Oslo the Capital of Norway - Andrew Fernando
Bergen was a busy tourist town, where the streets were full of tourists even when it was raining. . We left Bergen and started focusing on our next busy destination Oslo. We wanted to visit Lillehammer the former Winter Olympic town before going to Oslo. On our way, we would spend one night in Ardalstangen and then go to Lillehammer. Otherwise the drive would be too long. Ardalstangen was a very mall town situated near a Fjord. Part of our drive was through the same route we took when we were going to Bergen. We were coming back on the same road. When we came to Flam, we took a break. Flam is a small beautiful town. It is a major port for Cruise ships and this town is always full of tourists. We had coffee in small restaurant and visited some tourist shops. Mala bought some souvenirs. We talked to some of the tourists who came in a big cruise ship. On our way we had to drive through the world’s longest tunnel for the second time. This time I was driving the car and it felt like driving for a very long time to emerge from the other end. Mala had enough of tunnels and getting sick of driving through long tunnels.
Norwegians love their mountains, water falls, Fjords and their steep roads. There is no doubt that the country’s natural beauty puts it ahead of most other countries in the world. There is another thing they love. They love their tunnels. We passed hundreds of tunnels when we traveled on their highways. They have the longest tunnel in the world. They also have the steepest tunnel in the world. Closer to Ardalstangen, they built the Ofredalstunnel part of which has a steep inclination of 15%. When building the tunnel, they made a mistake and for the two sides to meet in the middle, they had to make part of it very steep.
Ardalstangen is a very quiet small town. The only big hotel in the town was the Best Western Hotel. We booked the hotel on line long ago, but when we came there, the receptionist could not trace our booking. Luckily, there were enough rooms in the hotel and we got one with a good view.
It was a good resting place for us. We walked along the Fjord bank, saw some people fishing, visited the only shop that was open at that time.
Next morning we drove to Lillehammer.
The road to Lillehammer was still very scenic. Up to this point, we did not see many animals. On our way to Lillehammer, we saw more farming areas and some cows and sheep. We also saw a few places where they sold fruits.
Lillehammer is a moderately big town with a population of about 26000 people. Most of the streets were one way streets making driving complicated. There was one street lined up with tourist shops and restaurants. There were a few plaques and monuments to show the city held Winter Olympics in 1994 and Winter Youth Olympics in February 2016. We parked the car in the hotel car park and walked along the shopping street. It was hard to find parking in the shopping area. We visited a few shops, but came back to the hotel for dinner.
We saw the Ski slopes built for Olympics, but in Summer, their appearance did not make any impression on us. We spent one night in Clarion Collection hotel and in the morning, left for Oslo which was our next big destination.
Oslo is the capital of Norway. It has a population of about 650,000 people. Compared to other big cities and capitals, the population is small. But it is growing at a very high rate and has the highest growth rate in Europe. We have booked the Grand Hotel which is in the city centre close to all the tourist attractions. Not many cars come to the city centre. When we arrived at the hotel, the street was full of people and there was no parking area near the hotel. I asked Mala to stay in the car and went to the reception to find where to park. They had their parking station under the hotel at the back of the building. We drove into an underground parking area which had no room to park. A man who was in charge of the park, came to us and asked us to leave the car and the keys with him. He would find a place and park the car. We can come back when we want to take the car out.
Grand hotel is the best located hotel in Oslo. Most of the dignitaries from other countries stay in this hotel when they come to Oslo. We saw pictures of some famous people including Obama who have stayed in this hotel. It also seems to be popular among musicians who visit Oslo. We saw pictures of Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Rolling Stones among the famous musicians.
We got one of the best rooms in the hotel directly looking into the busy street and the park opposite.
On our left side, we could see the Norwegian parliament. We came out of the hotel and walked along the busy street and the beautiful adjoining park. The park is a good resting place for visitors. Water fountains, beautiful flowers, shady trees and the numerous statues are the main features of the park.
You had to be careful when you walk in the cemented area of the park. There were cyclists using the pedestrians pavement to ride their bicycles. If you are not watchful, suddenly you could see a cyclist whisk past you. I was surprised to see how these cyclists navigate safely through the crowd. In the paved area of the park, there were young people on roller boards moving up and down.
Oslo city centre is a very live place. There was a line of restaurants with their outdoor tables serving dinner and drinks to people. We wanted to sit there and have a drink, watching the people passing by, but getting a table was not easy. Oslo has many tourist attractions. The city centre is close to the Oslofjord. The royal palace is where the present king and the royal family live. In Summer they go out to occupy their Summer holiday house and the palace is opened to the public. We wanted to pay a visit to the palace. Our hotel booked tickets for us to visit the palace the next day. We were lucky, because when we went there, the tickets have been sold out and only the people who already had bought tickets were allowed to go inside. The tour guide who spoke English took us through the palace describing all the rooms and halls in the palace. We were not allowed to take photos inside the palace. This royal palace has 173 rooms which is small compared to the Buckingham palace in London and the royal palace in St Petersburg. From outside, the palace looks like a very modest building. It does not have any intricate carvings or artwork. However, the royal banquet hall and the meeting halls are very beautifully decorated.
Oslo is well known for it’s statues. You will find beautiful statues erected in public parks and near famous buildings. Some of the very famous and well known sculptures are found in Vigeland sculpture park located inside Frogner park. We were not able to visit this park. Some of the statues we saw are shown below:
Piper in Pipervika : In Swedish language this is called “Piperen in Pipervika”. This is a bronze statue created by the Norwegian artist Dyre Vaa in 1972. Pipervika is the area where the statue is located. It means "Piping Bay". The statue depicts a musician in military uniform playing a flute. It appears there were Flute playing military personnel or Pipers who frequented or lived in this area.
Franklin D Roosevelt’s statue: I saw the statue of Franklin D Roosevelt near the harbour area in Oslo. Franklin Roosevelt was the president of United States during the second world war II. When Germans invaded and occupied Oslo, the Norwegians just waited offering no resistance. Some journalists, wrote badly about this incident giving a bad reputation to the people of Norway. President Roosevelt gave a rousing speech known as “Look to Norway” which helped to repair the damage. In honour of this, the city erected this monument of Roosevelt in Oslo.
Statues near City Hall: There are several statues near Oslo City Hall. The picture shows the Oslo City Hall in the background.
The second picture shows the statue of a woman and her two children next to her. Most of the sculptures are created as nude figures with little or no clothes which is the norm.
Most public parks have decorative fountains. Visitors and children love them. On hot days you can find young people getting under them and getting wet.
We had dinner in two different restaurants. One is a very popular restaurant called Cafe Skansen that serves local seafood.
Norway is a rich country, but Oslo is one city where you see different types of people from different backgrounds. You will see street performers everywhere. We were warned to be careful as there were pickpockets operating in busy areas. Then there were beggars, something not very common in other cities. We also saw a girl opening a bin and taking food remnants discarded by some one. In the night, we could see the park from our room window. There was day light till about 11:00 PM. We saw so a woman coming there with a small bag and changing her clothes. She put the clothes she was wearing on a shrub to dry up and sat on a near by bench and waited for about one hour. Then she put them back into her bag and went away.
We experienced real Summer weather in Oslo for the first time. On both days, it was sunny and the day time temperature went up to about 25 C. The hotel staff were very happy to see a good sunny day. We found the room to be too hot and had to keep the windows open. When that did not work, we asked for a fan. There was no air conditioning in the hotel.