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Thursday, 09 June 2016

A visit to Oslo, Norway (part 3)

It took us about an hour on foot from the hotel, via the main station, to the Opera House and then later a half hour walk north of the station brought us to a food hall called Mathallen (pic). Part of the way went along the River Akerselva, an old industrial area which had a different feel to the city centre. The food hall itself has about 30-40 speciality shops and eateries.

We had some tapas and Ringnes (Norwegian) beer and then set off for nearby Telthusbakken, a small street characterised by its old and colourful wooden houses (pic). The route led us on to Vår Frelsers Gravlund, a well known cemetery and the final resting place for both painter Edvard Munch and playwright Henrik Ibsen.

The next morning we did a 50 minute trip out to the islands, using a 24 hour ticket that covered buses, trams and the type of ferry we were on. From the water you can clearly see Oslo City Hall, the place where every December the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded (pic).

We popped in after the boat trip, not just to admire the murals on the walls but to see the plaque commemorating HMS Devonshire. The cruiser was part of the fleet which returned King Haakon of Norway from Britain to his homeland on June 7, 1945, after the German occupation. My father was on the Devonshire that day and during the celebrations met a young Norwegian man. His family and mine have kept up a strong friendship ever since.

Shortly after leaving the City Hall we passed a photographic shop and there in the window was a very large black and white photograph of a crowded Oslo harbour.....on June 7, 1945. It was an extraordinary coincidence.

Thursday, 09 June 2016

A visit to Oslo, Norway (part 2)

What adds another dimension to Oslo’s great location are the nearby islands, and the little promontories and peninsulas that jut out from the waterfront. One of them is Aker Brygge (pic) and the adjoining area of Tjuvholmen, once known as Thief Island but now home to a fairly dense development of apartments, shops, galleries, restaurants and a sculpture park.

We had a quick peak inside the luxury Thief Hotel where the serious art on display merits its own curator and then walked the short distance to the Astrup Fearnley Museum (pic). The temporary exhibition was closed that day so we concentrated on works by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, David Hockney, Anselm Kiefer and others in the permanent collection.

We’d made for Tjuvholmen after a fjord-side lunch with friends at Sjøflyhavna Kro, Fornebu. By then it was really hot so if the locals weren’t shopping or dining, they were sunning themselves on any spare bit of grass they could find, and on Tjuvholmen’s artificial beach. Across the water a massive cruise ship lay at anchor, having decanted its thousands of passengers into the city.

Two ferries to Denmark were in the harbour next day and this time we spotted them from the long, sloping roof - which you can walk on - of the elegant Oslo Opera House, a building that would grace any great capital city of the world.

Looking the other way was The Bar Code, a series of medium-rise buildings in an area of Oslo called Bjorvika. Over the next three years Bjorvika should see the completion of the new Deichman (public) Library, the new Munch Museum and the new National Museum. It was crane crazy.

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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