Visiting Norway completes our pilgrimage to Scandinavian* countries which were made famous since our early childhood by Viking explorers. A slightly larger variation of the geography, "Nordic" countries encompass Scandinavia, Iceland and Finland - perhaps a new target set for sometime in the "not too distant" future.
Norway comprises the western part of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The coastline is broken by huge fjords and thousands of islands - which we clearly saw from the sky as our aircraft flew into Oslo, the country's capital. The fjord in Oslo's harbour alone consist of about 40 islands. Norway is, as defined by the United Nations in 2009 as the best place to live in on the planet. Just for the record, Australia was No. 2 but thanks to the Global Financial Crisis, we fully expect Australia to return to the No.1 position in 2010.
We had flown with KLM (Amsterdam based Royal Dutch Airlines) as their fares and schedules were more efficient, although we have to say that even with the convenience of Online checkin, their baggage dropoff procedures slowed things down dramatically. We transit at Amsterdam's Schipol International Airport but had little time to look around.
We noted the high use of technology in the public transport system; eTickets, high speed trains (from the airport to Oslo city), modern trams etc., a fact which adds to the convenience of finding your way around the city.
Oslo is armed with a wrath of museums; Folk Museum, Kon Tiki Museum and Viking Museum among others, with a good selection of theatres, restaurants and other forms of entertainment. Because the city is small and the light rail (tram) system convenient , travelling around the city is a breeze. Busses, Ferries and high speed trains to move the 560,000 people living in Oslo around were very efficient. As you travel around the city, you will note a striking number of bronze sculptures all over the city.
We enjoyed walking around the Aker Brygge area. It's like the Docklands of Melbourne (for those who are confused, the Melbourne Docklands multi billion dollar development promises a brand new Waterfront City just beside Melbourne city, expanding Melbourne as such bringing greater and more exciting lifestyle enhancing experiences to the City) just west of the harbour, contains a small boat harbour, ferryboat terminal, shopping, restaurants and where the Nobel Peace Centre is. Ironically, Barak Obama's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize was announced the day we arrived in Oslo, where the prize would be awarded.
By comparison, Oslo is a very clean and safe city but we have to say that we also found the city quite unexciting. We had great difficulty finding good local cuisine and to find things that are distinctly Norwegian. Perhaps, we have both been travelling too long already and expect too much out of Oslo.
Vigeland Park was one place we did find interesting due to its serene surroundings, the foilage and the number of sculptures which exist and how much time it took one man to complete the layout of the park. We were among a bus load of American tourists who incidentally found the sculptures quite distateful - as almost all statues were that of naked people in their full "glory". "Not my cup fo tea", said one tourist to his colleague!
What can I say? This is one place we will not be returning to in a hurry. We used up our remaining Norwegian currency on the famous Norwegian Shrimp Cocktail, Caviar and some other snacks at the airport just before we were called to board the aircraft back to Munich via Amsterdam.
We hope you enjoy the pictures,
Jeanette and Raymond Han
*Scandinavia is made up of Sweden, Denmark and Norway although some argue that Iceland and Finland should be included.
One of the many granite sculptures at Vigeland Park