When writing about a city in general it’s easy to concentrate on the central parts of that city. I’ve heard Norwegians say, “Oslo er ikke Norge. [Oslo is not Norway.]” and it’s true. Once I started travelling to other parts of the country I started to see in real life the calendar/jigsaw puzzle images of Norway. In the same way there is a lot more to Oslo than Sentrum. As this project has shown, “Sentrum er ikke Oslo.”
The city centre, downtown areas of any city tend to be where the tourist attractions are based. I was particularly annoyed when I first heard that the Munch museum was going to be moved to Sentrum in 2020. The museum as well as the Botanical Gardens are in bydel Grünerløkka. As you can see in the very first blog we published I am particularly fond of Grünerløkka and it pained me that if tourists could see the new museum without leaving Sentrum they would miss out on all the other wonderful things that the bydel has to discover. Maybe those of us who live here can just hide these treasures for ourselves and only share them with visitors that we really, really like.
One of my favourite things about Oslo (maybe about Norway) is the festival culture. I once stated this in a dinner party situation. I was saying that whatever you are into you just have to wait, because the festival for you will be coming up one weekend soon. As a matter of illustration, I said even if you are into teddy bears there will probably be a teddy bear festival at some point. One of my fellow diners said, “Well actually…” and then went on to explain that her children had participated in a “teddy bear hospital” event with medical students from the local university. It wasn’t quite a festival and I have not confirmed that any teddy bear festivals even exist, but the point remains that special interests are celebrated here. There are often people on the streets or in venues around the city celebrating their hobbies.
Personally, I have participated in the Oslo World Music Festival, Afrikan History Week (which no longer exists), and Oslo Pride which takes place in a park called Spikersuppa. Spikersuppa is very near to the Nationaltheatret t-banestasjon and has ice skating in the winter. Oslo Kulturnatt was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It took place in various venues around the city and the event I attended had us dancing to a DJ set in the main library. In my everyday life I work with Oslo International Rumi Festival and oslo soup. Both organisations have taken me to venues all over town including the centre of town.
The king of all of these gatherings is national day on May 17. I am a big fan of the barnetog. I sang my praises of the parade in my old blog that I wrote during my first year here. The schoolchildren march through the centre of town and go right past the palace where the royal family comes out on to a veranda to wave at them. I love that the king and queen live (sometimes) right in the centre of the city. I saw them at the opera once. They were just sitting there as normal. There wasn’t even any visible security.
Comparably, the queen of downtown gatherings is the International Women’s Day March on the 8th March. Women (and people who like women) come from far and wide to demonstrate for our rights. I’ve had discussions about why we need to have a women’s march in a society where women have better equality than most places, but it is important to recognize our privilege, and fight for the rights of others. Also, it’s not perfect here, so we could always use a little push for even more equality.
Aker Brygge is a waterfront area. It is packed with a high-end boutiques and restaurants mixed in with food trucks and occasional farmers’ markets. It is overlooked by Rådhuset, the Oslo City Hall and the Nobel peace centre sits at the opening. The dock itself is a former working shipping yard. Now there are ferries that depart from there with destinations in the small islands around the city.
There are many wonderful national and international standard theatres in Oslo. At Dramatikkens hus I have attended and volunteered at Fortellerfestivalen/The Norwegian Storytelling Festival (they have since moved to Sentralen which is very centrally located) and I have attended the Spkrbx hip hop festival a few times and performed there once. I am married to a theatre director and even before I could understand Norwegian he was taking me to Det Norske Teatret, Nationaltheatret, and Oslo Nye. I learned that good actors can portray a lot through physical expression. I gained a new appreciation for costume, set, and sound design. Now that I can also understand what is being said the design features are the cherry on top. (I am also very fond of Nordic Black Theatre at Cafeteatret in bydel Gamle Oslo and Black Box Teater in bydel Grünerløkka. I am a volunteer and have also performed at the Det Andre Teatret which is a wonderful improv theatre in bydel Sagene.)
When we have visitors first on the list of the touristy things I tell them they have to do is walk on the roof of the Oslo Opera and Ballet House. For those who live here it feels normal, but as a newcomer I found it special that the residents of Oslo are so unpretentious that the building that hosts culture of this kind is intentionally open to everyone.
Husk å følge Hver bydel har et hjerte på Instagram!
The imagery of being allowed to actually trample upon what I’ve always thought of as the highest of “high culture” makes the Den Norske Opera & Ballett the heart of Sentrum for me.
From a distance the Opera House looks like it is rising out of the Oslo fjord. It is fairly typical of Oslo architecture to incorporate nature into the outside aspects of the buildings. I will come to the blog about Marka at a later point, but it is interested to note that the actual geographic centre of the city is in the forest. Oslo is one of the greenest European cities, looking at it from above either in a landing plane or from one of the many high points the view is visibly green. I am originally from Birmingham, UK, a city that has a comparable number of residents to Oslo, but which is a very grey city, but I mostly grew up in small towns that are close to nature. I appreciate the green and the water. For a person that has moved a lot it almost feels like home.
Liten og liten
Oslo er en liten by med en identitetskrise
En liten by som også er hovedby
En liten by med ekte lufthavn
En liten by med nasjonale teatre og museer
En liten by som lett kan tenke «Ja, jeg er en stor by»
En stor by med hjertet til en liten by
En stor by som ikke er så seriøs
En by hvor høykultur er gøy og tilgjengelig (på flere språk)
Hvor setene på operahuset er samme farge som kastede tomater
Hvor det er mulig, mulig og oppfordret til, å trampe «høykultur» og «finkultur» under føttene
Throughout 2017 & 2018 poet and blogger Leeanne Stoddart will travel around Oslo searching for the heart of each borough. She will write blogs, take photos, and write poetry from each place she visits. You can trace the journey here, and follow @hverbydelharethjerte on Instagram. The blog posts will be in English, whilst the poetry is in Norwegian.