The Norwegian and I apartment searched last winter/spring for about four months before finally buying our current two bedroom apartment. We primarily looked at three different areas of Oslo: Majorstuen (the downtown area that is slightly smaller and cuter than the actual city center located one metro stop southeast), Skøyen (a neighborhood in the west part of Oslo that is primarily known for its huge train station), and Smestad (a western Oslo neighborhood two stops from Majorstuen).
Our apartment, located at Gullkroken 5, is approximately halfway between Smestad and Skøyen, but definitely closer to Smestad. I love that we are a 10 minute walk from the metro and a major bus stop, but if we walk the opposite way out of our building we are a 10 minute walk from the tram, and another 5 minutes to the major train station of Skøyen (the airport express train comes there, which is super convenient!).
In a few weeks we will have lived here for one whole year! We bought the apartment in May 2012, but did not move in until August after an entire summer of renovating. I have been thinking a lot lately about how much I love our neighborhood (I love Oslo in general and I am sure I would be happy in a lot of neighborhoods), so I decided to make a list to share!
1. The nature. It occurred to me on my walk home from the metro the other day that I am almost always kind of mimicking my girl scout days by investigating and wondering about all of the nature around me. I am constantly seeing bushes, flowers, small bugs or frogs, birds, berries etc. that I have not seen before or at least not very often. Oslo is this wonderful mix of city and country, as keeping the outdoors natural and beautiful is really important to Norwegians, as a whole.
First of all, wild raspberries abound here and I do not know why other humans or animals have not already eaten them by the time I get to them. Several times a day I find a bush like this (literally on my path, I am not even veering from the route I take to the metro):
and snatch about five berries before moving on. If there is someone around, I sometimes feel kind of silly… I almost never see someone else eating them! I asked the Norwegian yesterday, “do other people eat wild raspberries around town like I do?” and he answered, “kids.” He said I never know if a dog has recently peed on the bush which I had NOT thought of before.. but I am still taking my chances especially if it has just rained.
The other day I snapped a shot of this HUGE snail:
I think he is kind of cute, his antennae look like eyes kind of!
Last summer Norway was having a huge problem with a certain brown slug, brunsnegl in Norwegian. They were EVERYWHERE and were really detrimental to the wildlife here (mostly the plants, I believe). This article http://theforeigner.no/pages/columns/the-great-norwegian-garden-slug-invasion/ calls it “one of the 100 worst alien species in Europe” and the first commenter called it “one of Norway’s most wanted villains.”
We were instructed in the newspaper to kill them on sight! Kind of sad and super gross… but I will confess that the Norwegian’s sister and I had a few glasses of wine last July and each speared about 30 on a sharp stick in her backyard (in the rain, clad head to toe in rain gear, and if I remember correctly, wine glass in hand). There was an elderly Norwegian woman in the paper who had killed something like 30,000 (it could have been even more, but I cannot find the article). Apparently the brunsnegl can have up to 90,000 descendants in a year… so everyone really had to do their part.
This year, I have only seen two! Granted I was gone all July, but last year I seriously saw a minimum of ten every time I left the house. Originally I was thinking, “way to go, Norway, eradicating the brown slug in one season!” but the Norwegian thinks last year may have been a peak season for them which is why it was SUCH a problem. Still I like to believe it was that good old Norwegian hard work and tenacity that did away with them. Anyway, here is the culprit in all his glory. They seriously can be up to like five inches long, GROSS.
We also have a huge lawn around our building, a creek complete with a cute little bridge I cross on my way to the tram and grocery store, cute froggies that live in the creek, and bushes and trees everywhere!
2. The children!!!
On my walk to the metro I pass a barnehage (literally this means “kindergarten” but kids go here from ages 1 to 5, so its really more like preschool in American English) AND an elementary school.
The kids are always. outside. It is amazing. I will be walking home, head down, snow falling, desperate to get to my apartment, and the kids are out on the playground in full snow gear yelling and having fun. In a snow shower is one thing, but the same happens in rain! All kids have a full rain suit (water proof pants, jacket, boots) that they keep at school for days when it rains.
The elementary kids have several fifteen minute breaks throughout the day, and they spend them outside! I think it is really great for kids to get so much fresh air. I had recess once a day, I think for about 45 minutes after lunch, and I LOVED it! On days where it rained and we stayed inside and watched a movie or something, it was always a bummer. These Norwegians are out in their rain pants (I have never owned rain pants in my life, everyone here has them), splashing around in puddles! It is great to see them out there. They say hi to me (my Norwegian is good enough to call back, “hei!”) and are always playing cute games, building things with rocks, drawing with sidewalk chalk, taking turns on the swingsets etc.
