When you think you’ve booked a trip to Austria and arrive in Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport you know your trip has been planned by a man who hasn’t planned at all.
“You know we’re in Norway right?”
I threw my wife a patronising glance from over hunched shoulders pushing our luggage through arrivals.
“Ermmm, think I know where I booked Kris…” I replied.
She laughed and I looked over again.
“The pictures you showed me were of innsbruck Austria, this Gardermoen in Oslo”, she said.
I slow to a stop and shake my head, tutting in my “you’re about to look really - really silly way”. Now I should know my wife’s tones of conviction by now, she wasn’t giving me an opinion but a cold hard fact. I looked around the airport - then at the ticket - then at the flags dotted around then finally back at Kris.
“Shit - I could have sworn Oslo was in Austria?” I remarked.
“No darling, Oslo is in Norway” she replied, slapping my arm with her ticket.
“Don’t worry about it, we’re gonna have a good time regardless”, she continued.
That’s my wife for you. Pure practicality - end of.
We headed outside to look for transfers to our hotel, on the way we walked into an airport shop, and I grabbed two 500ml bottles of water out of the fridge and was making my way towards the cashier before Kris stopped me - phone in hand on calculator mode.
“You do know how much those cost right?”
We both observed a small pause.
“It’s water...” I replied in a shrug, moving past to pay.
“No - it’s 74 kroner” she responded.
I couldn’t tell whether her tone was one of excitement or shock.
“What’s that? 60p or something?” I said, not having a scoobedo about the exchange rate. We Brits are so f**king smug when it comes to that pound aren’t we! Norway will fix that sharpish - Read on!
“More like six pounds!” She replied.
“Six pounds for water? - No way!”
We both stood looking at each other dumb-struck - hoping this was just an airport thing. Out of principle we went with the good lord and thirst, and got on the bus to our hotel - sure local shops would put right what that shop had got so damn wrong.
Lets’ press on shall we!
The scenery on the way to our hotel was just as you would imagine from a any northern European country. Oslo and it’s surrounding areas are green, beautiful, pleasant, clean, well maintained and put together.
We arrived at our stop and began making our way to the hotel - and as normal we look about kitting out our room with water and snacks. We found a shop near by and split up. I walked around, phone in hand, my new found obsession comparing the price of every damn thing. I picked up two packs of Pringles and two - two litre bottles of water, and totted up the prices. Now bare in mind in the UK that selection would cost £4 maybe 5! Errrm…So why am I doing the calcs and it’s nearing £13 there? I double checked with the exchange rate again, all had been calculated correctly. I started to walk the isles in search of my wife - the implications of such trivial items being so expensive started to dawn on me, if water is this expensive, food-food must be a black hole of pounds and pence. I finally find her - peanuts and other stuff in hand and she looked at me with this smile - a smile I’d seen on her face before, and I can tell you now, it wasn’t one of Jimmy the cricket joy!
£30 down for two bottles of water, two tubes of Pringles, peanuts and a bag of sweets.
Oh deary, deary me - How long we here for again?
Anyhow - we got to our hotel and it’s absolutely beautiful - reception is helpful. We went up to our room and the first thing I do is jump on the phone to enquire why we have two separate beds? She goes on to tell us that all double rooms come with two single beds in Norway that can be pushed together if needs be. Make sense? No? You decide.
We looked around the hotel for a bit and discovered that they had drinking water station down stairs in the restaurant area, we take note and decide at £3 a bottle down the shops we’ll be making damn good use of it.
We got going to the city centre and at this point I’m dreading how much travel is going to cost! Now let it be known I’m no tight fisted git! But I am fond of uh good old budget when abroad and my old mate Brokeway (formally known as Norway) wasn’t having a penny of that. Like it or not my debit card was set to be Liberal and laboured whilst here!
We got to the train station and as you do - we begun faffing about with the ticket machine, selecting every ticket type except the return tickets we needed.
Cue the helpful local (The first and wouldn’t be the last)
The tickets were actually reasonably priced - the train stations and trains looked quite dated though, but were uber clean. The public were polite and considerate, miles away from what it’s like in London.
