The exhaustion of the overnight train journey from Copenhagen was balanced out perfectly by our mid-trip Airbnb break, a respite from the hectic hostel lifestyle. Having a flat to ourselves was amazing after sharing a room with a minimum of six people for the last week or so, although this Airbnb was a bit different to ones I’d had before. No-one was there to greet us, their fridge and cupboards were full of half-used food products, the bathroom and bedrooms felt very lived-in and were also full of stuff, and one of the beds even had laundry and wet towels in the sheets. But even so, a private bathroom and a living room were very welcome luxuries after our series of dorm rooms.
We made the 20-minute walk into Oslo city centre from our flight, walking past some of the coolest architecture I’ve seen. From the quaint coloured buildings of Copenhagen, Oslo’s waterfront was lined with glass towers and twisted mirrored sculptures, a stark contrast of modern and rustic.
Wandering further in revealed more classical buildings, like the cathedral, with a market spilling out onto the square behind it. The town hall was also an impressive sight, dramatic sculptures and fountains outside, and huge murals of Norwegian history on the inside.
The highlight of the day was undeniably the fortress, Akershus Festning. The atmosphere, even in a place with a violent history of wars between Norway and Sweden, was remarkably peaceful, and we managed to catch up on some lost sleep lying in the soft grass, surrounded by memorial statues to fallen Norwegian soldiers.
After regaining some energy, walking around the fortress gave stunning views of the harbour and its inhabitants of both modern and traditional ships; it was Pirates of the Caribbean meets Bond.
Our walk home took us past the opera house, which reminded me somewhat of Sydney Opera House, only less spikey. The location on the edge of the water is striking, and the reflections on the clear water added to the dramatic impression.
Our evening in the flat gave us the opportunity to cook for ourselves, and after several days of eating out, it was a godsend, even though we only scrapped together a basic pasta and vegetable dish with ingredients from the local corner shop.
After a lazy lie-in morning, we headed to the harbour by the fortress to catch a boat across to Bygdoy, where there’s a Viking Ship Museum that we’d been recommended from multiple friends and professionals. It turned out to be the size of a reasonably large house, with just four big rooms, three with huge Viking ships and one with varied Viking artefacts, and staircases leading up to viewing galleries to get different angles of the ships.
The plain white-wash walls make you focus on the exhibits, and simplicity seems to be the main theme of the museum. After 40 minutes, we’d had our fill, and I really don’t think it’s possible to stay longer given the sparse exhibits, so make sure you have other things to do in Bygdoy – I wouldn’t say it’s worth the trip across just for that museum.
Luckily, we wanted to go for a short hike around the Bygdoy Peninsula. Inevitably we got lost, and ended up trapped between barbed wire and a herd of cows, before eventually realising we were attempting to walk into the gardens of a small Summer Palace. The countryside was certainly not a bad place to get lost in though: towering forests break up rolling farmland, coming to meet rock-fringed rivers, giving such a diverse range of landscapes that it was almost impossible to take it all in.
Returning to the city after our rural excursion, we found ourselves in the upmarket wharf area of Oslo, the polar opposite to the greenery of Bygdoy. A mix of classy restaurants and high-rise office buildings with gleaming glass architecture that seemed more like art than actual practical buildings. Even casual shopping centres that appeared unassuming from the outside revealed huge hanging glass ornaments from the ceiling.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the Palace Gardens, accidentally whiling away several hours, only alerted to the passage of time by the gradual lack of light. These gardens are just one of many gorgeous green areas around Oslo that, despite the bustle of the city on the wide avenues, remain somehow calm and secluded, ideal for relaxation after busy sight-seeing sessions. Statues and flowers breaking up bustling streets is the lasting image I held of Oslo.