The Storting (Parliament) Building - Oslo February 2024

Wandering in a Winter Wonderland

The fine folks at HackCon invited me to Oslo to speak at their security conference. You can find the cloud security ramblings elsewhere on this site; this post is another in my series of practical advice for traveling outside the US.

HackCon was held in Oslo, Norway (cool) in February (wait, what?), and I’m happy to report I made it back home with all my fingers and toes and didn’t freeze to death.

Getting There

I couldn’t find a reasonable business-class flight, and after doing Asia in Delta Premium Select, I decided to try that out for an overnight flight. Delta doesn’t have direct flights to Oslo, so my choices were SkyTeam hubs AMS or CDG. I found a good deal on a flight that would take me from ATL to CDG, then onto OSL on AirFrance. I would return by KLM to AMS and Delta from AMS to ATL.

Premium Economy on AirFrance was ok (it wasn’t lie-flat after all). The seat had enough space, and the food was excellent. I had an early departure (4:55 pm ET) so it was a bit too early to eat and sleep, so I finally saw Oppenheimer. Sleeping in Premium Economy wasn’t easy, and while I got a bit of sleep, it wasn’t super comfortable. I also bought the wifi, which worked for about 3 hours and was useless the rest of the flight.

AirFrance Premium Economy
Better than coach
IFE flight map
The idea of Great Circles amuses me

I had a 7-hour layover in CDG. Unlike my trip to Morocco, I didn’t immediately go through security screening on landing. Odd, but I won’t complain. Instead, I went from Terminal 2E to Terminal 2F through Schengen passport control and straight to the Air France lounge. This lounge had a room where you could sleep, so I went there to finish my sleep. My 7 am arrival in Paris was still only 1 am ET, so I slept till about 10 am local time. I then got a lounge shower and was able to kick-start my day. I’ve not done a lounge shower in the US, but my experiences with them in ICN, CDG, and Narita have been excellent.

AirFrance plane at the CDG Terminal
View from the lounge

Having used Airalo (referral link) before, I already had the eSIM setup, so I was able to top off my plan for 5GB for $20 and had high-speed internet for the week.

The flight to Oslo was uneventful. I slept most of the way. Since I was only Premium Economy on the international leg, I was just in coach on this 2-hour flight. I think my Delta status allowed me to snag an exit-row seat. Here’s one thing different from the US: You’re not allowed to stow your bag under the seat in front of you on AirFrance (and KLM). Apparently, the European airlines realize that they’re massive trip hazards. AirFrance offered a small bottle of wine and a Cheese or Chicken salad sandwich in a plastic bag. I wasn’t hungry (having a decent meal in the lounge), so I saved it for dinner at the hotel.


Arrival in Oslo
Oh god, I've got a bad feeling about this

The Oslo airport isn’t massive like ATL, AMS, or CDG, so it was a quick exit to baggage claim. Yup. I checked a bag. I decided to over-pack warm clothes and bring hiking boots, which I didn’t want to wear on the plane. Plus, NYC tore up my suitcase on my trip two weeks prior. So I rushed to Kohl’s, bought a cheap $150 mid-size bag, and shoved everything in there. Checking on my outbound leg is always risky, but I didn’t have much choice on this trip.

Before getting to baggage claim, you go through arrival duty-free. I’ve only seen that in Singapore, but apparently, it’s a thing in Norway too. I picked up a small bottle of Aquavit because when in Rome. I also hit an ATM to get NOK 1000 (about US$100), which I mostly never needed.

While waiting for my bag, I booked a ticket on the FlyToGet - the Oslo plane train. For about US$23, it took me straight from the terminal to Oslo Central Station, which was less than a km from the hotel. This was a great experience. I ordered the ticket on my phone and scanned the QR code to enter the station.

It wasn’t till I got off the train that the full cold hit me. It wasn’t that bad. I had a hat, scarf, warm jacket and layers. I didn’t change into my boots, and my feet were warm.

