I made my flight to Oslo without any complications. Now that I've caught flights on my own a couple times, I feel like I'm getting the hang of it and have a good sense for how much time I need. It was snowing when I got off the plane, and the snow, forest, and quiet gave me a magical first impression. I caught a train from the airport to the central station in Oslo then caught another train to my hostel, which is about a 10 minute ride away from downtown. The Oslo Sentralstasjon is the nicest train station I've ever been in. It's very clean and full of restaurants and shops. Once I found the map of train routes, I had no trouble getting to my hostel.
This hostel is large, clean, and equipped with all the amenities a traveler might need. Its location is hardly a problem because a tram that stops in front of the hostel goes straight downtown (though tickets can be costly). It's still wintry in Oslo and this is the hostel's slow season, so there aren't many people here, but I do have three very kind German roommates.
On my first couple days in Oslo I mostly walked around the city and took it all in. It's quite a shocking difference from Paris and Rome especially. The city is clean and organized. To me, it lacks the older feeling that the previous two cities had. There aren't ruins and most of the buildings look very new or have a newer style. Some of the places I roamed around included the botanical gardens, the waterfront (my favorite part of Oslo), and the opera house. The opera house was designed to look like an iceberg and it sits in the water. You can walk right onto the building and up to the top of the roof where there's a good view of Oslo on a sunny day.
And here's a picture of the waterfront area:
Two of my most notable adventures last week were the Viking Ship Museum and Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. On Thursday and Friday I took the bus to Bygdøy, the peninsula where the museums are located. I felt no apprehension about taking the bus, and when I say that it means that the bus system is really spectacular. I went to the Viking Ship Museum on the first day. This has been the thing that I've been looking forward to doing most in Norway ever since I started planning this trip years ago. I had high expectations and was relieved that they were surpassed. The museum has three ships, two of which are very well-preserved and larger than I imagined. Standing next to them was awe-inspiring. If they still look this intimidating hundreds of years later, I bet they were extremely impressive back in the day with their sails up and painted shields hanging on the sides.
The ships were part of burials of important members of Viking society. The museum has other items from the burials on display like sleighs, cooking ware, a saddle, and chests. I was amazed by how much of it is covered by intricate carvings of animals, people, and other vinelike patterns. I spent a couple hours there taking it all in.
The next day, I returned to the Bygdøy area to visit the cultural museum. This museum is focused on showing the way Norwegian people lived from the 1500s up to the present day. Most of my Norwegian history knowledge is centered around the Viking era, so it was interesting to learn about parts of Norwegian history that I didn't know much about. The indoor exhibit only makes up a small part of the museum, though--outside there are over 150 traditional buildings from regions all over Norway. You can even walk inside many of the buildings and see how they would've been set up.
Many of the buildings were elevated like the one in the picture about. Others had grass growing on the roof (something I've seen a lot of in the suburbs of Oslo near the forest).
The most spectacular building was a stave church constructed in the 1200s. These wooden churches were built in Norway in the Middle Ages and have a very distinctive style. This stave church was situated in the woods a little ways away from the rest of the buildings. On a dark and rainy day, surrounded by trees, the church looked very grim. I peeked inside. There were no windows and only one light and it felt unsettling. It was an entirely different experience from being in Baroque churches in Paris and Rome.
The door frames were decorated with more intricate carvings.
It started pouring and I still felt sick so I didn't stay much longer. It was a neat experience though, and I'd like to go back when it's sunny!