Last Sunday we took a walk to Frognerparken and looked inside of the City Museum (Bymuseet) which is located there. Right now there is an exhibition about the history of Oslo called “Oslove” (which is a popular hashtag here on Instagram). It was interesting to see the development of old town of Kristiania (which was here before Oslo) into the modern capital.
I especially liked the wall with photographs of people who came to Oslo from different places in the world in the past century. Some of the photos had handles and if you pull it will open a little window where you can read about a person and see more photos or things. My first window was about a Ukrainian man who came to Oslo a hundred years ago and started a cigarette production. He was a Jew born in Kiev, and left Ukraine not out of fun, as I understood. As I was reading, I hoped that one day I also will be able to leave my mark on this city. I also left Ukraine not out of fun, but looking for a better life, like that man. In the end, he was able to build it with his own hands. I am still in the process of building and doubting.
The rooms of exhibitions changed with the era: in the beginning it was dark and narrow, with raw stone walls, in the end it was a big room full of light, with the portraits of teenagers from many nationalities who live in Oslo today. I especially was excited to see a screen with people telling what they like and what they don’t like about Oslo – because the kids there were from the school where I used to work and I recognized their faces.
As we were walking out into the sharp cold air outside, we asked each other: “what do you like and don’t like about Oslo?” Leaving the climate aside, because it is a feature of the whole country. I want to share my answer here.
What I like about Oslo is its nature. The city is full of it. I need to walk only five minutes to the river Akerselva and there is a nice pathway along it all the way up to the lake Maridalsvannet. It is enough to take a tram or a subway to the last station to get to the forest where you can get lost for hours (been there, done that :)). There are several lakes where you can walk around: Sognsvann, Bogstagvann, Ostersjøvann. There is a Bygdøy peninsula with beaches and a forest. And in summer you can take a ferry to the islands, just 10 minutes from the city centre, and to picnic or walk there.
The nature is a great place to go when you need to restore the peace of mind or just get some fresh air. There is enough silence and solitude which are so important to some of us to fill up on energy. I like that Oslo provides enough space to be by yourself, though sometimes that was too much for me. Oslo, like a true Norwegian, respects independence, stillness and individual freedom, and there is enough room for that in this city.
What I don’t like about Oslo is its provincial character. It has the charm of the village-capital, but I miss the heartbeat of the big city. I have lived in Hamburg and felt its vibrant life, even though I was an au-pair with no budget for concerts and theaters. When I come to London, Barcelona, Kiev, I feel that pulse which I miss in Oslo. That feeling that the city is full of young and creative people that make things. Oslo caters well for families and older people, but the rest have to think for themselves. So if you want to do an exciting shopping, if you want to have a musical night with dinner, if you want to experience the big city vibe – you go to the airport and travel out of the country. To Italy – for shopping, to London – for musicals and shopping, and to any capital in Europe – for big city vibe. Then you come back to Oslo and rest and say: “oh, so many people, so much traffic it was there. So good to be back!” But I miss that pulsating and vibrant spirit, and don’t want to fly every time I miss it.
It is also popular to leave Oslo for the holidays: the school holidays, for Christmas, for Easter. And there are some days of the year when there are very few people on the street, the shops and cafes are closed, and if you didn’t leave – you feel pretty stuck. We felt this during the Easter week when on Thursday everything was down, the city felt like a ghost town, it was raining – and we had no better idea than to walk and look for a cafe that was open. Pretty lonesome view it was. Then we drove to Gothenburg in Sweden, and it was a bit more cheerful even though it was bitter cold. There was a hockey game, people on the streets, shops, restaurants and cafes were open and full of people. I don’t know why Oslo has to be so empty and forlorn during the holiday season.
And what do you think about your place? What do you like and don’t like about it?