Oslo is an old city, but with a modern sensibility that makes it feel like it was laid out in the 21st century. An express train leaving every 10 minutes whisks you from the modern airport directly to the city center. There's no need to buy a ticket: just swipe your credit card when you get on and off. There's free wifi everywhere, everyone's helpful with directions, and there's top notch food & coffee everywhere you turn.
Of course, this all comes at a price: Oslo is by far the most expensive city we've visited. But with an irresistible flight deal and glowing recommendations from friends, we couldn't pass up the chance to explore this corner of Scandinavia.
Our four day stopover involved a mix of self-led walking tours and what would become a surprisingly complicated journey to explore the fjords.
We spent our first day in Oslo wandering the city center, exploring the mix of historical sites, sparkling new buildings, and art museums. While we made sure to target all the greatest hits on our meandering tour, our favorite mistake was when we entered the architecture museum thinking it was the modern art one. We decided to roll with it, and ended up sitting inside a giant, breathing bubble built for the Osaka World's Fair and working away at our own architectural masterpieces.
With only four days in the country, our hope to explore some of Norway's famous fjords appeared impossible until we discovered that one of the most striking was just four hours away. Getting there would make for a long day, but the drive promised to be scenic so we booked a car and set off early on Friday morning.
The drive out to the fjords was picturesque, with its mix of waterfalls and impressive cliffs along the windy roads to our destination. The Norwegian highway authority has kept itself busy, tunneling to incredible lengths (our longest was 25 km) to help you avoid climbing every mountain along the way.
We eventually swung into Flåm and found a Viking brewery to prepare ourselves for the boat ride ahead. Unfortunately the Viking-sized beer they served me might have been a bit too much, as we followed the signs to our boat dutifully but soon discovered it had left from another pier. The boat company acknowledged that the signs were wrong and also told us that the tunnel we would have ridden a bus through to get back post-cruise was blocked. So, in the end, I guess we should say thanks for not stranding us?
Not sure whether to be frustrated or grateful, we sulked back to our station wagon and, undaunted, set out upon a more fruitful self-guided tour by car.
The highlight of our little tour was the historical town of Otternes. Founded in the 1700s, the town is a collection of buildings that remain unchanged from the days of the original settlers, perched high on the mountain side. We meandered around the hillside by ourselves, spending half the time peeking into the tiny buildings and the other half petting the sweetest, tail-wagging fjordlambs.
We enjoyed our brief stint in modern Oslo and hope to return some day. Next time, we'll hopefully have a bit larger budget and more time to explore Norway's wild north.
An early flight brings us to Paris and the start of an almost month-long train trip through the French countryside.