It is also totally normal for your baby to sleep outside (even in the winter… the Norwegian winter…I am talking about below freezing temps in January) for naps during the day. They are bundled up in wool, a down sleeping sack, another zipper thing over the stroller, and sometimes a wind or rain cover if necessary, so they are plenty warm. Every school has a bunch of strollers parked outside and often I walk by them and see a little foot or arm sticking out! The preschool teachers leave the window open near the baby so they can hear if they cry.
Can you spy the lil baby legs?
I snapped this picture the other day of another kindergarten, these are babies napping on a rainy day! Still outside!
3. Vigelandsparken (The Vigeland Park)
About 15 minute’s walk from our apartment is a famous park called Vigeland’s park named for the artist Gustav Vigeland, a Norwegian who lived from 1869 to 1943. He designed all 212 bronze and granite sculptures in the park, making it “the world’s largest sculpture park accomplished by one single artist.”
The Vigeland Park is seriously stunning… it is always listed as one of the top 10 things to see in Oslo and everytime I go there (which is a lot) I am blown away by how cool it is. I always see a new sculpture or detail that I am impressed by.
Here is the monolith, which is 121 bodies all struggling to the top of the tower:
Standing from where the monolith is, you can look down on the other side of the park. The fountain has four nude men holding up the bowl, and the bridge features 58 bronze sculptures of (mostly or possibly all nude…) men, women and children interacting.
Here are just a few of the bridge statues. I love them! I find this one super sweet:
Mommy and baby:
Another sweet father and son sculpture:
This angry baby is famous. His hand is a different color bronze, since it is supposedly lucky to touch it. Also! He also has a slight line on his left ankle where someone sawed him off of his stand and stole him! I do not know all of the details, but clearly he was recovered.
This little toddler is SO quintessentially Norwegian looking to me! Round cheeks, a little button nose, a cute baby belly…. he may or may not look remind me of a certain little (future) nephew of mine!
4. Random Park near the Vigeland Park
A bit before Vigelandsparken (if you are walking from the west where our apartment is), there is a school called Skøyen Skole and a HUGE park. There are running trails, a basketball court, a few soccer fields (one turf, two grass), a frisbee golf course, and… (drum roll)… some sort of dog show training park. Seriously. The first time we saw it, it looked like a tiny playground of some sort. But soon enough we saw people running their dogs around on these elaborate mazes! Too funny.
While the weather is nice, the Norwegian and I try to go pretty often (three times a week? four?) to play either soccer or basketball. If it were up to him, we would go everyday, but I am the lazy one! There are always a bunch of people around working out, which is nice! Sometimes we are there until 9:30 (it is still light here pretty late) and other people are always out and about.
This picture was last week on a rainy day (the sun came out around 7:30 so we headed down to shoot some hoops… I am terrible but have occasionally beaten the Norwegian at 21 through sheer luck) :
5. Our Laundry Room!
Okay, so since it is in our building, it is not technically our neighboorhood, but I am putting it in here since I seriously love our basement laundry room!
When we first moved into our apartment, we decided to remodel the bathroom at a later date. It is totally fine; the cabinets, toilet and sink are a bit old but it has white tiles, a good shower, and new inset lighting we installed in the ceiling. We decided that if we re did it, we could fit a washer there, but in the mean time we would use the communal room downstairs until it became a problem.
One year later and it is not a problem! There is a board outside the laundry room with the numbers 1-31 on it, and two hooks under each number (one for am and one for pm). We each have a lock that you place on the hook, indicating what day of the month and which time slot you want. THEN, you have reserved the room from either 8am to 2pm or 2pm to 8pm. We usually go for the evening spot (we get the room every 10 days or so, but could even get it every week if we wanted, I think a lot of people have a washer in their own apartment and do not need the room).
Here it is, in all of its glory:
We have two HUGE washing machines, and a pretty sizeable dryer, and an ironing machine you can run sheets or table cloths through (I have not used it yet, it is there with the hot pink towel on it, not ours, someone left it… I swear…).
Okay, this is my favorite part! We have two HUGE rooms with drying lines and a big machine that blows hot air through the room! So if we wash our clothes at 6 or 7, we hang them up around 8 and go down to get them at 11pm (if we are lazy, we go early in the morning before its someone elses turn at 8am), and wallah! Hang dried clothes not damaged by a dryer, but still dry super fast.
When we first moved in, the Norwegian noticed this clock in the laundry room:
It is a clock that has been there since the 1960s, made by a super famous designer named Arne Jacobsen. I researched it and apparently it retails for over like 500 dollars. What the heck! The Norwegian said when we move out, we are stealing it (he is joking… I think).
That is all for now! Hope everyone has had (is having? it feels almost over!) a great summer.