Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oslo by foot - June 18 2011

Walk inside a bubble at Aker Brygge
Our first full day in Oslo, the plan for today was simple: explore a few preselected neighborhoods, visit a museum, and meet with local friends for dinner and drinks. That was the plan.
Is this the opera house or the new
Holmenkollen Ski Jump museum?
You can tell what Olga thinks
Oslo is so small and easily walkable, it felt like we looped the city a few times in our walks. From Aker Brygge (similar to San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf), you can see the opera house. From the opera house, you can see the train station. From the train station, you can see the up-and-coming hipster area Gamlebyen. From Gamlebyen, you can see just about everything. Every time we walked to a new neighborhood, it felt like we still had a toe in an old one and were literally looking forward to the next one. Very small city.

Is this the hop-on or the hop-off?
The new opera house is built on a pier on the harbor - and architected in such a way that it gently slopes out of the water, coming out like an iceberg. You can scale the roof, but before you do, notice that they sell ice cream you can take up with you. You don't have to limit yourself to 1 or 2 flavors or even one or two scoops - they charge by weight and you can get 1 morsel of 1 flavor, a chunk of another, 1 scoop of a third, a taste of.... Once on the inside, notice the whole place is reminiscent of the Fortress of Solitude. Eating ice cream on the roof of the iceberg while scanning the cityscape... this is why we travel.

Eating ice cream on the roof
of the opera house
We were having so much fun exploring neighborhoods that we completely missed the Munch Museum. We got there, went down to the basement, checked in our bags (they have tight appearance-of-security measures since two people walked in and out with two of their most famous pieces), and by the time we got back to the security line, the museum had closed. Fear not, they have long hours on Sunday - and also a fine free Munch exhibit at the National Gallery in Oslo.

Jousting at the ruins near
a Renaissance festival
For dinner, we met with our friend Re-Shir-Dan and his friend Victoria for tapas. We walked into 3 different tapas places in the same neighborhood before we found one that promised a table in 30 minutes - the others quoted an hour and 90 minutes. Almost two hours into a 30 minute wait, we were guided to our table. There are a few things going on here. First, there's a massive shortage of restaurants, especially in a popular neighborhood like Grünerløkka. Second, groups seem to stay at their table for hours and hours. People who seemed to be almost finished when we arrived were even more almost finished two hours later when we were seated. That's so European.

More milk, less cocoa? WHY?!?
Earlier in the day, we saw a toddler walking, pacifier in mouth, 'football' in hand. It seems here you learn how to kick a ball before you stop using a pacifier. Love the European priorities! Speaking of priorities, sometime after dinner we started talking about how many weeks of vacation and holidays Norwegians get, how they don't have to think about Medical care, how they have short working days, etc. Ours friends asked why we live in the US and for a moment I couldn't remember why. There's a distinct "work to live" mentality here, a huge lifestyle difference. They have figured out what's important to them and made it a priority. The pendulum seems to have swung back to Europe being the place to live for a relaxed satisfied life with work sprinkled throughout.

At the botanical garden: Antennaria
Neglecta from N-Amerika
Oslo has a really interesting zoning system. Zone 1 is all commercial - this is where most bars and nightclubs are. They're allowed to play loud music and have outdoor seating until 3am because nobody lives anywhere nearby (except unwitting tourists). Zones 2-4 limit noise to low levels / indoors after midnight. Nice system!

RSD and Victoria at tapas
After the grand tour of his flat, and much debate, we headed to Eilifs Landhandleri bar near our hotel. The atmosphere had been described as Swedish white trash where everybody sings along with the songs, which are all pop hits from the 70s, 80s, and the current decade. Everyone is either in their 20s or their 50s. This sounds like a place I just had to see with my own eyes. I have to say the place is much tamer than I imagined. There's a good amount of singing, and cougars, and grinding on the dancefloor, and the cougars... but still it never got out of control. A great time was had by all.

Horsing around at Eilifs Landhandleri

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