Thursday, 30 October 2014

Svalbard-Spitsbergen, a step before the North Pole; Tripreport Part 1

While others go to Tenerife or Algarve for summer holiday, we decided to go to the North Pole, given the weather is sort of mild and if it's sunny, the 24 hours sunshine would be priceless.

After a 1 day stopover in Oslo, we headed up to Svalbard's biggest settlement and its capital: Longyearbyen.

From Oslo, Norwegian Airlines has regular flights to go to the most northern settlement on Earth. 

Map London to Svalbard
The planned route to Svalbard

Svalbard is under Norwegian sovereignty according to the Svalbard Treaty. And thanks to the Svalbard Act which was signed by around 45 countries, it let us go there without a visa. So a map, a passport, some sort of travel book and you are all good to go there to explore this fascinating arctic archipelago.
Passport, map, spitsbergen travel book
Passport, Map, Travelbook are all you need!

Soon after we got on board and left behind Oslo, at around 11pm in the night...we glimpsed the...erm...yes the Sun! It seemed the Sun was going down, but on the contrary it was just rising on the horizon until in its full shine and accompanied us on our way to Longyearbyen over the clouds.
Sun rising midnight Norway
The midnight Sun

Clouds above Svalbard
Clouds above Svalbard

After some 3 hours later finally we could not only see the clouds, but the sharp peaks of Svalbard's mountain ridges started emerging in front of our eyes, through the clouds.
Mountain ridges above Svalbard
Mountain ridges above Svalbard

....and the valleys with all the mountains' melted water uniting into one main river rushing to the bay. And as you can see we thought, that we won't be able to see the neverending Sun as it was quite cloudy and grey.
Landing to Longyearbyen
Landing to Longyearbyen

We landed and when the chilli arctic wind blew into our face, we realised maybe we were a bit underdressed for this northern point of the Earth.
People who know me well, know that I can't just wear North Face, Columbia and Merrell or other clothing designed for the cold weather... (I will put up a post as well about the clothing we had with us, because even there peeps love fashion and colours over the dull grey/black/blue combination)
Longyearbyen Airport
Longyearbyen Airport

We stayed in one of Svalbard's not many hotels. We chose Radisson Longyearbyen which was in the perfect place with great people (guests and personnel)
Our room in Radisson Longyearbyen Hotelroom
Our room in Radisson Longyearbyen

...and the view from some of the rooms....was mesmerizing...Look at those snow covered peaks in the background.
Radisson Hotel Room View Svalbard snowy mountains and logged house
Radisson Hotel Room View Svalbard

To be continued...with our first day and what to do if you are on a budget trip!

Friday, 10 October 2014

A day spent in sunny Oslo; the capital city of Norway

Our journey to the 'North Pole' started early at Heathrow Terminal 5, from where we flew with comfortable British Airways to Oslo.

Welcome to Oslo - land of the beauties!
I say land of the beauties because not only it is full of with natural beauties from creeks, through scenic highways to fjords but we concluded that the most beautiful people on Earth also are the inhabitants of Norway! Men and women! Kids, adults and elderly people are all has that beauty gene in them! Though a little bit it seemed they all just came off the conveyor belt, because everyone seemed to be blond, with the smoothest tanned skin, blue eyes, kind smile on their faces, they are all tall nordic warriors (so...just like my love from Berlin: Udo) and we have not seen any overweight people. Maybe Norway should be our new home, we were dreaming of!

Welcome to Oslo sign at the airport
Welcome to Oslo

Edvard Grieg's portait on the tail of an airplane
Famous Norwegians: Edvard Grieg

Once landed, as opposed to the book's information: It turned out that the cheapest, quickest and most comfortable way to the town itself was the train, which was 180NOK return and it goes in every half an hour.
Funny enough the airport's 'lost luggage' space was already full, thus we were not able to leave our small cabin bags there, however as we found, Norwegians were always so helpful, we were told that in the central station it is even cheaper and easier.

We just missed the train, so we had time for a cigarette in front of the airport. While we were there my friend and I already noticed that everyone is extremely handsome and beautiful!

In less than 30 minutes we arrived to the Central Station which is basically next to the new (2008) Opera House in the waterfront Bjorvika district.

Opera House entrance, Oslo, Operaen
Opera House entrance, Oslo
This district has many newly built buildings and it reminded me of the area around the O2 Arena in London with its modern constructions.
The huge Opera House, which in these past few years, since it's opened, has acted as a tourist magnet offering great views from the rooftop, (which is accessible for free), lies on the waterfront.
In front of the building itself usually some kind of photo exhibitions takes place every now and then. We also had the chance to see one of them.

Photo exhibition in front of Opera House , Oslo Bjorvika
Photo exhibition at Opera House, Oslo
Photo exhibition in front of Opera House , Oslo Bjorvika
Photo exhibition at Opera House, Oslo
If you are there don't only go to the rooftop. Go inside! If you have time, do the 50 minutes tour! If you don't have time anyway just go in and take a look at this great design! The grandiose interior is a good example of a harmonious use of organic wood and manmade plastic. The soft wooden interior is in great contrast with the cold white surface.

Oslo Opera House Interior design wooden and plastic
Interior of Oslo's Opera House
Oslo Opera House Interior design wood plastic grandiose
Interior of Oslo's Opera House
Photo exhibition inside the Oslo Opera House, Ballerinas
Photo exhibition inside the Oslo Opera House
Oslo Opera House Interior design grandiose window
Interior of Oslo's Opera House, see the grandiosity of the inner space?
It was boiling! 30C, no shades around, no clouds on the sky and the sun was almost burning! If I didn't experience it myself I would not have believed this. It was not great either that I wore long black jeans and ankle boots :) thinking ahead for the much colder northern area where we were about to go.

