According to Julie


What to see if you have less than one day in Oslo

This post is dedicated to the international dancers visiting Norway for Winter White West Coast Swing this year.

If you’ve never been to Oslo, and have a few extra hours, or up to a day, to get a feel for the city, here is what I suggest you do:

I recommend starting your city center exploration from Stortinget metro station or alternatively Nationaltheatret train or metro station.

From Stortinget, walk up Karl Johan, the main street. You will pass the Norwegian parliament, Stortinget, and the street will take you up to the Royal Palace. (If you start at Nationaltheatret station you can have a look at the palace and then walk down Karl Johan.)

Walk from Nationaltheatret, via the town hall Rådhuset and the Akershus fortress to Aker Brygge and then out to Tjuvholmen. You will experience the contrasts between the 700 year old fortress, and the brand new buildings surrounding the contemporary art museum Astrup Fearnley. You will also get nice views of the fjord and plenty of opportunities for good photos.

This walk will show you the nicest parts of the city center, in my opinion.

Karl Johan street



Oslo Parliament, Norway

Oslo Perspective

The area around Oslo Central Station (Oslo S or Jernbanetorget) will not give you the best first impression of Oslo. Like most central stations, it’s a chaotic, stressful place, and it is currently surrounded by roadwork.

However, the Opera House and the strip of new buildings known as Barcode right by the Central Station are the kind of new architecturally interesting developments that have given Oslo international press over the past few years. If you have some extra time while you’re at Oslo S, get out of the station and take a look.

Oslo Barcode

Oslo Opera House

The Opera House is one of my top three Oslo summer attractions. But you can’t walk on the roof in winter. For this reason, (in addition to construction, road work and traffic) I prefer seeing this area from above right now. If you have time, you can take the tram 18 or 19 to Sjømannsskolen or the 34 bus to Utsikten (which literally means the view). Or take the elevator to the top of the Plaza Hotel’s Sky Bar.

Good Morning, Oslo

You can get a different view of the city, this one from the west, at the Summit bar at the top of the Radisson Blu Scandinavia.

If you have more time, you can see another one of my favorite attractions in Oslo: Vigelandsparken/Frognerparken. This park by Majorstuen metro station goes by two names. Technically, the first refers to the sculpture park by Gustav Vigeland, also known as “the park with all the naked statues”, and the second is the rest of the area. Vigelandsparken is a unique art experience. Also, it’s free, and you can climb on the art. In summer, this is a good chance to do a touristy thing that real Oslo people actually do, as the sculptures will be surrounded by beer drinking locals enjoying the park.


210/366 Vigelandsparken

One of the best things about Oslo is that it has so much variety between neighborhoods, and it’s compact size allows you to take in all those contrasts without traveling long distances. Neighborhoods like Tjuvholmen, Frogner, Grünerløkka and Grønland look and feel very different from each other, and from the city center. With a public transport day pass, or a good pair of shoes, you can explore all these areas if you have a full day.

If you have an evening in Oslo and want to explore a new area, I recommend Grünerløkka. Take a tram to Olaf Ryes plass or Birkelunden and explore the great selection of bars. Drink beer at Grünerløkka Brygghus or Schouskjelleren, wine at Dr. Kneipps, and cocktails at Bar Boca. Expect to be shocked by the prices for these drinks, but remember that they are much more expensive in the center or western parts of Oslo. Another alternative is Torggata, where I recommend Crow Bar and Café Sara. The beer selection in Oslo’s bars has become pretty interesting over the past few years, thanks to several Norwegian micro-breweries. Advertizing for alcohol is illegal, but here’s a vintage ad encouraging you to drink Norwegian beer:

Ølkurs med Ølakademiet

Enjoy Oslo!

All photos are borrowed from photographers who post their work on Flickr, under CreativeCommons licensing. The photos link back to the photographers’ Flickr photo streams.

Related post: 4 things you should know if you are visiting Oslo

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4 things you should know if you’re visiting Oslo this summer

Here are four things you need to know about Oslo, if you’re visiting this summer (especially if you’re a student or otherwise on a budget).

Oslo utsikt Oslo, as seen from a hike.

