I always envisioned myself as a world traveller, dreaming of exploring the planet with my two eyes. But my travel destinations were limited to within Asia. Going to Europe or the US seemed like an impossible dream for a middle-class individual such as myself.
However, one day, I woke up to an official invitation on my phone to travel to Norway. I had to pinch myself to confirm whether it was real or just a dream. Indeed, life has a way of surprising us.
Although the purpose of my visit was to attend official work, I intended to explore and enjoy Norway's rich culture, heritage and natural beauty. I had hoped to venture into Denmark as well, but as a first-time visitor to a Schengen country, personal travel was not permitted during work trips. Nevertheless, I was grateful for this opportunity.
My colleague and I started our journey on 12 November, 2022. During our immigration at the Dhaka airport, we faced a rather strange situation. Our immigration officer didn't know what a Schengen visa was, and how many countries covered it.
Even his supervisor was not aware of it. They tried to test my knowledge (and my patience) by asking me the name of Norway's capital.
However, the immigration officer at the airport in Oslo was extremely friendly. She told us, "Enjoy your time; Norway is a very beautiful country."
The city of Oslo was exceptionally beautiful, and their transportation system caught my attention. I noticed that the system placed a strong emphasis on ensuring safe travel for persons with disabilities. One example was the provision of an audible signal during red lights, which was particularly necessary for people with visual impairments.
The unfortunate truth was that we didn't have much free time to explore during work hours. Our workshop ran from 9am to 5pm; and during the winter season in Oslo, daylight hours were limited.
It was still dark at 8am and darkness set in as early as 3pm. As a result, we had to do our Oslo city sightseeing over the course of seven days after work, mostly in the dark.
We spent every evening wandering around the lovely city of Oslo on foot for a good three to four hours.
We were lucky to have a Bangladeshi colleague working at our Norway office who generously offered to show us around. He was a great guide and took us to some really nice spots like the King's House, Parliament House, Peace Prize Centre, and the ship jetty.
The city was stunning at night, especially during Christmas time when everything was decked out in twinkling lights. You could feel the holiday cheer in the air. I can't deny that it was a bit chilly out there, but it was worth it to take in all the beauty that Oslo had to offer.
When we visited the Parliament House, we were surprised to learn that any citizen could meet with the Minister, MP, or even the Prime Minister there and share their concerns or opinions.
It was really cool to see how accessible and open the government was to its people, and it made me appreciate the strength of democracy in Norway. I realised then, how lucky the Norwegians were to have such an inclusive and responsive government.
After touring Oslo City on 16 November, we had the pleasure of visiting the renowned Munch Museum. This museum was dedicated to the life and work of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, who was famous for his iconic painting 'The Scream'.
The museum housed a vast collection of Munch's paintings, drawings, and prints, providing a comprehensive overview of his artistic career.
We also explored some of the city's iconic landmarks, including the Oslo Opera Centre and the Central Library. While both were impressive in their own right, I was particularly struck by the Central Library.
The organisation and layout of the library were top-notch, and I was impressed by the sheer number of resources available to the public.
We visited the site of the executive government quarter, which was the site of a tragic attack in 2011 where 77 people lost their lives. The attacker, a right-wing extremist named Anders Behring Breivik, had demands that included expelling Muslims from Europe and ending multiculturalism. To learn more about the attack, check out the movie 'July 22' on Netflix.
One evening, we were invited to the home of one of our Norwegian colleagues for a social dinner. We were really impressed by the host's hospitality and amazing cooking skills.
We also went to Vigeland Sculpture Park, one of the largest sculpture parks in the world. The park was created by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland. It was an incredible collection of sculptures that depict the human experience in all its beauty, pain, and complexity.
As we walked through the park, we were struck by the sheer size and diversity of the sculptures. We learned that Vigeland had spent most of his life working on the sculptures in the park.
Although I had a great time exploring Oslo, I realised that there was still so much more to see. The beautiful countryside of Norway, the northern lights, and the gorgeous fjords and enchanting forests were all waiting to be discovered.
Travel tips for Norway
- Norway is huge - Take your time travelling around the country as it is quite large in size. Ferry rides and train journeys from one to another will take up a lot of your time.
- Use public transport - Taxis are not cheap in Norway, some trips can even cost up to €100. So, be wise and use public transport.
- Take warm clothes, use sunscreen - The cold tends to linger so pack warm clothes. Even if it is cloudy, use sunscreen.
- There are more things to eat in Norway than dried fishes - You will find plenty of restaurants serving excellent international cuisine.
- No northern lights in winter - Even if you go somewhere really close to the Arctic Circle, there is no guarantee that you will be able to see the northern lights.