Unexpected encounters in Norway


With a bustling capital and a wondrously green and hilly countryside, Norway has far more to offer than the Preikestolen, (Pulpit Rock) the Kjeragbolten and the Northern Lights. To find these undiscovered treasures, you need to find a local. Or people like Jeroen and Karin Linnebank, a Dutch couple who traded the endlessly flat fields of Holland for the mountainous Norwegian province of Oppland.

To get us from the airport to the center of Oslo, the train only took about 40 minutes. We walk towards the harbor where the sight to see is the opera house. The massive marble colossus has a slanted roof that is accessible for a view across the bay and the city. The city sprawls out in front of us and getting lost looks to be easy. Thankfully, Karin and Jeroen have given us tips on how to spend our day here. The architecture is a surprising mix of old and new styles. The buildings are imposing and the streets are broad, making it feel distanced. Still, the city holds a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.

We wander past galleries and pubs along the river Akerselva, through the aggressively graffitied Brenneriveien and via the city’s parks we arrive at city hall. The masses of tourists on the square with their tacky raincoats and unsightly vacation outfits pose a stark contrast against the impressive dark brick of the building.

At the Royal Palace, we get caught in a downpour and dive into one of many cafés for shelter. All of them serve decent espressos or other special coffee. But do not order the regular black coffee! For some reason, this stuff tastes like it was brewed yesterday and kept overnight.

We end our self-guided tour of the city in the impressive Vigeland Park, designed by Gustav Vigeland to exhibit hundreds of his bronze and stone statues. These artistic expressions of the human body now fall prey to tourists with selfie sticks who want a picture with every sculpture in the park.

Before we leave Oslo to visit Karin and Jeroen, we head to the Munch Museet. A must-see; especially for those who haven’t heard of Munch besides Skrik, the Scream, which happens to be hanging in the National Gallery in London. After his death, Munch gave his works to the city of Oslo. The intriguing museum has no set exposition. Every four months a different curator arranges a new exposition, making every visit a surprise.

Going green

Our next destination was a two-hour drive from Oslo. We were headed for Kapp, a village on the Mjøsa, Norway’s largest freshwater lake. Karin and Jeroen moved here in 2006 after falling in love with the green and hilly landscape of Norway’s countryside. Karin was a speech therapist in the Netherlands and after an intensive crash course in Norwegian, was able to find similar work here. She now speaks fluent Norwegian. Just like Jeroen, who left his work as an accompanying musician and currently works as a handyman. He is trying to get back into music through a performance for school children about transitioning to a green economy. Both of them place a lot of value in sustainability and they try to live as environmentally friendly as possible.

couchsurfing norway

Condensed Milk

Thanks to Jeroen and Karin, we are able to encounter a different side of Norwegian culture. Jeroen, having helped with the interior design of the Mjøsa museum in the old Kapp milk factory, is able to give us a personal tour of the museum. The factory became world-famous after the invention of condensed milk. After seeing the industrial-size ovens in the old furnace room, we end up in Art Box. The Polish-Norwegian artist Julia Proszowska Lund transforms her studio in the factory into a café on the weekends where you can enjoy a drink amongst her paintings.

In Cloud Nine

The next morning is clammy and grey. Still, we brave the Norwegian summer to watch a performance by renowned Norwegian dancer Ella Fiskum and her R. E. D. Company along the banks of the Mjøsa. Their movements are breathtaking, even more so when compared with the dark and rough Norwegian sky in the background.

exchange adventure norway

Throughly impressed, we travel to Totenåse to climb the Hervenknappen. The view is completely obscured by a thick cloud cover, which sticks to the mountain and slowly drenches us. It turns the landscape into a misty world. The pine trees look like vague shadows in the forest. Even so, we enjoy ourselves. The cold prickles our senses and this small, shadowy world is maybe even prettier than the grand view of the surrounding hillsides on a sunny day.

Once we get back to Jeroen and Karin, the sauna brings tremendous relief. With cheese and a homebrewed drink, we end the evening in the living room. Jeroen plays the piano and reminisces about his time as a musician in the Dutch theater scene. Its not dark outside yet when we decide to head to bed; the sun never truly sets here. We plan to return to Gardermoen in the early morning hours. The trip back home comes far too early. We feel there’s more to explore in Norway than when we arrived here. 

Experienced and written by Sander