OsloAugust 13, 2017 in Norway
Leaving the paragliders at the top of our hillside overnight spot, we filled and emptied the van at the service point in the nearby town. It was provided by a petrol station so we topped up with diesel to thank them for the free services.
Next on our agenda came Oslo, Norway's capital city. We'd chosen to do a 'City Sunday' to make parking our 7 metre long van easier and because we hoped the streets and attractions would be less busy. Unable to park at the Sculpture Park as planned, we persevered, squeezing through streets where cars had unthinkingly parked opposite each other, leaving barely enough room for the van. Will managed to find a space on a road in the university quarter, next to a well used basketball court. It was a warm, bright and all importantly, dry day. People, many of whom looked like students, sat out on the grass and staged seating as we passed and made our way in towards the centre through a corridor of hipster bars and cafés. A couple of street performers from New York, dressed in jazzy attire, took advantage of their captive audience.
Once the stress of parking began to subside we began to feel and appreciate the area's relaxed atmosphere. Being Sunday, there were several 'Loppis' (flee markets), a fruit and flower market and a corridor of hippy street stalls that sold a wide range of items. Bristle brushes, baby hareem pants and silver bangles were all on display alongside doughnuts and grilled paninis. We enjoyed looking around this Camden Locks of Oslo but kept our krone safely in our wallet. Around this alternative area there was some great wall art with graffitid images, scenes and sculptures on the sides of the buildings.
Reaching the city centre we walked up the wide pedestrianised Karl Johans Gate to the inauspicious yellow brick Parliament Building. From here we had a view of the grand columns of the Royal Palace that sat within the park at the end at the street. We read that the Norwegian royal family actually live here and unlike many such residences, the public can go right up to the doors.
Skirting round the Parliament we headed towards the large docks, from where we could see cruise ships, old Navy ships with mines and missiles on board and traditional square sailed tall ships, now used for ferrying tourists. Looking down on all this was the faded red brick fortress, a sprawling complex of relatively new buildings atop a low cliff.
Our final destination in the capital was Oslo Opera House, an amazing building whose appearance was modelled to represent a glacier. Made of white stone and glass, it was created with an inclined roof that you could walk up on to for views. It's wide roof pavement was made up of many sloped sections, butted on to other parts that slanted at different angles. You needed to keep your eyes on where you walked lest you stumble up or down one of these joins. A couple of cuboid metal buildings protruded from the smooth lines of the roof, the Braille-like dimples on their otherwise flat chrome sides, providing a contrast to the sea of straight lines. The descent allowed us a view of the people enjoying the space below at ground level. They appeared a little like the figures in a Lowry painting and having come to Oslo on a Sunday deliberately to avoid crowds, we had the unusual feeling that the people enjoying the building around us actually went some way towards making it what it was. Inside this stunning piece of architecture was an outer area containing a café, seating and a few informatiom stalls and displays. 15m tall clear glass windows looked out upon the water in the dock and shed light on the straight and rich gold wooden slats that sat vertically and spiraled round and upwards containing the inner rooms and auditorium.
We returned to the van via a less salubrious neighbourhood, passing by 3 men in particular that you would not want to meet down a dark alley and one woman who looked like a heroin addict heading out to score. It allowed us to see an extra dimension to a country that consistently comes at or neat the top of the scoreboard for the highest standard of living, income equality and people's levels of happiness. It reminded us that some will still seek to exploit and others will invariably fall through the cracks, however small they are.
Overall, we really enjoyed the layed back Oslo we saw. We are sure the fine weather helped in this, as we were surrounded by people making the most of their leisure time in the sunshine. Our favourite place by far was the Opera House, accessible for all to enjoy.Read more