Our train rumbles over what feels like the top or roof of Norway, and although it is summer, the middle of the country feels like a chilly, barren tundra. We roll past small wooden homes, icy patches of snow still on the ground, and craggy rock outcroppings. After my adventures in beautiful Flåm, I am surprised to see even more new landscapes that tickle my fancy is this damn pretty country. I am on the Bergen Line Train (Bergensbanen), the highest line in Northern Europe. It climbs up to 4000 feet across the barren, snow flecked Hardangervidda mountain plateau (the largest of its kind in Europe) before descending through lush valleys to the coast and into the capital city.
Often ranked one of the world’s most expensive cities, Oslo is Norway’s hub for banking, trade, and shipping. This green city of about 600,000 is clean, green and very easy to get around.
I spend my last few days in Norway exploring the city by bike, foot, and tram. I check out the hipster ‘hood of Grünerløkka and feel like I’m on the northside of Chicago.
For a perfect afternoon bike ride, I cruise around to the peninsula of Bygdøy, a huge green area punctuated by museums, and surrounded by the sea, of course making it one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city.
Since I had a City Pass, I dropped into the moving Nobel Peace Center, the very easy-to-explore National Museum (good for a non-museum lover like me), and took in the whimsical sculptures of Vigeland in Fronger Park which is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist.
The 200+ sculptures basically depict the human condition and track the life, emotions, and struggle of man from birth to death. As a whole, it’s pretty neat to see all the statues lined up around the park and each one individually is pretty cool as they are so relatable.
If you can, score reservations at Sanguine Brasserie, which is set right in the foyer of the stunning five-year-old Oslo Opera House. Sure, going to the opera inside this magnificent building could be fun (or not), but simply walking on (yes, on) the building is really cool. Opened in 2008, this building was intentionally created to be part of the Norwegian landscape by connecting the land and sea. Like a chunk of ice or a glacier floating into the fjord waters here, the Opera house is made of glass, marble, and granite. The roof angles down to ground level creating a large (and fun!) place for folks to walk up and all around, enjoying the panoramic views of Oslo.
The restaurant sits inside the main hall and it’s as open a room as you can get. It’s a sea of white – white chairs, white linen table cloths, tables set on white carrera marble. It’s like eating on a fluffy cloud in heaven – and sometimes I feel like Norway must be heaven.
There’s a huge outdoor patio which overlooks the harbor. The only drawback is the fact that the opera is not in session, so it is oddly quiet and quite empty here – just three other tables of folks, no noise, no music – just the clanging of wine glasses and dinging of the bell when food was up.
I sat here at a table for one and enjoyed a starter of the Grøstad ham with a walnut salad and melon sorbet. My main was the pan fried Ox filet with a root vegetable puree and garlic red wine sauce plus a side of haricot vert (French green beans). Tasty stuff! And expensive, naturally for Norway. The three-course tasting menu is 435 Norwegian Krone ($72). Mains range from $35-45, with fish or meat being about 250 ($40).
And because I am on vacation, I finish it all off with a chocolate truffle cake and pistachio ice cream. It’s a great finale to a wonderful trip across Norway. It’s truly a great place to visit, but pricey. If you do visit, try to save money by doing a homestay (with couchsurfing or airbnb.com) and having some meals at home. That way it’s much more doable and you can splurge here and there on restaurants and Fjord tours.
Disclosure: During my time in Oslo, I was a guest of Visit Norway, Rica Hotel G20, and Visit Oslo. As always, all opinions are my own.