Norway’s roads less traveled: All roads lead to Oslo for this traveler

Oslo Opera House.

Photo: Christopher Hagelund /
Oslo’s Opera House is a stunning example of the city’s new construction.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

In this continuing series, we ask ordinary travelers about their favorite lesser-known corners of Norway.

The author of this article is May Kamalick from Springfield, Virginia. Here she shares highlights of her journey on both less-traveled and well-traveled roads, ending with her very favorite place, Oslo:

I went on an organized road trip through three countries of Scandinavia, but it was Norway that captured my heart because of its natural landscapes and vibrant cities.

Initially, I thought the highlight of my trip would be the Flåm train ride. Then I saw the majestic mountains and the spectacular Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, and thought that it must be the most beautiful spot on the face of the earth. Then I saw Vøringfossen, Norway’s waterfall that comes thundering down a 475-foot sheer drop. Next it was picturesque Bergen on a rainy day. For this city girl, however, it was Oslo that took the top spot in the end. But let me start at the beginning.

Our trip originated in Copenhagen and ended in Oslo, passing through Stockholm and other sites in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway along the way.

Oslo Cathedral

Photo: Superchilum / Wikimedia Commons
Oslo Cathedral, completed in 1697, showcases the city’s history.

We crossed from Falun, Sweden, into Lillehammer, Norway, via Lake Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake. In Lillehammer, we visited the Maihaugen open-air museum, where we visited old buildings from different eras. The highlight of this visit for me was the old school. A teenage guide posing as our teacher from years yonder, attired in a time-appropriate costume, educated and entertained us. One of my travel mates was placed in detention for misbehaving during our school day!

The drive from Lillehammer to Flåm was filled with perfect opportunities for budding photographers, selfie opportunists, and even the professionals among us. Majestic mountains and dark-pine forests are plentiful and sparkling lakes and streams abound.

On we went to Flåm, arriving at night. Though the next day was drizzly and gloomy, blooming flowers were bountiful and the bright buildings made up for the uncooperative weather. The train ride up the mountain was probably the most beautiful I have ever taken. Along spectacular mountains and waterfalls that graced the countryside, the train chugged up the steep incline.

Perhaps the highlight of any trip to Norway, especially for nature-loving tourists, is the cruise on the spectacular Sognefjord and Nærøyfjord. No words can explain the magnificence of the mountains or the beauty of the waterfalls pouring into the waters of the fjords.

We landed at Gudvangen and drove to Stalheim and then to Bergen. A travel mate and I had lunch and a stroll in the colorful fish market during a downpour. That didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for a walk to the museum district, however. We enjoyed the walk through beautiful gardens, and we passed a square with a fountain at its center where many locals braved the rainy August afternoon to have picnic lunches or to sit and chat on benches around the square.

In the museum we saw much Norwegian art, with wings dedicated to J.C. Dahl, Mathias Blumenthal, Edvard Munch, Theodor Kittelsen, and Norwegian paintings from 1880 to 1915. A guided stroll in the old wharf provided a glimpse of the city’s 11th-century origins, and a meal in the old wharf completed the evening. I liked Bergen very much with its natural beauty, colorful wooden houses, and modern city center.

On our way to Oslo, we passed Geilo and Torpo. The advantage of a road trip is the possibility to stop at out-of-the-way spots to learn and admire. We stopped at a farm that had been owned by the same family for eight generations and tasted their apples, apple cider, and—best of all—homemade apple tarts. Before arriving in Geilo, we visited Vøringfossen, perhaps Norway’s most beautiful waterfall. It is spectacular! What makes it particularly special is the unique opportunity one has to walk behind it to take memorable photos.

We then arrived in Oslo, our final destination. Where do I begin and where do I end extolling the treasure that is Oslo?

We covered a great deal of ground in the mere 24 hours allotted to this wonderful city. We had guided tours of City Hall, the Historical Museum, the Viking Ship Museum, Akershus Fortress, Holmenkollen, and Kvadraturen—the oldest quarter of Oslo where King Christian IV founded Christiania, later to be named Oslo. They were all overwhelmingly amazing. We also passed by the National Theater and the Royal Palace.

Two places stand out in my memory, however. Frogner Park with its vast vista and Gustav Vigeland’s famous sculptures took my breath away. And the Oslo Cathedral—what an edifice! Formerly the Church of Our Savior, it was completed in 1697. The motifs on the massive bronze doors are based on Jesus’s Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. The intricate paintings and sculptures adorning the baroque interior—from the pulpit and silver altar to the baptismal font, stained-glass windows, and church tower—all rival anything I have seen in cathedrals in Ireland and the Middle East.

In our free time, I walked through the main city center, from the new Opera House to the Royal Palace. That alone was sufficient to make Oslo my favorite place in Norway. Nightclubs and bars, restaurants and cafés, hotels, and shops lined the street while people of varied backgrounds hurried along or strolled lazily. Everything was entertaining, fascinating, and educational. The construction around the city added to the city’s atmosphere of change and transformation.

Oslo clenched the prize as my favorite place on this trip because of its changing character and the different opportunities it offers visitors: urban and rural, historic and modern. I know I will return to Oslo.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.