Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Eurotrip 2012 - Day 14 (6/28) - To Oslo

I left the hotel at 6:15, a little later than I wanted to but still too early to get their breakfast. I took the metro to T-Centralen, then the Arlanda Express to the airport. I had some trouble figuring out which terminal to go to, but I was through security in plenty of time (partially because the flight time had apparently been changed from 9 to 9:15 without my knowledge) to grab some yogurt with muesli and an apple juice as a reward for being up so early. While I was waiting around, a father from a family from Colorado that I ran into a couple days prior at the Royal Palace came over to say hello - they were headed to Rome. After boarding the plane I rewarded myself some more by passing out for most of the flight.

In Oslo I took the Flytoget express train from the airport toward the city. Unfortunately, there was some work being done on the train tracks so the train only took us part of the way (to Lillestrom), then we took buses the rest of the way to Oslo Central Station (but at least the price was reduced). The Thon Hotel Astoria was not very far from there, and I was able to find it on foot relatively quickly despite the location on Google Maps being off by a couple of blocks. After checking in and putting my things in the room, I headed back to Central Station and crossed the covered walkway over to the opera house (officially the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet). I found out that the next English guided tour was at 2, giving me 1.5 hours to kill. The building was free to walk on and inside the main foyer, but I decided to go check out the Oslo Cathedral.

I walked over to, and through, the cathedral, and then still had time to grab a quick lunch. I walked further down Karl Johans gate, the main road of sorts which is a pedestrian street for a long section, and came across a MAX Hamburger, a fast food burger joint that I had seen in the other Scandinavian countries, and decided to give it a shot. I ordered a small (apparently the burgers come in multiple sizes) in Cheese 'n' Bacon burger, some "chili cheese" nuggets (more jalapeƱo than chili) that came as a pack of 4, and a small drink. The total came out to 114 kroner, which is something like $19 USD! And they charge 10 kr (over $1.50) for drink refills - though I think that would be hard to monitor with the self-service. At least the burger was pretty good (it also had a thousand island like sauce) and they separated out their trash bins by type (which doesn't help too much with language-challenged tourists like me).

After eating I made it back to the opera house with over 15 to spare before the tour. The tour was pretty interesting and took us inside parts of the building that are normally inaccessible to the public. After the tour I went outside and climbed up to the top of the building, then enjoyed the great view and atmosphere for a while. Up there I encountered a Californian family that was visiting Norwegian relatives - they had some good Oslo advice for me, including notifying me that the ski tower was closed due to a concert at the venue (featuring Rihanna) the next day.

After leaving the opera house I headed to Akershus Castle. When I arrived at the information center around 4:10 there was a delayed (originally scheduled for 4) English guided tour soon to leave so I tagged along since the main castle building was closed. The tour lasted about an hour. After that I wandered about the city for a while, including stumbling upon city hall. I then took the metro (known as the T-bane there) one stop over and headed back to the hotel. I stayed in for the rest of the night, initially planning activities for the next day, except for a brief trip across the street to grab a kebab pita right before the Germany/Italy semifinal.

Observation of the day: I recently acquired a Capital One checking account and debit card especially to use on international trips since they do not charge an international transaction fee (or, it seems so far, an ATM fee). So far it has been a great call...except for the fact that the first few PIN code purchase transactions I attempted failed, even though I could use my PIN to get money from ATMs without problems. Since then (the second or third day in Moscow) I decided to sign for every purchase. It has worked well every time except for once at the hotel in Tallinn - I had to use a different card there (and accept the fee).

Bonus observation: The wifi availability has been pretty good on this trip. In addition to free (or perhaps better stated: included) wifi at all but the first hotel (though the hostel in Helsinki only had wifi on the ground floor, but ethernet in the rooms), the airports in Helsinki and Stockholm both had free wifi. And so did the airport express trains in Stockholm and Oslo.

Bonus observation 2: A single metro ride in Oslo cost NOK 30, or about $5. This was about the same as it was in Stockholm - SEK 36 (though I was told SEK 44 the first time). In contrast, it cost less than $1 per ride in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, and those metro systems were the most impressive.

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