If our first day in Oslo is anything to go by, we are in for a fabulous vacation. We took an overnight flight from Oslo (crying babies all night) so thought we’d take things a bit slowly. 19,500 steps later ….
Our flight landed at 7:15 and we caught the express train from the airport (definitely the way to go, so easy, smooth and quick) and were out and about by about 8:30. Nothing was open yet, so we hopped on the #12 tram (which for reasons unknown becomes the #11 tram half way) for a loop of the city. It was a great overview and took us past most of the tourist hot-spots.
The Opera House in Oslo is an impressive modern building on the harbour. Designed by the Norwegian architects Snøhetta, it looks like it is arising from the waters of the Oslo Fjord. The roof is designed to be walked on and used as a public space, and the dramatic foyer with its undulating oak panelled wall and lots of glass is quite awe-inspiring. We took a guided tour and got to see inside – backstage, rehearsal rooms, costume workshops – and even got to sit in on part of a dress rehearsal of Don Giovanni.
From the Opera House we walked to the City Hall (Rådhuset). Expecting a routine walk down random city streets we instead passed ancient buildings, wonderful architecture, random statues and lovely parks. Spring has definitely sprung in Oslo. The weather was perfect – warm and mostly sunny, much better than I had expected. If it stays like this I won’t complain. Sadly when we reached the Rådhuset it was closed for some important event. We didn’t find out what the event was but there were huge crowds attending, many in national costume which was wonderful to see.
The Norway National Gallery has an excellent collection of Norwegian art (there’s other art too, but we were interested in the local stuff). Norway’s most famous artist – Edvard Munch – is well represented, including his mega-famous “The Scream”. We love seeing famous, familiar paintings in the flesh, so to speak.
Our last stop for the day was Vigeland Park. Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) was a Norwegian sculptor. He designed the Nobel Peace Prize medal, but he is most famous for a huge collection of massive sculptures in the park that bears his name. The Vigeland installation features 212 bronze and granite sculptures. He declined to name his sculptures or explain their meaning, but they are a celebration of the human body, life, love and relationships.
PS. If you are wondering about the Tiger City title, here is the word from Visitoslo.com:
The tiger in front of Oslo Central Station is one of Oslo’s most photographed “inhabitants” and one of the first things that meet a visitor arriving at Oslo Central Station. When Oslo celebrated its 1000-year anniversary in 2000, Eiendomsspar wanted to give the city a gift. Oslo wanted a tiger, and that’s what they got: a 4.5-metre bronze tiger made by Elena Engelsen.
Why a tiger? The reason Oslo wanted a tiger, is the city’s nickname Tigerstaden (“The Tiger City”), which most Norwegians are familiar with. The name was probably first used by Norwegian poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. His poem “Sidste Sang” from 1870 describes a fight between a horse and a tiger; the tiger representing the dangerous city and the horse the safe countryside.
Since then Oslo has been known as “The Tiger City”, but these days it’s not necessarily meant as a negative thing. “The Tiger City” can be an exciting and happening place rather than dangerous.