City Break to Oslo

Before moving to Denmark I don’t think my city break ideas would have included cities in Scandinavia but since moving here my horizons have been expanded beyond southern Europe. This summer we decided to spend a few days in Oslo, Norway’s beautiful capital city. Once I got over the disappointment the city isn’t ringed by mountains just high hills, I fell in love with it.

We were lucky enough to be given some Oslo Passes by Visit Oslo so we could enjoy everything the city had to offer. I would heartily recommend getting these passes as they offer free public transport in the city, entry into many of the museums and sights and discounts in various shops and restaurants (read more here).

So today I thought I’d share our highlights of the trip. We are into museums so this dominated what we chose to do.

We arrived  at our Airbnb in Grunerløkka at lunch time after taking the speedy Flytoget into the city. This is a trendy area a few tram stops from the main station and a perfect place to stay with plenty of cafes and restaurants but relatively quiet. We pottered around the area for a bit and then went back to the city to look at the famous Opera House. It was really hot so we paddled in the water right in front of the Opera House. I love to see buildings designed in a way that enables people to enjoy them inside and out and the Opera House is a perfect example of this. First up on our first full day was the Viking Ship Museum on the Bygdøy peninsula (if you have an Oslo Pass you can use the ferry to the peninsula for free). This museum has some of the world’s best preserved examples of Viking ships. Housed in a former church the presentation of the two ships is breathtaking. There is an amazing film screened all day on the walls and ceilings around on of the ships. I thought this was worth the entry to the museum alone. We had a quick lunch time pitstop of Viking hotdogs here before heading onto The Fram Museum, about a twenty minute walk further along the peninsula.

I will say I am not a massive maritime history fan but I found The Fram Museum fascinating. I didn’t really know what to expect so the fact the actual ship is housed in the museum (I believe the building was build around the ship) and you can go on board and experience what life would have been on one of the ship’s famous voyages was a lovely surprise. The ticket office lady directed us first to the small cinema to watch a film about the ship but I would recommend that you head straight to the ship itself. If you are travelling with children there is a great interactive section where you can experience what it would be like to pull a laden sledge across the Antarctic and hunt for your food.

We had a little bit of time left after this museum so we went into the Norwegian Maritime Museum. I don’t think we would have bothered if we’d not had free entry. This is a museum for real maritime history buffs. In hindsight we should have gone to the Kon Tiki Museum next door instead – may be next time.

Next day we spent the whole day in Norwegian Folk Museum. This is one of the oldest and largest open air museums in the world. We loved exploring the small town area especially the apartment building with each apartment from a different era from the last 100 years or so. The old fashioned sweet shop was also a big hit. We then took a horse and carriage ride around the museum and then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the farm yard area, watching Sami dancing, eating sweet flat breads called Lefse smothered in butter and being wowed by the wooden Gol Stave Church dating from around 1200. I think this museum was the highlight of our trip to Oslo.There is a lot to do in Oslo and as we were only there for two full days we had to narrow down what we could do. If we’d had more time I would have loved to have headed out to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower.

Practical Tips

One tip I will give you is not to bother with buying wine to drink whilst you are in Oslo. Due to strict licensing laws wines and spirits (but not beers) have to be sold from Vinmonopolet shops which are few and far between unless you are staying in the very centre of the city where there are four. Plus the price of an average bottle of wine is about three times that of the equivalent here in Denmark.

We flew to Oslo on Norwegian Air and as I booked in advance it was good value and only take less than an hour. Many people with better sea legs than us chose to use to do the Mini Cruise with DFDS and say it is a fantastic experience.

Children do have to pay on public transport even when travelling with adults.

You can use Ruterbillett app to buy transport tickets including 24 hour tickets (but not tickets for the ferry to Bygdøy peninsula) and RuterReise app to plan your journeys. There is also an app for the Oslo Pass.

I hope this has given you some inspiration to experience this beautiful city, I’m sure we will be back!

NB I was gifted three 24 Hr Oslo Passes for us to use to enjoy and experience the city. However this post is all my own opinions and thoughts.

 

Tips for a trip to Hamburg from Copenhagen

We spent three days in Hamburg over the winter break. The main reason was to take my son to Minatur Wunderland but we managed to explore a little of the city. Hamburg is about four hours from Copenhagen by train and if you book ahead of time you can take advantage of DSB Orange tickets which give you a massive discount on the fare. For the three of us it was around 1000dkk for the return ticket. It is worth noting that 45 minutes of the journey is on the ferry crossing from Rødby to Puttgarten. And at the time of writing you need to take your passports with you to get back into Denmark, although the police are targeting who they ask for papers from.IMG_3769

I thought I would share a few of the places we went to in Hamburg. This is in no way a definitive guide as the bulk of our time was spent in Minatur Wunderland.

