Having set my alarm, I did actually get up when it went off! The hotel’s breakfast was my reward for doing so. I was seated in the restaurant on the hotel’s second floor by 8.40am.
Breakfast with a bit of reindeer
While the waitress went to get my coffee I headed up to explore the buffet’s offerings. And they were good! There were beetroot or orange vitamin ‘shots’ in little small bottles, smoothies and a selection of fresh juices to drink, while food wise, there was a range of cereals and as you’d expect in Scandinavia, cold meats and cheese. A hot food section had the usual suspects, but you could also order items like Eggs Benedict from a chef.
I started with a coconut and chia seed cereal type thing…
…before taking some delicious bread, smoked salmon, cold meat and cheese. Oh plus two cherry tomatoes in a nod to the fruit and vegetable food groups!
You can’t really see it in the picture, but one of the meats I tried was reindeer salami. It tasted like normal salami really – perhaps just a bit darker or game-like. Also the brown Norwegian cheese (under the other cheese on the right) has to be the most unappetising colour of cheese I have ever seen! It tasted ok though.
I’ll confess – though I didn’t get a picture, I did also go back for some hot food 😩 My excuse is that it was just setting me up for a long day of walking around and exploring!
A fortress and Norway’s resistance
After getting an up close look at one of Oslo’s newer buildings the day before, my Saturday morning was going to continue with a trip to one of its oldest. And it was only a fifteen minute or so walk from the hotel.
Passing the harbour and City Hall again, I spotted a statue of Franklin Roosevelt which I thought was a bit weird. I’d learn the significance of him amongst the people of Norway later that morning though.
Climbing a short muddy path and walking through carpets of mushy leaves brought me to the entrance of Akershus Festning – or Akershus Fortress. It was that I’d come to look around.
Tourists ready to enter the fortress’s complex stood taking photos, but turning around I saw a gate – and naturally curious (or nosey!) I decided to take a quick peek at what was through it first.
The answer was a small park, bordered by old buildings, and with a colourful sculpture / play thing in the middle. There was also a brightly painted building at the back, so I walked across to take a look at that.
I’m not really sure what it was – but I guessed it may have been a school. Actually it probably was a school because there was a sandpit in front of it.
Today the Akershus complex is home to the headquarters of the Norwegian Armed Forces’ top political and military leadership, so the school is maybe for their kids. Akershus is also the location of the Norwegian Defence University College and the offices of Norway’s Prime Minister, so it’s very much a working place.
Leaving the park, I walked up the path leading inside the fortress walls. I’ve got to say my first impressions were that my visit wasn’t going to be too exciting….
The building to my left held a visitors’ centre so I went in and read some of the exhibits about the fortress’s history.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – I am useless at anything to do with history from say before 1920. I’ll read about it, but because it’s so long ago I can’t imagine it, so it all just kind of goes into my brain and then rapidly leaves again, never to be remembered.
What I can remember from the displays is that construction on the fortress and castle originally started in 1299 – so a loooooong time ago. Since then it has helped defend Oslo, been a royal residence – and for a long part of its existence – including during WWII – a prison.
Gruesome laws were in place during King Christian IV’s reign. A man who stabbed another with a knife would have a knife stabbed through his hand, while a man who bit another would have his front teeth pulled out. Ouch!
After looking around the visitor centre, I stepped back outside and followed a route around the complex which was marked on a map.
That basically just involved wandering around and looking at the views (grey)…
…or the outside of buildings.
Dotted around the complex were very smart but slightly bored looking guards. I thought this guy looked a bit sad as well!
The castle is usually open to the public, but is currently closed for refurbishment – until December 2018.
Having walked around the fortress walls, I reached the highest point looking back towards the city. There was a good view of the town hall – or Rådhus – and the harbour.
As I stood there bells started to ring out a familiar sounding tune… see if you can work it out (and apologies for the wind noise!)
It eventually came to me…
Love Changes Everything. Not the Climie Fisher version unfortunately lols, but the Andrew Lloyd Webber song. I thought it was quite cool the bells were playing a relatively modern song though.
With my walk around the fortress area over, it was time to enter one of the museums held within its walls. There’s a Norwegian Armed Forces Museum, but I decided instead to visit the Norwegian Resistance Museum.
