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Late November in Oslo


Returning home from the far north of Norway was always going to be at least a two day expedition. What we hadn’t reckoned upon was a sudden change in the weather, rendering the first leg of the journey an interesting one indeed.

Hat tip to the hire company, it was at this point we came to fully appreciate the high specification of our car. Back in the UK we’d booked a Volkswagen Golf ‘or similar’. The owner of the hotel, during one conversation or another, had recommended to Mike that we ask for studded tyres to provide extra grip on the snow and ice. A somewhat bemused reaction from the hire centre staff suggested that it wasn’t a run of the mill request but Mike eventually extracted a rather unconvincing undertaking to “try”.

The car waiting for us hadn’t been a Golf at all, but of Japanese origin. Already snow had been falling which told us all we needed to know: this vehicle was eminently suited. Not only did it have the requested studded tyres but four wheel drive, heated seats and sat nav, although we never did resolve the mystery of how the navigation actually worked. Route guidance was provided throughout by yours truly and the blue spot on the iPad. Only once did a U-turn prove a necessity and only then because I was temporarily distracted by the splendour of the scenery. Looking back down at the iPad the blue spot (our current position) had taken off in a seemingly diametrically opposed direction to the blue line (the intended route) meaning that Mike had to conduct a bit of a manoeuvre on a narrow road courtesy of the entrance to someone’s drive.

But I digress. The drive back to Tromsø was truly horrendous. For a while we enjoyed scenery not obvious on the way up on account of the dark. But as night began to descend once more, so did the snow. And this time it meant it. Driving through Scotland, as we’ve done so many times in the past, I’d often pondered the point of snow poles. Were they of any use? Less than an hour later that question was answered. The poles marking the edge of the tarmac were the only way of telling where the road actually was. There followed an amusing moment when we came up behind a slow moving car. As the nearside window slid down a spray nozzle emerged on the end of a heavily insulated human arm. Each snow pole has a light reflector just down from the top.. and each received a quick squirt of de-ice before the car moved on to the next.

And was the excitement to end there? No.

Boarding the plane to Oslo was straightforward enough but the delay on the stand after the doors had closed became ominously long. The captain kept us regularly informed but none of his words sounded encouraging. Waiting until the runway had been ploughed clear of snow.. friction test to establish that conditions were right for take off.. etc etc. I retrieved the iPad from the overhead locker and began a search for emergency hotels in which to spend the night.

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All lined up for de-icing (photo taken at Oslo airport on the journey north)


In the end, fly we did. But not before two more inches of snow had built up on the wings. It meant a further half hour in the queue for de-icing with the procedure itself at least that long again. A day in Oslo had always been in the plan and as it turned out, just as well. No need for any onward connection that wintry night.




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Aker Brygge, Oslo

The hotel we chose was in the trendy part of town, next door to the Museum of Modern Art.

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Move over Rudolph..

Motorcycle meets reindeer, Aker Brygge.


Being that much farther south, Oslo enjoyed an hour’s extra daylight compared to the distant north but interestingly it can be much colder. Located inland, the city doesn’t feel the benefit of the Gulf Stream in the same way as the west coast.

How do you entice people to hang around when the temperature is well below zero?

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Even I was seduced and you’ll know I’m no lover of the cold.

A coffee stop. And even an alfresco lunch. Sitting on one of those sheepskins, legs wrapped in a blanket and with heaters placed under the restaurant canopy, it was bearable.. just. The temperature that day was -5C.

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The harbourside, seen from Aker Brygge


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The House of Commons

Residing in front of the Norwegian parliament but certainly no replica of its British counterpart..


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The building was an actual dwelling until 1964. Derelict and slated for demolition as part of a road expansion project, artist Marianne Heske has relocated it lock stock and barrel to the centre of Oslo. Heske readily admits she not only wanted to preserve the significance of such an ordinary old house, but also to place it where it would “display strong contrasts.” It certainly does that. Its humbleness is a far cry from the modern and expensive homes now built in Norway, but is intended as a reminder of many modern-day Norwegians’ roots. You can read more about it HERE.


From the city centre we wandered back towards the harbour and these extraordinary trees..


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Anyone have an idea of what they could be?


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The volume of seeds being shed was quite incredible. Clumps of the seed, like cotton wool, blew around the streets over half a mile distant from the trees themselves.


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Akershus Castle


To escape the seed dust, a retreat to higher ground. On the far side of the harbour lies Akershus Castle, a fortress and former prison. Given the small number of daylight hours we had no time to explore inside, but the grounds provide a pleasant enough walk with views back across the harbour.

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The world’s tamest seagull?

We were inches from that beak.


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The fortress at night


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I’d have happily spent another day or two in Oslo.

There’s plenty more to see, not least the botanic garden. Maybe not too much in the way of shopping, given the expense of everything in Norway, but there are some very sophisticated places in which to contemplate the possibility. And I’m quite sure I could have relied on Mike to provide the necessary restraint.


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A fitting end to a most enjoyable break.

I’d go back in an instant.


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