The trip south: Oslo

In the summer of 2023, Micha and I spent some time exploring Norway and visiting friends. This post describes the second part of our trip to the south, in which we visited the capital city of Oslo before flying to Munich to visit some friends. You can read about the first part of our trip here.

We journeyed by bus from Fredrikstad back to Oslo. The ride took about two hours and was mostly uneventful, save for a rather creative three-point turn by the bus driver to pick up a few stranded passengers from a different bus. We arrived at the Oslo bus terminal in the early afternoon, ate some sandwiches, and stashed our bags in a locker so we could do some shopping and sightseeing while waiting to check in to the Airbnb. After living in Trondheim for two years, Oslo felt like a huge, bustling city in comparison.

A view down Karl Johans gate towards the royal palace (Det kongelige slott). The back of the parliament building (Stortinget) is on the left.

The highlight of the night was checking out the arcade bar Tilt, which had a wall-sized game of Pac-Man and a really fun rhythmic shooter game called Music GunGun — here’s a video of a single person easily handling the level that gave us a lot of problems together. We played a few different games, enjoyed a drink or two, and walked back to the Airbnb in the late evening sun.

We set the high score for the day at the World’s Largest Pac-Man at Tilt.

Vigeland Park

The entrance to Vigeland Park.

The weather was beautiful and warm the following day, so we headed out in the morning for Vigeland Park, a famous park filled with statues of naked people named after the artist who sculpted them all, Gustav Vigeland. The entrance to the park is a bridge lined with statues of people in various random poses, meant to depict common emotions or activities that everyone can relate to. The statues seemed kind of funny to me at first, since I’m so used to proud, dignified poses rather than the snapshots Vigeland chose to depict. They depict lots of ordinary, everyday things, like stretching, chasing down and beating a thief, and surviving parenthood.

The bridge leads to an open courtyard, with a large fountain held up by statues of naked people, surrounded by beautiful gardens framed by statues of naked people, with a massive tower of naked people on a pedestal behind it all. It was beautiful, weird, quirky, interesting, confusing, and above all I had the sense that Vigeland had perhaps a little too much time on his hands.

The fountain at Vigeland Park, seen from the base of the pedestal upon which the “monolith” sits.
The main attraction of the park, the monolith.

The monolith was difficult for me to photograph, since it’s 50 feet tall, the sun was beating down on it, and there were (regular, clothed) people everywhere. It was impressive, and kind of eerie. Apparently Gustav Vigeland said of it, “The column is my religion,” and I’m honestly not sure what to make of that.

The National Museum of Norway

Sunny weather in Norway rarely lasts long. The following day the skies opened up, so we went to Nasjonalmuseet (The National Museum) in the morning. The first floor is dedicated to various artifacts from different times and cultures and felt sort of like a cross between an art museum and a history museum. One of my favorite exhibits was right at the beginning and showcased the various dresses that Queen Sofia and Queen Maud wore, and how the styles changed over time.

At the top of the staircase separating the two floors is a cafeteria, which served as a natural point to take a break and eat some food. I happened to be wearing the Seattle Kraken hoodie that my dad gave me. I’m not exactly a Kraken fan, but Dad thought it would be funny if I was wearing a hoodie that said “Kraken” on it in Norway, and it happens to be really comfortable and I like the blue colors. I didn’t really get the joke until a Norwegian woman stopped me in the cafeteria and told me that Kraken was a Norwegian word, and that she had a relative who lived in Seattle. She was super excited to have met an American who had been to Seattle and instantly relayed our conversation to her husband in Norwegian, who nodded confusedly and went back to sipping his coffee.

The second floor of the museum was dedicated to paintings, and in particular the work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. I really liked his self-portrait and the way his body disappears into the shadows.

A self-portrait by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

One of Munch’s most famous works, Skrik (or Scream in English), is also in this museum and drew a small crowd. I found a couple of Monet paintings as well. All in all it was a cool museum and a fun way to spend a day, but our day wasn’t over yet. We had lined up a “ghost tour” of the nearby fortress in the evening

Ghost Tour of Akershus Fortress

I’d never done a ghost tour before, but Micha loves haunted things, so we knew we had to try it while we were in town. We waited at a street corner for our tour guide to arrive and collect the members of our tour. When everyone was ready, he took us for a stroll through a few neighborhoods and down to Akershus fortress, telling stories along the way about hidden passages under banks and haunted restaurants.

A view from the outside of Akershus Fortress during the tour. Local time 8:15 pm.

Our guide walked us through the old fortress, telling various stories about cursed horses and haunted corners. One story that stuck with me was a legend about a dog that had been sealed into the fortress walls as some kind of superstition to protect the fortress. Instead, the guards were haunted by howling and barking noises, and to this day dogs will occasionally stop and stare at the wall as if they heard something.

