Tag Archives: oslo

Hotels, Norwegian Healthcare, and A Harbor Cruise

Two months after returning to Chicago, it was time to repack our bags for Norway. Matthew’s second session of school was scheduled for mid-June, and I’d planned to sightsee and blog while he hit the books hard. (Classes are typically 12 hours a day, six days a week.) But to paraphrase Robert Burns, “the best-laid plans of mice and men do often go awry.” Yes, in keeping with my usual life pattern, a comedy of errors rapidly unfolded the day we left for Oslo. By the way, this is a looooong post covering a motley collection of stories, so sit down and relax for a spell.

Continue reading Hotels, Norwegian Healthcare, and A Harbor Cruise

Bokbacka Restaurant

IMG_5943
A recent addition to the restaurant scene in Oslo, Bokbacka is the brainchild of Danish restauranteur and sommelier Alexander Jones and head chef Swedish-born Simon Weinberg, whose previous experience includes several Michelin star restaurants like Noma and Bagatelle.

May 27, 2016.  So I’ve never before devoted an entire post to an eatery.  I’m no restaurant critic, and I can’t claim to have a Cordon Bleu-educated palate like many true foodies.  But Matthew and I enjoyed such a delicious and interactive dinner at Bokbacka that I had to share it with you.  Keep the place in mind if you decide to pay a visit to Oslo and are looking for a unique dining experience that’s a little off the beaten path (meaning it’s on a side street in our little Frogner neighborhood.) Continue reading Bokbacka Restaurant

Santa Lucia Day

December 13, 2015.   I bet most of you have heard of St. Lucia’s Day, or at least know the song Santa Lucia.  And I’m sure everyone is familiar with some of the holiday’s customs, which include having the oldest daughter — who’s crowned by a wreath of candles and dressed in a white gown — serve breakfast to the family.  If you’ve lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, or the Dakotas, chances are you’ve even seen a Santa Lucia procession or two, since these states are heavily populated by Scandinavians.  I’ve never witnessed the real thing, however, so attending a Santa Lucia celebration firsthand was one of my goals when we moved to Norway. Continue reading Santa Lucia Day

2015 Nobel Peace Prize

December 10, 2015.  For the last two years, I’ve been lucky enough to be present for the balcony appearance of the Nobel Peace Prize recipients.  Meaning that I’ve stood street-side with the crowd as the winners have waved from the second story of the Grand Hotel.  But because of timing and work schedules, I’ve never gotten to join the torch-bearers in the parade that winds from Central Station, down Karl Johan’s Gate, to the plaza.  Until this year…. Continue reading 2015 Nobel Peace Prize

Culture Shock

June 15, 2015.  Everybody warned me it would happen.  I’ve read articles in preparation for it:  culture shock — the moment when the move to a new country stops being filled with wonderful discoveries and instead becomes about combatting daily little irritations.  You know what I mean, when people behave in baffling ways quite different from the familiar traditions of your home country, and you run short of patience in trying to rationalize such contradictions. Continue reading Culture Shock

Moth Invasion

June 12, 2015.  First of all, let me warn readers with a weak stomach or a particular fear of creepy crawlies:  this might be a post that you’ll want to skip over.  I’d recommend it only for those who have a strong constitution and enjoy horror films like Arachnophobia, Creepshow, or Them!  The good news is, I don’t have a ton of photos of our infestation.  The bad news is, the photos I do have will completely gross you out.  Your decision.  Read on, if you have the fortitude. Continue reading Moth Invasion

Clouds, Flowers, & Birds

IMG_2790
Yep, me too!

May 27, 2015.  I’m feeling a bit homesick today.  Memorial Day was two days ago, and usually the whole family converges in Kentucky for a barbecue, so I’m a bit sad to be missing everyone.  The good news is, my littlest sister is coming to visit at the end of the week, and I’m super grateful about that.  I’m hoping the weather clears up, because Norway is having its coldest, wettest May in 40 years.  Definitely a downer. Continue reading Clouds, Flowers, & Birds

Norway’s National Day 2015

May 19, 2015.  Like the U.S., Norway has its own sort of Independence Day.  Known as Syttende Mai (17th May) or Nasjonaldagen (National Day), it commemorates the signing of Norway’s constitution in 1814 at the end of the Napoleonic War.  But in actuality, Norway didn’t become independent until 1905.  Yeah, it’s kinda complicated.  So here’s the short version of the story…. Continue reading Norway’s National Day 2015

Birthday Hike to Ullevålseter

April 27, 2015.  For Matthew’s birthday, I shanghaied him for the usual celebratory fine-dining experience, this time at the hilltop Ekeberg Restaurant overlooking Oslo’s harbor from Ekeberg Park.  The place has a cool, retro vibe that mixes modern Scandinavian interior design with historic architecture known as “Functionalism” in Norway but called “Art Moderne” in the States. The restaurant’s wraparound windows provide a spectacular view of the fjord — we witnessed an incoming storm that was probably the best dinner show we’ve seen yet.  The food was also quite wonderful, but as typical in a nice place, each dish elicited a long litany from the waiter about all the varied and unusual ingredients and flavors awaiting our palate.  Sometimes I do wish fancy food came without the sales job. Continue reading Birthday Hike to Ullevålseter

Spring Strolls & Flea Markets

IMG_0287
Snowdrops nodding in the shade, with crocuses in the distance.

