Oslo, by rail and boat, in January

We made another trip to add to those in the previous post. Carolyn was invited to examine a PhD in Oslo and not having been there, I went along too, as tour organiser.

This was similar to the Gothenburg and Malmö journeys. As far as Copenhagen, but from there we took an overnight DFDS ferry to Oslo. Everything went well, except for missing a tight connection at Hanover on the way back: Deutsche Bahn (DB) like giving tight connections in their routings but unfortunately the trains don’t always run on time (ours from Hamburg was 9 minutes late) and we just missed our onward train to Cologne. The DB staff re-routed us on the next train but from Cologne we had to take the Thalys rather than the DB ICE. On going to the Thalys office for seat reservations we were told we had to buy another ticket and reclaim it. We refused since the CIV and Railteam conditions (DB and Thalys are both part of this alliance) mean you just “hop on the next train”. We did this: the train was about 15% full so finding a seat was no problem and although the conductor started to question our tickets, the mention of CIV led to his hasty retreat. As a result we just made our original Eurostar connection in Brussels.  [Update 15/2/17: Thalys have just responded to my complaint about what the Cologne staff told us: “You’re totally right. The HOTNAT allows you to take the next available Highspeed train. Unfortunately you were misinformed. “]

Leaving Copenhagen on a very cold day

Leaving Copenhagen on a very cold day

The ferry crossing reminded us of the former DFDS crossings from Harwich to Esbjerg and to Hamburg. Now there are no UK-Scandinavia ferries, incredible really – especially for us after visiting the Viking boat museum in Oslo where there are preserved Viking boats from burials – more than a thousand years old and preserved by the clay under which they lay. If they could cross the North Sea and beyond (to what became called America) in these craft surely our abundant industrial “civilisation” could arrange a ferry crossing. Crazily it was environmental regulations on sulphur emissions that meant the end of those DFDS ferries- there was talk of restarting them but nothing has transpired, so most people make far more damaging emissions by flying. Next time we’d try Hull-Rotterdam and then Kiel-Oslo.

Sunrise on the boat: Oslo fjord

Sunrise on the boat: Oslo fjord

Here again is our cost and carbon data for the trip. Again note that aviation is highly subsidised (e.g. no tax on fuel) and pays nothing for its environmental damage, so price comparisons are misleading. Carbon metrics are not a precise science, at least as applied to such activities since precise figures depend on the assumptions made. This time I provide two estimates for comparative aviation emissions – flying direct to Oslo would make for between 4 and 7 times the carbon footprint.


Oslo was cold on arrival, about -4 degrees and we experienced the first snow of the year, late and not much of it. It warmed up a bit with temperatures around freezing point. As you’d expect (the latitude is that of Lerwick), short days and very low sun. We visited lots of museums and galleries, went to a New Year concert (where Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no 2 was played, with the audience singing a patriotic Norwegian song to it!), and got a feel for this very quiet city. Highlights were the Viking ships, the polar exploration museum (Fram), the Munch collections (we hadn’t realised what a great painter he was) and the Vigeland and Ekeberg sculpture parks. And of course riding on trams!

Tram emerges from the fog: Ekeberg Park

Tram emerges from the fog: Ekeberg Park

Yes, it was expensive – mitigated by some good hotel deals and the Oslo pass. Take a hip flask!

Viking ship.

Viking ship.

Snowy Oslo

Snowy Oslo

Edvard Munch - a phenomenal technique

Edvard Munch – a phenomenal technique

One of Vigeland's many sculptures.

Oslo in freezing fog.


One of Vigeland’s many sculptures

Statue by Hilde Moehlum, Ekeberg Park

Statue by Hilde Moehlum, Ekeberg Park

Late c19th Norwegian hyper-realism: Girls of Telemark

Late C19th Norwegian hyper-realism: Girls of Telemark

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