In winter, all half a million of Oslo’s citizens seem to don boiled wool hats bedecked with parts that make them look rather like Scandinavian octopi.
This compact city is awash with forests, beaches, docks and acres of green space that attract bitter winter’s battering winds. Keeping warm is of the utmost importance. That’s especially true, I found, when indulging in one of the city’s many outdoor attractions.
On a recent trip, for example, I made my way to the open air Norwegian Folk Museum, spread out on 35 snow-covered acres dotted with more than 150 ancient houses.
Perfectly restored and moved onto the property to illustrate one thousand years of heritage, they include a stave church, at 800 years old, the oldest church in Norway. It sits atop a hill, luring hikers upward.
History matters to Oslovites.
And when the chill gets to be too much for even the hat-adorned, it’s time to move inside to places like the Viking Ships Museum, which offers tall ships in such mint condition that they baffle the mind.
The Kon-Tiki Museum, next door, holds Thor Heyerdahl’s legendary raft. Accessible, it’s hands on and kids of all ages can wander about and experience the life of a sea adventurer.
In other parts of Oslo, the city’s more modern edge manifests itself.
The Edvard Munch Museum includes not only motifs around The Scream, but through May, a special look at the artist’s many depictions of snow.
But don’t neglect the National Museum (which actually contains a better collection of Munch, including a version of The Scream) boasts rich displays of Norwegian art. “Royal Journeys 1905 – 2005,” running through August, examines the travels of modern Norwegian monarchs via garments, gifts, and conveyances.
Perhaps the best spot of all is The Nobel Peace Center. This locale of positive energy, set in a train station of yore, pays tribute to Alfred Nobel and the recipients of the prize. No ordinary museum, this place awes with a sleek, personalized approach that begs for visitor interaction.
Loaded with emotional depth and warmth, it also manages to draw us in with electronics and various hands on ways to learnthe story of the Prize.
The most astonishing spectacle is a darkened room that flickers like a moonlit garden. Here, individual screens that look uncannily like flowers, represent the peace laureates of the past and tell their story.
So here is Jimmy Carter, there Al Gore, across the way Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela. Others, such as last year’s winners — two Liberian activists and Tawakkol Karman from Yemen, the youngest Nobelist ever, come with less familiar but no less inspiring stories.
Ships, (s)heroes, screams. Oslo beckons anytime of the year, but in winter, dark days are brightened by an abundance of glorious treasures.