Friday, June 30, 2017

MENU's Scandinavian Odyssey 5. Oslo, Norway

Scandinavia on a Shoestring continues, we reach Oslo
Why were we being so 'cheap" and not eating out? Well, the air fares were heavy, the car hire not bad but not cheap for the 3½ weeks we had it, petrol was shocking compared to our local prices and, while we certainly saved a bit by staying at AirBnBs the total cost, we knew, was going to be large. So the one saving we could make was on food and we used that saving to go further for longer. As we have a food budget while at home, we tried to stick to it by eating out of supermarkets and taking our wine with us, with one or two additions. Beer had to be bought too.
We thought you might like to see a couple of our food bills. We ate as many fresh and seasonal specialities as we could find and took advantage of all the specials too so we ate very well, with a couple of sweet treats. We shopped every two days or so
In Oslo
Chocolate brownies, baguette, cherries & nectarines (Spanish), bananas, salmon fillets, French brie, tomatoes and mange tout Kr 207.73 = R329
In Helsingør, Denmark
new potatoes, 10 eggs and 3 portions of veal DKr 97.45 = R195
 Lidl in Odense, Denmark. Coulommiers French cheese, 2x pain au Chocolat, 400g tomatoes, chips, red pepper, Chocolate truffles, .5 Kg bananas, loaf of bread, 6x Danish pilsner. DKr 161.87 = R323.60
Lynne's carry-on bag on the plane was a cold bag (spoils from a Starlight Concert) into which she could get her laptop, lumbar cushion for the plane and her winter coat. It converted to our food box in the car
We mostly went to Aldi, Lidl, Kwickly and Rema 1000 when we could find them (thanks to SatNav). The first two groups are taking over in Europe (and in England we believe) from the other big supermarkets. They are simple warehouses with no frills, with simple layouts and lots and lots of specials. They are generally not in posh shopping centres but in humble residential neighbourhoods. A packet of 4 pork steaks in Aldi could be €2.29 to €4. (two meals) One steak in a restaurant would be €28 to €30.... Need we say more?
We arrived in Oslo in the late afternoon and, after one slight setback (going to the wrong address! of an AirBnB that had cancelled), we were met by one of our hosts, Eirik, who phoned us, met us and guided us to his flat in Haugerud. It was on the 7th floor (yes, with a security coded lift) of an apartment building on the hillside. It is modern, light, well furnished, comfortable and perfectly warm for the midsummer Oslo weather this year, which was an average of 16ºC with rain most days. In fact we turned the thermostat down. The car was parked all week in the flat's basement car park, perfectly safe and sound. With excellent public transport, we didn't need it
The lounge and dining area with sliding doors to the balcony and the view over the city and the fjord
The fully fitted and equipped kitchen with fridge, freezer, dishwasher and all the electrical equipment you could ever need. Even a set of Global knives
The bedroom. Not our favourite bed, another for John to have to climb into, but comfortable. He used his head torch to read in bed. The upper bunk and other small bed are obviously to cater for families with children. It was large and had plenty of cupboard space for both of us as well as a small desk. And black out blinds. This was taken as we left, after we had unmade the bed
The bathroom with washing machine and thermostatically controlled shower. Everyone has these in Europe and they make life so pleasant. No standing around wasting water till it runs hot, it is almost instant. Why can't we get them here? We almost bought one but discovered our old fashioned plumbing would have to be completely altered with walls cut into. They cost around Euro 300 plus
Having borreltijd (a sundowner! ) and catching up with the news. The TV had a PVR and most of the channels we like to watch at home. And, yes, that is a glass of South African Chenin Blanc from Du Toitskloof. The box was running out but it and a box of Robertson Chardonnay lasted us till near the end of our holiday
Evening creeps on over Oslo. Well actually this is at 11.30 pm at night. It was nearing midsummer and the dark lasted from 11.30 till about 2.30, when it started becoming light again
The view of Oslo fjord the next morning, with a ferry coming in
We bought our Oslo 7 day transport cards at the local station and board our first train. Valid for metro trains, buses, trams and some ferries. Services run 24 hours at regular intervals and we never waited longer than 20 minutes for any public transport, even after midnight. Civilisation. Unlike trains we saw in other cities, we saw no "tagging" graffiti on the trains or on walls. Special rates for pensioners - 120 Norwegian Kroner = R190 each. A bargain
Inside the train it is spacious and clean. But we never travelled in rush hour. The journey to the Oslo Central station took about 20 minutes
John wanted to see where he worked 47 years ago. This was the building, but the shop was gone. We found out later that it had moved two blocks
The Oslo Rådhus (City Hall) is on the waterfront, near the harbour. The building was started in the 1930s, suspended during the Second World War and it was completed after the war had ended
Some ferries, beautiful three masters and some interesting artworks
No, the water is not coming out of the diver’s head. It's from a fountain behind him. Good photo John!
A view of the Akershus Fortress which we were to visit a few days later. We should have gone when the weather was dry..... The ship is the Norwegian Navy training ship Christian Radich, one of the most famous three masters on active service
Another charming ship with yachts in the background
The Nobel Peace Centre
Instead, we boarded a bus and went to visit the Norwegian Folk Museum. Since the late 19th Century they have brought historic old houses and buildings from all over Norway to preserve them and their cultural heritage. That is a real cow in the meadow, she is resting. (That sounded like something out of Monty Python!)
Meadows on the traditional roofs too. This is a house on stilts with its barn. Stilts because of the snow and ice melt
A very cheeky Western or Eurasian jackdaw (Corvus monedula) strutting his stuff
A more modern house with a tiled roof. You can go into some of them or look into others through glass panels
A smaller version, with decoration, it's a Guesthouse from Akkerhauge, Sauherad, ca. 1800
Inside they have just one room for living in, with painted and carved furniture, a long table, storage in the roof rafters and built in beds on the other side. Plus a maiden in traditional clothing to answer any questions you might have in perfect English. The houses look small from the outside but are surprisingly spacious inside, they are well organised and planned. Scandinavian design
A school room with painted walls and furniture
And the bed which could be enclosed by curtain. People must have been much shorter.
Is this what a local village road might have looked like? Lynne is doing her usual botany and rock inspection
Everything is made of wood, the house, cradles, chairs and the clock
In this house, the animals were housed below and the people above
A dairy where they would also have made cheese for the long winters
"The old stave church c.1200 at Gol was due for replacement by a new church around 1880. The Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments bought the old church and presented it to King Oscar II, who paid for its rebuilding on Bygdøy."
Inside the church it is very impressive. You can palpably feel the history and the roof soars above one. The wood has a lovely aroma too. And the dragons on the roof take one straight to the East to wonder if there was ever any connection. Other than a fear of dragons
After our day in the Folkemuseum, we decided to enjoy a (very expensive) beer in the museum's café. While we sat and drank it, we were entertained by sparrows, 
feasting on the hedge next to us
  That evening, we were invited to dinner by friends of John's who befriended him when he lived and worked in Oslo in 1969 and 1970 and whom has not seen for many years
Ivar, John's friend, has lived in the house
next to this fin de siècle apartment block
all his life
 The table, laid for dinner
 Ivar opened a special bottle of wine for us
Elisabeth poured some rosé
and our starter of Gravadlax, avocado and caviar awaits We had a very jolly evening with lovely traditional food

