My first visit to Oslo was in 1993 when I spent my time entertaining a six-year-old, so my memories of the city were a bit hazy.
Given that I had no expectations, I am here to tell you that I was impressed on my second visit to Oslo earlier this month.
The city appears to be going through a “growth spurt” and you can’t look at the city skyline without seeing a forest … not of Norwegian pine trees, but of cranes.
A city in the midst of reinvention
The city is redeveloping an area of 10 kilometers in the old shipyard area, Bjørvika.
The first phase was completed in 2014 with a row of six controversial high-rises known as the Barcode alongside the stunning new Oslo Opera House, a structure that appears to be either rising from – or sliding into – the icy waters of the Oslo fjord.
The building will continue with new museums, galleries, restaurants, office space, apartments and parks, so the future city of Oslo is going to look very different.
The city of Oslo charmed me and most of my visit was spent just walking and absorbing this atypical city. The geographical city of Oslo is huge, but two thirds of it is forest so the actual city feels very provincial.
The city is not old in comparison to other European capital cities, with most buildings dating from the late 1800’s. The centre city is very “walkable” and felt very safe.
I explored the centre with its palace, parliament, fortress, opera house, the city hall and its stunning murals and harbour area in a day, but there is plenty more to see.
The harbour front is busy with small ferries coming and going across the fjord, and when the sun comes out the locals do too! The area around Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen, a redeveloped dock area, is humming with people out enjoying the many restaurants and high-end stores and provides great people-watching opportunities.
(Norwegians I met told me they are shy by nature, but I didn’t notice. Those I met were extremely friendly and, of course, spoke flawless English.)
Sumptuous dining … at a price
Be prepared ….
Nothing is cheap in Norway for visitors, whose pay-check is not in Norwegian Krone, and alcohol is very expensive with strict laws regarding purchasing.
Restaurants, too, are expensive, but I was blessed in eating some delicious food whilst there.
The restaurant Vaaghals was an absolute visual delight, with the warm ambiance of wood and candles, and it amazed me with its food.
Its chefs specialize in Norwegian cuisine, using local ingredients but with a modern twist, and I was not disappointed.
The idea around which the restaurant is based is sharing, or “skifte.”
The sharing starts with the open kitchen, extends to the information given by the wait staff about the ingredients and ended with the food being shared with the locals with whom we had been invited to dine.
I’m not a food critic, but I can tell you there wasn’t one thing brought to our table in the seven-course tasting menu that wasn’t scrumptious!
From the home cured ham, the reindeer meat on tiny sour dough waffles, the ox tongue on freshly baked brioche and the salmon pate appetizers, the parsnip and duck egg dish that made me want to scrape the plate clean, to the delicious dessert of butter cake, ice creams and berry gels … so good that the sharing concept almost failed!
Pride of culture
The Norwegians love their culture, their city and country, and rightly so. Their pride and faith, following the act of terrorism in 2011, shows in the fact that even now their parliament building remains unprotected by fences and visible policing.
They speak with affection for their monarch and pride in the upswing their city is witnessing. They love the open countryside that surrounds them and make use of its bounty. They are justifiably proud of their country, and how many of us can say that these days?
They must be doing something right as this year, according to the World Happiness Report, they are the happiest country in the world!
The main factors contributing to this happiness are: “caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.”
Of course, being a wealthy country goes a long way towards its people being happy and, obviously, long winters aren’t a factor when you have all that countryside in which to ski and enjoy the icy beauty.
All I know is that during the weekend I visited Oslo, I definitely felt some bubbles of happiness percolating through my body, and for that I thank Norway very much.
Oslo is filled with museums.
I had a limited amount of time and too many choices, so I decided to visit the Nobel Peace Centre.
Alfred Nobel was Swedish and all the Nobel prizes, other than the Peace Prize, are awarded in Stockholm.
No one knows why Nobel in his will chose to have Norway decide and award the Peace Prize, but it has been presented in the majestic City Hall since 1901.
The Peace Centre, an old train station, was opened in 2005, and its space is used for a combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The Nobel Field is a creative installation of 1,000 fibre-optic lights, with iPads displaying the 130 recipients of the prize.
As you wander through this thought-provoking array of faces you can’t help but be captivated by the work these people have done, yet saddened that we are still so far from accomplishing their visions.
Museums for the arts:
• Edvard Munch museum
• International Museum of Children’s Art
• Astrup Fernley contemporary art museum
• Vigeland’s Sculpture Park
• Ekebergparken Sculpture Park
• The National Gallery
These fill the needs of the history buffs and culture vultures … and this is just the tip of the iceberg!
• The Viking Ship Museum
• Kon Tiki Museum
• Historical Museum,
• Oslo City Museum
• Hollmenkollen Ski Museum
• Norwegian Folk Museum can
Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a longtime expat, she’s lived in Boston, Mass for 12 years, and in the Netherlands for the past six years.
Jackie is becoming an expert at re-inventing herself! Trained as a nurse in UK, in the United States, she worked for nine years as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and runs the Hub newsletter and writes for the Eindhoven News. She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.