Mia MacDonald traveled to Norway in October 2015 to visit the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo and to be a tourist. This blog is the third in what will be a four-part series on her experiences and observations during the trip.
Away from Fragrance of the Heart. I got the sense that “vegan” and “vegetarian” are becoming more mainstream in Norway, both the words and the ideas behind them. The existence of the Vegan Oslo website and app suggest this, and the creators of that say Vegan Norway versions are in the works. Some other evidence: I had dinner one evening at Oslo’s Literature House and the menu had vegetarian options. When I asked about a vegan meal, the chef came out of the kitchen, spoke to me in perfect English, and prepared a really nice vegetable plate with orzo, Italian pasta, leafy greens and mushrooms that tasted like they’d just been dug up from the soil. My Norwegian colleagues suggested that maybe they had been; after all, it was summer and I learned Norwegians love foraging, particularly for berries.
At another dinner, in a home just outside Oslo, my hosts cooked an excellent vegan pasta dish for me – fresh mushrooms, spinach, and lots of garlic and olive oil – that they ate too…although along with a plate of lamb chops. The concept of “hipster” is in among Oslo’s young people, one of my hosts told me. Her teenage daughter is a fan of “hipsterism”, and the Grünerløkka neighborhood of Oslo, which I’d planned to visit, was a center of hipsterdom.
I set off for Grünerløkka the next day. First I visited the Edvard Munch Museum, and then strolled through the botanical gardens on a rainy, cool day that made the shrubs and flowers look fresh and lovely. The weather was a sign that the Norwegian summer was coming to an end. On the western side of the gardens, I explored some of the terrain of Grünerløkka. I passed Middle Eastern restaurants, cafes, and several small shops stores selling vegetables. I’d expected to see mostly potatoes or other plants that grow in the ground, a monochrome display. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much produce was available and the varied colors and textures of it; perhaps they were made more vibrant by the backdrop of grey weather.
I was also on the outlook for a vegan restaurant, housed on a street I could see on my map. I’d anticipated a good meal. I couldn’t, though, find the number. And I didn’t have service on my phone to open up the Vegan Oslo app, even though it would have been a perfect time to use it. So, I never got to what I thought was my destination. Instead, I found myself back near the center of the city. I ended up eating the free dinner in my hotel. It wasn’t terribly vegan friendly, but I could eat several salads and bread, and that was good enough. That was my last night in Oslo. I never got to leave the city to visit the mountains and fjords as part of an epic, 12-hour (or more) train journey I’d read about. I simply didn’t have enough time. Maybe that means a return visit is in order and without another gap of 10 years.