The next day, we were off on the train and bus to the quite wonderful Viking Ship Museum which made Lynne wonder if this was how her ancestors travelled to Scotland. This is the Oseberg ship which was built in southwestern Norway around the year 820, and is made of oak. Each of the strakes overlaps the one below and they are fixed with iron rivets. The side of the ship consists of 12 strakes. Below the waterline, they are only 2-3 cm thick, while the two upper strakes are a little thicker. The deck is made of loose pine planks. The mast is also pine and was between 10 and 13 metres high
The ships have such grace in their lines and are so well designed and crafted that they have lasted despite being buried for about 1000 years. The stem is decorated with intricate carving
The view from the stern
The Gokstad ship which was built around 890 AD, at the height of the Viking period. It was a fast and flexible ship that was suitable for voyages on the high seas. Sleek lines to cut through North Atlantic waters
Scandinavian design AD 900. An intricately carved Viking wagon in the Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, buried with the owner in a barrow. Was it an early Volvo?
The Oseberg ship, showing the flooring. It is believed that the rowers sat on their own goods trunks to row
Intricate carving on carved animal head ornaments from Viking ships. Dated to ± AD 900
A sled, another item in the burial goods
The beautiful form of the Gokstad ship. It is believed that the ships used to reach North America were very similar to this 
Back to the waterfront where there is this lovely statue and fountain by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. The weather was turning ugly with a storm coming in
Mother and child with resting gulls
Here comes the rain
and the distant horizon disappears
Lynne calls this Rat island. It is in the middle of the fjord
and there was a downpour
We decided to keep walking as we wanted to see the Resistance Museum in Akershus Castle which, sadly, is closed for renovations. See how the gutters on the right hand side are gushing
Sheltering wherever one can
Umbrellas up at the Akershus Castle
We remembered ours, but it is very small
A view looking back to the waterfront outside the Rådhus
A lovely old timber framed building in the castle grounds
We took a tram
back to the Oslo Central rail station