So first this. Miniatur Wunderland is the world’s largest model railway and airport and it well worth the money if you have children. It is a lot more impressive than I imagined and they run behind the scenes tours, which are quite expensive but worth it. If you don’t speak German check with the desk downstairs about the English one. One point of advice is you will pass the cloakroom first where you can check in your coat for 50 cents a piece but there are lockers after this point where you can put your belongings in and you get your coin back. There is a fun cafe area where you can sit in train seats with tables to eat your lunch. The menu is standard German fare with sausages, schnitzel etc and is more than good enough.

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We ate out a far bit when we were in Hamburg. We enjoyed burgers in Hans im Gluck in the St Georg area (I believe there is a second one in another part of the city). We had a great Chinese meal in Herr He, an unassuming Chinese restaurant close to the main station (and it was recommend by another blogger). I had an enjoyable lunch (below) in Bullerei in the Schanzenviertal, a  restaurant run by a well-known German TV chef.IMG_3880We were delighted to discover that very retro (in an unintentional way) ice cream parlours are as popular here as in Berlin and well worth a calorie laden visit. My favourite is an After Eight Sundae or Becher (apologies for the strangely lopsided picture).IMG_3889Plus points

Coming from Denmark we found Hamburg pretty cheap for us for example a latte in a coffee shop in Hamburg was the equivalent of 15dkk.

Most people were able and willing to speak English.

The U bahn system was efficient and clean. I would recommend buying a day pass if you plan to do more than two journeys in a day. Also a child goes free with you on the pass but would need a ticket for a single journey if you were buying tickets per journey.IMG_3787

We stayed in the St Georg area close to the main station.  It was quiet and felt safe, although we didn’t go out later in the evening. This area used to be one to avoid but since 2007 it has been cleaned up and been quite significantly gentrified. There is a main street, Lange Reihe, here with the shops, cafes, restaurants, ice cream parlours, a pharmacy and a great Edeka supermarket – so everything you need for a short stay.

We used Airbnb as usual and stayed at this one which was a great apartment for a family, spacious, big beds, a bath and shower and very quiet and secure.

Anarchy in Hamburg

I have some kind of attraction to counter-culture places. I think that deep down I want to be an anarchist and visiting these places gives me a little bit of second-hand anarchy. When I visited San Francisco in 2007 I visited the popular counter-culture are of Haigh Ashbury and was a little disappointed that there was a Gap on the corner. I also visited Caffe Med, the meeting place of 1960s radicals in Berkeley. Whilst living in Berlin Tacheles was on my list and of course I am a fan of Christiania, the counter-culture capital of Denmark.

Last week we spent a few days in Hamburg and I had a morning to myself on the second day. I had asked around for the most interesting part of town to visit and Schanzenviertal was the place everyone mentioned. We stayed in an area of the city called St Georg, which was clean, tidy with almost zero graffiti and street art so my arrival in the Schanze was a surprise. IMG_3848 This is the area of the city that nurtured Hamburg’s alternative and counter-culture, although a lot of this seems to have been replaced by fancy boutiques and hipsters (who are not in my opinion alternative). It is still the place where there are anti capitalist riots and the windows of shops such as the make up giant MAC are regularly smashed. Signs of alternative culture exist in the street art and hand written signs welcoming refugees hung from apartment windows. Never the less the area on the face of it seems to be in the throes of gentrification and rising rents.IMG_3850 IMG_3854 There is however one relic of its more alternative past – Rota Flora, a semi-derelict former theatre on Schulterblatt. The theatre was squatted in 1989 and any attempts to change this have been met with violent protest. Rote Flora hosts art exhibitions and cultural events and is a meeting place for left-wing movements. The front of the building, as can be seen from my photos, is a space for political messages, currently the refugee crisis is taking centre stage.
IMG_3865 I had a good wander around but there didn’t seem to be any sign of people in the building and the front seemed to be blocked off by a barrier, which I later discovered is there as the building is being renovated (at least their website talks about the renovation project started in 2015).  I wanted to learn more about building and its current situation but my general enquiries in the area resulted in either complete lack of knowledge of the building’s existence (which seemed a bit sad) or people just said it was a squat. Nonetheless it was interesting having a brush with anarchy, it would have been good to have met some anarchists! IMG_3866 IMG_3867 IMG_3868 IMG_3869 IMG_3870

I shall write more about things to do in Hamburg later in the week.