From the northpole with love

What? 4pm and time for bed?

– what to do in Oslo in winter –

Unless you’re equipped with a very stable circadian rhythm, I guarantee you will be thrown off balance if you go to Norway in winter. (For those of you who couldn’t be bothered to click the wikipedia link, circadian rhythm basically means your body clock, or how our 24 hour cycle is influenced by our surroundings in an instinctive manner).

Take one look at this picture:

It was shot at 4pm. Yes! Four o’clock in the AFTERNOON! (The building in the background is Oslo’s National Theatre by the way).

Worse still, it could easily have been taken at 9.30 am. In other words, the hours of daylight in Oslo at the height of winter add up to a shameful six hours.

Two of those count as dusk and dawn, so basically you’re left with four hours of daylight proper. And if by now you’re wondering what daylight looks like in a place where people more or less hibernate in winter, have a look below:

Allow me to indulge in this gloomy mood for a little while longer. Because none of this darkness would have had the power to put me to bed in the middle of the afternoon on its own.

As if to add insult to injury, the outdoor temperatures are constantly below zero, sometimes dropping to below twenty. So when we left Spain in order to spend our Christmas holiday with family in Oslo, we did the only sane thing. We stayed in. At least most of the time.

When we did venture outside, we made sure to get up nice and early (would be a real shame to miss those four hours…).

Here are our top four outdoor activities (cause it’s not all doom and gloom):

1. Ice skating at Frogner stadion – we rented three sets of skates, and paid £35 for the whole day which also included the entrance fee. There are several other places to go ice skating in Oslo, like ‘Narvisen’ in the city center. But Frogner stadion is much bigger and has comfortable changing rooms and a place to buy coffee and waffels. Yummy!

You might also like to know that you’re on historic skating grounds. Seventeen of the records from Frogner are listed among the official ISU world records in speed skating

Getting here: Get off the tube at Majorstua Station and walk for five minutes. Alternatively, catch the blue tram (number 12) and get off at the station called Frogner Stadion.

2. Sledging down the 2 km long toboggan run Korketrekkeren – We rented three sledges, three helmets and one pair of heavy duty wintery boots, and paid £38 for the whole day. You should consider a mid day treat at the atmospheric Frognerseteren, where you get the biggest and best apple pie in the world for £6!

The toboggan run is located right next to the original bobsleigh run, built for the 1952 Olympic games. It is lit up in the evening, and don’t be surprised to find that adults are just as eager as children when it comes to this rather original form of activity.

Getting here: Catch the tube line 1, and get off at the end station Frognerseteren. (If you need to rent sledges, you should get off at Voksenkollen station). Then it’s all downhill to Midtstuen station, from where you catch the tube and take it all the way to the top again. A piece of advice is to buy a 24h ticket so you don’t have to pay for single journeys all day long. It costs £6.50 for adults and £3.50 for children.

3. Skiing at Linderudkollen – This is one of many log cabins situated in the forest surrounding Oslo. It is also one of the few to which you can quite easily catch public transport. You can’t rent skis here, so you have to bring your own, or simply enjoy being a tourist and watch the dare devils take on the wooden ski jump. The log cabin has a cafeteria where you can buy typical Norwegian treats like open faced prawn sandwiches, cinnamon rolls and waffle with brown goats cheese.

Getting here: Catch bus 56 from Storo tube station. It will say ‘Solheimskogen’ at the front of the bus, and you need to get off at Linderudkollen Station and walk another ten minutes from there.

4. Snow boarding at Tryvann – To be quite honest, we never had time to fit this one in. Our kids are six and nine, and although most Norwegian kids this age know both how to ski and skate, ours don’t. (They are far better at flamenco and surfing!). However, Tryvann is a great place for those of you who want to get skiing. There are 18 slopes and 11 lifts, and best of all – it’s a mere twenty minute tube ride from the city centre!

Oslo – heroin city

OSLO – a clean, quiet capital surrounded by nature. OR? Truth is, it is also a capital that has a high number of heavy drug users. One of Europe’s highest in fact. And that is something that I am having difficulties adjusting to.

I grew up in Oslo – then I lived abroad for a number of years. These days I spend my summers there, as a tourist, and every single summer I end up frustrated about how in-your-face the drug abuse is. And if I experience it like this, surely it must shock other tourists who are expecting anything but to feel like they’re at the film set for Requiem for a Dream.

Being a rather small capital (500.000 inhabitants only), the city center is condensed. You can easily walk from one end of the city to the other in fourty minutes. In other words – the dodgy areas rub shoulders with the rest of the city – and I would go as far as to say that you’re never far from somebody shooting up heroin. Consequently you’ll find USED syringes left behind on lawns, in gutters and in the elevators at the tube stations. It really is ugly. And it’s completely true. I have seen it myself, and I have felt repulsed by my own government who allow this to happen.

I have never been to any other place where heavy duty drug abuse is so visible. All these pictures were taken right behind the Oslo Stock Exchange, which in turn is a stone’s throw away from the central train station, some of Oslo’s biggest shopping centers and the city’s main pedestrian avenue ‘Karl Johan Street’.

Is this what tourists expect when they come to Oslo? Am I being a prude? Or do you people out there agree that this is shocking?