Yesterday, I went to Oslo to view four potential places as part of my house hunting quest. At least for Norway, the capital city is a huge hub, with a large network of trains, light rails, trams and busses. The area is loosely divided into different areas and each of these is much more distinct than those in Bergen (at least to me). Before you start reading I’d like to make a short disclaimer: while the properties I visited are somewhat representative of each area, they should not be used as the basis for judging each area itself.
The moment you step into Grønland, you enter a whole new country. Foreign food shops line the streets, with outdoor food stands, kebab shops and pizzerias. People from Africa and the Middle East walk the streets, and many a women can be seen wearing hijabs. The streets have few cars yet are full of life and bustle. It is only a few minutes’ walk from the centre of the city and in extremely close proximity to all forms of transport. It is an extremely multicultural area, which reminded me a lot of Melbourne and certain suburbs surrounding my former home city.
This area of the city is undergoing gentrification, which is the transformation of an urban community into a much wealthier one. This can be achieved in a number of ways, and at least for Oslo, has involved the construction of the recent Oslo Opera House and the renovation of houses in the area. This was apparent by the apartment I went to view, which was very modern and totally unexpected for a place in this part of town.
If you ask a Norwegian what Frogner is like, they will agree on one thing: it is a posh and rich area. It extends from behind the Royal Palace up to the edge of the famous, sculpture-filled Frogner Park. The buildings are quite old and unique in design, and apartments there are some of the most expensive in the country. I saw at a BMW parked in every street and even spotted one guy equipped with a set of golf clubs (I should also point out that golfing in Norway is a rather expensive hobby!). Nonetheless, it is a very nice, relaxed area of town.
The place I went to view in this area was definitely old. The ceilings were very tall and much light passed through the large windows. One corner was furnished with a very old, iron fireplace. But with old age came a lack of care and a strong need for renovation work. Unfortunately I was not sold.
Out of the four areas I visited, I have the least to say for this part of town. St. Hanshaugen lies in the centre of the Oslo district, which can make difficult to access different parts of the city depending on where you exactly live. It is considered one of the more hip areas, and the place I went to view had a nice looking café beside it. There are plenty of apartments meaning that it has become quite a family-centric place these past few years. I wouldn’t mind living here myself, as long as I had nearby access to trams which could take me to the university.
If cafés, bars and restaurants is what you desire, then this place is for you. With Sunday markets, small parks and vibrant life, Grünerløkka is considered the hipster part of Oslo. Spend long enough here and you’ll find enough street art to last you the day. And there’s plenty of music to go around too—I passed one park that was filled with the sounds of bass and hip hop. The Øya Festival here last week hosted artists such as OutKast, Queens of the Stone Age, Röyksopp & Robyn and The National.
A side story: Grünerløkka’s grim grove
The place I went to view, however, was a story unto itself. It was an old looking collective hidden within a small courtyard and behind a wall of overgrown grass. When I went inside, I was welcomed by a pungent stench of incense with a hint of sweet, sickly weed. The host, who came across as carefree and relaxed, brought me down the hallway, which was plastered with brown cardboard boxes and duct tape, and bits of old newspaper stuck out between empty gaps. Dead CRT TVs rested in one corner and a stained mattress in another, with bits of rusted cutlery and dusty bowls sitting on top. One doorframe at the end of the corridor had been refashioned by thin pieces of tooth stained wood and nails jutted out from every corner.
The room itself was furnished with clothes strewn across the floor and useless household items, unfixable and beyond repair. As the host told me a little about the room, I heard the sound of somebody voraciously gnashing on a carrot behind me. I turned around, meeting eyes with a woman a little older than myself. She scanned my body as if trying to assess whether or not she wanted me. A little bewildered, I turned around and continued with the tour.
I was shown a few other rooms and eventually was brought to a spiral set of staircases that led to the second level of the collective. As I climbed up, I felt the whole structure rattle, as if I were on the set of a poorly budgeted movie. The kitchen itself was a horror: bits of food lay in every place imaginable and stains in every colour of the rainbow dotted the tables and stove tops, hopelessly beyond help from even the most trained of professional cleaners.
The living room was probably the most ‘normal’ part of the collective, although the bathtub in one corner and PVC pipe and wheelless skateboard in the middle certainly didn’t do much to help. The carrot crunching crone was now lying on one of the grapefruit coloured sofas, still staring at me intently. She lay flat on the chair, and her legs were spread out, as if inviting me to come join her. By this point, I clearly wasn’t interested. The host was telling me that the longest person who had lived there was himself, for only one and a half years. There was even mention of some guy called Pedro, who had recently quit his job and been spending his entire summer in the collective.
Past that, there’s not much else I can say. After leaving, I felt like I almost needed to sit down for a few of minutes to regain my thoughts. Never in my life did I imagine to view a place such as that and never in my life do I hope to do so again. Still, it made for a fantastic story!