We were beginning to feel like we were on holiday now, sat relaxed, taking in the scenery as we travelled to Oslo city centre. Nearing our stop, we got a bit confused about which one to disembark at, luckily a Norwegian women over heard us conferring over the tube map and offered to help. There we were thinking she’d merely tell us when to get off, but she actually got off with us, walked us out of the station and pointed us in the right direction of the road we needed before going back down to the tube to continue her journey home. Wow! I know right…
Kindness level 100!
Hunger had begun to side step the most expensive Pringles and sweets we’d ever ate. We decided we’d play it safe and head for the golden arches - good old reliable McDonald's - Klingenberggaten to be exact (No I didn’t fall asleep on my keyboard - that’s it’s location). I mean, nothing bad happens at Micky Ds right? Of course the prices are same the world over no? As we approached I begun to devise a contingency (stingy) plan to crack Norway and her little pound demeaning problem - Ya see, I figured - 4 x reasonably priced Filet-O-Fish meals a day, two for me two for her, one at lunch, one at dinner would = full bellies and a happy wallet, the only problem I could foresee is that she’d never go for it :( Me? I’m a dustbin at the best of times and could do Micky Ds for weeks Mr Oslo - weeks!!!!! Let alone a weekend… make up for all those times mum said no…
We were stood side by side looking at the menu and my heart just sinks, the first thing I saw was a big mac meal for £22! Contingency plan in absolute tatters, I didn’t even bother looking for the Filet-O-Fish. Kris just laughed and I smiled, praying her stomach could hold out till I figured out this crazy new world I had brought us to! We have a little discussion and deicide if we’re going balls to wall we may as well get something fulfilling. We Googled the nearest Thai restaurant, got to it and decided it looked uh tad shabby - so we ended up going for an Indian. ‘The Great India Restaurant’ was OK. Service was good - the food portions were reasonable I suppose, the price, eye wateringly expensive. We shared a starter, had a main and a single drink each - which came up-to £75! :(
No really, how long are we staying for again?
Bellies semi filled, we explored a little bit then headed back to the hotel.
We opened a bottle of wine and drank over jokes and conversation about *Drum roll please* You guessed it - the cost of living in Norway!
One day down, two to go.
We headed down for breakfast which was included in our hotel package, plan was to eat a strong meal and take rolls, fruit and whatever else away with us to put in our rucksacks for lunch. Our trip to Austria which was actually Norway - unbeknown to my wife had become an exercise in stinting and survival. Before we left out, we filled our bottles of water and packed those into the sack as well.
We had brought 2 x 48 hour city pass for attractions, some of the main ones being a boat trip up the famous river fjord to the Fram museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Norwegian Maritime Museum, The Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum all located on the Bygdøy peninsula.
I know **MUSEM OVERLOAD**
If forced to chose one of the above over the rest, It would be The Fram - you get a full cinematic experience documenting the trials and tribulations of the Fram (a great ship) and her many crew and captains made famous for her ground breaking design and most notably her numerous attempts at reaching the North and South poles. The museum is fully interactive with loads of things to push, pull and throw. Once you’ve finished up in the museums you can walk around Bygdøy peninsula and sight see more classical - authentic Norwegian housing structures and churches.
After having a really good time, we get back to main land Oslo at around four o’clock, a lot later than expected and our bodies had all but burnt through the fruit and cheese baps we’d taken from our breakfast buffet.
When you have to constantly watch your pockets it can begin to take the shine off a holiday. We just weren’t use to living like that any-more, back home we wouldn’t even think twice about buying a chocolate bar, sandwich, sweets or a McDonald’s meal. Norway had humbled an already humble man further, reducing my spending age to about 12.
We begun our search for dinner, a process we would normally enjoy when ever abroad, a chance to try something new and fresh - not there Johnny - no-siree-bob! You see, Mr and Mrs Falconer were hunched over their phones rucksacks at the back Googling little cute terms like ‘cheap eats Oslo’, ‘cool places to eat on a budget in Norway’, ‘How much does a kidney fetch in northern Europe?’. We conferred over a few that looked as if they had potential but the drive to find lower priced restaurants consumed me - let’s have it right guys, paying almost £100 for two main meals no thrills is actually absurd!
