Change of pace

With the holiday halfway over, I’ve been feeling more rested, and was interested in doing something a little different today. The weather was really nice, and a coworker had previously suggested that I come with her to an animal shelter, and today we made it up there.

The shelter is called FOD, and it’s sort of on the southern edge of the city, about a 20 minute bus ride from the main bus terminal followed by a 15 minute walk more or less into the woods.

Once there, we got to take a couple of dogs out for a walk. They were very well behaved and were pros at begging for treats. After taking the dogs for a walk, we were introduced into some very cute puppies. All in all, it was a nice and relaxing afternoon, and walking the dogs was a nice change from going to the gym.

Norwegian Holidays

The Easter holidays start on Thursday.  Actually, for many Norwegians, the holiday started last Friday.  While around 90% of Norwegians technically belong to the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway, this is not an overly religious country.  For many Norwegians in Oslo, this long weekend is a chance for them to go skiing one last time before spring really arrives.  Plus, the holidays related to Easter guarantee a minimum number of days off.

In Norway, you only get a day off for a public holiday if you are normally scheduled to work on the day it falls.  This means that since Norway’s Constitution Day (May 17) falls on a Sunday this year, it’s not a real holiday to me – I have to be at work the Friday before and the Monday after.  It seems strange to me.  So this year, even though there are 10 public holidays, only 8 of them are actually days off for me, and it looks like next year will be even worse – 3 of the days fall on the weekend, as does January 1, 2011.  Darn.

For those of you who are curious, here are the public holidays for 2009:

1 Jan New Year’s Day. 
9 Apr
 Holy Thursday.
10 Apr Good Friday.
13 Apr Easter Monday.
1 May May Day.
17 May Constitution Day.
21 May Ascension.
1 Jun Whit Monday.
25-26 Dec Christmas.


There is something of a tradition in the eastern part of Norway to travel to Sweden on occasion to buy stuff, especially alcohol and tobacco, where it is generally much cheaper.  From Oslo, it takes around 1 1/2 to 2 hours each way to get to a town in Sweden where you can get your shopping done.  I was invited to go with some people on Saturday, and it was amazing just how many people were out there getting their shopping done.  Obviously there are some limitations – on alcohol and tobacco at least, there are limits on how much you can bring back into Norway without having to pay customs – it’s around 2 liters of wine, 1 liter of spirits, and some amount of beer – I think 2 liters, but I’m not sure.

This trip is called a “Harrytur”, or at least it has been for the past few years – since around 2002 when a politician named Lars Sponheim said the practice was “Harry”.  “Harry” is a derogatory term that has been around since the beginning of the 20th century and suggests that something is low-class or in bad taste.  Still, the Harrytur is popular, especially when 100 Swedish Kroners are only worth around 80 Norwegian Kroners.

Of course, as an American, I looked at this as a road trip, another great tradition!

The Royal Palace

Oslo Palace

Royal Palace, Oslo

Norway has an interesting history.  For many years they were in a union with Denmark (not by choice), and then they were sort of given to Sweden in the early 19th century, which lasted until 1905.  It was during the union with Sweden that the Royal Palace was built.  It’s a small palace compared to others in Europe, because it wasn’t meant to be the primary residence of a royal family.

Today Norway’s king and queen live and do their work in the palace.  The crown prince also has offices here as well.  If you are going to be in Oslo in July or early August, you should consider taking the tour.  They give tours in English about three times a day during this time.  Buy your tickets in advance at the post office, otherwise they might sell out before you can get a ticket.

One downer is that they don’t let you take any pictures, and the palace’s website has all their pictures in flash files.  The tour takes you through the vestibule, the bird room, the “family” dining room, the ballroom, another dining hall, and the royal chapel, plus some other rooms.  A lot of it is very ornate, much as you’d expect of a palace, although the chapel is actually fairly plain.  It doesn’t necessarily show you how the king and queen live, but you get to see rooms that they use fairly often.

Picture by photojenni