We were in Norway at the weekend, visiting my sister who lives in Oslo…
Crikey, it’s a beautiful country. That stereotypical idea one has of the fresh crisp Nordic scenery, the biting cold, the green water and white mountains…. well, it’s a stereotype for a reason.
Everywhere you look the land and the scenery – whether you are in the country or the city – seems to emulate everything you thought you knew about the Nordic countries.
We arrived in a light dusting of snow, which floated down from the skies for the next 24 hours, covering the city in the softest of white icing. It was cold, and colder than we were used to, but so fresh, so crisp, so bracing.
We headed out to walk from my sister’s house north of the city, all the way down to the harbour. I love this about Oslo. We dawdled and stopped off in numerous places, but if we hadn’t, the walk would have taken us around 40 minutes. The sheer size – or lack of size – of this city, makes it feel so approachable, so easy to be in and to explore.
The colourful houses, the low architecture, the space for wide streets and numerous parks, and of course, the extraordinary architecture. We loved the opera house, rising like a white iceberg out of the sea, lightly covered with snow, and people dotted all over its striking lines…
Situated in the financial district, it’s less of a touristy area (though there really aren’t many of those in Oslo anyway), but it had a lovely to feel to it, convivial, friendly, with wonderful views across the fjord.
For me the best architecture is something that has a monumental quality about it, whose sheer size and scope makes you stop and marvel. Perhaps it’s something about human endeavour, the way we are continually defying gravity and possibility to build things bigger, better, stronger.
At the other end of this spectrum, but something that equally made me stop and marvel was the extraordinary Viking ships on Bygdøy.
These three extraordinary boats were discovered buried deep in the earth up to their masts, and had been used as burial ships – two of the boats held skeletons of warriors or kings, while another boat held the skeleton of two women, whose origins remain a mystery to this day.
Housed in an incredible museum that was built around the ships, these boats dwarf visitors as they stand proud in the viewing chambers, their dark hulls showing the marks of wear and war, while the intricate carvings and twisting curves of their masts cast bold shadows on the walls.
You can walk upstairs and look down on the boats, marvelling at the hardships these Vikings must have endured on their many months at sea, while downstairs you can read about the burials, and look through the gifts that each person was buried with, everything from chariots and swords to jewellery and clothes. It’s staggering what has remained, when you consider most of the boats date back to the 800s.
I loved this museum, not too much to overwhelm and the sheer size of the boats just left to speak for themselves.
On our final day in Oslo, we headed out to a small, rural peninsula about 30 minutes drive from the city. The weather was sublime – blue sky, crisp air and bright sunshine.
I love days like this in England, but over there they seem to take on a glistening picture-postcard feel.
We walked down to the beach and marvelled at the boats and jettys stretching out into the crystal waters, before heading inland and down to the small village, with classic wooden Norwegian houses on the water.
The views were extraordinary, the green trees, the sparkling water, the snowy paths. It felt like being in Narnia.
While it was cold, even the weak sun seemed to warm us, and the frozen lakes and crunchy snow underfoot just added to the magic.
What a special place.
Tomorrow – fish, coffee, pastries and deer tartare!