Laurent and I heaved an enormous sigh of relief when Tommy rolled off the ferry from Denmark (Frederikshavn) to Oslo. We made it to Oslo without breaking down! That in itself was a major accomplishment for us and a promising sign that our luck may be changing for the better.
We spent our first 2 nights in Oslo on a parking lot next to a beautiful lake and a forest full of hiking trails. This provided a sneak preview of the parks and magnificent nature that was waiting to be discovered.
After finally getting our tires changed, we dropped Tommy off early at Toyota and took the seven hour train ride to Bergen for a couple of days before returning to discover Oslo. The train was promoted as an extremely scenic and breathtaking journey. Yes, the scenery was nice, but became really interesting only close to Bergen and then the countless tunnels we went through prevented us from seeing a lot! Good thing we had a second chance to look on the way back!
We enjoyed our visit to Bergen, a pleasant city that can be easily visited on foot. The wooden houses along the waterfront and in the old part of town were charming and full of history. Despite trying some local culinary dishes and a bit of seafood, the gastronomic highlight of our trip to Bergen was a red curry we had in a Vietnamese restaurant located just a couple of minutes from our rental apartment!
Oslo and Bergen have many similarities…lots of parks and greenery with the wilderness at their doorsteps. The love that the average Norwegian has for the great outdoors is obvious from day 1. We noticed very little motor vehicle traffic, at least in the central areas of both cities. Could it be the taxes for driving in the city or the summer holidays? The big exception to this are the hoards of scooters that zip by at breakneck speed. Although part of urban life in many major cities, it does take getting used to.
Laurent and I both thoroughly enjoyed our time in Oslo. It is a city with a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. A city that makes you feel good. An enormous effort has been made in recent years to transform the waterfront area which has seen new apartment buildings and museums pop up. There is a really nice walkway extending many kilometers through the different sections of the waterfront and the jewel in the crown is, in our opinion, the opera house (beautifully designed by a local team of architects and completed in 2007). It is a magnet that draws people naturally to it and the huge esplanade is an inviting place for meeting up or simply sitting down with a good book. Public transport is abundant and easy to use (buses, trams, subway, ferries) and it is simple to get to most places within and on the outskirts of the city.
Oslo is also full of great museums and art galleries. Unfortunately, the long-awaited Munch Museum and the National Museum were not yet open, despite being planned to open in 2020.
Being a fan of Joe Nesbo, I am personally very happy to have finally made it to Oslo and to see firsthand those places described in his crime novels.
Three things have really caught our attention since arriving in Oslo. First of all, the economy seems to be flourishing. People are out and about, stores are busy, and restaurants are packed at all hours of the day. When you see people eating at 4 pm you do not know if they are having a late lunch or a really early dinner! There seems to be a relatively high birth rate as well as evidenced by the high number of young mothers and fathers pushing baby strollers around. The cliché of the happy Scandinavian countries seems to be a reality, at least at first glance. In any case, we have met many friendly and helpful locals who have greatly contributed to making us forget about our mechanical problems.
The second thing that has caught our attention is the multi-cultural population in Oslo (and to a lesser noticeable extent in Bergen). While such a cosmopolitan population can be somewhat expected in a city of this size, what stands out for us is the apparent harmony in which everyone lives. Based on first impressions and on our urban observations, it would appear that immigration has been successful.
Third but not least is the number of electric cars. It seems like every second person owns a Tesla. Same car, just a different color…..although white seems to be by far the favorite. This has been explained to us as a gift from the government to the rich in the form of a tax break with an environmental label. This may be the case, but the country nvertheless does appear to be steps ahead of many others on the environmental front. On the other hand, due to the plentiful hydroelectric production, we have also noticed that many people (at least outside of the city), tend to leave the lights on all the time, even during the day!
You may be wondering where we are now with Tommy`s repair job and when we will be able to get back on the road. Laurent has the honor of telling you all about that, an adventure in itself. Stay tuned for the next episode. We are thankful that our positive experiences since arriving in Norway have helped us to shift our focus onto other things….a welcomed breath of fresh air!