We left for Norway or rather Copenhagen after Prague. But not before we almost ‘lost’ the house cats in Prague…
Before we left the house in Prague that morning, I heard a piece of distressing news. It was 3:30am as our flight from Prague to Copenhagen was 7am. M informed me right after I got up that he forgot his driver’s licence at home in Singapore; about 9,842 km away.
I must be dreaming, I thought to myself and was about to walk back to bed. M repeated again and asked if I had my driver’s licence with me and I knew it wasn’t a dream when it was also confirmed by his father who was researching online for some alternatives.
Why is that important? Because our plan was to fly into to Copenhagen, rent a car from the airport and drive to Oslo and then to the Jotunheimen area, where we would hike through Jotunheimen South from Gjendesheim through Besseggen ridge to somewhere before making our loop back to the car. The drive from Copenhagen to Oslo is about 606.3km according to Google Maps. That would mean me, a driver from Singapore who hardly drives and even when I did drive my Dad’s car in Singapore, it was hardly 40km in a day given that Singapore is only that small. The drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia is half that distance.
After I’d accepted the fact that I would be driving until he gets his licence shipped via express air to him, my next thought was safety. Would I keep the both of us safe as I have not driven on the right side of the road before (in the left side of the car). The driver’s seat is on the right side of the car in Singapore and we drive on the left side of the road. That would mean getting used to this way of driving really quickly. I started researching about driving in Norway and the Nordics when we got to the airport.
So we left Prague for Copenhagen and took things one step at a time. We went to the Sixt counter at the airport to complete the car rental process. As M booked the car under his name, the licence we use for the rental had to be his licence. Yes, we tried…So we got that switched to my name and my Credit Card. After all that, he mentioned about the car we were renting. It was a manual SUV. Although I have a licence to drive manual cars, I’ve not driven one since 2009 and I’m definitely not confident of having to deal with everything else which will be new and to remember to clutch in whenever I’m changing gears…so no. I requested for an auto and he said he can’t guarantee if there’s one available right then. We were lucky. He found an Opel Astra SUV which was an auto car. That costed more to rent.
So now that we had the car and also decided that we would drive to Oslo that day, we made our way to Starbucks where we bought our very expensive drinks and muffins. Copenhagen is a very expensive city as we later learnt when we picked up our lunches.
As my dad was cat sitting for us while we were away, I asked my dad to send M’s driver’s licence to us via express air parcel. He went over to our place as soon as he could that night (it was night for him when we contacted him that morning when we arrived in Copenhagen). As the parcel can only be picked up and sent during office hours, the licence can only be on its way from the next day. We provided the address of a DHL office at Lillehammer where we’d intended to pick the licence up from. Little did we know at that point in time that it was impossible for us to send it to a DHL office as it was a ‘receiver point’ similar to ComGateway where they would receive parcels on a registered customer’s behalf and then ship that out accordingly.
We stopped by Copenhagen city and picked up some lunch and food for our long drive to Oslo. Our very expensive lunch from a burger pop-up store, I must add. In addition to getting used to driving on a different side, I was also trying not to run any cyclists over. There were cyclists everywhere in the city. Now, that is something we should have in Singapore as well. Cyclists in Copenhagen enjoy a proper fairway. In Singapore, cyclists fear for their lives on the road with impatient and errant drivers who do not wish to share the road with anyone, sometimes, not even with fellow motorists. Ergo, more accidents from rogue driving, impatience and road rage.
The highlight of my drive was driving over the Øresund Bridge. As you can see, it links Denmark to Sweden with parts of the link in a tunnel and we emerged into the light again from the tunnel onto the bridge, which was rather cool in my opinion. Of course, since I was driving, I couldn’t take any photos. So here is an aerial view from Wikipedia.
Just in January 2016, on the back of the European migrant crisis, Sweden was granted a temporary exemption from the Schengen Agreement. That meant that travellers between the Nordic countries will now need to provide photographic proof of identity or passport, after 60 years of passport-free travel, when they cross the border to Sweden.
So after about 4km in the tunnel and about 8km on the bridge, we were in Sweden. Most parts of the drive was in Sweden through the E20 and E6 motorways. Once I got onto the highway, it was a breeze…of about 130km/h. Traffic in Sweden was heavier than in Norway, with the higher population in Sweden compared with Norway; almost double. There are also more mass market brands present in Sweden. Like we knew we were out of Sweden when the views of ‘the famous golden arches of McDonald’s’ along the highway disappeared. Not that we would have wanted McDonald’s in the Nordics given the ‘smorgasbord’ of gourmet choices available. There were a notable number of Teslas on the road in Norway. Norway is one of the most EV-friendly countries. The Government laid out EV policies which provide EVs exemption from VAT and purchase tax which usually form about 50% of the total cost of the vehicle. The EVs are also exempt from road tolls, tunnel and ferry charges.
It’s mentioned on Google Maps that it would take an estimated 6h and 36 min drive from Copenhagen to Oslo. We got to our Oslo destination about 9pm. It is a fabulous place called Lysebu hotel in Oslo. About 20 minutes away from the city centre. It has modern rooms, very nordic style and rather spacious. Just check it out yourself here: http://www.lysebu.no/en/.
I was fascinated by their really furry chickens by the way…and no they didn’t serve chicken at the restaurant. The place just oozes simple elegance. We stayed at the hotel for two nights and explored some walks around the area.
Some places we made up the pronunciation. Like Frognerseteren, which sounded a lot like ‘frog in your system’ when we spoke that aloud. We went to Frognerseteren Restaurant and Cafe, which was a short walk from Lysebu and highly recommended.
Everything’s expensive in Norway. After discovery of Norway’s oil fields after 1969, the country now has a much higher standard of living compared with its neighbours, Sweden and Denmark. It was previously about 30 or 40 percent lower in 1960.
We walked for about 2 hours around the area before heading back to the hotel. We told ourselves that we needed all those carbs and calories for our long hike in Jotunheimen.
It’s summer! All the pretty flowers are in full bloom and there were so many different plants and flowers in Norway.
More in Part 2 of Walking in Norway.