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COLUMN: Braving the cold for a Scandinavian adventure



thief_island

A sculpture in the water under a bridge leading to Thief Island, the art hub of Oslo, Norway. During her weekend trip to Norway, Rachel Rosenstock visited the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art on the island. Rachel Rosenstock Buy Photos

I got back from a chilly vacation in central Europe, froze for a week in Aix-en-Provence, France, because winter decided to suddenly show up, and then, because I’m a masochist, I went to Norway for the weekend.

All my stories from my trip to Oslo have the requisite “But it was so cold!” addendum, just in case someone out there isn’t aware that it’s one of the northernmost cities on the continent.

Just hours before landing in Oslo, we had boarded our plane in Nice, France, where people were walking on the beaches and palm trees lined the airport tarmac.

Stepping off the plane, however, I barely felt the low temperature because I was blindsided by the winter wonderland that lay outside. Cookie-cutter houses painted in primary colors dotted the landscape between the airport and Oslo’s center, and everything was dusted — more like covered — in snow and dripping in ice.

On Friday night we made an unplanned Uber detour due to the rather complicated Norwegian spelling of our Airbnb’s address, but we soon ended up in our cozy apartment in Grünerløkka, one of the cities’ trendier neighborhoods. We shopped around in a few of the many Christmas boutiques selling little trinkets and decorations. Because our host told us “Norwegian food is really bad,” we settled for handcrafted pizzas around the corner.

Because the local cuisine was apparently out of the question, we set out to try the other essential part of the food culture: beer. Norway goes way back with beer. The Vikings were among the first to make the drink many centuries ago, and today the microbrewery scene is growing quickly.

We huddled in a few different cozy basements and bars and enjoyed the bartender’s recommendations until the toll of traveling hit us. The next morning, we started off on a journey to Hovedøya, a small island visible just off the city shoreline, part of the Oslofjord and accessible by ferry.

We walked around the tiny island through the Cistercian monastery ruins blanketed in snow and stood on the rocky shore with frighteningly cold-looking water lapping inches away from our frozen toes.

Later in the afternoon, we walked over to Thief Island, which, though you would never guess by its name, is Oslo’s art gallery and museum hub. We headed for the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibits showcased Scandinavian artists, but the museum also had an entire gallery dedicated to California-based artists. In light of today’s political climate in the United States and in France, viewing some of the visceral and unapologetic works of modern art was just what I needed to take hold of my emotions and identify them.

Visiting Oslo for the weekend was overall just what the doctor ordered. The people were fantastic, the nature breathtaking and the city different from any other European city I’ve been to so far.

It was modern, sleek and efficient but still proud of its culture, and I loved seeing how a country can seemingly easily become global while staying true to its core values. A little bit of cold air was just the trick to clear my head after a tumultuous week, so thank you, Oslo.

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