Mamma Mia, here I go again
My my, how can I resist you?
The television in the hotel room is on when I come into the room; and it’s on the hotel information channel. The sound is provided by, I think, P4 - the commercial radio station that occupies a floor of the same building as the hotel. And, to welcome me to Oslo in Norway, I’m being regaled by Scandinavia’s most successful pop group (I’ve just made that fact up, it’s probably not true).
I’m in Oslo for a presentation to the Norwegian radio industry. It’s cold(ish), and drizzling; but the view outside the hotel is of the Norwegian Parliament, a typically Scandinavian building which, at night, is lit up inside and out - allowing you to see, inside, a beautiful ceiling with plenty of gold leaf and artwork.
You put the boom boom into my heart
You send my soul sky-high when your lovin’ starts
It’s 3.15am. I know this for a fact; because the clock on the television is telling me - the television with around eight Norwegian channels on it, and CNN, and, um, that’s it. And the reason why I’m being played music from the 1980s, when George Michael liked women, is that my hotel room overlooks a sports bar which is clearly so unimpressive that it doesn’t appear in my Book Of Places To Go In Oslo. And I’m listening to Wham because it’s kicking-out time at aforementioned sports bar. Drunken Norwegians are rolling out onto the road, narrowly avoiding taxis who parp good-naturedly at the drunken idiots (all, incidentally, drunken idiots wearing a hell of a lot of coats and scarves).
I see your glittering blue eyes
You look at me with a smile
It’s a computer fantasy
It is waiting for you and me
Well, I’ve done my presentation, which went well; I’ve met some interesting people who might be very useful in a few things I’m trying to do, and I’m now sitting in the Oslo Microbrewery (which has an altogether more impressive-looking name in Norwegian). A contact of mine called Joakim who works in Stockholm said to me last week that Oslo was the most expensive city in the world except for Rekjavik; and given that I’ve just paid 3 pounds 40 for a half of beer, I’m beginning to believe him.
The music isn’t Trans-X’s lost hit of the 1980s, ‘Living on Video’, but something very like it which is playing on the speaker system. Occasionally, we hear something a little more like the Art of Noise. It’s a little bizarre.
But, I enjoy a porter (an excellent copy); an IPA, which is not quite bitter enough for my liking, a beer called a Steamer (a beer style popular in Norway in the 1900s, and the ancestor of Anchor Steam Beer, which was actually too bitter for my taste), and then another porter. Halves only, at 34NOK each, which I’ve been roughly translating in my head to 3 pounds 40, to discover that Google thinks it’s actually 2 pounds 69 which is rather better news even if still daylight robbery for a half.
Anyway. On my way here, I visited a cash machine: never a good idea when you have a hazy grasp of the currency. The lowest standard amount it would give me is 5,000 NOK - that’s £396 for heaven’s sake. I found the button to only give me 600 NOK, though, so disaster nearly averted.
I also did a wander round town. I saw the gaudily neon-decorated big tower that apparently does traffic reports outside Oslo central station. I saw SpaceWorld, another excellent addition to Flickr’s collection of Worlds. And, the most bizarre thing, I saw one of the government’s wine shops. You can apparently buy beer at any strength you like - even Belgium’s 12% stuff - but the government doesn’t trust you to cope with wine safely, so insists on running a wine retailer. Bizarre.
Oslo, I discover, was actually called Christiania, after the Danish-Norwegian King, Christian IV rebuilt the city after a fire in 1624. It was only re-christened Oslo in 1924, which means there are people still alive who remember their home town being called something different. For me, that’s a really odd concept. And I didn’t realise that Norway was only made independent from Sweden in 1905 (in case you’re wondering, the Danes lost interest in Norway in 1814). The Norwegian country is therefore much younger than I thought.
Addresses are peculiarly Asian in Norway. The address of the Microbrewery was Bogstadveien 3, even though the actual pub itself was down a little side road. They appear to name the buildings after the most important street; it’s difficult to get lost here as a result, with street names all over the place.
After the wander today, I quite like Oslo. It’s not as oddly shy as Copenhagen, with it’s hidden-away shops half in cellars. While I didn’t see much of Stockholm, Oslo seems more open and comfortable with itself.
Tomorrow I’m off sight-seeing; and a large amount of this will be based on Vikings. They appear to be pretty big here.
The next day…
I’m deciding that I quite like Oslo.
Went for a wander this morning down to the old docks, then got a bus to the Viking Ship museum, to see three stunning Viking ships they’d dug out of a burial mound. Impressive.
Then, a quick walk to possibly the most bizarre museum I’ve seen - I think it was the Norwegian Folk Museum, but whatever it was, it was a large area within this small village, given over to houses and buildings transported there from loads of other places within Norway. I have pictures to upload of wooden buildings made in the 1700s: all the better since it was slightly drizzling but even then, the smell from the wood in the wooden buildings was wonderful.
Back via the bus and the tram, which accellerates tremendously up and down the winding streets here; and then to a pub back in the old docks called ‘Beer Paradise’ which manages to hide its extensive bottled beer menu and only serve a few rather dull (and over-cold) beers on tap. That was, now I think of it yesterday, the main problem with the Oslo Microbrewery, in that the beer was hellishly cold.
Then, to an internet cafe called, rather amazingly, Saga, to check in to the airport and discover how to get there. Seems that I’ll be taking a train from the National Theatre train station at 8.20am.
So, that’s exciting, then.