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July 15, 2011

A Trip to Oslo

by Val Reynolds

I took the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Norway to Norway with me on a recent trip to Oslo, having established that no guide seemed to be published for the city alone.  I suppose that given the population of the whole country is just under 5,000,000, and of the capital just over 600,000 (and, interesting bit of trivia here, if you tipped the thin strip of land that is Norway on end it would reach Sicily), it’s not really surprising.  That said, there is an amazing amount to see in Oslo, and almost every minute of our four-day trip there was packed.

The DK guide, as customary with all their travel publications, is a feast for the eyes.  The sheer quality of the paper and dazzling colour photographs do great justice to the sights of the town and all information was almost 100% accurate, no mean achievement when changes in charges and opening times are almost inevitable.  The series has an interesting feature which picks out what it considers the most interesting attractions which it describes in greater detail;  subjectively, I agree with their choices, notably the Vigelandsparken, Oslo’s largest park packed with 212 sculptures of people, young, middle-aged and old, named after the sculptor Gustav Vigeland.  It’s a unique experience and not to be missed on a trip to Oslo.

The city is also home to a plethora of museums, six of which are on the peninsula of Bygdoy.  This is most easily reached by a frequent boat service.  The Norwegian Folk Museum is an open-air affair to which historic buildings have been transported from the whole country;  (Stockholm has the same idea at Skansen).  Nearby is the Viking Museum with three genuine Viking ships on display.  Go one stop further on the boat and you’ll come to the Kon Tiki museum, named after the raft on which Thor Heyerdahl proved that by building sailing craft with the simplest of materials, indigenous peoples from Peru could have sailed to Easter Island.  Next door is the Fram museum, with the actual boat that explored the Arctic and Antarctic at the beginning of the 20th century, and in which the Norwegian Amundsen pipped Scott to the post by reaching the South Pole first.  Back to Oslo Central for even more museums and galleries, notably the National Gallery which has a wonderful international collection as well as fine examples of Norwegian painters and the Munch museum which showcases the work of perhaps the most famous one.  My interest in theatre led me to the Henrik Ibsen museum which houses an interesting exhibition of the playwright’s work but more importantly, offers tours round the apartment where he spent the last years of his life.

My only quibble with the Guide was that it failed to mention the Oslo Pass.  This can be bought for 24, 48 or 72 hours and covers all transport and museum entrance fees for the period as well as discounts in certain restaurants and bars.  The 72 hour pass cost around £50, but I carefully noted and added up what individual tickets would cost;  thanks to our fervent desire to soak up as much culture as possible, the total spend came to over £100!  And while we did more than just scratch Oslo’s cultural surface, there was masses that we didn’t have time to visit!

And perhaps my only quibble with Oslo itself is the cost.  It has a deserved reputation of being the most expensive city in Europe and eating out (and certainly drinking out as well as in) is eye-wateringly dear.  That said, the people are very friendly and welcoming and despite the cost it’s a city I’d dearly like to visit again.  I said so to the nice bus driver as he unloaded our cases at the airport for our trip home.  He seemed genuinely pleased that we had enjoyed his city and hoped that we would indeed come back ‘when we could afford it’!

The DK Guide to Norway is published by Dorling Kindersley and available from DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Norway""

Jeannette Nelson, Contributing author

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