Unwittingly, Jonathan and I stumbled across the perfect reprieve from Oslo's cold, dark winter last weekend. We took the T-Bane (Metro) east from the city center to the Toyen station. There we visited The Munch Museum first , a real treat! Lunched there at the café. Then we decided to talk a short winter walk.
Another cluster of buildings caught our eye, in particular, two greenhouses. The windows were completely fogged up, but we peered through them anyway. Last year I learned how my mind craves the color green after a few months of white snow on bare, black branches, gray streets, and grayer slush piled at the corners. With nose almost flat to the greenhouse glass, I could feel myself yearning for the lush green leaves, vines, and branches I could just make out within.
"It is possible to go inside," said a Norwegian woman who had appeared beside me. "And it IS very nice."
She knew we were Americans. Standing on our tip-toes and drooling must have given us away.
It turned out that we'd wandered into the Oslo Botanical Garden . Under snow, it's tough to tell! The greenhouses, Palmhuset (The Palm House) and Victoriahuset (The Victoria House), part of the garden exhibit, are open six days a week, including Sundays, and are free to the public.
We started at Palmhuset, the larger of the two, higher on the hill. Built in 1868, it contains three rooms: The Evolution Room, The Mediterranean Room, and The Desert Room.
Immediately, the warmth, steam, and bright lights began to work on me, probably the same way they work on the plants all winter long. I loosened my scarf and unbuttoned my coat, filled my lungs with warm air.
Victoriahuset was built in 1876 specifically to accommodate the giant waterlily of the Amazonas. I can't overstate how incredible it was to push through the doors, leaving behind a white and gray world of dry cold, passing a sign that read
Don't Touch The Plants, Many Are Poisonous
, and coming upon that giant waterlily.
Fish swim in the pool. A faux alligator head rises from the still, black water. As we wandered the overgrown path around the pond, the shrieks and giggles of children echoed around us. We had to push wandering vines and heavy tendrils of jungle plants out of our way. It suddenly felt like a safari, especially once we found the exhibit of carnivorous plants. Tiny, but with ripe, red tongues of color visible within the gaping tubes of their mouths.
Probably the coolest part of the greenhouse experience was seeing these plants, thousands of varieties, thriving in this warm climate under the gabled glass ceiling. Outside, the air was a mild 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit), and we could see the sky getting darker, could see the black lace silhouettes of Norway's bare deciduous trees. On the west side of the building, the firey colors of a brilliant winter sunset reflected brightly through the steamed-over windows.
I look forward to visiting the Oslo Botanical gardens in the summer, too, but will almost certainly make it back over in the wintertime, if only to be as one with the lilies and orchids and ferns--to unclench my winter-hardened exterior and feel the light and heat work their way into my California-Girl's heart.