Oslo – The Silent City
The first thing that struck me about Oslo was just how quiet it was.
Walking down a street in the centre of the city and passing maybe two people. Being part of a crowd of five in a café. Navigating Oslo’s Zoological Museum and not seeing a single child. Walking through a park in sunset and not seeing another living soul.
After months spent living in London, I thought silence would be unnerving.
It’s not. It’s truly glorious.
We were spending a self-designated long weekend in Oslo to catch one of my favourite bands, Röyksopp playing live. They released their new album in 2014 and I have been waiting ALL YEAR for them to come to the UK. No luck – they instead announced that they would be playing two shows in their native country of Norway. Fine. If Mohammad won’t come to the mountain, the mountain comes to Mohammad. Especially when flights to Oslo are as cheap as they are at this time of the year.
I guess it’s not surprising that flights to the Norwegian capital are inexpensive in winter. Six hours of daylight and freezing cold conditions doesn’t sound like the most appealing circumstances for a holiday abroad.
To that I say – people sure do like to miss out. The winter days were crisp, with blue skies. They daylight hours rivalled those of what we’re currently getting in the UK. And Oslo is a delightful little city – albeit as exorbitantly expensive as it’s rumoured to be.
We started our first full day there with breakfast at the Mathallen food hall. Imagine a giant warehouse full of tapas-style restaurants, delis, coffee shops and a bar right in the middle. Yep. That’s the Mathallen food hall to a T.
Scarily aware after the previous nights dinner of just how hard a meal out in Oslo can be on one’s wallet, we decided to approach any foods without a price tag with great trepidation. Rookie mistake. We under-ordered, with the food being slightly less expensive than anticipated (notice how I didn’t say cheap – just less expensive). We ended up stopping for second breakfast at the vinyl cafe nearby for a focaccia. It was a cool café – exactly the type of place I’d love to hang out at in London, if I lived in a trendier area.
From there, we did what is hands down my favourite activity of any new city – we walked. From our suburb, down to the Opera House, admiring the sun, which was hanging out over the horizon.
From there, it was onto the Natural History Museum. I’m a fan of natural history – I went to the museum in London quite a few times before tiring of the crowds and kids. Oslo’s zoological museum was not only marvellous – it was dead quiet.
There was undoubtably much that was unnerving about Oslo’s Natural History Museum. London’s equivalent is stuffed full of exhibitions, arranged in a truly scientific manner. It’s a little bit boring, once you’ve been there a few times, as I unashamedly have.
On the contrary, each scene in Oslo’s museum was carefully arranged, with a painted backdrop and perfectly positioned animals. It was neat, but chilling within the same moment – here you were, looking as these long dead animals, caught in a snapshot of time in which they would be forever preserved.
Regardless, I love natural history and the museum was rad. We saw all there was to see, before pressing on to more important things… like dinner.
My boyfriend and I like to eat, and eat well. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for us to source out a fancy restaurant (preferably with tasting plates) in any new country we visit. Unfortunately, we don’t often end up making plans until we are in said country, by which time the truly great places are booked solid. However – we often get lucky. As we did in Oslo.
The biggest problem with Oslo, as my boyfriend later pointed out, was not the expense – although it is undoubtably an upsetting a factor of a stay in the city.
We both like food quite a lot and the vast majority of our opinion of a place is tied up in what and how we eat there. And the food in Oslo, while pricey… just wasn’t good. Even Smalhans, the restaurant we booked ourselves in for our meal that Friday night was fairly average, at best. The vibe was cool, the staff friendly but for around 70 quid a meal, you’d want quality eats – which we just weren’t getting.
Oh well. The next day we ventured out to the Viking Ship Museum. Now, this was cool. The museum was home to three actual Viking ships, which were buried along with high ranking Norwegians and unearthed in 2/3 cases, virtually intact. The museum was a costly 80 kroner to enter and while I wouldn’t say it was worth every krone, it was still a very cool sight to see. (Something the last of the Scandinavian trifecta, Sweden is equally as famous for.)
The evening was overtaken by the reason for our journey to Oslo in the first place – seeing the electronic duo Röyksopp in their native country.
Röyksopp are the band that have provided the soundtrack to my life as an expat so far. This song reminds me of my move to Doha. I listened to this track compulsively when I first arrived in London. I won’t be forgetting their unbelievable set in Oslo anytime soon.
We returned to London early Sunday morning – our pockets considerably lighter. Indulging in a meal that night that cost thirty quid between us seemed a thrifty treat!