Fur met my toes with a tickling softness as I shuffled across the plush white rug laid upon wooden floors. I’d never stepped on a polar bear before, but Norway seemed the perfect place to take this first step into Nordic living, and the rug was there as a reminder. Nearby, leather chairs stood with high straight backs, each draped in its own fur shawl set to match the polar bear rug for guests to warm themselves in while enjoying a home-cooked meal of mutton stew and boiled potatoes.
Past tables chairs and furry coverings, a wall of windows opened onto stone streets five stories below, leading toward the heart of Oslo. The roads wound through centuries-old wooden houses dressed with fresh flowers and bird feeders, and led us down gravel trails marking the burial sites of famous Norwegians such as artist Edvard Munch and musician Alf Prøysen. Streets were abuzz outside of buildings toting scars from the 2011 Norway Attacks, which despite their recent history, continue to stand proud, keeping their modified appearances after the bombings as a way to remember a dim moment in time and the bright spirits involved.
Oslo’s downtown lies nestled around the appropriately named harbor, Oslofjord. To the west, Astrup Fearnley Museet, the city’s museum of modern art, has not only lovely works of art including their current exhibition: “Love Story – Works from Erling Kagge’s Collection” and soon-to-be display of renowned artist Damien Hirst. Art overflows through massive glass doors which we followed into neighboring lawns and sidewalks. Here children of all walks of life were able to skip between shadows of contemporary sculptures dotting the museum grounds. Nearby, ships of various shapes and sizes came and went freely, casting sails to the winds and carrying cargo to a new home.
A short walk away, The Nobel Peace Center proudly supporting the coveted prize of the same name offered two levels of hands-on exhibitions to tell the stories of Peace Prize recipients new and old. The Peace Prize is the sole Nobel award handed out in Oslo, as the rest are given in the neighboring capital of Stockholm. After watching films, poking and prodding at lighted displays and reading the whereabouts and what-abouts of each winner, we sauntered through the gift store and examined their handmade artifacts imported from small communities worldwide in an effort to support the handwork of lesser-known villages. Outside, as if on cue, two Buddhist Monks clothed in orange robes looked upon the building with humble hearts, as others looked upon them with the same caring undertones.
Further to the west, a sheet of ice appeared to have gently slid out of chilled waters, enveloping a glass house as it moved toward downtown’s tallest buildings. We found the smooth white surfaces resting in place, creating Oslo’s most geometrically dazzling building. The sharp lines reflected on dancing waters and smooth surfaces allowed for climbing, sliding, rolling and napping. Oslo’s Opera House is home to The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and even without seeing a show, it was apparent how entrancing such a place can be, allowing bodies to wander free from the mind. The city’s highlight in more ways than one, we climbed up the facade and hopped back down, swirled through the interiors equally methodical mazes and finally settled down for a regrouping session and to enjoy Lox and fresh fruits for lunch. We’d hiked from North to South to West, and were about to head to a hillside sculpture garden scavenger hunt. With full bellies, we mustered enough strength to walk along the tram line to our final destination: the Eastside’s Ekebergparken.