Wednesday, 21 August 2013

BARNACLED ON OSLO



We are just back from a pleasant, interesting if financially challenging week in Oslo, which must surely be Europe's, if not the world's, most expensive city. Our hotel accommodation was a cramped 'studio apartment' hardly much bigger than a single bedroom. There was a hob with two rings, a microwave oven, two cups, two glasses, two spoons. We would have had to pay heavily extra for any additional cutlery, pots, pans, etc, so we did without them. We had brought our own coffee pot and coffee, and I bought a croissant or two at the nearby 7/11 for breakfast. We lived on one proper meal a day, treating ourselves twice to a splurge in a top-class restaurant. For lunch, we filled bread rolls with ham and cheese in the morning and brought them with us on our various excursions, and bought a few bananas. Matters were almost on a military footing.
We bought weekly transport passes at a reasonable price, and they covered buses, trams, the Metro (or T-bane) and the ferries to the inner islands of the Oslo fjord. Visiting these islands on days of good weather was probably the highlight of our stay, though the Munch Museum, the Ibsen Museum and the amazing architecture of the Opera House were close runners-up.
The islands are environmentally protected, there are small sandy or shingly beaches, hardly any shops or caf├ęs (on some islands there are no retail outlets at all). You can easily and quickly walk around most islands and the views of the fjord and the city are quite stunning from several vantage points. The small beaches reminded me of childhood holidays in Schull, West Cork. The islands we visited were Langoyene, Hovedoya, and Gressholmen.
It was on these islands that we encountered the barnacle geese, beautifully shaped and plumaged creatures, herbivores that moved sedately through grass, cow-like in their grazing.




There are restrictions on the sale of liquor in Norway. While you can buy beer in any super- or mini-market, wine and spirits can only be bought in designated stores, which close at 6 pm. (And I thought it was bad when Ireland brought in a law closing off-licences at 10 pm!) 
I eventually saw a wine store in the Oslo train station, and made sure to get there before six o'clock the following day, rather than spend €8.00 per glass for a a few nightcaps of plonk in the hotel bar. Hence the rather exhausted look of triumph on my face in the photograph below. The price for those bottles (of Italian wine) was comparable to prices in Irish off-licences.