1. Whether you are arriving by boat or train (including airport express train ) your very first impression of Oslo is not likely to be amazing. It will get better. Revisit in a few years, and this part of the city could be very nice, but at the moment, it’s a mix of drug dealing, construction work and bland chain stores. With the exception of the new Opera House, get out of that central train station/lower half of Karl Johan street area fast. Go east, west, north, south – it will be a step up from this no matter what.

2. Norwegians never get enough sun. If it’s a sunny day, parks will be filled with people getting as much of it as they can. Norwegians believe that being indoors on a sunny day is sinful. I’m sure 80% of the summer activities Oslo-dwellers will recommend happen outdoors. About half of them will be variations on the drinking-beer-in-a-park activity. See rule number 3.

3. Alcohol in Norway is tricky. Because of taxes and regulations, it will be more expensive than you are used to, and harder to find. This is not really a problem if you get used to it. Actually, this is really annoying. Beer can be bought in grocery stores until 8 PM on weekdays and 6 PM on Saturdays. Wine and spirits must be bought at “Vinmonopolet” (literally, The Wine Monopoly), the one “chain” of stores allowed to sell this. These stores usually close at 6 PM on weekdays and around 3 on Saturdays. And you can’t buy anything on Sunday, of course. Bars don’t follow these rules, but they will be more expensive than you are used to. Again, get away from Karl Johan, or think like a Norwegian and drink grocery store beer in a park. This is technically not legal, but no one cares as long as you’re not being a nuisance.*

beer in Oslo Want this? Plan ahead!

4. Norwegians do not eat out much. Although you’ll probably find every kind of coffee shop, sandwich place and restaurant in Oslo, the Norwegian way to eat is to have breakfast and dinner at home and bring sandwiches wrapped in paper to work/school or eat in the office cafeteria. Coffee shops are excellent, but there are limited options for simple lunches and dinners, and anything a step up from fast food is likely to be expensive. This is because restaurants cater to people who are out for a special treat, not yet another every-day dinner. So if you’re on a budget, you can’t afford to not visit grocery stores. In a pinch, you can buy quick ready-made meals at 7-Eleven or DeliDeLuca – they are everywhere – but it will be cheaper and healthier to shop in a supermarket and prepare your own sandwich or salad.

* I’m sure some readers are rolling their eyes at how much space I’m giving this alcohol issue. But if you’re a student from a country where you’re used to just buying a bottle of wine whenever for whatever price you feel like paying, and you’re arriving in Oslo at 2 PM on a Saturday, you’ll be glad you read this.

This post was originally published on this blog in 2008, but it’s still relevant. You should also check out my top 3 Oslo tourist attractions.


Melding til mine medpassasjerer

Gode råd når man skal ta trikk, buss, bane eller tog med Julie:

1. Jeg sitter her (selv om jeg kan bli ufrivillig usynlig noen ganger). Jeg kan gi fra meg plassen til folk som av forskjellige grunner fortjener å sitte, men jeg gir ikke fra meg plassen til vesken din, albuen din eller sekken din.

2. Når man har sitteplass, disponerer man ikke bare kvadratcentimeterne under rumpa, men også kubikkcentimeterne rundt hodet og skuldrene. Ikke sett ting på skulderen min, og ikke len deg selv eller bagasjen din mot armen min. Og ikke slå meg i fjeset med sekken din.

3. Jeg vet det er tidlig om morgenen, men du klarer vel å huske at du har på deg sekk? Da tar du mer plass enn ellers. Vær obs.

4. Hvis det finnes ledige sitteplasser, sett deg. Du tar opp plass når du står også. Spesielt når du står rett foran en ledig sitteplass, så ingen andre kan sette seg der. Det er ikke høflig; det er teit.

5. Hvis to mennesker deler et dobbeltsete, får de halvparten hver. Det gjelder også hvis den ene er mann som nekter å sitte med bena samlet, og den andre er lille meg.

6. Hvis jeg har høretelefoner i ørene, samtidig som jeg leser bok eller avis, vil jeg ikke småprate med deg. Hvis jeg i tillegg tar smertestillende tabletter rett ved siden av deg, er jeg i hvert fall ikke mottagelig for henvendelser av typen “Hei, hvor kommer du fra?” eller “Jeg ser du leser. Vil du ikke heller snakke med meg?”

