Reindeer, Huskies, and Trolls – Our Trip to Norway

Every once in a while, RyanAir does these £7.99 flights from Edinburgh to Oslo (about $11.50 USD). At these prices, who can say “no”? It’s cheaper to fly to another country than to see a movie in the cinema. Of course Oslo has been rated as the 4th most expensive city to live in, but that’s not the point. The point is that there are flights for £7.99, and thus our trip to Norway, the land of the midnight sun.

We only had 48 hours in Norway, but this is how we spent it.

We left Edinburgh in the afternoon, so we got to Oslo in the evening. Since we flew RyanAir, we flew into Oslo Rygge airport and took a shuttle to the Oslo Bus Terminal. The Visit Oslo website was very helpful in figuring out how to get to the city centre. We took the Rygge-Ekspressen Bus. Since the airport was very small, it was easy to find the bus. The shuttle also corresponded with our RyanAir flight so we didn’t have to wait very long for the bus to arrive. To save some money, we booked our roundtrip tickets online. A roundtrip student transfer is 220 NOK ($27.45 USD) while a roundtrip adult transfer is 300 NOK ($37.43 USD). Yes, our bus rides cost more than our flights to Oslo… The drive into the city took about an hour.

Since it was still very bright (around 7pm) when we arrived, we decided to go for a walk before dinner. Compared to Edinburgh and most other major European cities, Oslo is much more spread out and very modern. It has a ton of open public space. It must be amazing during the summer. I also now understand why Scandinavian design is so amazing. Every restaurant or store we passed was beautifully and cleverly designed. Even though the food or products were not the absolute best we’d ever seen, I was incredibly attracted to all their top-notch product packaging and furniture. I love minimalist and simple designs. Oh, and we also saw a ton of Teslas. They were everywhere!

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We walked to The Oslo Opera House located along the water. The building was inspired by the Norwegian idea that nature is free for everyone and was designed to foster public engagement with the arts. They designed the building so you can touch the water, have a glimpse into rehearsals, and even walk on the rooftop. From the roof, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and fjord.

By this time, we were starving. We were so hungry, in fact, that we literally ate whale. We went to Rorbua, a traditional Norweigan restaurant located in the Aker Brygge neighborhood. Even though we were in a high-end, modernized neighborhood, when we walked into Rorbua, we felt that we walked into a coastal Norwegian wooden cabin restaurant. It was warm and homey with decoration inspired by Norweigian fisheries. Just in case you were wondering, yes, Andrew wore his obnoxious Warriors sweater to Norway.

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To start, we ordered the “Northern Norwegian Board” (249 NOK : 31 USD). The board included smoked whale on horseradish cream, marinated trout with cranberries, cranberry-cured redfish, elk sausage with potato salad, dried fish marinated in Mackøl, and hjorteterrine with rosamrinsjy, crispy bacon and lettuce. I didn’t care for the dried fish, but everything else was very good. Even the salad had a nice dressing. For our main course, we got “Feskesuppa” (189 NOK : 23 USD) and their “Taste of Norway “(320 NOK : 40 USD). Feskesuppa is a creamy fish soup. They made their soup with wine and cream and added a generous amount of fish, shellfish, and vegetables. The “Taste of Norway” included a skewer of whale, deer, beef, and reindeer meat served with a salad, fried potatoes with sour cream, and a wild garlic dressing. I wasn’t a huge fan of whale cooked this way, but at least I can say that I ate it. In my opinion, it was too dry and chewy.

We stayed at the Comfort Hotel Xpress Youngstorget. The hotel was a modern and funky budget hotel. Basically, we walked into the hotel and checked in through an iPad. It was really cool! As a hotel person, I know this just made my job unnecessary, but it was still cool. I pressed “Check-In,” typed in my name and the number of nights we were staying, and it found my reservation. I put in my credit card and I immediately got a text telling me what our room number was. Then, we made our own keys. There was a person around to help us, but we basically did the whole check-in ourselves. The hotel also has a rooftop terrace with nice views of Oslo. The room was simple and clean, but the hotel didn’t offer daily housekeeping or towel service. If we wanted it, we would have to pay for it. We paid 719 NOK ($90 USD) per night at this hotel.

The next day, we started our day early by going to Godt Brød to pick up traditional Norwegian pastries. Godt Brød is an organic bakery that serves pastries, bread, sandwiches, coffee, cakes, and juices. We got a Mandelbolle and a Fylte Boller. A Mandelbolle is an almond pastry and a Fylte Boller is a a stuffed berry & custard pastry. Andrew didn’t really care for the Mandelbolle, but I liked it. The bread was light and fluffy. I also tried their bottled apple juice made with Norwegian Aroma apples. It was refreshing and sweet, but more tart than most juices I’ve had. Andrew didn’t think the juice was special, but I’m pretty sure that my mind has tricked me to believe that everything that comes in a glass bottle is already more tasty. The two pastries and a juice costed 120 NOK ($15 USD), a lot for such a small breakfast snack.  If we had more time, Godt Brød would have been a nice place to work or study.

