OSLO, NORWAY: Good things often come in small packages, and in the Scandinavian jewel box, Oslo is a tiny gem. The Norwegian capital has a lot going for it these days. Especially considering it once languished in the shadow of its larger sisters Stockholm, Helsinki, and Copenhagen.
One factor for its newfound prestige is that “Lonely Planet” recently named Oslo one of its Top Ten best cities to visit in 2018. Thanks to “innovative architecture and unmissable museums alongside cool bars, bistros and cafés”.
European Cities of the Future
Combined with the status of being one of Europe’s leading maritime centers as well as a major base for many Norwegian oil and gas companies, in recent years Oslo has been named one of the “European Cities of the Future.”
Oslo is compact making it easy for travelers with limited time to see a lot without having to rush. On the other hand, travelers with the luxury of being able to dawdle can surround themselves within a city that has a variety of interesting sites.
The key in Oslo is diversity.
Begin with the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History) which features more than 150 buildings that have been relocated from all over the country. The most popular attraction in the outdoor folk-center is Gol Stave Church which dates to sometime around 1200.
Among the lesser-known aspects of Scandinavian culture is discovering the fascinating heritage of the Sami people. Americans more likely know them better as Lapps.
Not far from the city center, within easy walking distance, is Frogner Park. Frogner Park is the largest and best-known park in Norway, thanks primarily to the massive collection of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland.
Vigeland Park, the largest sculpture park in the world made by a single artist, was the life work of its creator. With 212 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron, the complex was completed between 1939 and 1949.
Most of the sculptures are nudes, but lest you think there is anything salacious in the work, the figures range in age from very young to very old. Vigeland’s idea was to represent the cycles of life from birth to old age through his art, thus displaying many of his pieces in less than sensational or seductive appearance.
A newer, more landscaped park known as Ekebergparken Sculpture Park features works by Norwegian and international artists such as Salvador Dali.
One of the lesser-known facts about is Vigeland is that he also designed the Nobel Peace Prize medal.
Nobel Peace Prize
Speaking of the Nobel Peace Prize, every December 10th, the award is presented in the town hall in Oslo. All the other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm.
December 10 marks the day of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896. Oddly enough, he went to his grave without explaining exactly why the Peace Prize was to be given in Oslo with the others being presented in Stockholm, leaving the reason up for speculation.
Several renowned writers either lived or were born in Oslo including Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen.
The Munch Museum honoring provocative expressionist artist Edvard Munch opened in Oslo featuring, of course, his most famous work “The Scream.” Upon his death, Munch donated his entire collection to the city.
The museum itself with its wave-like curl at the top is a perfect example of Oslo’s newfound reputation for architectural diversity. In 1814, when Oslo was the capital with the name of Christiania. There were hardly any buildings at all that were suitable enough for government institutions.
Architecturally, Oslo has come a long way in the past two centuries.
You can always tell a city that has great attractions when it offers museums that appeal to non-museum lovers. Oslo has two.
Oslo’s Unique Museums
The Kon-Tiki Museum showcases both of Thor Heyerdahl’s historic boats in a single fascinating exhibition. In 1947, the famous adventurer crossed the Pacific Ocean on the balsawood raft Kon Tiki.
He later accomplished a similar achievement when he piloted Ra, Ra II and Tigris across the Atlantic in papyrus and reed boats in an effort to prove that ancient civilizations could indeed make contact over long distances.
Heyerdahl also explored the Galapagos where Charles Darwin set forth many of his theories. He did archeological excavations on remote Easter Island as well.
The Viking Ship Museum is the second place of interest for non-museum fans. Three ships trace the history of the age of the Vikings. The Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune along with numerous other relics from the era are more than enough to appeal to even the toughest museum critic.
A lot to do in Oslo
With more than 20 theaters, including the National Theatre of Norway situated between the Royal Palace and Parliament as well as six Michelin rated restaurants with Maaemo being the only three-star restaurant in Norway’s history, Oslo can keep travelers occupied for many days.
And with a host of lively festivals each year, such as the six-day Oslo Jazz Festival, Oslo is truly making its mark for recognition among its better-known sister cities.
The city nestles like a horseshoe along the shores of the Oslofjord with forests and hills radiating in most directions. Consequently, no place in the city is far from the countryside. Best of all, scenery lovers who cannot make it all the way west to Bergen and the fjords can get a taste of Norway’s best known picturesque wonders in Oslo itself.
Basically, it all comes down to the fact that a traveler can no longer ignore little Oslo because its “fjord has a better idea.”
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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