So exciting! I am finally on my holidays! As I type I am in Dublin airport with a cup of Ginger and lemon tea to soothe my tender throat, waiting for my bus back home. I am just back from Norway. One of my childhood friends is getting married at the end of the summer so I made the trip to be part of her secret hen party in Oslo. I have been twice before but always in the winter when the city was covered in snow and Scandinavians like to cosy up in their homes, so it was very interesting to see what the vibes are like during the summer. As I have done all the touristy stuff before I avoided that and went on a hunt for some raw cake, some shopping, partying and spending time with friends. Otherwise here are some free or cheap attractions that are worth doing that I have visited before.
Even if you visit a place a hundred times you will still learn new things about it with every visit. I have changed quite a lot as a person and have become interested in quite different things since the last time I was in Norway so I felt quite excited to visit again and find out more about the city, culture and their diet. So here is what I learned this time:
The Health stores are untouchable
The first thing I want to do in any place I go is not to visit their cool museums but to make a trip to their best health food store and see if they have any new products I haven’t seen before. That shop for Oslo was Rotter, and it was a paradise! As I have visited many health shops in different European countries, at this stage, it is hard to surprise me with anything. I was familiar with the brands but Rotter stocked the full product ranges where in most countries we just get the top sellers. I got very excited and started planning on buying half of the treat section…until I saw the prices. Products identical to Ireland were 2 or 3 times the Irish price for the same product. For example, the nut milk section varied from 45 KR to 67KR (4,60 EU-8,87 EU) while in Ireland that would be 1,90 EU to 3,50 EU. I thought it was insanely expensive and I know Norway is a rich country but later when I went to an ordinary supermarket the oat based milk OATLY was almost half of the Rotter price – disappointing.
This is the country of cosy houses
In the evening we had some dinner: a bean stew with a giant green salad and cosied up in front of the TV for a movie night with cups of tea. I always thought houses in Oslo are very homey and comfortable but I also attributed the cosiness to the snow outside. They proved to be as nice in summer. Most houses are wooden, which I love with stylish furniture, rugs, comfy couches, cushions and of course candles, which it all comes to a bundle of pure cosy snug feeling. They are also quite warm, comfortable walking in a t-shirt during the winter. Considering that in Ireland the climate is milder but rarely comfortable, windy and with year round rain I always wondered why so many properties lacked a warm cosy feeling, with the majority not even insulated. Surely everyone prefers a warm house (not just the living room when the fire is on) to a damp drafty place. In Oslo, most people I know seemed to own their own properties so my logic told me that maybe that is the reason why Irish homes are not up to scratch. So I asked the question: Are rented homes as good as the houses I had been in and are there rentals that are a bit run down? The answer was no! Apparently, there are laws in Norway that require a property to meet certain standards before it can be considered in the rental market. I suppose the Irish landlords trick of painting the walls before viewings to hide the mould won’t pass by in Norway.
Dogs have to be kept on a leash
On the second day, we went for a walk around the nearby lake with Kairo the setter cross. Poor Kairo has to be limited to the length of his leash from April to August. At first, I was quite unhappy about this Norwegian law until I found out the reason why: to protect wildlife in their breeding season. It seemed like all Norwegians were respectful of that law.
Oslo loves frisbee
Around the park that we walked in there were a lot of unpractical chained bins. They turned out to be for frisbee golf! Apparently, frisbee is very popular in Olso. In the evening I walked Kairo again and saw two guys playing and it looked like fun!
There is less variety in the supermarkets (than Ireland).
After the dog walk, we went around 3 or 4 different supermarkets to buy ingredients for the food to be had at the hen party. I had never been to a Norwegian foodstore previously and I was shocked at the lack of variety. In all the shops they had the same brands and types of products. I only looked at things that interested me and didn’t look at any fish, meat or dairy products so my observations are mostly for non-animal products. There was only one type of hummus as part of their barbecue summer line; there were only a couple of different jars of jam mostly from the same brand; the sweet section consists almost exclusively of their own chocolate, I didn’t see a very big variety of vegan options like there is in Ireland such as falafel, burgers and tofu products. In general, there were only a few options of each type of product if even. While this limited choice isn’t great it can be seen as a good thing. It simplifies your shopping and there is a feeling of unity lingering while all Norwegian fridges have similar products. I am now very appreciative of how spoiled we are for choice in the supermarkets.
