We’ve seen each other on many occasions over the past four years. These moments have been exciting but fleeting. I stop by on my way to another city. I spend a marvellous few hours, only to take off again. Sometimes, I spend the night, but I’m always gone when morning comes. It’s my fault. You’re gorgeous, interesting and have so much to offer but I just can’t seem to commit. And yet, I can’t seem to stay away from you either. I keep returning, time and time again. I’ve been feeling guilty for a long time about this casual relationship that’s been going on. So here’s my ode to you, Oslo, because you deserve better.
I live in the small city of Karlstad in Sweden, which is located close to the Norwegian border. Karlstad’s airport is very small and has limited destinations, so when I travel overseas, I usually choose between the airports in Stockholm and Oslo. I’ve also done a couple of road trips to Norway and have passed through Oslo on my way. As a result, I’ve been to Oslo many times, but it’s never been longer than 12 hours.
Despite this, I’ve had some fantastic, incredible, hilarious and spectacularly embarrassing moments here. So let me fill you in on some of them.
Our first meeting
The first time I visited Oslo was for a few hours back in 2012. I’d recently arrived in Sweden for the first time to work as an au pair and was living just outside of Karlstad in the Värmland countryside. A couple of German guys I met were travelling there for a day trip and, eager to explore Norway’s capital, I spontaneously decided to tag along. We jumped in a car and road tripped from Karlstad to Oslo and back again.
We had enough time to walk over, up, around and inside Oslo’s Opera House, which could rival Sydney’s in my opinion (though as a Sydneysider myself I have to say that ours still wins. Sorry Oslo). We also wandered past the Royal Palace, walked up to Akershus Fortress and drove up to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum which offered a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
The uncomfortable sleepovers
The second time I visited Oslo was only a matter of weeks later. I’d met an Aussie Erasmus student from Wollongong in Karlstad (I wasn’t an exchange student myself but a girl’s gotta have friends) and she persuaded me to tag along on a group trip to Corfu, Greece. Okay, so there wasn’t a great deal of persuading required.
I met the rest of the group on the Swebus from Karlstad to Oslo. We arrived in Oslo in the evening and walked through the streets, eating an expensive hamburger at Max before taking a train to Rygge to spend the night at the airport.
When I say we were spending the night at the airport, I mean that we were sleeping there. Not at an airport hotel – at the actual airport. Our flight was early in the morning so we set up camp on a bunch of tables and chairs. If you’ve ever tried to sleep at an airport you’ll know it can be a difficult experience. But my memory of this time is a very happy one because I made some new friends, and the trip to Corfu that came afterwards was one of the most enjoyable holidays I’ve had.
Oslo has three airports: Gardermoen, Rygge and Torp. Or, as I call them, ‘the main one’, ‘the Ryanair one’ and ‘the other one.’ I’ve also slept at Gardermoen before an early morning flight to Munich. I started sleeping on some lounges at a cafe but was told I had to move by a cleaner, and relocated to some comfy seats with foot rests. I haven’t slept at Torp. Yet.
The unintended hotel stay
I know Oslo’s three airports very well by this stage, but I definitely confused them at one point. Early in 2015, I was a few weeks into an EU internship in Poland. I commuted each week, flying from Oslo to Gdańsk every Sunday evening. On this particular week, I arrived at Oslo central station already running late for my flight and hopped on a train to the airport, only to reach said airport and realise that it was the wrong one. I was at Gardermoen but was actually flying from Rygge. I caught the airport express train (which is bloody expensive, by the way) back to Oslo central station and ran to a taxi to ask how long it would take to reach Rygge. It was abundantly clear that I wouldn’t make it in time, so I checked into a hotel and booked another flight for the following morning, emailing my boss to tell him I wouldn’t be in on Monday. I spent a very expensive night in Oslo and my lesson was well and truly learned!
I’ve driven through Oslo twice on two road trips. The first was to Bergen in 2012, when I accompanied the family I was au pairing for. There were 8 of us in the car and the family dog. The second time I passed through Oslo en route to another destination was in August 2015, when my boyfriend and I picked my brother up from a nearby hostel to kick off a road trip to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). On both of these occasions, I spent less than an hour in the city, choosing to pass through on the way to what I saw as more interesting destinations.
The time I brought my mum along
Oslo and I may only be in a casual relationship but there must be something serious going on underneath because the last time I visited I brought my mother with me. I suppose after all these trips alone and with friends, I decided that it was about time I introduced Oslo to my family. It poured bucketloads and we got completely drenched. We had some lunch indoors and luckily the rain cleared for a while. My soaking wet pants, which had been stuck to my legs, loosened their grip slightly and became only mildly uncomfortable to wear.
This time, we were only here for a few hours, as this was another stopover trip before we would catch a flight from Gardermoen to Edinburgh. This time, I ticked something new off my list as my mum and I decided to catch a ferry from the terminal outside the City Hall across to Bygdøynes. We visited both the Kon-tiki Museum and the Fram Museum. If you haven’t been, both are definitely worthwhile, especially if you love learning about exploration and adventures across oceans and to the ends of the earth.
And all the other times…
In between these occasions, which are the ones that I actually remember, I’ve visited Oslo countless other times. Most of these have just been to and from the airport.
Aside from the Opera House, the Akershus Fortress and the Kon-tiki and Fram Museums, there’s not much I can tell you about its sights and experiences. But I am an expert on catching the train to the airport (learning from my mistakes). For example, if you’re heading to Rygge or Gardermoen airports, catch the ordinary public train instead of the airport train. Even though they are a little slower, you’ll save a lot of money.
I also happen to know that the Scandic Hotel next to the central station serves a delicious breakfast. I know that it takes more than half an hour by taxi to reach Rygge airport. I know how the chairs at Rygge airport feel to lie on for many hours at a time. I know that there is a blatant grammatical error on one of the posters inside the airport, and that sometimes the airport security take away your water bottle even though it’s empty because it might contain a tiny, tiny drop of water that could poison one of your fellow passengers. I know exactly how long it takes to sprint from Oslo’s central train station to the central bus station with a heavy backpack weighing you down.
Oslo, I may not know very much about you, but you have given me many memories that I’ll have for life. There’s been laughter, tears, shivers and mad sprints through your streets in the pouring rain. I’ve left my shopping at The Body Shop in the Byporten shopping centre and I’ve eaten really, really, really expensive hamburgers at your restaurants. These may not sound like fantastic memories to some, but they are memories nonetheless. Ones that I giggle at, cringe over and feel a little panicky over even now. Ones that I experienced on my own and some that I shared with others.
Thank you, Oslo, for all the memories. One day, I hope to spend more time exploring your streets. For now, I’ll continue to use you for your cheap Ryanair flights and convenient location as a stopover on the way to other places. You remain the city that I’ve visited the most times and about which I know the least.
Do you have a friend with benefits? A place you visit time and time again but have never quite committed to? Let me know about it in the comments!