Millennium city

I just got off the phone to my Mum and Dad and Mum said she was disappointed that we haven’t posted for a while so I have stopped slothing around watching very bad music videos on MTV to make a post.

We had a great last night in Oslo. After finishing our bottle of Shiraz we were keen for some company so we strolled across the park from where we were staying to the Park Theatre Bar. It was a funky little establishment and we were lucky to score a table. Even luckier as it turned out that we had two spare seats opposite us which ended up a real bonus as throughout the night we met a series of really interesting peeps who asked if they could sit with us. The first two were a Norwegian guy and German girl who had met in Thailand on a holiday and were meeting up again for the first time in Oslo. We really hit it off. They invited us to join them at a house party they were going to and we felt quite disappointed that we had to say no, ’cause we thought it would be prudent not to get involved in late night drinking when we had to leave for Sweden the next day. There was a brief interlude of three other Norwegian guys but as they were one seat down, they eventually moved on. The end of our night was then spent with an Aussie expat who has been living and working in Norway for ten years and his German colleague. They were geologists from Statoil and we thoroughly enjoyed their entertaining and intelligent conversation.

We arrived in Stockholm via train from Oslo and stayed at the Sheraton for the night as it was right near the station and we weren’t in the mood for traipsing around town like pack horses to find a bed to crash in. I think old Hermes might have had a hand in that decision, as it just so happened that the Sheraton is where Harriet Vanger stayed when she came to Stockholm. For those not familiar with Harriet, she is a character in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

It also just so happens that the Sheraton has a booklet that provides a walking guide (mostly through Sodermalm) of all the key places that are mentioned in the books. Damien and I are fans of Larsson and so this appealed immensely. Damien has just finished reading, ‘Stieg and Me’ by Eva Gabrielsson, that my parents gave us for Christmas. I am in the final stages of the last book in the trilogy. I think it is a testament to how great his books are that I have had to share this third one with both my Mum and Damien as we all have wanted to read it at the same time! I handed it over to Mum when she went on a cruise around NZ but retrieved it so I could finish it in Scandanavia. She has since got her hands on another copy so she can finish it, but now I am having to share it with Damien as he has started reading it again when I have put it down! Anyway, I will finish it today for sure 🙂

We started our walking trip with a tasty feed of sushi at Jappi Sushi & Wok. I was very pleased with this outcome as I have been eyeing off Sushi joints in Norway but they were too expensive there, so it was great to indulge in Sweden! Jappi is on Drottingatan which is the Pitt Street mall of Stockholm…though much prettier in my opinion. We then walked through the Old Town, Gamla Stan which I am looking forward to exploring in greater detail today.

The Millenium walk kicked off in Slussen and then we strolled past the building where Milton Security was located in the book. Next stop was Lisbeth Salander’s very expensive apartment on Fiskargatan 9. Apparently the apartment is 350 square meters and has 21 rooms! I took a picture of ‘her’ view of Stockholm from the front of the apartments. We went past a number of other locations from the books and finished up outside Bellmansgatan 1 which is the home address of Mikael Blomvist in the book. It was late afternoon then so my picture is not the best, but at least you can get a feel for what it looks like. We completed our Millenium tour with a coffee at Kaffebar on Hornsgatan, which is frequented by Blomvist and Berger in the books. Apparently this was in reality Stieg Larsson’s favourite coffee shop.

We did consider Stieg-ing it right up and going out to see the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that night but it was on really late and we didn’t relish a 15-20 min walk home after midnight in -4 degrees so we took the soft option and stayed indoors!

Damien is currently reading the last book as I type and he just had to stop me to read a paragraph that details where Blomvist drove through a section of Soder and parked his car outside the Bishop Arms near Bellmansgatan 1…he was stoked as he could picture it! Yes indeed!

Categories: food, Norway, Oslo, Scandinavia, Sodermalm, Stieg Larsson, Stockholm, Sweden, travel | Tags: | 6 Comments

Nice Norwegians

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We left Tromso behind this morning but received a suitable send-off in the form of a beautiful sunrise over the mountain peaks from the comfort of our plane seats. We landed in Oslo and headed to the home of Elin and Malin in Grunerlokka, which is a hip and happening part of town that has a similar vibe to Surry Hills in Sydney. We were once again singing the praises of Globalfreeloaders for exposing us to such a cool place in Norway, which we quite possibly would not have visited otherwise.

Malin had made her way home to let us in and made us feel welcome straight away. We spent half an hour chatting and enjoyed listening to Malin’s stories of her nine months in Australia. There is a lovely picture of her feeding two King Parrots when she was living in Orange and other memorabilia of her time in our country around their home. Malin had to go out so she gave us a key to the place explained that she would be out for most of the night as would her Mum, Elin, but we should make ourselves at home. It’s kind of a shame that we have to leave so early tomorrow morning, as I would have liked to have got to know Malin and Elin. Their home faces into a communal courtyard. Inside it has an eclectic mix of quirky photography, posters, art books leaning against window sills and shaggy animal furs adorning seats. We were told to make ourselves at home and quite frankly, right now as we sit at the wooden kitchen table under lamp light drinking a cheapish Australian shiraz we found across the road, I feel at home! I once again have felt the warmth and trust of the lovely Norwegian people we have come to meet on this trip, and I hope truely to be able to return the favour in kind when we find ourselves a new home upon our return.

