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Arriving in Norway & Exploring Oslo and Beyond


July 1st, 2022


Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe, the mainland territory of which comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The remote Arctic island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard also form part of Norway. Bouvet Island, located in the Sub Antarctic, is a dependency of Norway; it also lays claims to the Antarctic territories of Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land. The capital and largest city in Norway is Oslo.

Norway has a population of 5,425,270 as of 2022 and is just slightly large in size than the state of New Mexico. The country shares a long eastern border with Sweden. It is bordered by Finland and Russia to the northeast and the Skagerrak strait to the south, on the other side of which are Denmark and the United Kingdom. Norway has an extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea. The maritime influence dominates Norway’s climate, with mild lowland temperatures on the sea coasts; the interior, while colder, is also a lot milder than areas elsewhere in the world on such northerly latitudes. Even during polar night in the north, temperatures above freezing are commonplace on the coastline. The maritime influence brings high rainfall and snowfall to some areas of the country.

Harald V is the current King of Norway. As a unitary sovereign state with a constitutional monarchy, Norway divides state power between the parliament, the cabinet and the Supreme Court, as determined by the 1814 constitution. The kingdom was established in 872 as a merger of many petty kingdoms and has existed continuously for 1,150 years. From 1537 to 1814, Norway was a part of the Kingdom of Denmark–Norway, and, from 1814 to 1905, it was in a personal union with the Kingdom of Sweden. Norway was neutral during the First World War and remained so until April 1940 when the country was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany until the end of World War II.

Norway maintains close ties with both the European Union (although it is a part of the Schengen area it is NOT a part of the EU) and the United States. Norway is also a founding member of the United Nations, NATO and is a part of the Schengen Area.

Norway maintains the Nordic welfare model with universal health care and a comprehensive social security system, and its values are rooted in egalitarian ideals.  The Norwegian state has large ownership positions in key industrial sectors, having extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, and fresh water. The petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). On a per-capita basis, Norway is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside of the Middle East.

The country has the fourth-highest per-capita income in the world. It has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, with a value of US$1 trillion. Norway has had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world since 2009, a position also held previously between 2001 and 2006; it also has the highest inequality-adjusted ranking per 2018. Norway also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

The national flag of Norway is red with a navy blue Scandinavian cross trimmed in white that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the flag of Denmark.

Money: Norwegian Krone 0.10 USD; 0.13 CDN

Diesel: about 25 kr a litre – about $9.45 a gallon!

Most Common Beer:  Rimgnes

EU license plate letter: N

As mentioned at the end of our last post, we encountered no immigration, no customs, no COVID check upon entering Norway just a welcome to Norway sign and a border post.

We drove inside the country about 120 km / 74 mi to a small parking lot next to a river outside Oslo.  We are no longer in the land of flat plains, that’s for sure.  Parking in Oslo is pricey and after doing our research, opted to park outside the city tonight.  We’ve once again bought a City Pass for attractions and learned that we can park free at the Ikea closer to the city during the day and they have a free shuttle that takes you into downtown!  So we’ll head there tomorrow morning.  After a day of sightseeing, we’ll make our way to a parking lot that is free from Saturday night to Monday morning for the rest of our visit there.  Oslo allows our type of vehicle (with regard to emissions) to drive across the city on the main routes but does charge tolls for certain times of the day/week.  Driving through on Saturday and Sunday will be the cheapest and as long as we leave at 9am on Monday, our parking will be free and the rush hour congestion toll will be over.

We have reached out to two young men who live in Norway, whom we met in Costa Rica – they were on motorcycles doing the PanAm.  Peter is away at the moment but his buddy Christian is in Oslo and we are trying to make plans to meet up.

So we have stopped for the night about 20km from the city centre with not a lot around.  There were two other cars here when we arrived and by bedtime, it was just us and THREE other RV’s – so not an uncommon spot.  Once the traffic died down (even then it wasn’t that bad) it was a quiet night.

