Guest feature from Elena Price
You could celebrate the centenary of the race to the South Pole at the Fram Museum, climb over the snow-clad roof of the new opera house or scare yourself silly by riding the Hollmenkollen ski jump simulator. But, annoyingly, there’s one compelling reason to stay at home. It’s not the weather: temperatures slide from about 8C this month to around freezing in December, but with the right coat and boots it’s perfectly bearable. What’s hard to stomach are the prices. Oslo regularly hits the headlines as the most expensive city in the world: labour costs are high, VAT is 25 per cent and the tax on alcohol is 100 per cent so, apart from raiding duty free on the way out, how can you do it on the cheap.
It’s essential to stick to public transport — locals generally use taxis only after the buses stop running. The best deal is the Oslo Pass, which gives free travel on buses, trams, trains (but not the airport express) and ferries, as well as entrance to more than 30 museums and attractions.
One of these is the Fram Museum, reached by taking a bus to the Bygdøy peninsula. At 3pm on December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen and his team conquered the South Pole. It’s an achievement for which the secretive Norwegian has never been forgiven by many on this side of the North Sea who are besotted with the tale of Robert Scott’s heroic failure. The war of words still rages about the degree of Scott’s culpability, but spend five minutes in the museum devoted to Fram, the world’s strongest wooden ship, and you understand the extent of Amundsen’s advantage.
“Victory awaits him, who has everything in order — luck we call it,” said the self-styled last of the Vikings. “Defeat is definitely due for him, who has neglected to take the necessary precautions — bad luck we call it,” he added. Fram still holds the record for sailing the farthest north and south, and you can climb on board to peek around the lounges, cargo hold and engine room. Down in the cabins, smelling of oil and wood, it’s not difficult to imagine the cracking of the ice.
Despite the display’s detailing, it’s a museum that leaves you wanting more. Fortunately, the South Pole centenary exhibition, opening on December 14, will deliver. At its heart is a reconstruction of Framheim, the village that Amundsen built under the ice in Antarctica, along with evidence of the enormous differences in each team’s planning. Crucial to Amundsen’s success were his dogs — Scott preferred Siberian ponies — and clothes based on traditional Inuit dress rather than the heavy wool that Scott favoured. English translations of the Amundsen team’s diaries will be on sale for the first time.
Radisson Blu have several hotels in Oslo – each with its own unique design and style. Passengers flying in nd out of the city can stay in one of the biggest hotels in Norway, Radisson’s Gardermoen Oslo Airport hotel that is connected to the terminal building by a covered walkway.
Should you feel thirsty after all that polar exploration, don’t even think of buying bottled water. Oslo water is drinkable, even from the taps in the loos of museums. With forward planning like this, you might even be able to splash out on a lager.