where we passed this huge bronze of a tiger outside the station
The magnificent sky filled with storm clouds over Oslo Fjord
Our apartment block. Ours is the middle balcony, second from the top on the right
Wet, sleeping, but still with the cup out for donations in Karl Johansgate, the premier shopping street in Oslo. There are lots of beggars, many from Romania and Eastern Europe as well as from Syria and further afield
The next day we decided to go and see the Royal Palace, which is at the end of this lovely boulevard, Karl Johansgate, which has the Storting (Parliament, literally "Big Thing") at the other end of the Studenterlunden, the park which can be seen on the left
Superb tubs of pansies
We had our paté sandwich lunch in the rain in the Studenterlunden park. It was lovely. Believe it or not, this is the first 'selfie' we have ever taken, it took a while to figure out how to do it on John's phone. We are not into selfies, but we wanted to commemorate the moment
On the way we stopped off at the Sturlason Polyfoto studio in central Oslo. John discovered that Svein Sturlason still has his photographic business at the age of 76; his son (the 3rd generation) is now running it, but Svein is still working. John worked as his assistant in 1969, when he was a photographic student at the Polytechnic in London and came to work in Oslo for a year to do his practical 3rd year before returning to the Polytechnic for his final, 4th, year. Sadly, we missed him by minutes; he had gone off to the palace to photograph the King at an awards ceremony with the Royal Guard. But we did have a great chat with his wife
The Peacock Fountain at the National Theatre
The view down Karl Johansgate from the Royal Palace
A sentry guarding the Palace in the rain
A blackbird in one of the oak trees in the Palace grounds with its catch. John posted this on Instagram and someone from the Palace liked it! He was very chuffed

 The gardens were also full of the most beautiful lilac bushes in full bloom, filled with bees and the most wonderful perfume
and in one of the small rills in the Royal Palace Park, a very pretty chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) was taking a bath
May trees were in blossom, dripping with raindrops
The military on what we hope is not janker’s duty, cleaning windows. To quote from Wikipedia: "As of March 2016, Norway currently employs a weak form of mandatory military service for men and women. In practice, recruits are not forced to serve; instead, only those who are motivated are selected. About 60 000 Norwegians are available for conscription every year, but only 8 000 to 10 000 are conscripted". Most members of this detail were women
We called in at a supermarket on our way home and spotted this nosey tomato. Jimmy Durante or a troll? 
The sun came out in the early evening and just as it happens in Cape Town, the yachts go out for an evening race once a week. What a beautiful sight