It did begin to rain overnight.  It was cooler and we were able to leave windows open some but not the roof vents.  Turned out to be perfect for sleeping and we both slept very well.  It was still raining by morning but it’s supposed to stop around 10 or 11.  We headed towards the IKEA around 9 and got parked.

After Doug made us breakfast (we ate earlier than usual so as not to have to buy an expensive meal in the city at lunchtime) we walked over to the IKEA bus stop at the exit to the store and were the only passengers going into the city! It was a cloudy morning with a threat of rain but was supposed to clear up.

The bus took about 17 minutes to get downtown.  It was just before 10 am so the city was not too busy being a Saturday. Our first “mission” was to go to the Munch Museum (the artist of The Scream) but after walking 2km to it, we discovered it not open and Fran did a search and found that late last year a NEW museum was opened on the waterfront and this one closed!

So back downtown we went and found it.  It’s quite an interesting looking building:

The museum is many floors and we explore about four of them; Fran actually found it more interesting than she usually does.  There are apparently three renderings of “The Scream” – two are kept here and are shown on different days.  The one at the top of this post was the one on display today.

Edvard Munch, whose best known work, “The Scream” (1893), has become an iconic image in the world of art.  Munch’s childhood was shadowed by illness, bereavement and the dread of inheriting a mental condition that ran in the family. Studying at the Royal School of Art & Design in Oslo, Munch began to live a bohemian life under the influence of the nihilist Hans Jaeger, who urged him to paint his own emotional and psychological state which is where his distinctives style merged.

The Scream was conceived in while he was out walking at sunset, when he ‘heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature’. The painting’s agonized face is widely identified with the angst of the modern person. As his fame and wealth grew, his emotional state remained insecure. He briefly considered marriage, but could not commit himself. A  mental breakdown in 1908 forced him to give up heavy drinking. His later years were spent working in peace and privacy. Although his works were banned in Nazi-occupied Europe, most of them survived  WWII, securing him a legacy.

After using the “toaletts” we made our way back outside to see the famous Oslo Opera & Ballet House.  Quite an interesting looking building.

In 1999, after a long national debate, the Norwegian legislature decided to construct a new opera house in the city. A design competition was held and, of the 350 entries received, the judges chose that of the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta (which means snow cap). Construction started in 2003 and was completed in 2007, ahead of schedule and US$52 million under its budget of US$760 million. During the first year of operation, 1.3 million people passed through the building’s doors. The Opera House won the culture award at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona in October 2008 and the 2009 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture.

The roof of the building angles to ground level, creating a large plaza that invites pedestrians to walk up and enjoy the panoramic views of Oslo. While much of the building is covered in white granite and La Facciata, a white Italian carrara marble, the stage tower is clad in white aluminium, in a design by Løvaas & Wagle that evokes old weaving patterns.

The lobby is surrounded by 15m / 49’ tall windows with minimal framing and special glass that allows maximum views of the water. The roof is supported by thin angled columns also designed not to interfere with views.

On the water outside the opera house is a unique floating piece of art called Ice Ocean:

As we were on the waterfront now we strolled along the boardwalk and saw many little “sauna boats”.  You rent these out and can have a floating sauna.  They come equipped with wood and many are used for bachelor parties we learned.

We arrived at Akershus Fortress and checked that out but never found the entrance to the castle section.

We took a stroll past city hall and then got a snack as the sun had come out and we wanted to enjoy the water views.  We went to a food truck and got a fries and drink each and that cost about $15 USD.

We had booked a city walking tour for two o’clock and made our way through some lovely pedestrian streets to the Central Station.  Here we found the Visitors Centre and asked a few questions and were told to come back in twenty minutes and wait out front for the tour.  We went to find bathrooms before going on the walk only to discover they were pay toilets and cost $2, yes dollars not krone.  We passed.

The walking tour was led by a 71 year old Norweigan retired teacher and she sometimes had trouble getting everyone in the group to hear her as it was quite large.  She gave us some history about the city

  • Founded around the year 1000
  • The word “os” means god and “lo” means land
  • Has had major fires approximately 16 times up to the year 1624 (remember there are a lot of trees here so much structures were made of wood).

