekend, the wisest way is to buy transport passes that allow you to take any public transport many times over. For when it gets too cold for your own liking, you can just take the tram and enjoy a joyride from one end to the next.

If you decide to just stay in the city center, Oslo is also easy to discover on foot. Expressive sculptures are everywhere — a cranky old woman holding on to her handbag in front of a hotel, a couple kissing at the harbor — that sort of stuff. There are cozy little streets where you can enjoy a bite or a cup of coffee. It is always safe to go where the locals go. That might even save you some NOKs (‘might’ because it could be that the standard of living in Oslo is just so high that what a struggling traveler like me finds expensive is just the normal price). Whatever you choose, Oslo won’t bore you. Not even in the winter. If you want to enjoy Oslo as much as we did, you might want to follow the itinerary below. The most part of it was a tip from a local tourism officer. This will keep you away from tourist traps and stretch your NOKs.

Day 1 – Walk around and enjoy the city. Stay mostly at the city center concentrated at the Karl Johans gate and adjoining streets. It is teeming with shops, cozy restaurants and coffeeshops. Just feel the city and enjoy. Try not to kick yourself from going here in the winter. It does have its advantages. You don’t see snow in the summer. One more advantage of winter is the ongoing sale. You might even get yourself a good bargain at Norwegian shops that offer quality winter wear. If you’re all shopped-out, try to visit a museum or go for one of those winter walks.
Day 2 – Buy a 24-hour public transport ticket. Visit the Oslo fjords by using public transport boats (not the tourist boats) that locals who live in neighbouring islands use. This is much cheaper than the tourist boats and you do get to see where the locals live. The Oslo fjords is unlike the ones you will see in the western part (not that I’ve been there, only saw it in You Tube). In the winter, it’s mostly frozen. For this reason, tourist boats don’t go that often or don’t go at all. But the public transport boats do. After your boat trip, visit the Akershus Castle and Fortress nearby the harbor, a few steps away from the docks. You may cap your day with a bite at the Aker Brygge wharf and enjoy the harbor at night. You might want to have dinner at Olivia, a nice Italian restaurant found in this area. It’s quite affordable too, considering Oslo is in no way a cheap vacation. And no, this is not a free ad.
Day 3 – Take the tram to the Vigeland Sculpture park and be amazed by the more than 200 masterpieces of Gustav Vigeland. After taking some pictures, or many, you can take the same tram (12) to Frognerseteren, a famous ski area with a cozy, medieval-inspired restaurant. Even if you’re not the skiing type, you will enjoy the charm of this area. This is also the last stop of Tram 12.

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With the amount of snow in Oslo, it is the perfect place for a ski holiday. But even if you are not there for skiing, it is a city that will not bore. Oslo is beautiful, no, it is exquisite. Teeming with charm. There is enough to see, much to explore. You will surely enjoy even just looking around. I know, I did. We did. And we cannot help but wonder how different, but not less beautiful, it must look like in other seasons of the year. #

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