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Thursday, 09 June 2016

A visit to Oslo, Norway (part 1)

‘Welcome to the biggest village in the world.’ was the greeting from locals when I started work in Oslo many years ago. Last week on a short visit it was somewhat different. ‘Welcome to Europe’s fastest growing capital,’ they said. A lot has changed over the years in Norway’s main city but its setting - at the head of Oslo Fjord - remains as sublime as ever.

A flight with the low cost, ever expanding carrier, Norwegian, took us from Edinburgh to Oslo airport in just over an hour and a half and from there it was a 20/25 minute ride on the express train Flytoget into the centre. You can take an NSB regional train on the same route; it’s bit slower but about half the price.

Our base was the Saga Hotel Oslo, located in an 1890s building in a quiet neighbourhood, 20 minutes walk from the centre through the grounds of the royal palace (which you can visit in summer). 10 minutes in the other direction lies Frogner Park where the 200 or so sculptures by Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) make for one of the city’s best known attractions.

The sculpture park (pic) was created at a time when Norway was still a relatively poor country. Oil wealth has changed all that and over the last few years Oslo has seen unprecedented levels of development, resulting in some striking contemporary architecture.

The Oslo office of Statoil (pic) at the city’s former airport of Fornebu (architects A-lab), the Renzo Piano-designed Astrup Fearnley Museum and the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet (architects Snøhetta) are three fine examples.

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