Going out with a bang, we vowed to relish the final stop on our Capital Cities of the Baltic Cruise, as we docked in Oslo, Norway.
To see the city through local eyes, we followed resident student Lars on a walking tour.
Meeting at Central Station, Lars introduced us to Elena Engelsen’s Tiger Statue.
We took turns petting the 4.5-metre bronze beast as Lars explained its inspiration. Commissioned by the estate management company Eiendomsspar, to mark the region’s 1000-year anniversary, the statue’s feline form was chosen to reflect Oslo’s nickname, Tiger City.
Some claim the alias is inspired by a Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson poem, which refers to Oslo being a fierce like a tiger. However, others say the statue makes reference to the area’s poor past, when it was referred to as Tiggerstaden or City of Beggars.
Far from poverty, the city is now punctuated with designer shops and multi-storey offices. We admired the mix of old and new architecture as we wandered up the road.
Chritian IV’s Glove
Stopping at Christiania Torv Square, we contemplated a circular fountain, topped with a downward pointing hand sculpture.
Lars explained the statue was called Chritian IV’s Glove, but has also been known as Hanske, since being built in 1997, by local artist Wenche Gulbransen.
Gulbransen rooted the work here to mark the spot that King Christian IV decided to rebuild, after the city’s fire in 1624. Legend has it the king pointed to the ground there and said, ‘the new town will lie here!’
Journeying further back in time, Lars took us 15 minutes’ walk to The Fortress of Akershus. Built in 1299 under King Haakon V, the fortress started life as a medieval castle, which withstood a number of sieges, before being renovated into a Renaissance royal residence.
With winding walls, spires and dry moats, it is easy to believe Lars when he says Akershus Fortress is haunted. The castle served as a prison in the 18 and 19 Centuries, before being occupied by Nazis during WWII.
Now a testimony to modern law enforcement, the fortress hosts the Norway Ministry of Defence headquarters, a temporary office for the Prime Minister and a cultural centre.
The National Theatre
Heading back toward the city centre, Lars brought us to see the National Theatre building. With Neoclassical columns, domed ceilings and four stages the theatre was designed by architect Henrik Bull in 1864, however it can trace roots back to the original Christiania Theatre of 1829.
Hopping just across the road, Lars led us to the jewel of our tour, Rådhuset or the City Hall. Designed by Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulson, the Hall’s brick façade only reveals its beauty as you reach the entrance and see its giant zodiac clock.
Entering the hall where Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded, the walls were rich with frescos by artists such as Henrik Sørensen, Per Krohg, and Edvard Munch. Their brightly coloured scenes showed the history of Norway and its neighbours, from industrial challenges to political milestones.
After aweing us with art, Lars concluded the tour outside. Thanking our guide, we set off ourselves for one final stop.
Oslo Opera House
For our last look at the city, we climbed the Oslo Opera House. Designed by architects Snøhetta and completed in 2007, the building’s Italian marble and white granite slopes up to an alpine peak, perfect for people watching.
The largest cultural building constructed in Norway since the Nidaros Cathedral, the Opera House hosts both indoor and outdoor events throughout the year.
From its roof we scanned the city’s port, parks and streets, before snapping a selfie to remember our trip.