I’ll admit I didn’t even know that Norway became occupied during World War II. I do know that now though! The outside of the museum looked like a traditional old Norwegian house.
It also appeared small, but that was misleading – the museum is actually pretty big inside.
I paid the entrance fee of 60 Krone (£5.55 at the moment), and stepped inside the exhibit.
Very quickly I learned practically all Norwegians – perhaps unsurprisingly – seemed to be against the occupation of the country by the Nazis, and against their beliefs and policies. I also read about Vidkun Quisling – a man whose name has become synonymous with the word ‘traitor’ in Norway. He was a Norwegian government minister who met Hitler in 1939, and urged a German occupation of his country. Then when that happened, installed himself as Head of Government. What he did to the country made pretty grim reading. I wasn’t really sure how anyone could behave like that.
The museum had some pretty incredible artefacts from the resistance movement that quickly sprang up throughout Norway during the occupation. There was equipment used to print underground newspapers, and all kinds of normal looking objects which actually hid secret radios – like these.
Information panels throughout the museum explained everything – and were in English and another couple of languages as well as Norwegian.
Moving into the section of the museum about Norway’s prisoners of war, two things in particular amazed me – one was that prisoners listened to the BBC’s European Service via someone’s dentures….
While the other one was a letter which had been written by a prisoner pricking holes in paper with a pin. Imagine how long that must have taken.
There was also a cool display which showed a microdot – then under a microscope you could see everything held within the dot. That was pretty amazing – I’m still not sure how on earth they made those 🤔 or how they didn’t get lost all the time!
The museum also explained how Allies – including America – had helped Norway’s resistance movement. So that explained the statue of Franklin D. Rooselvelt I’d seen earlier!
Before I knew it, I’d reached the end of the exhibits. If you’re in Oslo, I’d definitely recommend checking the museum out. It’s great value for money, and really fascinating.
A famous painting
After leaving the museum and Akershus Fortress behind, I set off on foot for a bit of culture.
En route, I popped into a shop called Ting – and spent a good wee while wandering around looking at their cool stuff, including a display of Christmas angel chimes.
I can remember us having one in the house when I was wee, so before I knew it I was buying one for me (snowmen) and one for one of my sisters (she went for stars.)
I also picked up a couple of Christmas gifts, but I’ll stay quiet on those!
Ten minutes after leaving Ting, a short walk saw me arrive at Norway’s National Gallery.
Which was queued out the door!
Thankfully, as the weather was a bit grim, the queue moved quickly, and I was soon inside in the warmth. I paid my 120 Krone (£10.98) entrance fee and dumped my bag in one of the free lockers, then headed into the gallery’s shop.
It had some pretty neat stuff, and I also spotted the gallery’s auditorium through an open door.
This notebook and pen set caught my eye….
But all hopes of owning it vanished when I saw it was about £60 (!) I felt that was quite expensive.
I headed upstairs to explore the galleries.
Firstly, each room was numbered – so you could walk around them in order, progressing from older artworks to more modern things. That made perfect sense to me, and also meant you couldn’t get lost. Secondly, each room was themed. As you walked into a room, there was a panel explaining very clearly what linked all the artworks displayed. So for example, they’d explain that during a certain period, a lot of Norwegian painters had visited Paris and had come back influenced by what was going on there.
That meant that walking around the room you noticed how the artworks had similar traits, even if they were by different artists.
Thirdly, the gallery itself was not enormous. It was completely possible to have a good look around in an hour. So I give the place 10/10 for being well organised and compact!
I really enjoyed looking around, and loved loads of the pictures I saw. The highlight of the gallery’s collection is this very familiar painting by Edward Munch….
It was really cool to see up close, and you could get right up to it too, as the gallery wasn’t that crowded, even though it was a Saturday afternoon.
Two other paintings by Munch also caught my eye – and I was surprised (not really knowing his work) how different they were from The Scream. There was this one called The Kiss…
…and this one called Rue Lafayette.
It wasn’t all Munch though of course – there were loads of non-Norwegian and Scandinavian artists represented too – I loved the colours of this Monet.
After walking around the main galleries on the first floor, I headed back downstairs to the ground floor, which was housing a temporary exhibition of works by an artist called Harald Sohlberg.
