We spent Sunday afternoon in Oslo, exploring the downtown area. I had hoped to take the Yims there during their visit to Norway, but we ran out of time the one day we spent in Oslo. Or more to the point, the kids ran out of steam.
Seeing as Sunday was another lovely day, weather-wise, we decided to take advantage of a free afternoon and show the kids around. During the weekday rush-hour, you can get to London, England faster than Oslo from where we are. On Sunday mornings, however, downtown is a mere 40 minutes away.
There is a lot of new development going on in the centre of town, with swanky new condos popping up all over the place. Thus, as we arrived, things looked quite different from what Mike and I remembered from some years ago. But after parking in what we eventually realized was a still unfinished parking garage (and Mike lamenting that we shouldn't have bothered paying the $ 10.00 parking fee, as no one was going to think of checking a garage that isn't even done yet), we made it to Aker Brygge in no time.
Over the last decade or so, Aker Brygge has become the most well-known shopping and dining area in Oslo, with its superb location down by the waterfront of the Oslo fjord. When the sun is smiling, the wide boardwalk is a great place to stroll around and people watch. Both locals and tourists abound, and there's always a street artist or two to keep you entertained. You might prefer to hang out on one of any number of benches conveniently located everywhere, and you'll see boats return to harbour with their fresh catch of seafood and fish. You can even pick up dinner here, if you are so inclined. Those of us not feeling up to the task of cooking may pick and choose between all kinds of different restaurants, provided you are prepared to pay the rather hefty bill attached to eating out anywhere in Norway.
As we strolled along the seafront with our ice creams, we passed the fairly controversial Oslo City Hall that Mike loves making fun of. He thinks it is up there as one of the ugliest building in the world, certainly the most hideous City Hall. While I'll admit it isn't a beautiful building in the traditional sense, I quite like its unique look. It definitely stands out. What do you think?
Incidentally, you might be interested to know that Oslo City Hall is where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each December. Does that make it more attractive? :) When we were walking past the building, the boys caught sight of a bunch of teenagers who were skateboarding up and down the wheelchair ramp. To our boys, that was infinitely more exciting than any talk of a peace prize, and we spent a few minutes admiring their skills.
If you keep walking past City Hall, you get to Akershus Festning, which is a fortress that dates back to the 13th century. For many centuries, it was of huge strategic importance due to its location at the mouth of the Oslo fjord. Those in control of Akershus Fortress were in control of Oslo, and therefore of Norway.
Thus, the fortress was added on to and expanded several times, and today it is quite a large and impressive place. The Norwegian military still keeps a base here, but the fortress is open to the public during the day.
Of course, Benjamin cared nothing about the history lessons we were trying to impart. And why would he? Not when there were cannons everywhere. No matter where we turned, we saw cannons, some very old and some newer, that were just begging to be climbed on. For boys, Akershus fortress must seem like one giant playground. Even Christopher got a bit carried away as he imagined how battles may have taken place in the past.
After an afternoon of envisioning battles of yesteryears and glorious victories of brave kings, we finally decided to head back to Aker Brygge and a much anticipated dinner out.
As we turned around, we saw what arguably amounts to the latest attack on Oslo:
...the Germans are back!!