March 24, 2015.  Spring is cautiously poking its head up in sunlit spots around Oslo; crocuses and snowdrops have pushed through their white blankets to wave and flirt coquettishly with hopeful Norwegians passing by.  The daylight hours are oh-so-gradually growing longer, and each additional second is cherished like drops of rain in the desert.  While it’s still quite chilly, and light snowfalls occasionally surprise us, we’re feeling as if the finish line for this long winter is within sight. Continue reading Spring Strolls & Flea Markets

Viking Ships

IMG_4039
The Viking Ships Museum resembles a cruciform church, with each wing containing a ship.

March 19, 2015.  “What’s the best thing to see in Oslo?,” is the question I’m often asked by friends and family preparing for a visit.  I know I’m a history geek, but I always recommend the Viking Ships Museum.  Seriously, where else in the world can you go to feast your eyes on three incredibly intact Viking vessels?  We all know about these Scandinavian raiders who pillaged most of Europe and were the first Europeans to touch foot on North American soil.  (It’s now pretty much a proven fact — Columbus was late to the party.)  So it’s a real goose-bump experience to see the vehicles that made it all possible. Continue reading Viking Ships

Norwegians: Fitness Fanatics

March 1, 2015.  When we first began considering the move to Norway, I asked a Ukrainian colleague about how she’d characterize the country.  “I think most places have a national obsession,” she said.  “For the French, it’s food.  For Americans, it celebrities and money.  For Norwegians, it’s fitness.  They’re mad for fitness.  Exercise, exercise, exercise all the time, no matter the season.” Continue reading Norwegians: Fitness Fanatics

Valentine’s Day & Holmenkollen’s Biathlon

IMG_5489
My Valentine’s Day gift to Matthew — one of the intricate creations from chocolatier Sebastien Bruno.

February 15, 2015.  They do celebrate Valentine’s Day in Norway, although it’s not as splashy or as commercial as it is in the States.  You can purchase Valentine’s Day cards in bookstores.  (I haven’t yet run across a pure paper-and-card store — business opportunity, anyone?)  But the cheap boxed chocolates and bland bouquets of red carnations are nowhere to be found.  Instead, flower shops feature heart-shaped tabletop topiaries made of ivy, while confectioners display fantastical Valentine-inspired works of art sculpted in chocolate and marzipan. Continue reading Valentine’s Day & Holmenkollen’s Biathlon

Ekeberg Parken

February 1, 2015.  Since my recent face-smashing fall had made me a bit gun shy about the ice, we decided that walking (using crampons) as a form of exercise might be a bit safer than skiing.  So on Sunday, we rode the Trikk up to Ekeberg Parken, which hovers on a distant hill outside the city proper.  The more winding route we elected to ride took us through some grittier neighborhoods new to us, but marked by the passage of time with layers of graffiti and city grime. Continue reading Ekeberg Parken

Being Illiterate

January 20, 2015.  Yep, that’s right.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  I’m illiterate.  I’m living in a place where I can’t read a newspaper, the street signs, ads in store windows, cryptic notes that my neighbors post in the hall, or the operating instructions for my washing machine.  I can’t fill out forms or applications at the bank, post office, or dentist’s office without someone translating each line to me in English. Continue reading Being Illiterate

Cross-country Skiing for Dummies

January 15, 2015.  The stereotypes are true; Norwegians are avid (some might say obsessive) cross-country skiers.  I’ve yet to pass a bus or tram stop without spotting at least one or two ski-toting folks waiting for a ride to the end of the transportation lines, where snowy forests beckon.  And in the middle of the day, the train platforms are clogged with throngs of schoolchildren headed to skiskole (ski school) as part of their regular class curriculum.

Continue reading Cross-country Skiing for Dummies

Sledding on Christmas Day

IMG_5429
Dozens of sledders caught the train to the top.

On Christmas Day, the sun shone brightly for the first time in what seemed like weeks, and all was right with the world.  We donned our winterwear and headed out on the T-bane (the Metro train line) to Frognerseteren to admire the winter scenery from the mountain overlooking Olso.  A surprising number of Norwegians had the same idea, and when we pulled up to the Midstuen stop, an enormous throng of people toting sleds (called “sledges” here) climbed aboard.   Continue reading Sledding on Christmas Day

Christmas Eve

We prepared to spend a quiet Christmas all alone in Oslo.  By this, I mean that we’d been warned of two things: 1) absolutely everything is closed — even the grocery stores — from about noon on Christmas Eve through Boxing Day (December 26th).   And 2) Norwegians are quite private; Christmas Eve and Day are reserved for immediate family, so don’t expect an invitation to join anyone for the holiday.  No problem, we did our grocery shopping Christmas Eve morning and scheduled Facetime with friends and family for the next two days. Continue reading Christmas Eve