Sunset atop the Opera House

Our view of the Oslo Opera House as we returned from the ghost tour.

When the tour ended, we sauntered slowly back to the train station, not wanting our last day in Oslo to come to an end. Across the fjord we noticed the Oslo Opera House, a beautiful building with big concrete ramps along its sides that allow people to climb up to a viewing area at the top. We found a spot among the scattered tourists and Norwegians enjoying the last rays of sun from a beautiful day and watched the sun tuck behind the hills.

A view of the sunset from atop the opera house. Local time 10:14 PM.

After watching the sunset, we caught the train to Gardermoen airport, where we stayed at the airport hotel for a brief rest before an early morning flight to Munich for an entirely different part of our adventure.



BERGEN?? Part Two!

“Take the flute to the third stop and turn right,” said our Airbnb host via text message when we got back from the fjord cruise. We figured something had been mistranslated, and decided to simply walk up the hill rather than try to figure out what “the flute” was. We later learned that “Fløibanen,” sometimes called “Fløyen,” is the name of the funicular that would have saved us about 45 minutes of hill climbing. I had actually taken a picture of the track earlier in the day, not knowing what it was.

A view up the hill from downtown Bergen, with the top of Fløibanen visible between the trees.

The following morning we walked down the hill into the city center, this time finding some of the shortcuts, alleyways, slides, and staircases that made the walk easier. The houses seemed to be jammed into the hillside wherever they would fit, with narrow roads and alleyways winding back and forth wherever a somewhat reasonable path existed.

One of the winding, narrow roads that leads up the hill from the city center.
Helpful signs pointed the way for lost tourists.

One of the more famous tourist destinations in Bergen is Bryggen, a row of converted warehouse buildings that now houses shops and restaurants. Between the warehouses leads a network of connected wooden alleyways leading to more shops and galleries. We picked up a few gifts for friends and browsed some of the galleries on a relatively quiet morning.

Bryggen i Bergen!
We came back on a sunnier Sunday morning and got some pictures of the nearly empty alleyways between the buildings in Bryggen.

There seemed to be a lot of artists living in Bergen. Our Airbnb host even had a couple paintings he had done hanging in the rental apartment. There were galleries all over the city, and lots of interesting street art too. Two of my favorites are below.

We also visited Fjåk, a coffee and chocolate shop with delicious dark chocolate bars, and had some amazing cookies. We also saw the National Aquarium, which was a bit depressing on the outside partly due to the concrete structure and the gloomy weather, but much better on the inside. At the end of the day we stopped by Gimmikk, an arcade and pinball bar with some hilarious decorations, where we played a few games before heading back up the hill for the night and preparing ourselves for an day-long hike the following day.

Read Part One to learn about our fjord cruise!



Micha and I took a long weekend trip to the city of Bergen in western Norway back in May. We had an amazing time exploring the city, taking a cruise through the fjords, and hiking the hills surrounding the town.

Our view of Bergen as we walked down from our Airbnb every morning.

We landed in Bergen early in the morning on May 18th, the day after Norway’s constitution day, and the town seemed appropriately sleepy and hung over. As we walked around, the town slowly seemed to come to life around us, as people began to go about their days.

In the afternoon, we took a fjord cruise that left from the harbor downtown and headed north through a narrow fjord to the town of Mo. We stayed on the deck, in awe of the scenery, hardly aware of the chilly wind.

The approximate route of our out-and-back fjord cruise, marked in red.

I was especially struck by how calm the water was. The fjord is narrow enough to feel like a river, but it’s not flowing anywhere. Waves from the ocean are blocked by the hills all around. The result is a nearly perfectly reflective surface, disturbed only by the wake of the boat and the splashing of waterfalls coming off the cliff faces.

The water was so still that it almost perfectly mirrored the hills and cliffs.

It’s hard to describe how large the cliffs were, how small I felt, and how remote our surroundings became as we slid further into the fjord. The air grew colder as snow-capped peaks appeared in the distance. The boat had to go slowly and make a couple impressive maneuvers to slip between the edges of the fjord without hitting anything.

Wilderness as far as I could see.

After about an hour and a half we reached the end of the fjord and a town called Mo nestled in the valley. The captain did a nifty three-point turn with the boat, including coming within inches of a cliff face with a waterfall running down it!

The town of Mo.
The railing you see in the bottom of the picture is the edge of our boat. The people in front were surely getting wet!

After Mo, the ship turned around and continued back the way it came. At that point, we were happy to go inside and warm up a bit! After the ship returned to the harbor, we made our way up the hill to check into our Airbnb and planned out our next two days: wandering Bergen’s neighborhoods, and taking a hike along the hilltops surrounding the city.

Read Part Two to learn about our day in the city!