I’d never heard of him but he painted some pretty incredible pictures of parts of Norway that other artists at the time tended to ignore. This picture called Fisherman’s Cottage was pretty cool in that the trees seemed to shine, even though they were jet black.
He also painted a range of pictures depicting a mountain range which had a lovely blue glow about them. You can’t really see it in my picture below, but you can see it properly here.
Beside these pictures were photographs and drawings of the mountains which Sohlberg had made before creating his paintings. A display also showed how he’d experimented until he got the precise shade of blue he was happy with.
They were lovely pictures to look at – and there was something special about that shade of blue too. The gallery shop was capitalising on that with a whole load of stuff available to buy in a similar blue hue – and some items with that artwork on them.
If you’re in the UK and interested in seeing more of Sohlberg’s works, the exhibition will be coming to the Dulwich Picture Library in London in 2019.
A quick trip to Grünerløkka
After picking up my bag, I got out my phone and plugged the name of Oslo’s hipster district into Apple Maps. Grünerløkka‘s meant to be full of cool cafes, restaurants and shops, so I thought it would be a fun place to spend the rest of the afternoon.
It was a twenty minute walk away, and I quickly found myself walking down small residential streets – it reminded me of my extremely long walk in Tallinn, where there was nothing to see en route to a place where there was nothing very much to see.
Soon I arrived at one of the buildings in Grünerløkka that I was keen to check out. Mathallen is – like many of the places popping up in cities I’ve frequented recently – a big food court basically. It’s full of small restaurants, communal seating and a couple of high end grocery shops.
I wandered around looking at the different places and searching in vain for Max burger sauce in the deli. I’d read Mathallen was open until ten o’clock most nights, so decided to come back and explore it properly later, and have dinner there one night.
By now it was definitely time for a coffee, and Grünerløkka has plenty of cafes well renowned for their expertise in the art of the bean. The nearest to Mathallen was a place called Tim Wendelboe. I set off to find it.
Tim was 2004 World Barista Champion, and is, I’d read, widely credited with bringing great coffee to Oslo. His coffee shop isn’t just a place to drink coffee either. The building also contains a roastery and a coffee school.
After crossing a river and climbing up a hill around the side of an apartment block, I soon discovered the place on a street corner.
Inside you could see the roastery through a glass door off to one side – while there were about six or seven tables inside the cafe section. All of which were occupied of course as I was desperate for a seat!
I made my way to the slick counter, and looked at the list of drinks they offered – espresso, cortado, macchiato etc. I don’t like milk in my coffee (unless it’s a mocha) so asked the guy behind the counter what long black drinks they did. They didn’t do americanos, so my choice was either really a double espresso (not enough coffee for me) or a filter. I decided to go with the latter, and then had a look at the filter menu 😳.
In the end I went for a Boji brew as I love apricot. I paid (£4 or so) and was asked to take a seat while my coffee was prepared.
Thankfully after standing around for a while, a table became free, so I was able to rest my wee tired legs! Soon my coffee appeared – with most of it in a jug, and a little bit in a cup.
The guy who’d served me at the counter explained that this particular coffee tasted a lot better when it had cooled a bit, so it was best to pour a little coffee into the cup at a time. I thought that was quite interesting!
What I also appreciated is that while there can be a lot of ‘coffee snobbery’ in these types of places, and you can be made to feel like a bit of an idiot, here the exact opposite was true. It was like the staff were genuinely keen to pass on their knowledge about coffee and how to enjoy it.
The coffee was great – I didn’t unfortunately get apricots from it, but it did taste nice! I wish now I’d picked up some of the stuff to bring home – the prices weren’t unreasonable. Tim has a webshop where you can both buy coffee and a coffee subscription.
By now, it was half past four – and stepping outside, once more, it was already dark. As some shops close at five in Oslo, I wasn’t sure I was going to get that good a look around the area.
A couple of doors down from Tim Wendelboe, I did stumble upon one shop I’d read about and was keen to have a look in.
Inside was packed to the rafters with all kinds of odds and ends from the country. There were massive electric signs (which would look v cool in a room)…
…and loads of drinking vessels and bottles, clothes and other random stuff – like this poor lady’s head peeking out from a box.
