Seven years ago, I visited Oslo and stayed in someone’s apartment, essentially getting the entire place to myself when the owner coincidentally went on vacation during those exact dates I was here. As I got to Tøyen where he stayed, I wondered if I was actually observing the underbelly of Oslo’s poorer population.
Things change dramatically a few train stops away, and all these years later, I’m not too sure if what I’m seeing of Oslo is too different – at least superficially. Now that I’m at a budget place near the National Theatret, I get to see what the tourists see and do what they do, and unwittingly find myself treading those paths which I took the last time I took to the streets in a frenzy. I walked through Vigeland park again, loving the moody atmosphere that winter lent to the entire place as a musician’s mournful accordion tunes pierced the frigid air, then found myself at Karl Johan’s gate, the city’s main shopping area and its little streets in between before fatigue and jet-lag set in.
Oslo in winter is bitterly cold (it was minus 9 degrees) when I landed at 7:00am and I marvel at how both women and men manage to get by with a thick jacket and a sleek pair of very, very tight jeans.
Things are still horribly expensive – my small sandwich bought at a deli costs about EUR 8 – but there are hidden treasures that at relatively ‘cheap’ at Euro 20 a meal by Norwegian standards. It’s unsurprising that I felt the pinch immediately in a place with the dubious honour of holding the ‘most expensive city in the world’ tag. Like a pauper, I wandered around, only to end up in Elias mat & sånt, a pretty and quaint place that serves Norwegian food. The celeriac soup and spinach bread that I had ended up surprisingly superb. Bonus of the evening? I was told by, rather conspiratorially, by the waitress, that their spinach bread recipe was actually online.
It’s not one of the nicest city that I’ve been in, but the people make all the difference. I’ve been shown so much kindness and rendered help the moment an uncertain look crosses my face (that happens a lot) that I’ll probably remember Oslo for its people rather than its sights.