Tips for Visitors to Norway

I’ve had several people come and visit Norway, and for those whom I wasn’t able to see, I came up with a general list of tips for visitors. Enjoy and go visit!

  1. Norway is expensive, so come in with that expectation. Don’t come in thinking that this will be a cheap holiday; HOWEVER, now is a great time to come since the dollar is strong.
  2. Norwegians generally speak superb English so I wouldn’t worry about language barriers.
  3. We use the Norwegian kroner. Yes, there are three types of kroner in Scandinavia (Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian). No, Finland is not a part of Scandinavia (they use the Euro).
  4. In the event that you don’t want to carry cash, never fear. Cards are accepted almost universally.
  5. Keep in mind what time of year you’re visiting Norway. In the summer you’ll experience very long days, while in winter your daylight will be minimal. If you’re visiting in winter you’re also going to want to invest in some sort of crampon type things for your shoes. I know a lot of people liked using Yaktrax.
  6. If you plan on drinking, buy all of your alcohol at duty free since booze is expensive (think $12 for a beer at a bar). If you’re flying in from abroad you’ll notice that:
    1. You will have to pass through duty free anyway in order to leave the airport.
    2. All of the Norwegians are also going there to stock up on booze.
  7. It’s pretty easy to get a SIM card if you want data. Go to a Netcom store (they are everywhere) and ask for a 14 day SIM card/starter pack. It’ll cost you 99 NOK (12.27 USD). More info here at this old blog post.
  8. It’s actually really easy to get around Norway. 
    • The train system can be found at nsb.no/en. Tickets are usually very affordable if booked in advance, the trains are clean, relatively new, AND they have wifi. 
    • For flights you qualify for youth tickets if you are under 26.
      1. Finding the youth tickets on SAS is a bit of a hassle, but it can be done and tickets apply for both domestic and international flights. 
      2. Norwegian Air also has youth prices, but only for flights within Norway (code UNDER26). They also have the newest planes and wifi on all of them. I love them. 
    • If you’re coming at the right time of year you can also snag some great ferry trips on the Hurtigruten ferry (combination of a postal ferry and cruise ship). 

Return to Oslo

This week I took a short trip back to Oslo for what is arguably one of the most important Norwegian events of the year: the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. Unfortunately I like to work through my blog chronologically, so you’ll have to wait a post or two before I talk about that. Sorry!

So, starting from beginning, I took the train down to Oslo from Trondheim and it was yet again another lovely experience. There was however one key difference between this time and the last time: the amount of sunshine I was exposed to. Because of the decreasing amount of daylight and the fact that I was moving North (where we have less daylight) to South (where they have more daylight) I effectively had a longer day with a very long sunrise and sunset. Unlike my last trip, I was able to witness the start and the close of the day all from the train. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed chasing the sun and basking in the extra two hours or so of daylight. Oh, and it helped that the scenery still remains breathtaking.

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Lud, one of the Roving Scholars, and his wife Susan were my hosts in Oslo and they helped me pick out a few new spots to explore in the city. Once I got settled in, Susan and I went to one of Oslo’s bigger Christmas markets, or julemarked, on Karl Johans Gate (Oslo’s main street). While I abstained from buying things, it was wonderful to walk around and soak in the sights and smells. There was of course knitwear (hats, gloves, scarfs, sweaters, etc.) for sale but there were also animal pelts, tourist trinkets, and food. I adore food and was excited to see the caramelized nuts, baked goods, chocolate, reindeer, cheese, and even moose burgers on display. While I was tempted to try the moose burgers I ended up deciding against it due to the excellent meal that Susan had already fed me.

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The Sights of Munich

One of the great things I realized before my trip is that I actually know a fair number of people who have already traveled to Munich. So with the help of their suggestions, Julie, and Tripadvisor, Michael and I prepared to explore Munich. Unfortunately, Julie couldn’t join us because she had to work, but she was more than happy to help us form a rough plan of what we should do. So, with the help of Google Maps Michael and I set off at around 10 am in search of Julie’s recommended breakfast food, schnittlauch breze, a pretzel with cream cheese and chives. Our destination: Rischart Café in Marienplatz.

First things first, we went down to the S-Bahn and bought a partner ticket. In Munich, a partner ticket is valid for 2-5 people, covers all public transportation, and all you need to do is validate it (simply get a date stamp). The trip to Marienplatz didn’t take too long, but because Michael and I effectively know no German (we decided to pronounce the German ß as a b since we struggled to remember that it is actually a double s sound) we contented ourselves with trying to pronounce schnittlauch breze and just gesturing hopefully at the bakery display. Thankfully our message was somehow conveyed, and we were happy to sit down and consume our first pieces of German food.

