Norway part 1: Oslo

In January, I made my first trip to Europe, thanks to an invitation from the Norwegian Band Federation and Musikkforeningen Nidarholm (based in Trondheim). I’d heard recordings of Musikkforeningen Nidarholm – their live recording of “Asphalt Cocktail” is my reference recording for the piece – and I was excited when they offered to bring me and AEJ to Norway. Here’s a video of the group’s “Asphalt Cocktail” performance. Watch this and you’ll know why I wanted to work with them.

We flew IcelandAir.

I’d never been to Iceland, and since I never left the airport, I still don’t really think I’ve been to Iceland. But the airport’s architecture was pretty cool — modern Scandinavian.

We’d been warned that things in Norway were going to be very expensive, but I was shocked. Our taxi ride from the airport to our hotel in Oslo cost about 1150 Norwegian krone (NOK). Don’t want to do the math? I’ll just tell you. That’s about $200 — for a 25 minute cab ride. Ouch. Also, a Gray Goose & tonic in the hotel bar: 225 NOK. That’s $40. FORTY DOLLARS. Norway, by the way, is Europe’s wealthiest (full-sized*) country.

* not counting Liechtenstein or Luxembourg — but who counts them? I mean, come on. Liechtenstein is smaller than most American shopping malls, or some high schools in Texas.

But screw it. You’ve got to spend money to make money, right?! (Just keep repeating that to yourself with every transaction, and you’ll feel better, I told myself.) On to the pictures.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel in Oslo. This is where the winners of the Nobel Prize also stay, and it’s where they host the Nobel Peace Prize banquet every year. It was… damn nice. Our room was the fourth floor center room with the balcony.

It was our five-year wedding anniversary, and we were only ever going to be in Oslo for one night, so we stayed in a junior suite. (“Spend money to make money… spend money to make money…”) It was a stunning room.

Another shot of the room.

One of several orchids in the room.

And one more shot of the room, looking towards the french doors leading out to the balcony overlooking Karl Johans Gate (“gate” basically means “street,” and this is the main drag in Oslo).

AEJ steps out onto our terrace.

Looking towards the Royal Palace (the yellow building at the end of the street).

Let’s go sightseeing! Across from our hotel: the Norwegian parliament building – with kitty statues!

Two blocks away: the Norwegian National Theater – with another statue. They like statues in Norway.

Next stop: the Royal Palace.


When you’re this far north, the days are short, and even at noon, the shadows are long.

And cold. Bundle up, AEJ.

The changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the palace.

Hey! A trumpet!

I rented the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L lens for this trip. It’s a nice lens.

Here’s the Nobel Peace Center. Yay, peace!

The harbor.

The light and sky are amazing this time of year and this time of day (around 2pm).

This may be one of my favorite pictures that I’ve ever taken. Isn’t Oslo beautiful?!

Like I said: they like statues. And that light! With only about 6.5 hours of daylight, it means that about four hours of the day is “magic hour.”

I mentioned that it was cold, right? WHY DIDN’T I BUY THIS??? I would look awesome in this (and my whole body would have fit in a single leg of this thing).

Back at the room, and the sun was starting to set.

TV time! They run a lot of American shows on TV in Norway, but much of it is crap. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Okay, I guess. But King of Queens? Seriously? Like, for three episodes a day? The shows are all subtitled, not dubbed, which has to contribute to the amazing English-speaking skills of Norwegians. Every single person we met spoke absolutely perfect English — in spite of the American shows they were watching. (This probably explains why instead of “goodbye,” they all say, “yo homes, smell ya later.”) I assume they were also skilled at solving mysteries, since there was no shortage of episodes of “Murder, She Wrote.”

And the sun has set.

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, the Grand Café, where Henrik Ibsen used to eat every day.

One thing that’s not easy to do in Norway: follow a vegetarian diet. More on that in the next post. This was the one vegetarian offering on the menu. They called it vegetable lasagna, and it wasn’t so much a lasagna, but it was delicious.

My dinner was a local fish — but I was too sleepy to remember what kind. It, too, was tasty.

AEJ’s dessert, which was one scoop shy of looking completely phallic. I’m going to choose to believe it was intentional.

My dessert was a Norwegian traditional milk pudding dessert. I don’t remember the specific name, so I’m calling it “dessert face.”

We’d been told that breakfast buffet at the hotel was delicious. The next morning we learned that this was true.

AEJ started with a selection of pastries and an egg.

There were plenty of pastries.

And fruit.

And meats and fish.

Fresh-squeezed juice. It was great, but I had to wonder where they found such good oranges — in January. In Norway.

More sightseeing! I loved all of the areas for only pedestrians.

Don’t worry: we didn’t eat at McDonald’s, but it was worth photographing. I didn’t realize this when I took the picture, but a McWrap is 79 NOK. Um, that’s $14. FOR A WRAP AT MCDONALD’S.

That money goes to good use, though. This is what the furniture looks like at a McDonald’s in Norway. It’s… nice.

Fifty Shades of Grey was a pretty hot book, but it couldn’t touch Fifty Shades of Fanget.

We next visited the Oslo Cathedral – a church dating back to 1694.

Here’s the beautiful iron door.

The cathedral’s ceiling.

The very simple, clean interior.

Is that edible gold on Jesus’s head? (Turns out: no.)

I like this dude.

Walking around more stores near the cathedral, I saw this sign on a shop door. This is kind of my schedule, too.

I couldn’t decide whether I’d rather buy this guy…

… or this one, so I bought neither.


When I grow up, I want to be like these fur-coated ladies.

Need a sweater? Knit it your own damn self.

So that was Oslo.

Next stop: Trondheim, a 45-minute flight to the north!


Kevin W says

Beautiful pictures. I was in Finland last year (expensive) and Switzerland the year before that (super-expensive), but I think Norway wins! In Switzerland at least $18 USD gets you an entire value meal.

Maritt Wolfrom says

Love the pics! Especially the yarn! Do you ever actually take portraits of your wife where she is in focus? Or is she just always a lovely blur in your life? Thanks for sharing my family's homeland with me! Someday I'd love to visit but at those prices I may have to win the lottery!

Sarah Sielbeck says

I know you're busy, but when are you going to compose Norway part 2? While stationed in Germany I went to Goteborg, Sweden (Dec. '86) to pick up a Saab from the factory. It was unbelievably cold, so I can appreciate the kind of cold you're talking about. Cold enough to freeze the hairs in your nose! Enjoy your summer.

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