Travelling abroad for the holidays is often associated with warm sandy beaches, sunny days and colourful umbrella cocktails with names you can neither remember nor pronounce, but how about trying something different? Norway has a diverse landscape with snow covered mountain summits, urban city life and a unique archipelago.
If you pay a visit to the most northern country in Europe, you will experience a unique dynamic culture in each and every city. From Kristiansand in the south to Hammerfest in the north Norway offers a large variety of sites and points of interest. The journey to Norway is easily accomplishable as Ryanair offers direct flights from Malta to Oslo starting May 2012.
The Norwegian nature is renowned for its diversity where windswept mountain summits are just a few hours away from the urban city life of Oslo, the Norwegian capital.
As the weather tends to be unpredictable and rather cold during winter and early spring, the most preferable time to visit Norway is during the summer. Throughout the summer the temperature in the Oslo area stays around 18-20 oC.
The becalmed, windless climate of Oslo makes promenading in the city streets very pleasant during the summer.
Oslo is a city about the same size as the Malta Island, with approximately 400,000 inhabitants from all over the world. As you stroll down the main street, Karl Johan’s Street you will enjoy the multicultural atmosphere and international cuisine mixed with Norwegian traditions. At Karl Johan’s Street you will find everything from small restaurants and cafés, three shopping malls, and entrances to the Norwegian subway system. Close to Oslo you will find even more shopping opportunities as Sandvika Shopping Mall in the Bærum municipality is just 20 minutes away by bus. This shopping mall is one of the largest in northern Europe with 190 different brand stores and more than 8 million visitors each year.
While you are on your holiday in Oslo you should pay a visit to “Vigelandsparken”, a large sculpture exhibition park design by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. Other places-of-interest in Oslo city centre are the National art gallery, National history museum (Folkemuseet), Edward Munch museum (Norwegian painter) and the Opera House. From Oslo you can travel by bus to other historical cities such as Halden where you find the Fredriksten Fortress. This fortress was built around year 1660 and has been under siege six times without suffering defeat. Another place-of-interest situated nearby Oslo is the traditional district of Toten, one of the many places that used to be a petty kingdom in the Viking ages.
If you want to experience another part of Norway you should travel to Bergen which is situated on the western coast in a beautiful landscape. The city has large coastline to the Atlantic and rests in a harbour surrounded by seven breathtaking mountains known as “The seven sisters” by locals. From Bergen you have the possibility to see the wonderful Norwegian nature by embarking on a journey with Hurtigruten.
Hurtigruten (Norwegian Coastal Express) is a passenger line with daily sailings along Norway’s western and northern coast. Hurtigruten ships sail almost the entire length of the country, completing the roundtrip journey in 11 days. The trip has been described as the “World’s Most Beautiful Sea Voyage.” Highlights include the Hanseatic League city of Bergen, the Geiranger fjord (summer only), and the Lofoten Islands. During the winter you will experience midnight-sun in the northern part of Norway and if you are lucky you may see the northern lights (aurora borealis) as well.
Oslo during summer time is a very wonderful city. As you enjoy a coffee near the pond situated next to Karl Johan’s street as the sun sets you may enjoy the view of the Royal Palace as it rests majestically at the end of Karl Johan’s street. Obviously the pond will be completely frozen during wintertime and is then used as a public ice skating rink where you can rent ice skates and enjoy a fun-time with friends or family. Another activity during wintertime is downhill-skiing. About ten minutes by subway from the Karl Johan’s street is a huge alpine ski resort named Tryvann Vinterpark, (Tryvann Winter Park). You can rent ski equipment and choose from eight different slopes depending on your proficiency in skiing. There are other ski resorts around the Oslo area which you can travel to by bus. The Kolsås ski resort and Kirkerud ski resort are just 20 minutes away from the city centre.
One of the most popular activities in Norway is hiking. From Oslo you have access to Nordmarka (Northern forest) and Oestmarka (Eastern forest) where Oslo residents tend to go hiking in the weekends. No matter what city you visit in Norway you will have the opportunity to go hiking in uncultivated area. During wintertime you might enjoy cross-country skiing.
If you plan to travel from Oslo to Bergen I would recommend a stopover in Hallingdal. The Halling valley or Hallingdal is situated north-west of Oslo and is renowned for being one of the most beautiful areas for hiking and cross-country skiing. Alexander Rybak who won the Eurovision song Contest in 2009 played music inspired by the rich and traditional culture in the Hallingdal area and his on-stage dancers performed characteristic steps from the “Halling dance” during Rybak’s performances. If you do not enjoy hiking or skiing, you might find interest in Vassfaret Bear Park where you can experience close encounters with bears, hedgehogs, moose, bobcats and wolves.
If you plan holidays to the northern part of Europe, I recommend Norway and particularly Oslo as it offers immediate access to the nature, a diverse culture and vast number of activities to embark on during your stay.
There is no problem in asking a Norwegian about what to see or do in Norway as they will do their best to assist you in every possible way. Norwegians’ English proficiency is very good so getting around Oslo is an easy task. Although the crime level is very low you should take the normal precautions when travelling abroad to larger cities. Keep a keen eye on your wallet, and do not let pickpockets get the best of you and always bring your mobile phone so you can call for assistance if needed.
I wish you a pleasant stay in Norway.
Mr Gilbert Borgen, a Norwegian student of Østfold University College reading for Bachelor in International Communication, was an intern at the Malta Union of Bank Employees between the months of January and April 2012 as part of an Erasmus Programme funded by the EU Commission.