Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Arrival in Norway

For a very long time, I hoped to travel to the Scandinavian countries and in summer 2016, it was finally happening. I first planned my trip around a hiking adventure; I researched places and decided on Norway.

Norway is very similar in many ways to my home state of Maine. Mountains and hills, covered with forests, border a large coast of Atlantic Ocean. There is a cool climate and a small population. Like Maine, Norway is known for its fishing industry, from drying cod to canning sardines.

I was excited about traveling, and I kept changing and adding to my travels in order to see the four Scandinavian countries. I finally packed for this trip in four parts: hiking in Norway, flying to Denmark to visit a former Danish exchange student and his family, then joining a group in Poland to tour the Baltic States and Finland, and finally going by ferry to Sweden, to tour the last of the four Scandinavian countries by myself. This would make for a long trip!

I was not feeling as physically well-prepared as I had been for my past adventures, and I went through emotional highs and lows as I considered what lay ahead. Then the real me kicked in, saying “You live only once, do it while you can,” and “Make the most out of life.”

The day of departure, Ed and I enjoyed a pleasant lunch on the Maine coast before I said my good -byes and hugged our dog Truffles. Then I was on my way to Logan Airport by transfer coach. Several hours later I sat in the international terminal in Boston, thinking lately every time the news flashes it is a terrorist attack, and I am now heading to Paris!

I flew to Oslo by way of Paris because the airline tickets were cheaper and it made for a shorter wait time between flights. But the flight was late and I ran like a madman at Charles de Gaulle Airport to catch my connecting flight to Oslo, Norway. (A month later, the day I was to fly home from Europe, there was a major strike at the airport in Paris and I had to return with a different airline by way of Amsterdam.)

I had allowed extra time in Oslo to tour on my own before meeting my guides and other hikers. I checked into my hotel Guldsmeden, left my bags, and went for a walk along Filipstadkala, down to the harbor. After dinner I walked to Slottsparken, the Royal Palace.

It started to get very windy and then began to sleet. The days are long here, as it is the beginning of summer and so far north. Oslo is similar to Anchorage, Alaska in degrees to the North Pole, and the weather can change quickly. I walked a few blocks back to my hotel, chilled there, and called it a day.

That night, I heard people going about all night, as it was light and people were at nightclubs, coming and going—it never ended. In Norway, it is unlucky if anyone goes to bed on June 23rd, the Summer Solstice. It is one of the biggest celebrations of the year.

The next day, I toured more of Oslo by myself, walking the streets of Radhusgate, Stortingsgata, Akershasstranda, Filipstadvein, Bygdoynesveien and so many more that I carried a map and still feared I would not find my way back to the hotel. The museums, Viking, Kon-Tiki, Folk Museum, and Marine Museum, are easy to reach by ferry across the city harbor.

Oslo is a great city for walking and public transport is safe. Rental bikes are great and a fun change from walking.  After making short stops at Oslo City Hall and the Nobel Prize Museum, I walked to Akershus Fortress (dating back to the Viking period), up on a hill guarding the harbor. That evening I found a pleasant place to dine in the Ruselukka section of Oslo, with new buildings and beautify landscaped sculptures along the harbor.

The next morning, I met my hiking group and we spent the morning getting to know each other and walking to Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo. This was a must-see place, different from all the other parks I have ever visited. One sculptor, Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland, created 200 sculptures for this park. From the gates to the center fountain, a circular staircase creates a labyrinth of the circle of life, and the work of this artist is featured throughout. It is his and his alone, created between the 1920s to the 1940s. It was a great place for hikers to get acquainted.

After lunch, we flew to Bergen to begin our hiking journey. After all the city museums, I was ready for the fresh air of the Norwegian mountains.

(posted September 6, 2016)