She told us some funny stories and we saw:

A long pink building that used to be a warehouse that was built in 1920.  This building was so well built, when the city considered it ugly and wanted to tear it down, it was discovered how structurally sound it was and then repurposed for offices and renovation as well as painted that light pink colour.

Library that looks like ice and also looks like rows and rows of books; note the corners that were cut off in order not to obstruct the view of the opera house from buildings in the city!

a building still standing that was built in 1640:

The hand of the king pointing to where the city of Oslo was to be built: 

The tour was going to end back at the station so we split off after  the Parliament Building

and walked down the lovely boulevard to see the Royal Palace.

We returned to the IKEA bus stop and caught the bus that arrived late and upon returning to Minou we drove across town to the parking lot that was free from Saturday 8pm to Monday 9am.  As we were there before 8 we did have to pay $4 an hour for those first two hours.  Yikes!

After dinner Christian knocked on our door and we spent a couple of hours chatting and catching up.  He is in the Norwegian military and was home this week from his tour in Iraq.  He is actually moving to the US next week to take a NATO post in Virginia.  He brought us Norwegian wine and chocolate and gave us plenty of information and advice for our journey northward.

After a not so great sleep Sunday started with cloudy skies as expected.  We walked over to the Metro Station (bus/train/tram/ferry tickets are included in our City Pass) and caught a train downtown.  We walked over to the ferry dock and caught a ferry over to “Museum Island”.

There are about a half dozen museums here; three of which we wanted to visit and a fourth that was closed.  We first went to the Kon Tiki Musuem about Thor Hyderdal’s trips across the oceans in his own boats.

The Kon-Tiki expedition was a 1947 journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands, led by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl. The raft was named Kon-Tiki after the Inca god Viracocha, for whom “Kon-Tiki” was said to be an old name. 

Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have reached Polynesia during pre-Columbian times. His aim in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. Although the expedition carried some modern equipment, such as a radio, watches, charts, sextant, and metal knives, Heyerdahl argued they were incidental to the purpose of proving that the raft itself could make the journey.

Heyerdahl’s hypothesis of a South American origin of the Polynesian peoples, as well as his “drift voyaging” hypothesis, is generally rejected by scientists today. Archaeological, linguistic, cultural, and genetic evidence tends to support a western origin for Polynesians, from Island Southeast Asia, using sophisticated multihull sailing technologies and navigation techniques during the Austronesian expansion. However, there is evidence of some gene flow from South America to Easter Island.

The Kon-Tiki expedition was funded by private loans, along with donations of equipment from the United States Army. Heyerdahl and a small team went to Peru, where, with the help of dockyard facilities provided by the Peruvian authorities, they constructed the raft out of balsa logs and other native materials in an indigenous style as recorded in illustrations by Spanish conquistadores. The trip began on April 28, 1947. Heyerdahl and five companions sailed the raft for 101 days over 6,900 km/4,300 mi across the Pacific Ocean before smashing into a reef at Raroia in the Tuamotus on August 7, 1947. The crew made successful landfall and all returned safely.

Below is the original Kon-Tiki raft. 

Next was the Fram Museum about Rolf Amundson’s trips to the north and south poles.  Boy these Norwegians are explorers – must be that Viking blood.

The Fram Museum is a museum telling the story of Norwegian polar exploration. The Fram Museum was inaugurated on 20 May 1936. It honours Norwegian polar exploration in general and three great Norwegian polar explorers in particular – Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup and Roald Amundsen. The museum also exhibits images of the fauna of the polar regions, such as polar bears and penguins.

The Fram Museum is centred principally on the original exploration vessel Fram. The original interior of Fram is intact and visitors can go inside the ship to view it. Fram was commissioned, designed, and built by Scots-Norwegian shipbuilder Colin Archer to specifications provided by Norwegian Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who financed the building of the ship with a combination of grant monies provided by the Norwegian government and private funding in 1891.