Guards at Akershus Fortress  and Castle, Oslo
Guards at Akershus Fortress

My friend, Ori has been to Oslo twice already, so he knew his way around and after I told him what I wanted to see, he took the initiative. He was my tour-guide for the day! After the Opera House we started walking towards the Akershus Fortress and Castle. We reached in couple of minutes where the trees gave some shelter against the strong sun, but not to poor guard. He was standing their in his warm uniform...on the sun without any shade, carrying a heave rifle...hmmm I would have wanted to be in his place. But what happened in the next moment was surprising; a female guard arrived and brought a glass of water to the other one. He drank it, and then the girl went away. How nice to make sure their wellbeing.

Akershus Fortress and Castle, Oslo
Akershus Fortress  and Castle, Oslo
Akershus Fortress  and Castle, Oslo

From the fortress I finally had a good view at the city from above! It faces Aker Brygge, which usually is a busy place and meeting point for many having many shops, restaurants and cafes on the waterfront.

View (Aker Brygge) from Akershus Fortress  and Castle, Oslo, boats in the bay
View (Aker Brygge) from Akershus Fortress  and Castle, Oslo

Talking about cafes, we also decided that we needed something to keep us awake! Bear in mind I have only slept 1 hour since Thursday 5:45am...and now this is Friday afternoon!!! On our way to the Royal Palace we took a small road because my friend loves the famous 'Moods of Norway' shop. I must admit their stock is really nice and trendy.

Moods of Norway logo

Tadahhh...just next to one of its kind, there was a Cafe, where we could sit, relax, talk, listen to this strange language and phantasise about the big trip to up north!

Sonny Angel Dolls, Oslo design shop

Spider shop sign in Oslo street
Spider shop sign, Oslo

Kaffebrenneriet Cafe in Oslo the Front of the shop
Cafe in Oslo

Kaffebrenneriet Cafe in Oslo The menu with prices
The Menu and prices

Kaffebrenneriet Cafe in Oslo, pastry and coffee selection
Selection of pastry and coffee

Alright, we were full of with energy again to walk through Karl Johans gate to reach the Royal Palace. This is the main street of Oslo, the main artery of Oslo. On one side many cafes and restaurants tempt the onlookers to enjoy a coffee or maybe a light salad, meanwhile people can watch the others passing by on this busy street.
Opposite, parks and Oslo's famous landmarks; the Parliament Building or the National Theatre, statues, an pool and an interesting fountain can be found and more cafes.

Oslo Street view

Oslo Centre with Freia sign

Karl Johans gate, Oslo's main street

Karl Johans gate

Karl Johans gate with Cafes

Oslo, Norwegian Parliament Building

Karl Johans Gate, fun fountain

The Royal Palace, just like in London, is the actual residency of the royal family, but visitors can also enter and go through the building via a guided tour. The surrounding gardens are free to enter, where one can have a nice afternoon nap or just sit out next to the pond, read a good book, listen to the birds or watch the handsome boys playing football or some other sport.

Royal Palace in Oslo

Karl Johans Gate leading to the centre of Oslo

Royal Palace's door, Oslo

Royal Palace Park, Oslo

Royal Palace Park, Oslo

Oslo is small compared to London. Everything is close to the other thing, so we could just walk further and on the other end of the park we found ourselves in the National Gallery.
Because we only had one day here....we could only rush through the museum to go to the main attraction of the museum. The scream by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. I think the painting is almost or as famous as Mona Lisa by DaVinci or the Sunflowers by Van Gogh and this should be in the top 10 art that people should see! I know this picture since I was a kid and I knew if I am in Oslo, I must see it! Ori knowing that I love art, looked at me strangely when we literally rushed through the museum to get to the Munch room but unfortunately we could not take a photo of it. In the end it is bigger than I imagined. I stood in front of it for ages... checking every square centimetres and layers, technique of the painting.

Edvard Munch: The scream

National Gallery, Oslo

Painting at National Gallery, Oslo

Don't make the same mistake what we did! If you have one day in a town, knew how much time you will need in different places and know how long it would take you to get there!
Google map says 15 minutes? Add another 5 to it, as for sure you will not just run through the street in the same way you would do on a familiar street from the place you know by heart. You will look around, you might take photos, you might need information and have to stop people. You might just talk to strangers etc. So always add some more time to that!

And if there are places on your list, that closes at a certain time? Make sure you will start with them? I heard an Oslo visit is not full without going to the Viking Ship Museum. I wanted to go to there but by the time we arrived it was closed. So leave Frogner Park for later, it is open later too, unlike museums that have the  strict opening hours. Always check this before you go to the city!

After the disappointment owing to the closed Viking Ship Museum, we were walking around the City Hall and finally took a tram and rode to Vigeland Park within Frogner Park.

City Hall, Oslo

City Hall, Oslo

Radhausbrygge, Oslo

Majorstuen, Oslo

Vigeland Park, named after the Norwegian sculptor: Gustav Vigeland. 212 individual sculptures of Vigeland line up in this park, leading to his main monumental creation, which itself has more than 100 figures.
Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Frogner Park/Vigeland Park, Oslo

Other things to see is the various design shops! Just like many thousands or millions, I am fond of the Scandinavian interior design style. If you also love it then you will find yourself in heaven in Oslo :) from cheap but good quality shops to unique designer items.

British design in Oslo

Moomin mugs, Oslo

And for clothing check out the aforementioned Moods of Norway:
Moods of Norway, Oslo

As a kid I had lots of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse magazines...but I think they are not sold in Hungary anymore. It was a pleasure to see them in Norway :)

Donald Duck magazines, Oslo kiosk

Thanks for reading!

To be the North Pole!


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