Oslo – City of Contrasts
With a population of just over 600,000, Oslo is one of Europe’s fastest growing capitals. This was obvious to me by just looking up, way up, at all the cranes clearly visible on the skyline.
There is construction everywhere, with road closures rerouting traffic and pedestrians alike. The sleek, modern and innovative architecture is changing the face of this almost 1000 year old city, but at the same time blending the new into its colourful and historic past.
Oslo grew on me quickly. From the moment I stepped off the train at Central Station, I felt comfortable and safe. And one of my first impressions, aside from its cleanliness, was how quiet the city was. As I reflect back on my three days, I don’t think I heard a horn blast once, and the drivers are oh so courteous. In fact, the culture seems to be one of high civility and politeness. I overheard a group of young people talking about training they had received (clearly working in retail): they were always told to make eye contact, smile, say please and thank you. Habits like this learned on the job clearly transferred to the street, where people generally smiled and acknowledged each other in passing. Refreshing!
Oslo Free Walking Tours was a great way to learn about the city! Our guide – Angie from Argentina – was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the city. We appreciated the harbour area, which at one time been derelict and dirty, but has been revitalized to being a hip and happening promenade of restaurants and galleries.The Old Fortress on the hill stands sentry to the city’s past, and today houses much of the military headquarters.
The “old town” has a few surviving buildings built in European style, which are a sharp contrast to the Norwegian style of architecture.
And then it was onwards to the National Theatre where Henrik Ibsen’s statue stands, and across the park to Parliament. Built with yellow bricks which was the cheapest colour available, therefore typically used by the poor, the parliament building was built with huge windows signifying transparency and openness. These two elements were intentional to signify that this was the people’s parliament.
The sun falls quickly at this time of year, and by 4pm, it is already dusk. The lights are twinkling at the Christmas Market outside of my hotel, and the main pedestrian street Karl Johans is all lit up as well. It is a magical winter wonderland, especially with the light dusting of snow that we got in the morning!