We then strolled over to the Norwegian Folk Museum which is an Open Air Museum similar to the Skansen one in Stockholm.

The coolest exhibit was the stave church built in the 1300’s!  It was in amazing condition.   As it had no electricity we’re surprised our photos turned out as well as they did.

We caught the ferry back to the city and walked back to the Opera House as even though we’d been there yesterday, we had not realized you could wander up to the top for views.  Now it began to rain just as we arrived so we went inside the opera house for a bit and then gave up waiting and went up anyway for the views we could get in this weather.  It was sprinkling but not as hard as earlier.

As the rain continued we walked back to the City Hall to see the inside (another thing we learned yesterday on that walking tour – the inside is supposed to be amazing).  This was the only place in Scandinavia where we went through a security check just like an airport.

It was worth coming back – it was quite beautiful.  Large paintings on the walls and lovely state rooms and more paintings.

From here we took the train back to Minou and walked over to the park right beside the parking lot.  It’s the Vigeland Park full of sculptures from the Norwegian artist.  In the way back we saw a cinema playing the new Elvis movie and went inside to see if it was in English.  It was and the showing we’d be interested was all most sold out so we bought tickets for the 5:40 show and we’ll come back.  We’ve decided to spend a second night here and be out at 9 when the parking is no longer free.

Gustav Vigeland born as Adolf Gustav Thorsen, was a Norwegian sculptor. Gustav Vigeland occupies a special position among Norwegian sculptors, both in the power of his creative imagination and in his productivity. He was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.

Gustav Vigeland is most widely known for the Vigeland installation, a permanent sculpture installation in Frogner Park in Oslo.  In 1921 the City of Oslo decided to demolish the house where Vigeland lived and build a library. After a long dispute, Vigeland was granted a new building from the city where he could work and live; in exchange, he promised to donate to the city all his subsequent works, including sculptures, drawings, engravings and models.

Vigeland moved to his new studio on Nobels gate in the borough of Frogner during 1924. His studio was located in the vicinity of Frogner Park, which he had chosen as the definitive location for his fountain. Over the following twenty years, Vigeland was devoted to the project of an open exhibition of his works, which later turned into what is known as Vigeland Sculpture Arrangement in Frogner Park. The Vigeland installation features 212 bronze and granite sculptures all designed by Gustav Vigeland.

The sculptures culminate in the famous Monolith (Monolitten), with its 121 human figures clinging and floating together. There are women and men of different ages, and the top of the Monolith is crowned with children. The sculpture has been interpreted as a kind of vision of resurrection, and our longing and striving for spirituality.

In the park there was a Fourth of July Celebration going on with a cover band playing all American artists.


The statues were quite good and there were LOTS of them.

We returned to Minou to chill for a couple of hours before going to the movies.  So although this was the most expensive movie we’ve ever been to, we did enjoy it a lot.  Tom Hanks was his usual great actor and the young man who played Elvis, well, we thought he was darn good too.   The two movie tickets cost nearly $31 and the popcorn and two bottled pops was nearly $20.


Monday morning, we left the lot at 9:10 am so as not to have to pay for parking and made our way out of the city to Holmenkollen – a ski jump outside Oslo that you can actually see from the city.

Here they have a large ski jump and a cross country track for biathlon training as well as a ski museum.

It was a short drive so we arrived before the place opened at ten but we spent some time watching the biathlon trainers:

cross country part:

Just before ten we wandered over and were let into the museum – this is the last hour of our 48 hour Oslo Pass so we timed it well.  It’s rather small but it shows the history of skiing in Norway, which began with their indigenous peoples: the Sami.

Then we took the elevator up and although we couldn’t stand at the jump itself here’s some pics:

And we saw the views in the distance like this:

It was ski jump day as our next stop was Vikersund where the world’s highest ski jump is located.  We travelled alongside a lovely lake

Just as we arrived and took a few photos and used the bathrooms, the rain started and there was thunder to go along with it.

