Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Oslo

Washington, D.C. is more impressive. Paris is more chic. Tokyo is more modern. Berlin is more shopping friendly. But Oslo is home.

I have visited a number of great cities around the world, and many of them have left lasting impressions on me. But as far as I know Oslo is the only one of these cities where you can hop on the metro or a bus from anywhere in the vibrant city centre and within half an hour be deep in the forest or out on the fjord.

Oslo is a small city by international standards, but it is Norway’s only proper metropolis. It doesn’t have enough people to make it crowded, but there is enough to uphold a decent quantity of theaters, concerts, exhibitions and other activities that depend on a certain amount of customers. As far as Norwegian standards go, Oslo is fairly diverse, and you can find small enclaves of different cultures around the city (but rather than Chinatown or Little Mexico, you have Little Little Pakistan). Oslo have both crazily expensive 12 bedroom mansions, apartment complexes originally built for working class heroes, and English style brick houses with surrounding gardens. The different areas of the city range from those who were settled in (and still have some original buildings from) the Viking Age, and those who are being constructed (or reconstructed) today.

Of the latter is the new opera house rising from the water in Bjørvika. Once you tire of promenading on top of the smooth marble surface, you can go see the view over the city from the new ski jump at Holmenkollen, or you can go people watching by the seaside at Aker Brygge. You can sit in one of the parks along the river. You can explore medieval ruins in the Old Town, or climb the cannons at the fortress. If there is a rain shower (let’s face it, it’s Norway – there probably will be) you can go see an original Munch at the designated museum at Tøyen, or you can visit the Kon Tiki or maritime museums out on Bygdøy.

In my opinion Oslo is at its best in May or June. That is when you have the best chance of experiencing days like today, when all you want to do is stroll down in the park and read a book, or take the ferry out to one of the islands where you can bathe in the cool seawater of the fjord. It is sunny outside, but thanks to the Scandinavian climate and a slight breeze, it isn’t hot. It is perfectly comfortable to sit outside in the sunshine, sipping an iced tea at a local café (like I am doing right now). This is one of those days when Oslo feels like a bigger city than it really is, because so many people are outside. People are smiling at strangers for once. They are showing off white arms and legs, not yet touched by much sunlight this season. In a few hours they will be lightly tanned arms and legs, or, if you’re like me – light pink.

Oslo in June is what makes Oslo in January worth enduring.

Disclaimer #1:  No, I am not paid by the Norwegian Tourist Agency or some such institution to write this. I really do feel this way about Oslo at times.

Diclaimer #2: To prove the above... I wrote this yesterday. Today we're back to "cloudy with a chance of Norwegian summer". Sigh.


Piedmont Writer said...

It sounds like a beautiful place. I feel the same way about Rhode Island.

Mason Canyon said...

The photos are beautiful. Sounds like a wonderful place.

Thoughts in Progress

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Wonderful photo's seems a lovely place.


Ylva said...

Whats wrong with Oslo in the winter? In how many capitals in the world can you go skiing practicly from your doorstep in tuns of wonderful fluffy snow?

Watery Tart said...

I want to visit Oslo! I think it sounds FABULOUS... maybe a little like Minneapolis *shifty*

It does sound great though.

Clarissa Draper said...

Oslo sounds great! What's the population?


Cruella Collett said...

PW - I've only passed through Rhode Island, but it looked beautiful from the train. The view from the tracks was well worth the longish train ride from Boston to D.C.

MC - thank you! I am (as you can tell) quite fond of Oslo.

Yvonne - thank you!

Ylva - right, I'll give you that. Up where you live Oslo is pretty neat in the winter. In fact, most parts of Oslo is neat in the winter (that is, the part of winter that isn't slush mode, aka February-April), except what I suffered through this winter downtown. The only types of skis I could put on outside my door there were water skis...

Tami - yay! You should! I wouldn't know whether it is like Minneapolis since I only every visited the Mall of America and the airport when I was there, but perhaps?

Clarissa - we're a little over half a million, with an additional million or so in the urban areas surrounding the city and suburbs. So not too big (but big enough for me).

Marjorie said...

I'm a city girl too. If you think not getting to summer is frustrating try waiting for winter here. I guess it's all just the result of living in the more extreme environments. You're always going to be waiting for the more temperate weather.

Anonymous said...

Oslo sounds fascinating! Right now the weather must be so nice. Norway's always ranked near the top as one of the best countries to live in. :)

I'm enjoying these cultural scoops!

Cruella Collett said...

Marjorie - oh, that would be frustrating. When I was in DC I didn't deal all that well with the heat, so yeah.. I think I'll take what I've got ;)

Amanda - thank you! Yes, Norway scores well on the HDI, and I think that is for a good reason. Still, there are other factors that never would show up on an index (such as happiness - how would you measure that?), and to me it seems as though we score better on that "index" (you know, had there been one) in May/June. But since what makes someone happy is very individual, I'm willing to admit this is just my opinion ;)

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Bhutan, and their Gross National Happiness thing.

Cruella Collett said...

Amanda - haha, I guess. Bhutan is such a fascinating country (I love the whole story with the king abdicating voluntarily in favour of democracy) - I should read up on it!

Michelle Gregory said...

sounds like the weather is about like Montana's. wait a minute and it will change. moving there next year - Montana, not Oslo, tho i'd love to visit.

Cruella Collett said...

Michelle - it's funny, because almost every time I post something about Norwegian weather I get comments such as "sounds exactly like XXX" - most of whom are places I have never been so I can't really say if I agree or not. The common denominator, though, usually is how it changes a lot. I guess people all over the world feel like the weather changes too much!

I'd love to visit Montana, by the way. It makes me think of open space, clear air, tall mountains and blue sky - a place where there is room to think. Am I at all close?

Michelle Gregory said...

very close. lots of sky.

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