Friday, 27 February 2015

19th February - Oslo, Norway

It was an early flight to Oslo from Gatwick, and then a twenty minute train journey from the airport into the city centre. It was cold, just above freezing and as we journeyed from the airport we could see snow on the ground outside of the city. We walked to our hotel, eventually finding it amongst the smaller streets. We would be here for one night before flying up to Svalbard, a three hour trip north towards the north pole.

Once settled in we were off to find a bus tour I had Organised on the internet, but this turned out to be a complete mistake, as we were to find out. 

While we stood waiting at the cruise terminal we had a view looking across the fjord and around the waterfront.

As the cruise terminal was all shut up we began to think that maybe the buses would not come here, so we walked around to the next proposed stop  which was close to the Opera House. The opera house is a relatively new building built close to the water, similar you may think to the opera house in Sydney, but with out the shell like roof, and warm temperatures.

The colour of the stone and the slopes resembled the snow covered slopes of the surrounding hillsides, and contrasted with the glass reflections of the corporate buildings close by.

We asked a few questions and it quickly became apparent that there was no tour, we were advised it only ran between the months of May to September, and here was I holding a ticket purchased for the 19th February, we were not pleased

The area was undergoing road works, so we left the opera house and headed back into the centre of the city.  There had been little in the way of wildlife, but as we crossed a square in front of a church we could hear House Sparrows chirping from within a hedge.  There must have been well over 100 birds in all, mostly huddled inside the hedge, but some could be seen at the top, and a few feeding amongst the gravel.

Gravel was a feature of the paths and walkways, scattered to provide grip when there was snow, once the snow had melted the gravel was all that remained.

We walked down the main shopping area of Karl Johannes Gate, and found a cafe where we stopped to get something to eat and to have a coffee. Having been up since 4:00 on, it Seemed like the day what almost over.

After the coffee we walked down the main street and out towards the the Royal Palace that loomed in front of us at the end of gate.

Like all major capital cities Oslo was very multi cultural, but there was a large presence of Thai restaurants and shops.  I wondered at the time what the relationship between Thailand and Norway, and this was further reinforced when on the plane I noticed the only Asian destination Norwegian Air fly to is Bangkok.

I looked into this in more detail and found that around 15 000 Thais are currently living in Norway, and they constitute the 12th largest nationality group.  Bilateral relations between Norway and Thailand are solid and long-standing. Siam was one of the first countries to recognize Norway as an independent state in 1905, and diplomatic relations were established in the same year. There is a regular political dialogue on topics of mutual interest. After the tsunami in 2004, the bonds between Norwegians and Thais became even stronger.

Another feature is that there is a growing trend for Norwegian men to bring Thai brides into Norway. In fact, it is not only Thai brides, who admittedly are the Number 1 choice for Norwegian men, but also Russian women who come second, and Philippine women who are third.  One reason is that many men live in more rural areas in Norway where the choice of available women is very small, and rather than trawl the cities seeking out eligible partners, they prefer to look abroad to the more popular sources of foreign brides who are more 'traditional'. Norway has become one of the most progressive societies in the world with an emphasis on equality. Many Norwegian men openly admit that their choice in seeking a Thai wife is a vote against this trend.  With the increase in internet sites providing further access the trend is increasing.

The last part of the walk as we made our way up to the palace was through open parkland, and here we could See Hooded Crows and first winter Herring gulls on the surrounding grass.

As we approached the palace there were guards outside the buildings, the palace itself looked very similar to Buckingham palace and I joked that we were probably in time for the Changing of the Guard. My words in jest turned out to be very close to the truth because as we arrived the guards came out and started to prepare to change over duties!

We spent some time watching the ceremony, and walking around taking in the cold view down across the city.

The lamps and statue looking imposing against the dark grey sky

Finally we headed down and walked around the harbour and City Hall area, before heading back to the shopping area. I could imagine that in the summer with the long sunny summer days this is a very vibrant city, with street cafes and entertainers, but today it was cold, damp and dreary, and while there were people about they were all heading somewhere away from the weather.

At the National Theatre there are pools are used as ice rinks did, and where there are people there are gulls usually, even in the cold weather, and this Herring Gull was using an interesting perch.  It looks like it is used quite often

We walked a little further, and spent sometime in a few shopping centres before deciding to go back to the hotel for a rest, the early start now beginning to take its toll.

We headed back at for dinner at an early hour, as we quite tired and with an early start the next day we were looking for an early night.  

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