There is something about Oslo. Something even I as a local, find difficult to pinpoint. And it is this something that makes me feel at home – even on days when I curse the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-summer and the cost of living.
Maybe the only way I can convey the feeling is by telling you what happened a few weeks back. The day started by taking the tube down town. I then went on to hopping on to a corresponding bus in order to make it to my son’s football school in time. As we entered the bus I started rummaging through my handbag – where was my weekly ticket which allows free transport throughout Oslo?
The queue behind me was growing by the nano second. My son looked at me with his eyebrows almost hitting the roof. And I was looking, I really was. Why did I have to buy a bag with two main compartments AND four smaller pockets? Despair is probably the best way to describe the way my fingers were searching through every nook and cranny of that huge handbag of mine.
I looked up at the bus driver, slightly embarrassed and raised my shoulders.
” – Sorry, I can’t seem to find my ticket. Could I have a one way fare please?”
The nice man behind the wheel smiled back at me, not bothered by the people I assumed were making faces and maybe even showing fingers at me behind my back by now.
” – Are you going far?”
” – Three stops.”
” – No worries then” he sort of whispered, and indicated with his eyes that I could step on board without parting with the steep 40 kroner ticket price (= roughly 5 euros).
Later on that same day I went to my local coffee shop La Dolce Vita (Prinsens Gate 22) – a true heaven of Italian impulses, and of course, the best coffee in the world. To my surprise they didn’t want money for my latté.
” – It’s on us!” I was told in the cutest Italian accent.
” – NO, not in Oslo…” I smiled.
” – You’re not in Oslo, you’re in Italy now!” he insisted.
So what am I getting at? I am getting to the fact that I was made to feel so welcome by a city I haven’t lived in for a good few years. It was as if Oslo herself wanted to remind me that she can indeed be a charmer, a real sweet talker with plenty of charisma. And I know exactly why. Look to the sky for the answer. If it is full of grey skies and drizzle you don’t get this kind of treatment. When the snow is inches deep and people are freezing and cars have to be undug to be used, I can assure you there are no free rides. You’ll be lucky to catch someone smiling from the depths of their scarves and woolly hats.
However, when the sun is shining, magic happens. And this is why my day continued to sparkle. I took the kids to see The Scream in the National Gallery. It’s a tradition. We go purely for the Munch room in the heart of the building. Since entrance is free we allow ourselves to be extravagant enough to indulge in room 24, and this room only, where The Scream, The Madonna, The Dance of Life and The Sick Child never fail to impress. Inevitably, as soon as we’re outside, we practice our own version:
If you’re up for more art for free, I suggest heading down to the wonderful Vigeland Park which I have written about in a previous post: http://photito.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/oslo-nudity-galore/
To top it all off, you could always jump on one of the ferries that leave the pier in downtown Oslo and make your way out to one of the islands just off the coast. If you have a tube ticket (and remember where you put it!) it’ll also double as a ferry ticket. It couldn’t be easier.
My perfect day ended with something as trivial as apples. Not the soggy, waxy supermarket type. I am talking about the freshly harvested Norwegian apples that can and should be enjoyed in abundance every autumn. This kind:
I must admit that even to a Norwegian 36 kroner seems a lot to pay for one kilo of apples. It’s roughly four euros. However, some things can’t be measured in money, and when I saw these I knew I couldn’t resist. So I asked for ten apples. The salesman didn’t bother weighing the bag. He handed it to me and asked for ten kroner in return, a symbolic sum – one euro and twenty cents – for which you can buy very little in this capital which is amongst the worlds most expensive. I looked up to the sky as I took a bite out of my perfect apple, and thanked whatever forces rule up there for their kindness. The sun that shone in Oslo on this particular day in August made me realize just what a wonderful place I call home.
This post is part of the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Travel Carnival about “Favourite Places”, which is hosted by fellow Norwegian Sophie over at www.sophiesworld.net