We went back in Minou and Doug made breakfast while we waited for it to stop before attempt to climb the 1068 steps to the top!  Fran sent Doug on ahead as she knew she’d be slower and she did stop to catch her breath and rest her knees several times but she made it!

Up there is located a small shop with tables to enjoy the view from and get a cold drink which was perfect as Fran needed liquid and the rain began once again.  It was pretty hard for a short bit then stopped.

Doug learned there was a route via a gravel road back down so Fran didn’t have to do the stairs back down – that’s the part where it hurts most so that was nice. Enroute we could access the top of two of the other smaller ski jumps too.

Upon getting back down, we used the restrooms once again and were on our way.  We hope to travel at least 160 km / 100 miles a day going forward so we continued westward to the outskirts of Kongsberg where there is a little motorhome “aire” similar to those in France (but no camping pitches – just park on the gravel lot) where there were bathrooms, waste dumping, rubbish bins and it was right on a river.  Here when we tried to park between two motorhomes into quite a large space, a fellow in a Norwegian motorhome yelled at us that were were supposed to leave 4 metres between campers; really? IN a motorhome parking area with no designated spots?  He claimed it was Norwegian camping rules.  Okay… we moved between two other campers that had a larger spot and got the last one on the river.  (By morning there were at least 2 dozen campers here in this “aire” and there was NO 4 metre distance between campers.)

Doug googled Norwegian camping rules when we got settled and yes there ARE some rules but nothing about a 4 metre distance between campers.  The main rule to remember is that you can camp anywhere in the countryside as long as you are at least 150 m away from a home/building.  No campfires in summer as well.

Today we learned the UK cell phones companies (of which we have a chip from EE) are going to begin charging roaming fees and the data allowance outside the UK will be reduced from 50G to 5G so that’s a major difference – we don’t care about calling or texts as we use Google Voice for that anyway which is VOIP.

So we may have to look at other options (one of which is the eSim we bought back in the US).  We assume we will be advised of this by the usual text message and our “packs” expire in about ten days so we’ll see before we renew or just buyer smaller packs.

After showering we relaxed before dinner and the rain came on and off.  The temps the past couple of days are around 20C / 70F and quite comfortable at night for sleeping.

Tuesday we awoke to clear blue skies but cooler temps.  We’ll take that over hot and rainy!  We were going to make our way westward to begin exploring the Norwegian fjordlands for the next few weeks.  We found a place to stop and fill our fresh water tank (the aire where we stayed last night did not offer potable water) and then made our way along some beautiful highways with views of trees, lakes, mountains, streams, some snow and a few waterfalls.

We stopped at 845m / 2742’ in elevation for the night as it was around 2 and we’d been driving since 8 am.  We’ve decided with the numbers of campers we’re seeing lately, it’s wise to start early and end the driving early so as to get a spot where we want to spend the night.  We found a pullout on the side of the road with a  view of a lake on one side and a waterfall on the other.  No one else can fit in the spot without being right beside the road.  The area around us has a lot of barren rock reminding us of the Aran Islands in Ireland and of course, parts of Iceland.  There were no trees this high.  We did have to use the furnace a couple of times in the evening to get the chill out as it dropped into the single digits overnight.

We’ll hear traffic during the afternoon but it should be sparse and stop overnight. It is cold though – around 10C / 50 F and will brought drop some more overnight.

It actually looks like Iceland here!  Tomorrow we will drive the Lysebotn Switchbacks down to the foot of the Lyse fjord and then back up to make our way further westwards.  There seems to be a ferry on the fjord but not sure if it’s only for passengers…..

We slept quite snuggly last night in all our blankets and both slept well.  We awoke to cloudy but dry weather.  We began the drive to the switchbacks about seven (keeping in line with our new drive early policy) and were disappointed at the lookout that we couldn’t actually see all of them from there; must a different set of switchbacks further north.  The coolest thing about this windy road was about 2/3 of the way down, you enter a tunnel with a switchback in it!

Anyway, the views down to the town were lovely and the drive down went well.  We found the ferry terminal but no one there and were told that you must book online but we could never get the website to work; then a second fellow said he was pretty sure it’s only for cars and passengers, not campervans so we’ll give up.