Today was not a big tourist extravaganza for us. We spoilt ourselves by eating out at lunch and enjoyed an amazing couple of Croque Madames. At the recommendation of Malin we walked through the streets to our first stop, the Opera House, which Elin suggested we go to in an email exchange. Both were good advice and offered interesting city sights. Then we headed to the National Gallery which we both walked away from impressed with. Not least because in the first room of the Gallery the very first statue we stood in front of was a carved bust of none other than Hermes. Hermes is one of two Gods we pay homage to. Hermes is a Greek deity of antiquity who is the God of travellers and we oft find reason to thank him during our travels. The usual way being a simple “Hail Hermes!’ He is also the God of less auspicious things such as thieves and weights and measures. But he also looks after a few of our other interests such as literature, orators and poets.

Our other God is Bacchus. Three weeks after we met we went on a road trip around regional Australia together. The purpose of the trip was to eat and drink our way around a fine selection of the one and two hat restaurants in the countryside. It was a completely gluttonous and delightful experience and we soon decided that we needed to thank Bacchus, the Roman God of wine (and good times!) for the adventure. We’ve remained faithful servants to Bacchus since. And the two Gods combined are a formidable force in ensuring we have great times together! So, it was no surprise then that we should see a painting of a Baccanalian gathering as we exited the room we started with Hermes.

On a serious note though, we saw some amazing art in the gallery such as the The Thinker (which I had no idea was in Oslo) and Munch’s Scream. This is probably not the thing to say, but I liked some of Munch’s other works more. Not that it wasn’t wonderful to see such an iconic piece of modern art with my own eyes.

I’m a bit sorry this is all the time we have for Oslo, but I’m sure we will return.

Categories: Art, food, Norway, Oslo, Scandinavia, travel, Tromso | 2 Comments

Norwegian hospitality

We’ve just spent three days with two wonderful, warm-hearted people near Oslo: Lillian and Ove. Thanks to Globalfreeloaders.com we were able to meet this great couple and enjoy superb Norwegian hospitality, giving us what will surely be one of the best memories of this leg of our adventures.

From the moment we found their house – which was a bit tricky walking around in the snow and darkness – we were welcomed as old friends, which is exactly what we have become in just three days. On our first full day there we went on a couple of guided walks around their home, located in a small village about 15 minutes drive from Oslo’s main airport. The countryside is spectacular in winter, and we were graced with perfect weather as you can see from the photos above. Ove is a senior member of a local motorcycle club, Pilgrims Millennium MC, and in the afternoon he took us to both of their clubhouses and showed us all of the Harleys in various states of winter rebuilding. He also took us to his workplace where he is a highly specialised crane operator, and showed us one of his steeds: the largest wheeled crane in Norway. Capable of lifting 500 tons, the crane itself weighs more than 100 tons and can extend 184 metres at full stretch – an amazing piece of machinery!

During the day we met several of their friends and family, who underlined just how generous a couple they are. Most telling is Alex and Noella, a young Spanish couple who stayed with Lillian and Ove for the first time several years ago when they came to Norway seeking work. Lillian and Ove helped them find work, then took them in again later for an extended time while they found somewhere to live. Now the young couple have their own place, and a young child, and the four are close friends. That night family and more friends arrived, and great fun was had well into the night with beer, locally made spirits such as aquevit and berry liqueur, and good cheer all round 🙂

One of the highlights was undoubtedly the food. Though we were prepared to buy and cook our own, Lillian insisted we share their meals and served us some luscious dishes such as fish and pasta stew, homemade pizza and my favourite: venison and pork stew with rice. Flavoured with pepper, cream and local chanterelle mushrooms that Lillian picked in the autumn and froze for use during winter, the stew was a triumph of rustic country cooking. We also had the chance to taste a number of Norwegian breakfast staples which we’d never have experienced otherwise: fiskpudding, a white sausage of fish akin to a roll of devon; caviar in a tube; cheese spread mixed with with shrimps; cheese spread mixed with ham; brown cheese, which was like processed cheddar mixed with peanut butter (yep, it’s an acquired taste); elk salami; a super-sweet caramel spread; and the national dish, tinned mackerel with tomato sauce, along with more familiar options such as cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pate, bread, jam and milk.

We can’t say enough how thankful we are that we had the opportunity to meet and stay with Lillian and Ove. If we ever return to Norway we will certainly see them again, and if they are able to make it all the way to Australia we look forward to extending good old-fashioned Aussie hospitality their way. I wonder how they’ll go with Vegemite?

Categories: food, friends, Norway, Oslo, Scandinavia, travel | 2 Comments

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