7. Hvis jeg har tre store vesker og en kaffekopp med meg, og det er mange ledige plasser på bussen, vurder å la meg bruke en plass på bagasjen min, i stedet for å sette deg inntil meg. Jeg ville gjort det samme for deg.

8. Går du på sammen med noen du kjenner, sett deg ved siden av dem om dere har plass. Det er bedre enn å sitte på hver deres side av bussen og rope til hverandre. Uansett hvor tøffe dere tror dere er.

9. Jeg er ikke sur. Jeg er bare trett på vei til, og sliten på vei fra. Det gjelder mange. Hvis du smiler for deg selv, til boken din, ned i kaffen din, til sidemannen, blir jeg likevel glad.

Jeg tester WordPress-appen og blogger fra trikken! Her er utsikten gjennom det ikke spesielt rene vinduet jeg satt ved da jeg publiserte.




Les også:


What does “jeg er glad i deg” mean–and other questions from Googlers

dreamy pc juImage source: SuperMarket Sarah (these cute pillows were for sale, but I think they’re sold out)

I think a lot of my readers are in bilingual relationships. At least the people who recently found me via Google.

Many of you have found this blog by googling “teach yourself Norwegian” or “learn Norwegian online” or something similar. You’ve probably already read my blog post about that, but if not, here it is: How to teach yourself Norwegian.

But some people have more specific, perhaps urgent, questions: how to express love in Norwegian, and how to decipher Norwegian declarations of love. So I’ll try to answer some questions that confused members of English/Norwegian relationships have typed into Google lately:

what does jeg er glad i deg mean

Well, to quote myself:

We say Jeg er glad i deg to close friends and family. This sentence means more to me than the English I love you normally does, but it’s still not that one specific you’re-the-one kind of I love you that people make a big deal about saying or not saying.

I wrote a whole blog post on the difference between “jeg er glad i deg” and “I love you” a few years ago.

should a woman say jeg gla i deg to a man

If she feels that way, she should probably say “Jeg er glad i deg.” Although that does mean “I love you”, it’s not the romantic, dramatic “I love you” that is the subject of so many awkward tv show episodes. Do you think you might want to say “Jeg elsker deg”? That’s ok; you can still say “Jeg er glad i deg.” But you can also say “Jeg er glad i deg” to a friend, even a male friend.

så flink! elsker deg også meaning

“Så flink!” = “So good!” in the sense of “You are so good at that!” We might say “Good job!” or “Well done!” in English. “Elsker deg også” = “I love you too.” In the real, romantic maybe-just-once-in-a-lifetime sense.

jeg er ogsa din for evig min perle:*:*:)translate in english

“I am also yours forever, my pearl.” That is the English translation.

noen er glad i degImage source: svennevenn, CreativeCommons

I doubt these people are actually reading my blog (if you are, say hello!), but I am fascinated by their existence. I couldn’t be in a relationship with someone I didn’t have at least one common language with.* I think in a mix of English and Norwegian (hence the bilingual blog), and I have found that it is easier to get close to people who speak both languages. That being said, I can definitely relate to this:

love into wordsImage source: Joss & Main (you can buy this as a print)

Related posts:

*I have dated guys who didn’t speak Norwegian. Once I told a guy “Jeg er glad i deg”, and he Google-translated it, got “I love you” and freaked out a little.

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Oslo-favoritt: Underwater Pub (også kjent som Opera-puben)

Underwater Pub trappen

Foto: Morten F. via Flickr, CreativeCommons

Underwater Pub er tilsynelatende en ganske vanlig pub: nesten som en brun pub, bare at den er turkis. Undervannstema selvfølgelig, hvilket betyr at det henger en båt i taket, og at du kan få vin (rødvin, hvitvin og cava) servert fra dykkertank. Men det som skiller Underwater Pub fra alle andre utesteder jeg har vært på:

På tirsdager og torsdager er det live opera her.

Det kommer sangere, ofte fra Den Norske Opera, og synger, gratis (i hvert fall gratis for gjestene). Mellom de fire settene med arier og andre utdrag fra operaer, kan du prate og bestille i baren. Der kan du også kjøpe mat fra take-away stedene i nabolaget. Jeg anbefaler “Plutselig Kylling” fra Pizza Plutselig.

Hele opplevelsen er avslappet – ja, selv om det er opera. Dermed er det en god introduksjon til musikken.