We drove back up to the top and made our way westward to Stavanger where we got parked at the side of the marina for free and spent a couple of hours online (haven’t had much online time lately) and having breakfast.  It began to rain after lunch as forecast so we were glad to be dry inside.

The forecast for the hike tomorrow looks pretty good – no outright sunny but no rain then 8 days of rain…..mmmhh are we back in Scotland!?

So July 7th, Fran’s 63rd birthday so since were in a city here in Stavanger, we decided to go out for dinner a day early, which is not something we’ll do a lot in Norway as it’s so pricey.  Fran googled “best burger in Stavanger” and six lists showed Dognvilla as the best so Dognvilla it was.  It started raining midafternoon and didn’t stop.  We walked the 1.7 km to the restaurant in the rain both ways but the food was really good.  Fran had a kahlua milkshake for dessert after a yummy bacon cheese burger!

On her actual birthday, Thursday, we awoke to blue skies with some clouds – perfect day for a hike.  In order to get to the trailhead we had to leave Stavanger through the world’s longest underwater tunnel!

Ryfast is a subsea tunnel is part of the Norwegian National Road 13, and it runs between the city of Stavanger under a large fjord, and the area of Solbakk in the municipality of Strand

When the last section was drilled on 26 October 2017, Ryfast became the longest undersea road tunnel in the world, with its 14.3-kilometre (8.9 mi) length greater than the Eysturoyartunnilin in the Faroe Islands at 11.2 kilometres (7.0 mi), the Tokyo Bay Tunnel in Japan at 9.6 kilometres (6.0 mi), and the Shanghai Yangtze River Tunnel at nine kilometres (5.6 mi) in China. It is also currently the world’s deepest subsea tunnel, reaching a maximum depth of 292 metres (958 ft) below sea level.

The project was approved in 2012, and construction began in the spring of 2013. The tunnel system replaced two ferry routes.  A large part of the cost is paid by road tolls.

The tunnel system consists of two subsea tunnels:

  • Ryfylke Tunnel, 14,400 metres (47,200 ft), running from the island of Hundvåg to just south of the village of Tau in Strand municipality on the other side of the fjord. It officially opened to traffic at noon on 30 December 2019.[7]
  • Hundvåg Tunnel, 5,500 metres (18,000 ft), running from the city of Stavanger to the island of Hundvåg with a connection to the smaller island of Buøy. The official opening for vehicles was delayed to 22 April 2020 due to extra technical testing, which was slowed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Norway.

This got us to Jorpeland and we drove to a campground about 4km from the trailhead.  We did this for a couple of reasons; you cannot camp at the trailhead nor is there any wild camping near it; the campground would give us hot showers and wifi (we didn’t pay for power) and we could dump and fill before leaving in the morning but more importantly they offer a shuttle to the trailhead!

We checked in around 9:40 am got situated, had breakfast and then caught the 10:30 shuttle to the Pulpit Rock hike trailhead.  We started hiking around 10:40 and got up there by 12:20.  The weather was perfect, sunny with fluffy white clouds and not too hot or too cold.

Pulpit Rock was made even more famous when Tom Cruise rock climbed it at the beginning of Mission Impossible – Fallout.  For one week in 2017 the rock was off limits to hikes while the movie scenes were filmed. Lonely Planet calls it one of the world’s most impressive viewpoints. 

Fran’s body cooperated on the way up and she was in little knee pain.  The route varies from gravel to rocky, to wooden boardwalks to rock stairs.

Stunning views came up along the way too:

To get this iconic photo in such a crowded place, people cooperated and the spot was left empty and you just had to line up to use it.  We waited maybe five minutes for these shots:

Fran’s knee pain kicked in going back down all those rock stairs but she made it.  We managed to catch the 3pm shuttle back as we were done by 2:30.  We had an ice cream while waiting.  We both had showers upon returning and the kids arranged a zoom call for late afternoon.  Sadly the connection sucked but we did try to chat for a while.