Anywho - out of nowhere, two random guys ask if we’re okay - they probably asked as we had been stood there for a while looking at our phones wrapped with the signature bum bag at the waist, rucksack at the back look - just screaming tourist.
One of the first things I ask is how the hell they could live in such an expensive country? They explain that wages obviously reflect how things are priced out there and boy - O - boy was he right! I would later go on to discover that the lady who tended to our room earned just shy of £25’000 a year! A new police officer, nurse or retail manager in the UK barely got near that amount annually.
Forget the pretty bird towel antics, house keeping needed to be leaving us some paper plane pinkys.
I eventually get round to the real burning question, the best place to eat on a budget? They both suggested a vegan Asian buffet called ‘Krishnas Cuisine’ in the ‘Colosseum Senter’. A life line!
We got directions and got on track. Place was basic, but the food was good, the prices reasonable. I’d like to say the all you can eat cost £35 each, a little steep, but when a big mac meal is weighing in at £25 it is what it bloody well is. We waddled back to the hotel cumbersome, our stomachs filled till the brim with chickpea curry - various rice types, nan and delicious deserts. A small victory for the Falconers - however, our victory would be short lived as the next day would be my wife’s birthday and I have a rule, I don’t care what it is, I pull out all the stops on dates of such importance.
On our way to Norway (formally known as Austria) we had brought a bottle of champagne in our luggage to toast my wife’s B-day, but unfortunately our luggage was a little over weight, and the champagne became a deciding factor - of course the lady over seeing our troubles could have given us a touch (Let us off) but decided she’d go with The One Who Shall Not Be Named - and even had the audacity to say “sometimes customers can ah.. ya know - gift things to airport staff.” So I did. I walked over to another member of staff and handed it to them “Enjoy your evening” I said. She was so thankful. You should have seen the nasty ones face!
I thought, ‘F’ it! I’ll get another bottle on the other side. Unbeknown to us the champagne we thought was expensive in arrivals was a handful of penny sweets compared to how much a bottle would cost in Norway.
Back at the hotel my wife goes up and I have some enquires for reception. I wanted to know whether the hotel had bottles of house wine - she goes beneath the counter and pulled out a small, miniature sized bottle of wine. Now the fact I had placed two empty plastic bottles on the counter - ready to be re filled (because who’s paying £80 for water?) might have given her reason to produce them. Now at first I was going to say “I need a normal size bottle” but something inside said be easy child, spare your self the blush and ask how much? “Twenty what? For that!” She laughed and I hauled my ass up-to our uber beautiful room (at least we had that ay?) As my wife slept I began Googling things to do on her day but got sidetracked into searching for stuff like the average cost of things in Oslo - best bit of comedy I had read in a while, trust me - no wonder there were no visible drug addicts or husky humans - contraband and excess eating came at an extraordinarily heavy premium. I fell asleep without a plan and woke knowing that my card was going to be ridden like a rodeo donkey! “Happy birthday baby!” I gave her her gift and card and we had a wonderful breakfast we laughed and joked as we always do. I love my wife man…We get on each others nerves at times but that’s life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Last day - Birthday
We decided we were going to make use of the remainder of our city passes and visited the world famous ‘Nobel Peace Centre’ (one of the few attractions open on Sunday in Oslo ). Let’s just say we weren’t disappointed - we spent at least two hours there. Very futuristic and had beautifully put together displays, with highly informative - digital information plaques. The centre covered everything from diligently explaining the origin of various conflicts across the world, to a room full off interactive - LED lit, animated pictures of every single Nobel peace prize winner to date. They have images that will blow you away, information about mankind that will probably vex, but ultimately inspire thought within you. I highly recommend the centre to anyone visiting Oslo. Once out, we made our way to The Royal Palace and found somewhere to sit and eat our packed lunch. We spent the next few hours exploring the city in greater depth which is pretty much all you can do on a Sunday as everything is closed. I love this about Scandinavian countries, that they still kept their tradition as their foundation and core. They don’t break their core or budge for anything, now I believe all people of the earth should be allowed to live anywhere they please, but in saying that, I also believe the classical culture of a country must be up held or we end up with countries without distinct identities and how boring would that be. The evening had begun to draw in and we decided we’d buy a cake, and a bottle of something, head back to the hotel, order take out, play a bit of music and chill for my wife’s birthday. Sounds like a plan right? Well let the games begin.
