Today we set off on an Urban walk. The river Akerselva comes down into the city from the north-ish and there is a very convenient walking path all the way along that follows it well past the 6kms that we ventured along. As the river winds, it passes through all sorts of interesting and diverse areas.
The start is in a dirtier part of the city with lots of construction work underway. The city doesn’t really seem to wake up until after 10am, so at 9:30 when we set off it felt a bit deserted. It was a brisk 2 degrees, the sunrise was at 8:20 so the ground was still frosty.
There are plenty of birds around, ducks – the same as the ones we get back home, gulls on steroids, cute little sparrow-like birds, and a strange crow which is grey and black and their version of a magpie which is black and white but up close has some more colourful feathers with green/blue shimmer to them. The birds don’t scoot off so we were getting quite close to observe them.
This was the first we saw of homelessness and graffiti. We had previously come across Romanian women selling ‘big issue’ equivalent and wondered about homelessness. It doesn’t seem to be in the numbers we have around Sydney. It’s cold enough now. Can’t imagine how the homeless cope over the winter months.
As we kept going, we saw the graffiti become more artistic and we crossed a small bridge into an area of working art studios and street art. We pulled off the track here and wandered around the streets taking in the colourful chaos. It was a bit ‘Newtown-ish’ and if travelling only along the main roads it would have been missed completely. The best guess from the guide map at the name of this little community is Kathe Lasniks Plass.
Back on the river track we meandered further to an area called Vulkan. The vibe here was less alternative and more hipster. We entered Mathallen, which is an indoor food hall – a bit like the Tram Shed for those familiar with Sydney’s inner west. There were butchers, deli’s, cheese shops, cake shops, coffee of course, bars, international cuisine specialty restaurants, wine and champagne bar. We stopped here for coffee (too early for bubbles) and discovered that if you want chocolate on your cappucino, you only have to ask, and that if you want a flat white you also have to ask. It wont be listed on the menu, but they will make it. The Norwegians love coffee and the coffee is actually pretty good. They always ask if you want one shot or two – go for the two.
The locals love their dogs. Outside a nearby pub we came across heated kennels. So in the middle of winter as you’re out ‘walking the dog’, you don’t need to leave him out in the snow and ice outside your destination, he can shelter in the 20 degrees heated kennel. A contrast to the homeless man we had earlier seen.
We had been told about a couple of streets that had some typical, traditional Oslo homes. They were near here so we left the river behind for a while and explored the surrounding streets. Andy navigated us to Telthusbakken first. The traditional houses are timber clad and painted in bright colours. Yellow, pink, blue, maroon, with white trimming. Directly opposite in this street were allotment style gardens, planted with veggies, herbs, flowers and each with a seating space some with obvious design and others with simple chair and table.
Due to road construction, we were detoured off the street and came across Gamle Aker Church which it turns out is the oldest existing building in Oslo and is on an ancient Pilgirmage trail. It dates back to the time of King Olaf Kerre in 1080.
Downhill from the Church, the local graveyard seemed to have some historically significant Norwegians buried there. We recognised Edvard Munch – he was the artist that was featured at the Ice Bar last night, we also recognised Camilla Collett as her statue was in the gardens near the Palace yesterday. She was a writer and poet also known to be the first Norwegian feminist. Her brother Henrik Wergeland was also well regarded in Norwegian literary history and we saw his statue also in the graveyard.
On route back to the River took us through steep old cobbled street called Dopsgt with more of the traditional Oslo timber homes. The home on the corner of this street had Wergerlands name on it, but we couldn’t read what exactly the building was to him, whether home, studio, birthplace or something else. It was under restoration.
Back at the river we continued our journey north-ish. The temp was rising to about 6 degrees, we were warm enough to remove our beanies! A kind looking old man stopped to tell us some thing along the path…we couldn’t really understand, but he did manage the English words ‘salmon’ and ‘bridge’. As it turns out, at the next bridge there were a few people stopped all looking into the water. We joined them and saw the large salmon just swimming around happily. They were an easy 60-75cm long. Not sure how long they’ll be there as one of the spectators was stripping a stick down and sharpening its end…
Onward towards the waterfalls. We passed a few spots where the water tumbled down rocks creating photo ops among the old buildings, ornate bridges and surrounding autumn landscape. Eventually we reached the edge of the map and enjoyed the view and sound of the water. The main waterfall tumbles right next to buildings, paths, gardens and a cafe. It was a short walk from here out to the main busy streets where we caught a bus back to the city. From the main streets around Alexander Kieliands Plass you wouldn’t know that the natural waterfall at Molla was hiding just behind the buildings and apartments.
By the time we caught a bus back to the Oslo city centre and the hotel it was about 2:30pm. Time for a rest before heading out to the Nobel Peace Centre, Museum.
Alfred Nobel, Swedish scientist and astute business man bequeathed his fortune to establish the Nobel prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace. (He invented dynamite and developed the commerciality for industry and military purposes). Of the 5 awards his Will specifically called for the Peace Prize to be administered in Norway. Nobel himself was from Sweden and the other prizes are all awarded from there. The museum is dedicated to exhibitions around promoting peace, social justice/human rights issues and extend debate in these arenas.
The current exhibition “Tell the World About Us” was moving and confronting as it took us through over 100 photos by Rune Eraker spanning from the Civil War in Columbia through to many examples of injustice and deprivation of basic human rights inflicted by others. Many we are familiar with – Haiti, Egypt, Syria – and some I was not aware of. In El Salvador for example, women are jailed for 30-50 years if they have an abortion (often as a result of rape and abuse) or even miscarriage. I have had 2 miscarriages. If I was born in El Salvador my doctor could have reported me upon which time I would have been handcuffed to my hospital bed until released to the authorities and imprisoned. In the name of God and the Catholic beliefs. I wonder how long the rapists get for their crime?
Check out the website of the Museum for a more detailed review of the exhibition. Www.nobelpeacecenter.org – there is an option to read in English.
By 6pm the museum was kicking us out, daylight gone it felt much later. Time for dinner – but where? We are spoilt for choice of quality places to eat, but for our dollar it is expensive. I might do a separate blog about keeping to a budget over here… it takes some doing! Anyhow we came across a fresh seafood cafe on the dock and enjoyed a delicious fish soup and a glass of wine which set us back $99.
We strolled back to the hotel, with one last look at the harbour and castle lit up at night, to pack and prepare for our early departure tomorrow morning. We have thoroughly enjoyed Oslo. Now though it’s on to the next part of the adventure where the weather prediction is for further drop in temperature and snow falls as we start heading north.