The start of it all
Back in April, when I should have been preparing for my final university exams, I lost the plot a little. It was all in the best sort of way.
I printed off an Interrail map of Europe, worked out connections between countries I had an inclination to visit, and booked flights. This happened roughly between breakfast and lunch.
The announcement to my Dad went something like this.
“I’m going travelling next month.”
“I’m off to Norway, then hopping across to Sweden, Denmark and Germany.”
“Well. No one.”
“Europe’s just about as dangerous as anywhere, you know. Even the Middle East.”
The announcement to my Mum went like so.
“Can you drop me at Stansted Airport on 28th May? I’m flying to Oslo then travelling for a bit.”
“Are you joining a terrorist group or something?”
That was not my fate, and it all went swimmingly. Off I flew to Oslo, as Part One of my great solo venture into the unknown (or, relatively sedate and certainly expensive Scandinavia).
Arrival in Oslo (or meeting a hostel pal, swiping a map, and donning my yellow raincoat)
Oslo was my first hostel experience. Well, sort of. I made the snobbish move of getting my own single room, which slightly diminishes my solo traveller courage, but things were still excellent.
After doing the frequently done thing in hostels – bumping into another hostelgoer, deciding to be buddies, and heading out to explore with a map from the front desk – I did the same for Oslo.
The Oslo Opera House was on the agenda, as was pretty much every highlighted item on the map courtesy of Hostel Reception Lady. The sun was shining, the yellow raincoat wasn’t worn (for now), and solo travel life (plus hostel buddy) was great.
A Viking bike tour (plus becoming enamoured with the Norwegian welfare state)
Alas, the weather wasn’t to last, but that’s what the yellow raincoat is for. Oslo Day 2 was occupied by an excellent bike tour of the city from Viking Biking, complete with all the major stops. A rain poncho was even thrown in. I’d heartily recommend the experience, even if it’s pissing it down.
I even went back to Vigeland Park – Gustav Vigeland’s lifework with more than 200 sculptures – the next day when the weather perked up. And I learned all about Norway’s excellent welfare state. Fun fact: you get paid to exercise two hours a week, as part of your already gloriously-low weekly hours. And don’t even get the Norwegians started on the perks of parenthood for employees.
What else did I get up to? Well, I have a weakness for opportunities where I can pretend to be a Viking, so the Viking Boat Museum was ideal. It’s super easy to get the bus from the centre.
A train from Oslo to Bergen, or setting off on Phase Two of the solo adventure
Next stop? Bergen. You hear about the Oslo-Bergen train trip a lot. It’s frequently cited as one of the most scenic in Europe, and you soon find out why. Book a seat (it’s not that pricey at all) and look forward to fjords and unexpected changes in landscape colour as you exit train tunnels.
One of my highlights was passing through the end of the world, or Finse: the highest station on the entire Norwegian railway system at 4,009 ft above sea level. It’s where the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole trained (look out for the monument to those that died outside the hotel), and in 1979 it was chosen as filming location for the ice planet Hoth in the The Empire Strikes Back.
Board the train, bring your camera, and spend a few hours contemplating life as an adventurer. Bring on the fjords!