Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
We caught the train to Oslo from Bergen and arrived at 14:30 in full sunshine. We had booked a family room at Scandic Byporten because it was competitively priced, includes breakfast, has bunk beds for our 2 children and the hotel is next to the central railway station. We were upgraded to a larger room and it was very comfortable.
We bought food for dinner from the Meny supermarket in the shopping centre next to the hotel and railway station and set off to walk beside the Akers River (Arkerselven). I had a bad feeling straight away because of the smell of urine, the run down look of it and the number of people who were loitering. A got a fright when I saw a group of young men lounging around without shirts on the grass, one was holding out his arm while another injected him with a syringe. I immediately wanted to get my children out of there but instead we walked further along a sat in a nice grassy, semi-shaded park beside the river and ate our dinner.
We watched a family kayak past then walked a different route back towards the station. We passed junkies, one man wearing a denim mini skirt and saw a not-so glossy side to Oslo. No wonder Oslo has the reputation as the Crystal Methamphetamine capital of Europe.
With relief we reached the respectable part of Central Oslo and walked past the cathedral to the Storting (parliament house). It was the first Friday of Ramadan and I saw many hijabs, it was also a Friday after a public holiday and there were mostly foreigners and tourists in the streets, presumably most of the ethnic majority Norwegians had done the same as my colleagues and gone to their hytta (cabin) for a 4 day weekend.
We walked on past buskers and beggars and lots of tourists and nicely presented Ronani woman in clean long skirts and blouses selling magazines, which is a contrast to the Romani women in Trondheim who are dirty and sit outside major buildings begging despite the almost perpetually cold weather.
Our children passionately wanted to go directly to the hotel room, not to pass Go and not to collect $200. I jollied them along hoping that a walk and some time in parks would make them feel good after an early start and a long train journey. I think that it was the right choice but there was certainly a lot of complaining.
I have been to Helsinki and it’s not a fair comparison because it snowed while we were in Helsinki whereas in Oslo it was sun-drenched. Weather does affect impressions even when one is wearing the right clothing! I liked Helsinki but it had a slightly austere feel to it and the people were more reserved (though welcoming when we spoke to anyone). Oslo (except east of the railway station) has a rolig (calm) and coselig (cosy) feel to it. Helsinki had amazing design shops that made me lust for beautiful consumer goods whereas Central Oslo mostly had chain shops.