Locals love Laksa
On our way back from the stores I enquired about the typical Norwegian diet. I seemed to progressively get interested in the collective health of nations and linking that to their diet. From the supermarkets, it seemed that they eat a lot of bread, fish, seafood and game as these were the largest sections in the shops. I turned out to be right, they rely a lot on salmon, smoked salmon (laksa) and potatoes, moose, reindeer, lamb and duck. During the summer, locals love having barbeques or ‘Grill’ outside. Salads don’t seem to be overly popular. In general the food really reminded me of the Irish and British coastal cuisines.
Petrol prices differ depending on the day of the week
My second observation in the car was of the petrol price and how it is a bit cheaper than Ireland. Then I was told that the petrol is cheaper on Sundays and Mondays! The prices also seem to be lower in the richer neighbourhoods! Go figure!
Most do not have compost bins
Once we went back to the house and started preparing food for the next day I discovered that there wasn’t a compost bin. This shocked me deeply. I then asked since most live in houses and have gardens how come they do not have their own compost bins to throw away food waste and later feed their plants. It turns out compost bins are not at all popular in Oslo.
There are plastic bags everywhere
While we are on the waste topic, another surprise was the plastic bag consumption. I thought Norway would be more advanced in waste standards but plastic bags are widely available and dirt cheap so people don’t seem to put groceries in their own reusable bags and rather rely on the old horrible plastic bags that kill wildlife and pollute our planet like crazy. According to this article, Norway doesn’t have it as a priority to tackle the issue as they do not create a litter problem with 82% of plastic bags are used for garbage disposal in Norway, while 15% are recycled and become new plastic products; the other 3% account for litter.
You can pant your bottles
To pant in Norway means to return a drinks bottle or can to the supermarket and get a refund of the deposit you paid when purchasing. There are machines that simplify the process. Most supermarkets contain “reverse vending” machines which take the bottles and cans in exchange for a receipt, which you cash in at the till. You get 1kr (10c) on cans and small 0.5l bottles, and 2.5kr (25c) on 1.5l bottles. Not bad!
A lot of Norwegians use Scruf Snus
One of the girls at the hen party had a box of what looked like tiny tea bags (someone should invent that!) with Skruf written on the top. They weren’t filled with tea unfortunately but with tobacco. So you take a bag and put it between your gum and the upper lip and wait for the contents to dissolve. It gives you the same if not a stronger nicotine hit as normal cigarettes. The best part about it is that there is not smoke so the people around you are not going to be affected, for that reason I was super grateful for the scuffs existence, anyone that knows me is aware of just how much I hate cigarette smoke! I heard that it hits you quite hard in your first few times of use and people even get sick. Non- smokers in the group said it tastes disgusting. It also comes in different flavours.
You need to go outside of Oslo to experience culture
In the evening I was talking to a girl that is from Stavanger which is on the west coast of Norway. She shared that if one wants to experience Norwegian culture, a visit outside of Oslo is necessary. Norwegians really care about their surrounding community which is really lost in the big city. She said it is really valuable to visit more rural places and see how people really live relying on seafaring and farming. She also recommended some cool hiking routes such as the Troll’s Tongue and Kjeragbolten -a cliff balanced between two cliffs.
You can tan in winter
The same girl from Stavanger told me they have a house in the mountains and in winter you can go naked with meters of snow around you as the sun is very close and temperatures reach 25 C degrees. That is going on my bucket list!
It never goes dark in summer
When we hit the streets of Oslo at around 12 am to go to a Reggae bar it was going dark. The city was in twilight for about an hour and then it gradually started getting light again. At around 3:50 am it was as bright as it is in the middle of the day. Quite cool and confusing.
Some words I learned:
melk – milk
rompe – butt
takk – thank you