Oslo, Norway, is a relatively small capital city with an even smaller feel. It’s a quiet place whose primary noise comes more from the brilliantly painted architecture than from traffic or congestion. Central Oslo has the walking-feel of a wealthy suburb punctuated with a handful of busy commercial streets boasting all the restaurants, bars, and shops you can ask for. There’s a 7-11 on every corner, and while expensive, it is a city of comfortable convenience. Oslo’s people are cheerful and friendly—you’ll find most of them laughing in pairs or small groups—and the city’s public transportation and infrastructure are easy to navigate, sleek, and intuitive. Not to be missed is Frogner Park, the world’s largest sculpture park with all work done by a single artist. With over 200 sculptures, the Vigeland Installation (so prominent the park is often referred to as Vigeland Park) it was the lifework of Gustav Vigeland, who also had a hand in the surrounding landscaping of this massive oasis. All of the sculptures are nudes, and most depict duos or groupings in unusual positions, twisting, struggling, or flailing with a sense of movement and fluidity hard to imagine from bronze and granite. A word of caution for American travelers: While a PIN for credit cards is virtually unheard of in the US, it’s required for use in most of Europe. Your credit cards and bank cards will not be accepted without chip-and-pin technology, which is only just beginning to be introduced in the U.S. My host for this first leg of the couchsurfing tour was called away for work just before my arrival, but his boyfriend, Vegard, and flatmate, Susanne, agreed to have me anyway. Here, Vegard, 24, answers a few questions about life in his city.
OutTraveler: How long have you lived in Oslo? 3 months, but I’ve lived half an hour outside the city all my life.
How long have you been out? One and a half months. I started dating my boyfriend three months ago and I invited my family to my cabin to have dinner with him there. I just said, “This is my boyfriend!” I actually told them on the phone two days before that I wanted them to my sweetheart, and then I used the word “he.” That’s how I did it: indirectly. It was super weird for the first 15 minutes. I was making dinner in the kitchen and I noticed the mood was quiet and awkward, the questions were very formal, and my boyfriend was nervous because my mom can be very judgmental, or at least seems that way because of insecurity. So I just said “I understand this is strange or difficult, but I’m gay and I want you to be a part of it.” And then it was fine. They haven’t given me any resistance at all. It’s disappointing really! I was looking for a struggle…I wanted to burn! Norwegians don’t show emotion. We’re very even-keeled, so I was looking for something bigger to bring out the feelings.
How is it for a gay person to get along in this city? It’s pretty nice here. We can hold hands when we walk in the city, we kiss sometimes. People notice, but they don’t mind. No one’s ever shouted anything at us. But I had another friend who was attacked about a year ago, maybe for dressing a little too flamboyantly, but that’s really a one-off. It could happen anywhere. We haven’t noticed anything negative ourselves. And we have gay marriage here!
Your favorite restaurant in the city? Bon Lio (pictured, left) is the best in the city. The mood is warm and inviting. You feel at home. (And I work there!). There’s only one menu and it’s a tasting menu, so you get all 12 dishes, and it changes every week.
Two places a visitor should go with just one day in Oslo? In the daytime, go to the fortress. It’s nice, quiet, and near the ocean. It’s a sweet area. At night, go to Blå. It’s a cool, cozy bar close to the river, and it’s open to all.