I just returned from five glorious days in Oslo, a city I’d never visited despite living in Finland, one of Norway’s Nordic neighbors. Now I could kick myself that I let so many years go by! I would have been able to view The Scream by Edvard Munch at the National Museum and many other of his treasures. Unfortunately, his paintings were not on display as the National Museum and Munch Museum are in the process of moving to newer, bigger space (see latter, above left). Despite my disappointment, fewer hours inside art institutes meant more hours drenched in the Northern sun and the still-warm August waters.
Shortly after my husband Otto and I arrived in Oslo, we headed to the Tjuvholmen part of the city for dinner, where a variety of upscale restaurants were doing a brisk business for a Monday evening. During a post-meal stroll to the end of the peninsula, futuristic-looking buildings made of glass, brick, and wood sprang up around man-made canals. The glass roof of the Astrup Fearnley Museum (below) stretched out over the canals and appeared to extend into the ocean, becoming one with the landscape. Despite the late hour, inspired locals and tourists took to the sea, either from the sandy beach surrounding part of the museum or by jumping in from the ladders on the waterside promenade. It was quickly clear that a huge effort had been made to integrate architecture, art, and nature. Very impressive!
Another example of architecture merging with the landscape is Oslo’s Opera House, situated at the head of the Oslofjord. Visitors are not only treated to a sandy beach out front but encouraged to climb onto the building’s slanting surface comprised of white granite and marble. The wraparound views from the top are spectacular! Another way to enjoy the Opera House is from a short distance away in one of the seaside saunas (below). For a small fee, you can heat up and then jump into the crystal clear waters from where you can contemplate if the Opera House really does resemble a floating glacier.
A short distance from the Opera House, my husband, a sauna-loving Finn, was delighted to find more opportunities to sweat and swim (below). For 15 euros, he had the tiny building on the left all to himself for 1.5 hours. I snapped photos as Otto went in and out of the brisk sea, while I sunbathed on an unusually warm day. During our last visit there, we were treated to a free rock concert in the complex, as the band warmed up for a rooftop performance later that night. Boy, did that sauna on the left shake during sound check!
From there, we crossed a pedestrian bridge over the sea into the Sørenga neighborhood, where more modern residential buildings overlooked a waterway of canals. Kayakers wove through the ripples in the shadow of the new Munch Museum (profile photo) as a couple sprawled out on the floating sandy beach. At the end of the peninsula, we were greeted by a saltwater pool, much to my delight. Wooden loungers had been built into the wooden structure giving visitors a chance to relax and enjoy the surrounding views before taking the plunge. However, when a local told us that the water temperature had plummeted to 10.5C due to a windstorm the night before, I chickened out. This only means there’s an extra incentive to return next summer.
In the meantime, I will savor my memories of my first visit to Oslo—the architectural feast for the eyes, the seamless blending of art and the sea, and the way that neighborhoods were designed to encourage visitors to make contact with the ocean at every turn. A round of enthusiastic applause to all the architects and planners who designed the city with this in mind.