After breakfast, we took a quick walk around New Town Hall (Neus Rathaus) before walking to St. Peter’s Church and preparing to climb up the church tower. When we asked Julie about whether or not the tower was worth a climb, she said that it was but that we should avoid going up when the bells were ringing. We duly asked how often that happened and were told that it was every 15 minutes. Because we didn’t want to leave the tower with our ears ringing and because there were a number of stairs, we were quite happy to take a break on our way up once we began to approach the quarter mark. We eventually made it to the top, though because there was no clear traffic system things got quite clogged on some parts of our way up–as Julie accurately put it: this causes the tower to be a bit of a fire hazard. But we made it! The weather was misty and gloomy all day so we didn’t linger in the tower, but we did manage to get a few great views.

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Afterwards, we went to the Munich Residence. To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed when I first saw the building. Michael and I agreed that the facade could have definitely been spruced up. Funnily enough, we later realized that we had entered the Residence from the back, which meant that we missed some of the more imposing grandeur that you get with the front of the building. But we were ultimately undeterred by what we thought was the building’s plain exterior and bought a combination ticket to see the Residence, Treasury, and Cuvilliés Theatre. I believe that our walk through the Residence alone took us a good two or so hours. Many of the rooms were stunning although not all of them were well decorated. Michael and I had a fun time noticing the many different ways the signs said that a particular room had been “destroyed in World War Two and reconstructed afterwards.” The Germans are clearly masters of synonyms. We also had fun noticing the room names. Who knew that people needed not just one antechamber, but an antechamber to the antechamber. We particularly liked one of the rooms which was called the Room of Justice.

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I think the room that actually shocked us the most was one that at first glance seemed to store fancy cabinets.  We were in for a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t until I noticed one cabinet whose doors had fairly clear glass that I paid attention to what was actually inside. My guess was that it was a human bone. At this point, I grabbed Michael and asked him what he thought it was. I figured Michael’s pre-med knowledge would let me know if I was delusional. Michael also guessed that it was a bone, and it wasn’t until I looked to my right and saw what was unmistakably a human hand that we realized we had walked into a reliquaries room. Sure enough, once we left the room we saw a sign that we had blissfully ignored on our way in telling us that our guesses were correct.

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Once we had finished with the Residence we walked to the Treasury and admired some royal jewelry before going to Cuvilliés Theatre and heading out. On our way out, we noticed that many people were casually rubbing the lion statues that guarded several of the Residence’s entrances. Not wanting to feel left out, we did as well. The Internet now tells me that rubbing the lions is supposed to bring you good luck, so I suppose we did the right thing even if the two of us were clueless as to what we were doing.

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One of my good friends from home had told me that we should go to the English Garden and drink beer at the Chinese tower. Having worked up an appetite at this point, we headed directly to the tower to consume pretzels, beer, and sausages. Thanks to a tip from my friend, we noticed that you pay a 1 euro deposit for the beer steins, so Michael and I happily decided to keep the steins as souvenirs. The German family sitting next to us definitely gave us a few judgmental looks as they saw us stash the steins away and walk off with them.

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Now feeling both successful and comfortably full, the two of us decided to try our luck at the Pinakothek Museum. To be frank, I’m a huge Impressionist fan and was not overly excited by some of the older works that are stored in the museum. We also realized that about half of the museum was closed for repairs, severely limiting the amount of art we could see. It was only as we were about to head out that we realized that there are actually multiple Pinakothek Museums. We had gone to the Alte Pinakothek.

Because we still had a bit of time left in our day, we decided to also see the Pinakothek der Moderne. I personally enjoyed the modern art museum much more. While I wasn’t a fan of all of the art on display, I enjoyed looking at most of the paintings and at the furniture and the design work that was featured. To top it all off, having been yelled at by a security guard in the Alte for getting too close to one of the paintings, I felt a bit smug when it wasn’t me, but another couple, who managed to set off one of the alarms in the Moderne. After about an hour, Michael and I were finally ready to call it quits on the sightseeing. We only had one last stop in mind: a traditional German beer house.

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So with dinner and beer on our minds we made our way to Hofbrauhaus. One of my friends had told us that “it was AMAZING. MINDBLOWING. Get the pork knuckle or whatever that was. It was ridiculous” so our expectations were quite high. Hofbrauhaus was hilarious. It was a quintessential tourist trap with Germans dressed in traditional garb, traditional German music playing, and a clientele that had to be at least fifty percent Asian tourists. It was hard not to laugh and to love the place at the same time. At my friend’s suggestion, Michael and I did order pork knuckle and it was in fact delicious. We also had a liter of beer each, or in my case a radler (lemonade and beer combined). Considering that I had enough trouble drinking out of my liter stein using just one hand, I was impressed by the waiters and waitresses who ran around the place carrying six or more of them in each hand. While the entire experience was fun, both Michael and I concluded that our favorite part was a man who came on stage and managed to create some sort of music using a whip. It was pretty much the only performance that managed to make most people quiet down, and one that we got to experience not once, but twice. I unfortunately did not take a video, but I guess that’s what YouTube and other tourists are for. Enjoy!