Karl Johans Gate runs straight downhill from the gates of Oslo's royal palace to the parliamentary buildings (Stortinget), and continues down to the city's main train station (Oslo Sentralstasjon). From the palace hill one can see the tops of buildings and trees, red flags, neon signs, streetlamps. But beyond all of that is the verdant rise of Ekeberg Park and the rest of Oslofjord's eastern bank. As Jonathan and I walked through the palace grounds and surveyed the city, it was that grassy, forested hill which caught my husband's eye.
"This is why Oslo is the perfect city for us," he said. "We can be right in the heart of town and still see the natural world."
He's right. This is what works for us. I like the buzz and color of city living, the knowledge that great restaurants and world class opera and authentic kababs and high fashion all exist within a few blocks of me. Jonathan must, at all times, be able to hear and heed the call of the wild. Oslo, in her generosity, provides us with both.
For example, last weekend we wanted to get out for a hike. The weather forecast included rain, but the frantic gleam in Jonathan's eye kept me from pleading my case to remain dry. Rather, we grabbed the Gore-Tex and hurried to the tram stop. We took our corner tram (19) to Majorstuen where we hopped on the Metro (T-Bane 1) to Frognerseteren. The half-hour train ride took us up into the hills at the northern end of the city.
Frognerseteren is the last stop on the line, and a number of hiking trails branch out from the train platform. These trails double as cross-country ski trails in the wintertime. We disembarked and headed downhill a short way to the Frognerseteren Restaurant. Housed in a hulking dark wood building constructed in 1892, it includes a cafeteria style section for people dropping in along with a fine dining area open for dinner. It's hard to miss the restaurant in all its ferocious grandeur. Traditional Viking carvings of leering dragon heads sprout from the eaves. We had occasion to enjoy a pint of beer (øl) soon after our arrival in Norway this April; it's well worth the short trip, both for the delicious baked goods and the vibrant panoramic view of Oslo far below.
But our motivations last weekend were much different. After some cursory research, Jonathan had selected a hiking trail from Frognerseteren down to the lake at Sognsvann. The 7 km (4.3 mi) hike would be mostly downhill. And, best of all, we'd be able to take the Metro from the station at Sognsvann back down into Oslo at the end of it.