Norway Part 1 -ouch Its Very Expensive Here
Jun 14, 2016
|And so we head into Norway and our first destination, Oslo. But our first stop is on the border as we have to set up our auto toll payments. You have to register online and take a payment of £100 and each toll payment is deducted from this amount. You can manage your account online and they refund you if you leave the country before using up your credit (which I feel is highly unlikely but more on that later).
Within a few minutes of driving in Norway, a vehicle with a flashing blue light pulled us over. For once John wasn’t speeding and we had no idea why we had been stopped. It was actually a Customs Officer that came up to question us. Fortunately he spoke English and wanted to know where we had been and where we were going. He then asked us if we had any alcohol, John said we had two boxes of wine (we had six) and a bottle of whisky and a bottle of gin (we didn’t mention the Southern Comfort, Pastis and Port,beers etc etc). Lucky for us he accepted our word and when I asked if we were supposed to stop, he said no, its just we have very few English vans travel this way. He seemed happy we weren’t smuggling ciggies and booze and let us go on our way.
We camped at a sight very close to the city of Oslo and were able to get a bus in. What we didn’t know was that we were supposed to get a ticket at the campsite but the driver let us on for free. On the way home we got on the crowded bus without a ticket, but unfortunately for us an inspector got on two stops before we got off. We offered to pay for our tickets and he told us we should buy from the driver, we made our way to the front with the inspector behind us, but he then told us not to worry and next time to make sure we got our ticket. Well there wasn’t going to be a next time and we saved ourselves about £20, this was the only saving we are likely to make.
Our initial thoughts on Oslo were not overly impressive, it was a bit scruffy around Central Station, lots of beggars and bored street entertainers and litter. But we made our way to Karl Johans Gate where all the shops and street entertainers were, It has the Norwegian parliament and at the end of the road up the hill is the Royal Palace. Just off the street is also the Theatre and university buildings. We followed a side road which led to a rather ugly but striking building which was Radhuest, the city hall. Apparently it took a long time for the citizens of Oslo to accept the building with its dark brick walls and two towers either side of the courtyard. We continued until we reached the harbour where there were many ferries going out on boat trips. We had a good view of the fort which overlooks the harbour.
We then made our way to the Royal Palace, not unlike our Buckingham Palace with its windows and balconies. The flag was flying and the Royal family were present. We saw crowds of people lined up each side of the entrance and realised they were waiting for one of the Royal family to come out. A black car did leave followed by two security cars. A man sat in the back of the car and waved to the crowds, he may have been the King but within a flash he had gone. Not sure how long some of the crowds had waited, but I hope it was worth the wait. We watched the Guards parade up and down for a bit after the cars had left.
We visited the National Gallery and paid the pensioners price of £5 each to go in (yes they didn’t even question whether I was old enough to be a pensioner). As galleries go, it was quite interesting, the highlight being the room with Norway’s most famous artist, Edvard Munch who is famous for his painting “the scream” which was on display. This is the one that was stolen a few years back and found two years later.
The sun was hot now so we walked back to the harbour area and had a couple of beers for £16! We had a nice view of the harbour and people watched. We braved the cost of a second round, we noticed that most people pay for their drinks with a credit card, not surprising. Having spent the normal price of a meal on two rounds of drinks, we headed off to a Mcdonalds (we know how to live ) and that cost us a whopping £19!! At least we had the free trip on the bus back to the campsite to look forward to.
On the way back to the bus stop we strolled through some gardens where a band in the band stand were playing a Glen Miller tune. We stopped to listen for a while, its the first time I have ever seen a band actually in a park bandstand. Further on we could hear the drums of military bands and soon we came up to two different groups who were parading in opposite directions and had come face to face with each other. There was a bit of a stand off and then one group turned round and went back the way they had come. We followed the other band to our bus stop and found ourselves marching along with them. Not sure if it was the two drinks and the engaging sounds of the bands but we decided our first impressions of Oslo were a little premature and it has a lot more to offer than we expected.
The following day we left Oslo in the rain and headed for our next destination Kristiansand. It took us most of the day to get there and it rained most of the way, quite heavy at times. The only notable thing about the journey was the amount of boats moored on Oslo’s several marinas, hundreds of them.
The forecast for the following day was not too good either but we had a problem to deal with anyway. Over the last few days my knee had deteriorated (I have a suspected medial meniscus tear of which I am having an MRI scan to confirm when I return to the UK). But the knee over the last few days has swollen and despite treating with ice packs, Ibruprofen etc. it has got so bad I could hardly stand. In the end we decided to go to the outpatients hospital in the town. I was seen by a Russian doctor (from St Petersburg) who spoke a little English but had someone else in to translate. I had some fluid drained from my knee and a Cortisone injection and a prescription for some strong pain killers and strong Ibruprofen. Of course this treatment was not going to be free and I was expecting to be paying the equivalent of a couple of hundred pounds. Including the medication it came to under £50 which was a very pleasant surprise. Within a day, my knee and mobility has much improved but I have to take it easy for a few days.
I think also we may lose some weight whilst we are in Norway. Our supermarket bill which had no booze and was mostly fruit and veg, a bit of meat and dairy too, came to a staggering £185!! So we will be rationing our food intake over the next few weeks.
With the sunshine back and me feeling so much better, we moved on not too far to a lovely town called Mandal. We stayed here a few days and explored Lindesnes Fyr (the lighthouse), the most southerly point of Norway. Very scenic but very windy. The drive to Lindesnes Fyr was especially beautiful, lots of orange wooden boathouses lining the Fjord and rolling hills overlooking the water. The whole area felt peaceful and tranquil.
Our next destination took us to Preikestolen with the famous Pulpit Rock as shown in most of Norway’s tour guides, probably the most visited tourist spot and for good reason. But you will have to wait to hear about it in the next diary entry, the photos are pretty spectacular.