The conference put up the speakers at the Hotel Bristol, a charming old-world hotel (with a Gin Bar that made some excellent Negronis). I will certainly stay there again if I visit Oslo again.

Hotel Room Hotel Room

I wish I had taken a picture of the breakfast spread. The included breakfast was excellent (even if you’re not into smoked fish). I didn’t bother with lunch most days.

Getting around Oslo

I still had some consulting and day job work for the next three days, but I took plenty of time to wander around the central city and hang out with cloud security peeps. I only fell on my ass once.

The main attraction in the city center waterfront was the Akershus Festning (Fortress), a medieval fortress overlooking the Oslo Fjord.

Akershus Festning
Akershus Festning, view from the harbor

It had great views of the harbor and was the only medieval castle with an underground parking deck.

Akershus Festning
Most vikings thought it was a waste of money

The fortress was part tourist attraction and part working military establishment. There were several very serious-looking people with machine guns walking about.

View of the Cathedral
View of the Cathedral with military buildings in front

Nearby was the Royal Palace, which, one day I was there, hosted a state visit from the President of Tanzania.

Royal Palace
The Royal Palace

While it was cold (between 20F and 30F), I wasn’t miserable. I enjoyed going out for night walks in the snow around the city. There is something about a snow-covered city that just absorbs sound and is peaceful.

Cemetery in snow Outdoor restaurant

It’s probably been a decade since I saw this much snow.

Akershus Festning at night
Akershus Festning at night

Palace at night
Palace Grounds at night

I read that the key to staying warm was layers and wool, and wool socks especially. So before I left, I bought wool socks, wool underwear, and a wool shirt. I used the socks but not the others. Navigating the streets was a bit of a challenge. Under the snow was often a sheet of ice, and a few times, I almost lost my balance (and I did fall on my ass once outside the fortress).

Outdoor eating
I had zero intention of eating outside though
Bottle of Water
The personalized water bottle was a nice touch

Reindeer Entrecôte
Reindeer Entrecôte
Outside the Hotel Bristol at night

Flight home

Getting home was straightforward, if a bit dicey. The morning I left, it was raining, and I had a decent walk to the train station. I decided to wear my boots and switch back to shoes at the train station. I didn’t get soaked and repacked my bag at the train station. My flight was at 0630, and the first train out (scheduled for 0434) was a few minutes late. But the nice part of going business class is that you have special lines everywhere. So once I got to the airport a little after 5 am, I walked right up to Sky Priority check-in, dropped my bag, and got my boarding pass, giving me access to a special security line. Special in that it didn’t have a line, not special in that I didn’t need to take out my iPad and second monitor, which I didn’t do. The security person was incredibly polite as he sent my bag through a second time.

The morning flight out of Oslo was delayed at the gate for about 45 minutes due to air traffic control issues. So, by the time we landed in AMS, I had to book it straight through passport control to the Delta gate. Luckily, US Passports are all digital, and I could just walk to a kiosk, scan my passport and proceed.

The Delta One flight was Delta One. I’m sipping port while writing this and another cloud security post. The Wifi has been spotty, and it forgot who I was, so I had to re-purchase a flight pass. That I’m going to complain about.

Damn, I typed the above too soon. It failed the rest of the trip

I made silver medallion on the flight over (primarily thanks to MQD 3500 in AMEX please-don’t-quit-us bonuses), so Gold should be achievable this year. I’ve got at least one more overseas trip for fwd:cloudsec Europe in September in Brussels (not to mention SF, Vegas, Philly, DC, Seattle, and probably a few trips to NYC), so Platinum is a possibility this year.

Having done Oslo myself, I want to bring the family back in warmer weather. One thing I want to do is a long boat ride or drive to the fjords, and having visited once, I know how the place works and can be the tour guide.

If I go back in the winter, I will try and make it up to Tromsø to maybe see the Northern Lights.

Obligatory Selfie in front of cannons at Akershus
Cathedral facing the water in Akershus