Any reader of my blogs will know that they are a mixture of current and past destinations, and as Christmas will soon be here and gone and the New Year beckons, my mind wandered back to February 2006 when I paid a short visit to snowy Oslo.
I’m not sure why us Brits keep banging on about the weather all the time, because living in a temperate weather zone means that we don’t get extreme conditions like other parts of the world.
I’m not saying that we don’t get our fair share of rain, but extreme heat and cold are rare in comparison, and I suppose it’s one of the reasons why you’ll find plenty of half-baked bodies from our Sceptred Isle on the beaches of the Costa del Sol every summer.
‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ may well go out in the Midday Sun, but I’m not one of them anymore. These days, I prefer taking holidays in places like Scandinavia rather than Torremolinos thank you very much.
The problem for those of us who don’t live in Scandinavia is that we find it expensive, so for someone like me, visiting Oslo in the depth of winter kills two birds with one stone – it’s cheaper and it’s not hot.
Saying that it wasn’t hot when the plane touched down at Oslo airport is somewhat of an understatement. It was so cold, that inside the terminal they were serving coffee on a stick (I made that bit up), but I’m sure you get the gist.
Norwegians, like all Scandinavians, take this sort of weather in their stride, and even though we landed and drove into the city in a blizzard during rush hour, there wasn no suggestion that there would be any trouble getting to the hotel as normal. Back in dear old Blighty the plane wouldn’t have even landed.
After checking-in, I ventured out into the bitterly cold evening air and found a local café/bar where customers were sat outside – yep! you heard that right – outside the bar. Even though it was apparently -10 degrees here, it seemed to be the norm. Mind you, the establishment provided blankets and candles to make it a more pleasant experience, but even so, I didn’t hang around too long because a) the (cold) beer was expensive, b) I didn’t want to get frostbite and c) I wanted to be up bright and early in the morning for my trip up to Tryvannshogda and Holmenkollen.
Normally, I would take a look around the city centre first before venturing too far, but as I only had two full days in Oslo and I was staying in the city centre anyway, I focused my attention on seeing things that I don’t normally see at home – and Holmenkollen was definitely one of them.
Holmenkollen lies on the north-western outskirts of the city and is an outdoor recreational area, which at this time of the year means winter sports. For somebody who’s never put a pair of skis on his life, you may wonder why I decided to venture up here, but like I said, it’s somewhere different.
I made an early start so that I could make the most of the day, but anybody with any sense would have jumped straight back under the bedclothes on seeing the weather outside. Instead I trudged through the snowy city streets to the T-bane stop outside the National Theatre where I was hoping to catch the T1 to the end of the journey at Frognerseteren.
I’d already heard that this winter has given Oslo the most snow it’s had for thirty years and I was seriously wondering whether the public transport system would deliver me up to Frognerseteren – but this is Norway not North Devon.
Not only was it running, it was also cram packed with skiers and I had to stand up for the next 40 minutes.
Many of them got off at the Holmenkollen stop, but I wanted to go up to Tryvannstarnet, a TV Tower which, according to the latest information I had, said that the observation deck would be open today, and as long as it stopped snowing, I might just be able to see Sweden.
Walking up to the TV Tower from the tram stop was quite challenging in these conditions, but on the plus side, I’d left most of the winter sports enthusiasts behind – at least for now, and the sky was beginning to brighten up. Maybe I could get those views after all. Eventually I made it to the top of the hill – only to find the tower was shut! Unbeknown to me, it had recently been closed to the public permanently. Thanks very much! and so it was a case of traipsing back down to Frognerseteren.
At least it was downhill, but I felt completely out of place. Everyone I met either had skis or a toboggan. The snow here was really deep in places and at one point when I had to jump out the way of a toboggan I nearly disappeared altogether.
Still, at the bottom was the Frognerseteren Restaurant, which is a rustic sort of place and just what I needed. But before I managed to make it inside, I ended up on my back. I’m afraid I’ve got a bad reputation for doing this sort of thing for all sorts of reasons: This time it was because it was slippery, and even though, unsurprisingly, I suffer from a bad back my haversack saved the day – even if it didn’t save my dignity.
After recovering my composure, I retreated inside the café/restaurant and grabbed a coffee and the Norwegian equivalent of a Kit-Kat and chilled out next to the log fire – or should I say “thawed out”.
Ready to do battle again I caught the next available tram back down to Holmenkollen and took another uphill hike to the Skimuseum. On reflection, I don’t think it was all that far, it just seemed like it in these conditions.
The Skimuseum is exactly what it says, but it also includes a spectacular ski jump, which is what I really came here to see.
A lift transported me up so far, but then there were some steps, more steps and then two more steep flights of steps to get to the top. Surely, they can’t manage this in skis! The view down is scary to say the least. Why anybody would want to jump off here I have no idea. One thing’s for sure, you wouldn’t want to make a false start and clamber all the way back up to do it all over again.
On a clear day the views would have been great, but by the time I got up here conditions were less than ideal for taking decent photographs, and so I gingerly made my way down to the tram stop and back to the relative comfort of the city centre where I finished the day off in the Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch’s most famous work of art is ‘The Scream’ which is what I really came here to see. There are several versions, but the most celebrated one is the one displayed here in the museum – except that it wasn’t: It had been stolen. First, the TV Tower was shut, then the weather closed in when I was on top of the Ski Jump and now Munch’s famous painting has been stolen. It’s enough to make anybody scream! – Perhaps I should have gone to Torremolinos after all!