Underwater har vært stamstedet mitt i lengre perioder, og (nesten) alle jeg har tatt med meg har elsket det.

Førstkommende torsdag er siste operakveld før sommeren, men Underwater er hyggelig også når det ikke er opera. Og til høsten ser jeg frem til å nyte pizza, øl og musikk.

Facebook-gruppen kan du følge med på hvem som synger og hva som skjer ellers på Underwater.

Hvor: Dalsbergstien 4, St. Hanshaugen

Flere Oslo-favoritter her

Underwater pub rezaUnderwater pub Julie

Bildet i svart/hvit viser pianisten Reza Aghamir. Fotografen er Kjeik. Bildet er funnet via Flickr (Creative Commons)                         

Bildet i farger viser meg og er tatt av min opera-skeptiske kollaga Martin Grevstad.


Oslo-favoritt: Pals

I Rosenborggata 19 ved Bislett ligger fabrikkutsalget til grossisten Pals. Litt bortgjemt i en bakgård kan du kjøpe kaffebønner, pålegg, sjokolade, te, sukkerbiter og mye annet som du kan forvente at grossisten til caféer, bakerier og storhusholdning selger. Og du kan kjøpe det i store kvanta til relativt små summer.

Du har sannsynligvis drukket kaffe fra Pals på café, bakeri, restaurant eller jobb. Jeg kjøper ofte kilosposer med espressobønner på Pals. Da jeg først oppdaget Pals (via Jorunn og Eirik) visste jeg ikke om andre butikker i Oslo som solgte hele bønner. Alternativet til Pals var Kaffebrenneriet og Stockfleth’s. Siden har det blitt enklere å skaffe kaffebønner i vanlig matbutikker, men jeg har fortsatt ikke funnet noe matbutikkalternativ som matcher Pals på kvalitet per pris.

Er det like superfantastisk som en kvart kilo bønner fra for eksempel Tim Wendelboe? Nei, men superfantastiske kaffebarbønner koster 2-4 ganger så mye som Pals-bønner. Derfor har Pals’ kaffe blitt en viktig del av min hverdag.

Kaffe, og kjempekrukker med pesto:

pesto og kaffe

Bildet av fabrikkutsalget er lånt av Pals’ nettside, og frokosten min har jeg fotografert selv, for det er sånn man gjør på Instagram.


How to teach yourself Norwegian

A reader commented on this blog post asking for advice on learning Norwegian. I’m reposting my response as a separate post, in the hope that some of you (I’m looking at you linguists, language geeks, Norwegian-Americans and people who have taught themselves foreign languages) can give better advice than I can:

I have a limited experience with learning foreign languages on purpose. I learned both English and Norwegian the way native speakers learn these languages as children, without seeking out tutors or language courses. Like you, my "foreign" language is French, which I started studying with after-school classes taught by French teachers in Norway. Intensive classes with native speakers allowed me to pick up the basics of French fairly quickly (the equivalent of three years of high school classes in just eight weeks or so), and I really recommend learning from native speakers in small groups. If that is impossible, I know there are a variety of language computer programmes and internet-based courses, but I have no experience with them myself.

If you have the basics of the Norwegian language down, I suggest you improve your vocabulary the way Norwegians learning English do: read newspaper articles and watch television. The following are two major Norwegian online news sources you could start with:

The Norwegian public television network NRK puts its programming online, but it is only available from Norwegian IP addresses. You could experiment with proxies to trick the system, but you might be better off getting yourself som dvds online. That way, you can add Norwegian subtitles to the Norwegian audio. I find that hearing and seeing the same words at the same time in a foreign language makes it easier to understand them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck finding Norwegian television shows available via Amazon, but there are movies. Have you seen Max Manus, Elling or Buddy? Those are three fairly recent Norwegian titles that had enough international success to make it to And don’t forget The Troll Hunter, possibly the most Norwegian movie ever, full of cultural references and in-jokes for Norwegians, but hopefully still entertaining for Americans.

