If you look at a map of Norway, you can see that Oslo is located in an ideal spot at the bottom of a fjord that took us over two hours to sail down. It was hard to see where Oslo ended and its suburbs began. The thickly forested hillsides were dotted with homes along the whole fjord. Once again we are berthed in an ideal spot, right in the middle of town. The harbor is as busy as O’Hare airport, with ferries buzzing around in all directions. No ferry traffic control tower, but it is easy to imagine some collisions on a foggy day. Many of the ferries are huge, carrying 400 cars and 1200 passengers.
Oslo is in an energetic state of urban renewal. We haven’t seen so many construction cranes since we visited China. The down town port area is being transformed from a manufacturing, shipping, fishing city to a high tech metropolis. Old factories are being knocked down; new condos and boardwalks lined with restaurants are being built in their place. Some day the harbor area will be a beautiful, people friendly place; they are well on their way to reaching this goal. Still prominently in place at the harbor is the Nobel Peace Prize Center, across the street from the City Hall where the medal is awarded. The main downtown area has some large buildings befitting Oslo’s role as a capital, but overall it has the same comfortable and modest look that we have come to recognize as the Norwegian approach to life.
The ship offered tours to the museum that houses the model of the Kon Tiki, the raft Thor Heyerdahl sailed to Easter Island to prove that people could have come there from South America. There are also models there of the early Viking ships that sailed as far west as Newfoundland and south to Italy. There was another tour that went to the Fram Museum, which houses the ships that intrepid Norwegians used to reach and explore the North and South Pole. All very interesting, but we had visited them recently. So we booked a harbor tour on our own.
Last time we were here it poured and was icy cold. We took a boat tour then huddled beneath plastic sheeting, hardly seeing a thing. Today we took the same sort of trip with much better results. The morning clouds gradually gave way to sunshine, but I was glad that I brought a hat, mittens, and parka. We couldn’t tell the permanent homes from the summer homes, but were left with the impression that every Oslo family must own a boat. We’re not sure when it was summer here, but it certainly is over now. We can’t imagine going swimming here. Many of the newer homes conformed to a paint color code - the same shades of yellow, red, green and blue are interspersed to a cheery effect. Older homes are white, the color that was fashionable at the time they were built. One house with Greek columns out front and a mansion-y look stuck out like a sore thumb. Its owner had visited Italy and loved the villa look so much he bought one of his own here. While some homes were larger than others, most had a conservative, functional look. The Norwegians are not an ostentatious people.