On the way back to the train station I got to Googling places to get a bottle of whatever in our radius but kept coming up against a brick wall - eventually I was like sod it, we have several shops near where we were staying and was sure they had drink there. Fast forward, we got back to our district and the bloody shops were all closed. We go to reception and ask where we could go and it turns out you can go to Ermmm! NOWHERE! Because my good friends and readers - the alcohol Monopoly closes at 6 pm Monday - Friday in Norway , and 8pm On Saturdays, with the cut-off for buying booze even earlier on a Sunday at 3pm, and can only be bought from Vinmonopolet outlets. Well guess who bought two Fisher-Price sized bottles of wine at £25 each from reception? You guessed it - Me!
We headed up to our room with our minuscule - fun sized bottles of wine and begin looking about ordering food. My wife loves pizza so we start down that path. I begun looking for two for ones from Dominos and there is none, no deals, no discounts, nothing. Just a single pizzas for absolutely astronomical prices. I started to Google local independent pizza pedlars and like the big boys they have no deals or discounts etc. I end up paying £40 for for a single XL pizza -no sides - no frills just the pizza. We had a good night all the same and slept well knowing that tomorrow we were headed back to good old Blighty where things were sensible (Cheaper). We packed and cleaned up the room and Jumped on our shuttle bus back to the airport. Now let it be known we enjoyed our time together in Oslo, no doubt about that - loved the people and the attractions, but that exchange rate was working our pockets over, ain’t nobody got time for Oslo’s games, no time at all. Forget Dubai or Monaco - if you want to show me how big your purse is, survive for two weeks in Norway and come back without touching lint!
At the airport we brought a half vegetarian baguette for £17!!!! Merely bread with sliced vegetables
and cheese - I didn’t even flinch as I knew all these wild shenanigans would be over in three hours tops and I knew exactly where I was headed once I touched down on the UK’s green and pleasant land.
On the way back we sat in unusual silence - a precursor to the carnage that would ensue. We parked up in Asda’s car-park - grabbed a trolley and walked through the sliding doors with a glint in both our eyes. You would have thought it was Christmas the amount of booze, sweets and general bad shit we had loaded up! We walked the aisle, strident in our endeavours. We paid and barely touch the thirty pound mark (By the way our low prices for bad stuff is the reason why we are a nation of alcohol abusing fatties - and Norway isn’t, just saying ;) . We sat in the car and set about our sweet edibles as if we were on one of those televised off-the-wall eating competitions - sweet wrappers and muffin crumbs going left right and centre. We sat there for a while in the wake of our unofficial protest to Oslo’s freakishly high prices and began to Google / tot up what all of that trash would’ve cost in Norway…Real knee slapping stuff. We got home, popped open the Cava and ordered a two for one pizza deal from Dominos, with… wait for it….two sides - grand total £25!!!! - Don’t mind if I do mate!
To conclude… Oslo is a wonderful city - super clean - people are helpful and polite, daytime entertainment is okay if you like a lot of history (I do, so I loved it), but can imagine children would get board very quickly. Now you know this was coming. Value for money - flights and accommodation booked from the UK are actually very reasonable, but once you get there be prepared to spend - spend - spend those pounds. Bare in mind - the cost of living in Norway is 51.79% higher than in United Kingdom, so Prices for everyday things there are outrageously high to us Brits. Let’s have it right, when you feel like you’re about to purchase a big ticket item (like a £45 pizza) every-time you want to eat, it just isn’t cool and can put a slight dampener on the trip so be prepared. Saying that, I still haven’t finished with Norway yet - I plan to return and see the Northern lights one day - but this time I’ll be ready.
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