Keep in mind when learning Norwegian that while it is a fairly easy language to master the basics of, it is very difficult to pronounce everything like a native. Part of this difficulty comes from the difference between soft American consonants and harsh Norwegians rrr-sounds – not to mention the notorious "kj". And part of the problem is the numerous dialects and the fact that we have two official (very similar) written languages, which means that there are seemingly endless variations of pronunciations and possible spellings. Don’t worry, it confuses me too. But if you can live with that, the good news is that Norwegian grammar and standard spelling is far more logical and predictable than English. You can actually sound words out when reading, without encountering trick words like the English "enough".  In fact, one of my American family friends used to read to me in Norwegian, sounding out the words. She had learned the basic pronunciation rules, but she didn’t understand a word she was reading. But I did!

Ultimately though, nothing beats learning through conversations with real Norwegians. If you can seek them out and convince them not to speak English to you, you will learn to communicate in Norwegian.

Related posts:

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In defense of Norway

nasjonalprovokantToday, on Norway’s constitution day, after living in England for nearly eight months, I wanted to publish a post on why, despite London’s opportunities for excitement, I will be leaving this city soon, in favor of a darker, colder, more expensive place called Oslo. I realized I wouldn’t have time for a proper post, as I had an exam yesterday and another one today, and I am here in London to study, not to write about Norway.

Luckily another blogger pretty much wrote my post for me. Go read it while I do my statistics exam.

(The photo is by my friend Margrethe Skeie Svae, and shows me wearing a bunad, with my fingernails painted to match the Norwegian flag. The gesture was meant to show off my nails, and was only rude unintentionally.)

Bonus article: “Paradise is meant to be boring

And for the Norwegian-speakers (or Google-translate-users):

Ting vi liker ved dette samfunnet” av Are Kalvø, og en god kommentar til bonus-artikkelen av Sofie Gran Aspunvik i Studvest: “Passivt paradis


The perfect city

The great tragedy of having lived in more than one place is that I will never, ever live close to all of my friends at once (more on that topic here). The great annoyance is that I am constantly being reminded that no society can be good at everything. For everything London excels at, it fails at something else. And while I can spend the rest of my life travelling in search of a city that has it all, I know that will only make me miss whatever I liked about my other cities more.

Just in case any of you know where I can find my ideal city, this is how the perfect synthesis between Oslo, Paris and London would work (I haven’t included Boston, because I haven’t lived there as an adult):

The city would essentially look like central Paris: a mix of wide boulevards and charming cobble-stoned pedestrian streets, with sidewalk cafés and well-dressed people. Some of the parks would be designed by Englishmen in the late 1800s. There would be at least one dramatic modern building in the style of the Oslo opera house. The city would be surrounded by Norwegian nature.

Buildings would all be built by Norwegians, as they are the only culture out of the three who prepare for winter rather than deny its existence. Single-glazed windows, insufficient ventilation and inadequate heating would be illegal. All apartments would have nice kitchens.

The British would be in charge of public transportation, as well as providing information about this service. All other forms of communication and information technology (including online banking) would be run by Norwegians. There would be telephone service everywhere, from the tops of the surrounding ski slopes to the deepest tunnels of the underground system – and free WiFi in parks, thanks to a suggestion from the French.

The French would have the overall responsibility for food, but they would be forced to import international wine. Norwegian salmon and Norwegian bread would be available even in the smallest corner shops. Most restaurants would work like in Paris: with affordable three-course standard menus served by waiters who took their jobs seriously and didn’t expect tips. Influences from the Brits would ensure some international flavor varieties like Indian, Mexican and Chinese food, but the English would be discouraged from trying to sell their own pies and mashed things to people. The cafés would be French, but with coffee from Norway.

The pubs would of course be English, but with a wide selection of draught beer from around the world. Everyone would cooperate on other forms of nightlife, but the Norwegians would be completely barred from any attempts to control alcohol policy, including prices and closing time for pubs and bars. This would instead generally be governed by the French.

People would buy their French clothes, French lingerie and French shoes from British sales assistants. These sales people would take lessons in customer service from Americans, but tone it down to a less insistent European level. Thanks to the Norwegians, winter boots and other shoes with good sensible soles would always be available. Norwegians would teach people how to dress in winter; the French in every other season.

In public places, the people would somehow combine the passion of the French with the manners of the English. They would queue and make reserved small talk, but still kiss each other in public. The English would be in charge of television and humor and entertainment in general, so there would be a lot of trilingual wordplay.

If anyone should ever wish to leave, the airport runway would be de-iced by the Norwegians.

Related posts:

Image sources: Paris Guinness Nature