The highlight and the real reason why we chose to go to Norway was to go dog sledding. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go dog sledding. If any of you know me, you also know how much I love dogs and this experience was awesome! From Oslo, there aren’t too many options to go dog sledding, but I found Beito Husky Tours on Tripadvisor. They were rated 5 stars and are the only husky sledding company that offers 1-day trips from Oslo. I contacted them through their website and received a prompt response. Beito planned everything. They give you an information packet, tell you what bus to take, give you a voucher for the bus, and pick you up from the bus stop. Another great thing about Beito Husky Tours is that they provide you with everything. You don’t need to bring boots, snowsuits, hats, or gloves. They provide it all! Plus, it’s just better to wear the things they provide. You can get all dirty and smelly from the dogs so it’s nice to not get dirty in your own clothes.

We walked back to the same bus terminal that the airport shuttle dropped us off at and got on the bus to Beitostølen. We took a nice nap on the bus and enjoyed the scenic ride to to the mountains. Beitostølen is a village at the feet of the the National Park of the Jotunheimen, also know as the “home of the trolls.”

Our guide from Beito Husky Tours met us at the bus stop and drove us to their office to get changed into snow gear and drop our stuff off. Once we were all dressed, we walked down the hill to meet the dogs. The dogs were so calm and friendly. I wanted to hug each of them. After spending about 10-15 minutes with the dogs, our guide gave us instructions on how to handle and drive our own team. Our guide picked dogs for us and we got them into their harnesses and attached them to the line. Once the dogs knew they were going out, they got really excited. They just wanted to go. I started out in the sled while Andrew drove and it was an amazing experience.

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We went on this 14 km route on top of a beautiful frozen lake. Once we were out on the lake, it was just us, the dogs, and nature. There was no sign of civilization from there. The dogs were really strong and only needed help when going uphill. About halfway through, Andrew and I switched and I drove. Driving a sled was actually really intuitive. Your body just knows what it needs to do to slow down and turn.

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When we got back, we unharnessed the dogs and went inside their lavvu (basically an igloo tent, but a lavvu generally refers to the traditional tent of the Sami people of Scandinavia). We sat on top of reindeer skins while enjoying hot black currant juice (what the Norweigans drink after skiing). They served us snacks and reindeer stew with lingonberry jam. It was really good.

Dog sledding is definitely expensive at 2,050 NOK/person, but it was an awesome experience and they planned our transportation and included a meal. If I ever have the chance to go again, I totally would.

After our snack, we walked back up to the hill to get changed and were driven back to the bus stop. We had some time to kill before the bus came so we walked around the ski resort area, checked out a local grocery store, and chilled for a bit in the Radisson Blu. Everything was ridiculously expensive.

It was an exhausting day so I fell asleep on the bus ride back. We got back around 9:30pm. We headed back to our hotel and picked up burgers from Illegal Burger, a spot right next to our hotel. Even though Illegal Burger has been featured on a “Cheap Eats Guide to Oslo” article, we still spent 250 NOK ($31 USD) for two burgers and one order of their grilled potatoes! The burger was good, but whenever a burger costs more than my In-N-Out burger, it’s tough. The restaurant was a bit hidden since there is no sign for the restaurant. There’s just a paper sign on the door.

For our last day in Norway, we visited the Akerhus Castle & Fortress along the Oslo Fjord. The stone building was completed in the 1300s to protect Oslo. It has also been a royal residence and a prison. This is one of the few free things to see in Oslo.

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Then, we took the Ferry to Bygdoyfergene. This ferry takes you to the museums. It’s important to buy roundtrip tickets at the kiosk before getting on the ferry to save money. Roundtrip ferry tickets costs 60 NOK ($7.50 USD). Bygdøy is an upscale neighborhood in Oslo that is also home to 5 museums. The houses we passed while walking to the museums were large and beautiful.

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We went to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. I’m not a big museums person, but this museum focused more on the cultural history of Norway rather than art or science so it was more enjoyable for me. The museum itself is the world’s first open-air museum so we were able to see and touch typical Norwegian houses. I loved the wood smells of the cabins. There is one exhibit that displays a Norwegian home in the 1920s. Even in the 1920s, the simple, yet attractive Scandinavian design was evident in the furniture and decor. Another exhibit showed a typical Pakistani home in Norway in the 2000s. The museum is also famous for the Gol Stave Church. It was originally built during the age of Catholicism in Norway in the 1200s. It went through many alterations and renovations, but in the 1870s, the congregation became too big so it was replaced by a newer and bigger church. Norway’s king at the time wanted it to be re-erected so it ended up at Bygdøy. The interior was reused, but the exterior was modeled after the Borgund Stave Church. The Stave Churches of Norway apparently inspired the Arendelle Castle in the movie Frozen. We also got to read and learn about the Sami people, the indigenous people of Scandinavia.

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We picked up lunch at Fiskeriet. Fiskeriet is a fish shop where you can buy fresh seafood and eat a meal. The restaurant side of the store was designed after the food markets in southern Europe. They want people to enjoy a glass of wine and wait for scallops while people get their seafood from a fish counter. We got the Varme Fiskekaker med Remoulade (fish cake). It was really good.

By this time, we had to head back to the the Bus Terminal. We got on the bus and headed back to the airport.

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Out of all the countries out there, I never thought I’d visit Norway. I loved the interesting meats, the dogs, and the simple Scandinavean designs. It was a very expensive, but definitely a very unique experience. If any of my Bay Area friends want to get to Europe for a good price, you should definitely check out the flights from Oakland to Norway on Norwegian Air, a low-cost carrier. There are some one-way flights for less than $200 (USD). Come visit us and also see the land of Frozen on your way!

 

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