Sunday, September 9, 2012


Not "AHZZ-low".
Not "AHH-slow".

Repeat after me: "OOOH-shlow" (like you're doing a haunting, ghostly oooooh).

Got it? That is how the locals* (in Lillehammer) pronounce "Oslo".

I've been down to Oslo quite a few times in the past 6 months, for both "business" shall we say, and pleasure. Any any rate, it's enough times that I'm beginning to get a little sick of certain parts of town, and often have a list of things that I can find only in Oslo. Have not yet found that must-go to restaurant for dinner, however.

In May, on one of my solo sojourns to Oslo to fail a Norwegian exam, I saw posters advertising a two-day children's festival in early June. I reported to Erik that we would be attending this festival, in an all out effort to do something relaxing and enjoyable in Norway. We are very lucky to have friends who have a generally empty apartment in Oslo, just mere meters from the Majorstuen T-bane (metro/subway) stop, a major top in Oslo Sentrum, and they generously lent us this apartment for the weekend.

Greta tries the cello, and makes her
mamma tear up. . . 
Norwegians like their summer music festivals, although they tend to showcase a bunch of artists that I've never heard of. A pretty major one is Øyafestivalen, that goes on for several days. The children's version of this was thus aptly named Miniøya, although did not feature as many bands and likely had about 200x the number of strollers as its parent festival. Make that 2000x.

We spent a full day at Miniøya, enjoying life sized giraffe puppets (people on stilts), face-painting, bag decorating, food tasting, story-telling, puppet shows, a violin/cello making/trying/coloring station, and a rather odd performance by Pippi Longstocking (in Swedish) from Sweden's own Pippi Longstocking World.

In our defense, this is not considered
 bad form, or bad parenting, to allow
your child to climb or pose on the
Vigeland statues.
On Sunday, as the weather was gorgeous, we headed over to Frognerpark, the largest park in Oslo, which contains the Vigeland Sculpture Garden. The sculpture garden has hundreds of statues by the artist Gustav Vigeland, depicting the circle of life and life stages. They are amazing statues and it is a park that continues to amaze. It was Greta's first time visiting the park, and even she was quite enthralled by them. If you go anywhere in Oslo, I would recommend Frognerpark. I think Greta would, too.

We had specifically headed off to eat our last breakfast at a cafe I had heard about through the grapevine, Laundromat Cafe. It had just the funky brunchy vibe I was looking for, with comfy chairs, telephones decorating the wall, and a laundromat in back (ok, wasn't really looking for a laundromat). But my cappuccino was poorly made and my apple pancakes drenched in syrup. And not even good syrup. Think Aunt Jemima. Probably was Aunt Jemima. Big disappointment to the start of my morning. . . So we are still looking for a good breakfast joint in Oslo.

Despite the disappointing cappuccino,
we still had a koselig time (and check
out the deco-phones).
Since many of my recent trips to Oslo have revolved around a meeting with SAFH about nursing shit or a Norwegian exam. That usually means we have a meeting in the middle of the day, leaving not enough time to do anything significant before or after, especially if it's a day trip (a train trip from Lillehammer is 2-2.5 hours). But in early August, when my mother-in-law invited me to join her and her friend for a few days in Oslo at the tail end of their visit, I happily agreed. Seeing that they had tourist destinations on their itinerary, and not just wandering, I decided that I would hit some of the big sites in Oslo this time around, too.

The Oslo Rådhuset, or City Hall, is a strange-looking, imposing square brown building on the Oslo Harbor. It is known to many as the brown cheese building (brown cheese is a Norwegian specialty). In fact, it is the home to the Nobel Peace Prize award every December, and the inside is especially impressive. I believe I stuck my head into the building 5 years ago, but remembered very little of it. My parents gushed about the building, so I tagged along on a tour with my mother-in-law and her friend.

Painting inside the Rådhus (City Hall)
where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded

I also put a tour of the Oslo Opera House on my to-do list for this trip, which was truly cool as well. The Opera House was designed by Snøhetta, which is designing parts of the Twin Towers memorial in NYC, and was finished just a few years ago. It has been identified as one of the best pieces of modern architecture in the world. Also worth checking out.

Toss in a tour of the Parliament building, the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture, and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, and a few tasty cappuccinos, a few somewhat disappointing dinners, and a very rewarding gelato, and I've summed up my time in OOOH-shlow the past few visits, including, as usual, a good deal of wandering.

Oh, and how could I forget. . . On the tail end of my final day in Oslo in August, I joined the locals on their hourly pilgrimage to IKEA (pronounced in Norwegian and Swedish: "eee-KAY-ah". Do you think I'm kidding? There is a bus that leaves central Oslo every hour from 10am-midnight during the week for the 20 minute ride to the nearest IKEA (there are two outside of Oslo). The bus was cram-packed with people, and there were at least a dozen of us with standing the entire ride. And after having spent the day walking around Oslo, sprinting around the train/bus station to find the damn pick-up/drop-off location, and with the anticipation of walking around the store itself for the next two hours. . . I was not exactly pleased.

Free IKEA bus every hour!
They're not kidding!

*If you live in Oslo itself, apparently one would pronounce it with a more refined "Oooh-slow", without the slurring of the "S" and the "L" together into a "SHL" sound.


  1. I say oooh- slow ( I was told by my inlaws that this was the way I should be saying it, as the other way is considered to be a bit " harry" in these parts!)
    Does it help to know that in 2 years of living 5 mins outside of Oslo I have still not found my "go to" restaurant, or a good coffee shop with good coffee. In London I had hundreds of regular places that I could always rely on, not so in Oslo. I wish I could recommend somewhere great but I can only recommend many average/ crap places!
    i've given up on Oslo totally!
    Have you been to Stockholm yet? Now thats a city I could happily swap for Oslo!

    1. That is my next post! We were in Stockholm at the end of August. To die for. Agreed: could easily swap Stockholm for Oslo.

  2. Those pictures of Greta are adorable! It looks like you might have a future musician in the family.

    I've been to Oslo dozens of times and have never been inside Rådhuset or the Opera House---going to have to put those on the agenda. We have a favorite Indian restaurant and pub (Oslo Mikrobryggeri, really good beer) but have no other recommendations for food. Sad, right? I agree with you and Lisa that Stockholm is the superior city, although we had trouble finding an open restaurant there on a Sunday night in February. Kind of unbelievable.

    In Sandefjord, most people say "ooo-shlow" but I always forget and say "ah-shlow" because my norsk is still quite shit. :-)

    1. Oh Michele, you make me laugh. . .

      Will put the Oslo Mikrobryggeri on our list. Would *love* to find some good Indian food (assuming it's not the Bryggeri?). We went to this incredible Indian restaurant in Grunnerløkka 4 years ago, but it has since closed. It was definitely one of the top 10 meals I've ever had.