Fjord Sightseeing / Holmenkollen Ski Jump
Over the weekend, the sun came out in Oslo for the first time in 2014. Downtown has a totally different feeling when the fog furls back from the fjord. The main streets were packed with people enjoying the sunshine and I could finally see some mountains. I jumped at the chance to take a sightseeing boat in Oslofjord while it was still clear.
The boat departed from the dock in front of the Oslo City Hall and went on a two hour tour past town and around the fjord. Along the way, our guide pointed out points of interest and told us interesting tidbits about the area (this is where I learned about the opera house being designed to look like an iceberg). I've spent a lot of time looking out over the water from town, so it was interesting to see things from the other way around.
We cruised past the opera house and the hill where Oslo was founded around 1000 AD by a Viking king. Soon we were in more open water and going by small islands in the fjord. Lots of tiny houses dot the edges of these popular summertime destinations. Many of the houses aren't inhabited during the winter, but I can see that provide a nice escape from the city when the weather is warm.
On the island pictured above, houses have a size restriction and must be painted a traditional color (red, green, yellow, or another color that I forgot). I love the way these houses look. The strong colors pop out against the landscape and gray sky.
Unfortunately, I didn't get very good pictures of the fjord itself. Oslofjord is not a fjord in the technical sense of the term and it wasn't as steep and narrow as others I've seen pictures of, but it was gorgeous. I'm happy that I had the chance to go on a sunny day because I could see the hills surrounding the fjord as well as the islands. We came back along the other side and passed the Bygdøy peninsula, and many of the museums could be seen from the water. Overall, it was a great experience.
The next day I went to the Holmenkollen ski jump with a roommate, a German named Melanie. We instantly got along and I was happy to have a chance to hang out with her. The Metro is the easiest way to get to the ski jump from the hostel. This was my first experience with the Oslo Metro, and I'd say that I was impressed but I've come to expect a high level of cleanliness and convenience from Norwegian transportation. It was much better than the Metro experiences I had in Paris and Rome, and the train goes above ground most of the time, providing some nice sightseeing. We stopped at a hospital first where Melanie turned in some paperwork to apply for a job (it's much easier to get a job in Norway if you're already a citizen of the European Union). I was shocked by the inside of the hospital; it was like the inside of a cruise ship or a hotel.
Next we switched Metro lines and headed up into the hills overlooking Oslo where the ski jump is located. It's one of the largest ski jumps in the world and visible from just about anywhere in Oslo. It hosted a big competition over the weekend and we visited the day after the competition ended. Our goal was to climb as high as possible which was an interesting experience for me because heights can make me really queasy. Even standing at the bottom of the hill and looking up made my stomach drop.
Watching ski jumping on tv didn't give me a proper idea of how steep the hill really is. I also didn't realize that there would be skiers practicing and it was alarming to see them zooming by. The whole experience was pretty thrilling. We discovered that we had to purchase a ticket to the ski museum and take a lift, so we bought tickets and headed to the lift. It let us out right above where the skiers start their jump. For a while we watched them take off and disappear over the edge of the hill. Then we headed up to the platform on the very top of the jump. I'm convinced that this place has the best view in Oslo and probably the coolest view I've ever seen. Standing on the medal platform, I could turn around and see downtown, the sun over the fjord, lakes, and snowy mountains behind the city.
It's hard to capture how breathtaking this all was in a picture. We didn't want to leave. Eventually we got hungry and went back down to the ski museum, which we explored for a while (it was cool!). All of this skiing reminded me of my days of ski racing.
Melanie and I headed into town, ate lunch on the opera house, rode around on a ferry, and then headed back. It was great to be in the sunshine and great to hang out with a friend!
I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I wanted to make note of it: I've been taking all of these pictures with my iPhone! I forgot to bring my camera, and I think it's turned out to be a happy accident. I can't zoom much and some photos come out overexposed, but I'm impressed with the majority of the photos that I'm able to take with my phone's camera. Plus, that's one less valuable thing that I'm carrying around with me.
Another important note: my travel plans have changed significantly. I've decided to head back to Italy (Milan specifically) next week. I love Norway, but I miss Italy an enormous amount and would rather travel around there. My flight back home still leaves from Oslo, so I plan on coming back later in the spring. At this point it looks like I'll be making my way south by train in Italy and winding up in Naples before I come back to Norway. However, a couple weeks ago I wouldn't have guessed that I'd want to spend so much time in Italy so that shows that plans may change!