A Norwegian New Year

As I am right in the middle of finals week at school, I figured I would take a quick study break and share another experience of a far-away land. Gabriel and I ended up in Norway two years ago for a friend’s wedding over New Year’s weekend. The trip was convenient as our friend served as our private tour guide the entire trip, so I am here to fill in as your digital tour guide! 

During the trip, we visited Oslo, the capital; Ås (like “Oz”), a town 30 minutes South of Oslo by train; and Drøbak (like “Dro-bak”) which was another 20 minutes South of Ås. We flew into Oslo and took the bus to Ås where we were staying with friends. As you are probably already thinking, yes, the trip became a lot cheaper given that we did not have to pay for a place to sleep. However, Oslo is a cheap city to visit with plenty of Airbnbs available under $75USD/night. And we did end up purchasing plane tickets for this trip (no stand-by travel!). Flights vary in cost depending on the season, the departure and arrival cities, the airline, fuel costs, and how often you visit the ticket site. With so many variables, sometimes it is difficult to track down the most budget-friendly airfare. For this trip, we flew on Norwegian to and from Oslo from Miami, Florida. Currently you can find round trip tickets from New York, Boston, and Miami to Oslo for around $700 during the week of New Years. And as you will see below, we did frequent travel by train in Norway and our tickets one-way ranged from $6-10. 

The days leading up to and including New Year’s were our tourist days before the wedding shenanigans began. We spent the first day in Oslo and I was impressed by the history, artistic culture, and nightlife! Plenty of old buildings with beautiful scaffolding lined the streets as is common among European cities; and the Oslo Opera House stood like a landmark at the edge of the water with structural geometry that allowed you to walk to the roof for a better view. I’m sure it would have revealed lovely scenery had the snow and fog not blurred our vision! Beware if you go to Oslo in the winter: that sloped ceiling in the picture below is the path to the top and it was a bit treacherous on the way down!

Oslo Opera House

We checked out the Christmas market in downtown Oslo and Akershus Fortress watching guard over the Norwegian fjords…which again, provided a foggy winter view…but from the little we saw, it was beautifully pristine! After a solid day of walking outside in the 30°F weather, we returned to Ås for a nap and a warm dinner before heading back to Oslo for a few drinks. And let me tell you, Oslo has quite a selection of bars and pubs including the COOLEST pub I have ever been to and which I still cannot pronounce: Schouskjelleren. In the basement of a brewery, you sit in a cozy, dimly lit cellar with an arched brick ceiling and a stoutly fireplace housing a crackling fire. After a long night out, a few sour beers, and a few more ciders, we called it a night and went home to warm beds. 

The next morning after a common Norwegian breakfast of fruit and open-face sandwiches of meat, salmon, cheeses, and caviar, we hopped on the train to Bygdøy (like “big day”) to visit the Viking Ship Museum. Yes, like real Vikings, not the football team or the Netflix show. The museum was one of my favorite parts of the trip getting to see the ancient, fully intact wooden ships (which were way larger than I ever imagined) and all the tools and artistic pieces the Vikings created. 

Viking Ship Museum

Our Norwegian explorations included one final stop in Drøbak, a small fishing town south of Oslo and Ås. It was a quiet town with inviting main street shops and a two-story Christmas store. It was here, in Drøbak, that I tried the Norwegian equivalent of a gas station hot dog (pølse, like “pulse”) which they serve wrapped in a potato tortilla-type bread. And I enjoyed it! Granted, I will eat most anything, but it really had a great taste to it. After wandering the town a bit longer, we returned to Ås to prepare the New Year’s feast. In Norway, it is traditional on New Year’s Eve to eat ribbe (like “riba”), a huge cut of pork belly, with ribs attached, which is steamed prior to cooking to achieve a deliciously crunchy top layer of fat. After filling our stomachs with more food than we should have, we ventured outside to prepare for the countdown to the new year. Our constructed snowman drew a small audience of vehicles passing by and before we knew it, we were welcoming the new year with fireworks, champagne, and those we held close. 

Ribbe and our snowman (whose top hat would make Frosty jealous)

The glistening snow, energy from the locals, and beautiful landscape leaves me hoping to return to Norway one day to explore more of what the country has to offer. Skål! (Cheers!)


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