Behind the counter a man (the owner?) was busy tinkering with an old electric item. It was a cool place, but it was quite pricey too. I didn’t see anything worth parting with my cash for, but it was an interesting shop to browse.
Back on Grünerløkka‘s streets, the rain was falling, and shops were pulling down their shutters. After remembering I hadn’t had lunch, I nipped into a 7-Eleven and picked up a hot dog to keep me going until dinner.
I stood outside the shop in the rain munching away, and
I did consider getting public transport back to the hotel, but decided that was being lazy, so set off on the 40 minute walk.
That was pretty uneventful – if wet! On the
I wouldn’t be lying if I said I was just looking forward to being back at The Thief!
A Norwegian meal
Once back at the hotel, I paid another visit to the Spa – this time armed with the knowledge of how to a) work the showers and b) prevent my feet from being scalded in the shower. I swam 130 lengths of the pool then had a sauna and shower.
As it was Saturday night, I decided to head out for dinner. I was tempted to go back to Mathallen, the food court I’d seen earlier, but the thought of walking all the way back there was not appealing. And I couldn’t be bothered getting the bus there either. Instead, I decided just to have dinner in Aker Brygge – the area next to my hotel.
I was actually in the mood for Thai food, or a pizza (Norwegians do love pizza). I wandered around in the rain looking at each and every restaurant’s menu, going back and forward between a couple. Eventually I decided that as I was in Norway, I should actually go for a typically Norwegian meal, rather than an Asian or Italian one.
After narrowing it down to a couple of options, I eventually settled on a restaurant and bar called Louise. Glad to get out of the rain, I was asked if I had a reservation but after replying I didn’t, was quickly seated at a table and handed a menu.
I ordered a Pepsi Max (no Diet Coke available) and a glass of my favourite vino (Chablis) while I had a look at the menu. I decided to go all out Norwegian style and select a real Norwegian dish. I went for Reindeer from Jotunheimen – a mountainous area in Southern Norway. That came served with homemade mushroom sausage (never heard of that before!), bone marrow soufflé, sprouts (the brussel kind which have disgusted me since I was young), chestnuts, celery, duchess potatoes and a red wine sauce with a hint of chocolate. It all (apart from the sprouts) sounded good to me!
I read my guide book for a while, planning out the next day, and fifteen minutes or so later, my food had arrived. Look at that!
Absolutely delicious. Everything was – the reindeer (slightly game-y like the salami I’d had this morning), the sausage (particularly tasty) and well – the lot really. My sister (shoutout to Jill!) has been banging on recently about me retrying sprouts, telling me they are actually delicious. So I took one for the team and ate them all too. Still not convinced on them, but they weren’t as bad as I remembered.
Halfway through the meal, I decided to order another Chablis. Clearing my plate, the friendly waiter asked if I wanted dessert too. Having spotted something very appealing when perusing the dessert menu earlier on, I asked to take another look at it.
I’m mad for crumble. Apple crumble, my favourite – rhubarb crumble, any kind of crumble and I’m there basically. Although not to be served with custard thanks!
So I went for the “crumble pie” which consisted of baked blueberries and apples with St. Hallvard liqueur (🤔) and sea buckthorn sherbet.
My memories by this point may have been slightly tainted by the two large-ish glasses of Chablis I’d consumed, but that too was very, very tasty.
I was glad that not only had I gone out for dinner, but that I’d settled on Louise for dinner. I had a great meal, and some nice vino too.
The bill arrived, and unfortunately – like everything else in Norway – it wasn’t cheap! Including a tip, the meal came to 843 Norwegian Krone – so about £77.12. That is one expensive meal considering the place didn’t look all that fancy. But it had been good, and I was on holiday!
The umbrella was raised once more when I got outside – it really felt like it had rained all day, and I’d had enough! I was back in my room for about ten o’clock, and my bed had been turned down ready for me to climb into. I loved that each night during my stay, the hotel also delivered a flask of hot water, a little biscuit, and a ‘night time’ teabag containing oat flower, lavender and lime flower. I don’t usually like tea, thinking it tastes of hot sick
After drinking that down, I switched off the lights. I thought about my plans for tomorrow then drifted off to sleep.