Our first stop: the capital of Oslo.
Hilariously most of the things I'd heard about Oslo were negative, despite the highly positive reputation of Norway itself. Oslo, most said, was an incredibly boring city that had no sights or other things of wonder to see. I did have a friend who lived there for a few years with her boyfriend, and she seemed to like the city, but unfortunately she had recently moved back to California, so I no longer had her as a contact and she obviously didn't love it enough to stay long term (well, more than a few years).
To be honest, I have no idea why people would have said such a thing. My impression of the city was definitely positive. What we (Hong Kong P, German K, and I) all talked about as the tram whizzed around the city, was how much more alive and accessible it was in comparison to Helsinki. Perhaps this is why we had such an optimistic view of the city: we were comparing it to our own small town (well, relatively).
Funny thing is, Oslo is actually very comparable in size and scale. It has a population of slightly over half a million (a bit over 600,000 people) and though the actual surface area of the city is a bit bigger, it really didn't feel like it (like the main parts of the city were all walkable or otherwise accessible via tram or other easy public transportation).
Yet somehow, it felt lighter, easier, more friendly. No one said hi to us or otherwise made more contact, to lead us to that conclusion, but we felt it. This was a more open city. It just was.
After visiting Tourist Information we decided the first place we should go, while there was still daylight (since despite being more open they still had the problem of the sun setting around 3:30pm, like we did), was the outdoor statue park, Vigelandsparken. Apparently well worth the visit by any person asked, it was a little outside the main part of the city, to the northwest, accessible by a tram stop right outside its gates.
Well, alright then.
We got there with little problem (though admittedly we missed our stop and had to go back one stop in the other direction) and took our time browsing the statues (made out of various materials).
It was beautiful, but also absolutely freezing. For whatever reason it was -12C that day, and just standing out there, even in our full winter gear, was painful. The wind was slightly blowing, which made it worse. Taking off our gloves to take pictures didn't help. Only one of us had the new Nokia 920 (which allows you to use the full touch screen with gloves on), but even with gloves on, it was rough.
Needless to say, we didn't stay long. We hopped back onto the tram and took the long way back into the city to defrost a little. It took about an hour for the painful sensations to leave my fingers and toes. My nerve endings were so angry with me.
Next we stopped for several hours for lunch, but I'll cover that in another entry.