30 Mar 2010

Oslo, Kristiania or Christiania – which one is capital of Norway?

To begin with, the city was founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway. The medieval town was located below the Ekeberg hills and the most likely interpretations of the name Oslo would be either ‘the meadow beneath the ridge’ or ‘the meadow of the gods’. Håkon V was the first king to reside in the city permanently between 1299 and 1319 and he started the construction of the Akerhus Fortress. Then the population of Oslo was about 3000 inhabitants. One, ca easily be confused by capital’s different names through the years. Oslo was shattered several times by fires and after a dramatic fire in 1624, the Danish King Christian IV (because of Danish-Norway Union) decided to rebuild town and named it Christiania. But the town got growth after 1814. In this year as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark had to cede the territory of Norway to the Swedish King Karl Johan. In this year Norway got its own constitution on 17 May and Christiania got its official status as the capital of Norway. King Karl Johan initiated the building of the Royal Palace and the Parliament building as well as the University, National Theatre and the Stock Exchange. The industrial era started along the river Akerselva around 1850. Christiana overtook Bergen and became the most popular city and in 1878 it was renamed Kristiana. In the years between 1850 and 1900 the population of Kristiania increased from about 30 000 to 230 000 mainly due to an influx of workers from rural areas. At the beginning of XXth century the rural municipality was merged and city enlarged. Oslo, the original name, was re-established in 1925 and the population from this time was doubled up to 590 000 in 2010.

Nowadays, Oslo as a capital of Norway is its cultural, scientific, economic and governmental centre as well as is a hub of Norwegian trade, banking, industry and shipping. The Oslo metropolitan area’s share of national GDP is 25%. What is not good for exchange students is the fact that in 2009 Oslo gained its status as the world’s most expensive city (sic!). Thus it has one of the highest regional GDP’s in Europe. Oslo contains an important maritime port with nearly 980 companies and 8500 workforces. Furthermore, some of the largest shipping companies, shipbrokers and insurance brokers are based in the city of Oslo. In employment sector, the service industry is dominant in Oslo accounting for more than 59% of jobs. Other employment areas include hotels and catering, trade, banking and insurance. The historical city has gone through big character changes as a result of fires and redevelopment. Most of the original town is lost in spite of some buildings built by Karl Johan and the more than 700-year-old Akerhus Fortress remains an important cultural monument. Here the memories of World War II also come out strongly. Many Norwegian patriot were executed here and after the war Vidkun Quisling – infamous traitor – was executed by firing squad. The term ‘quisling’ has become a synonym in many European languages for traitor. After war the period of construction of modernist concrete and glass low-rises was started. Now these buildings are regarded as embarrassing eyesores.

The variety in Oslo's architectural cityscape does however provide for some striking and often hauntingly beautiful sights. While most of the forests and lakes surrounding Oslo are in private hands, there is great public support for not developing those areas. Parts of Oslo suffer from congestion, yet it is one of the few European capitals where people live with the wilderness literally in their back yard, or with access to a suburban train line that allows the city's many hikers and cross-country skiers to simply step off the train and start walking or skiing. Vigelandsparken is one of Norway's most visited attractions with more than 1 million visitors every year. The unique sculpture park is the life work of the sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron. Vigeland was also responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park. A monumental artistic creation with a human message that is well worth seeing. Oslo has a large number of parks and green areas within the city core, as well as outside it. This is the biggest and most reputed park in Norway. Bygdøy is a huge and green area, famous also as "Museum Peninsula" of Oslo. The beautiful location, surrounded by the sea, makes it the most expensive Norwegian district next to Aker Brygge – a long commercial centre along the seaside. Oslo has a modern Oprahouse - Norway's biggest culture and stage institution. Oslo's new Opera House opened on 12 April 2008 and is now the home of the Norwegian Opera and Ballet. The spectacular building has a fabulous location by the seaside and was designed by renowned Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. I watched a German play – ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ and I realized that it was the last time went to see a random play. It was so boooring that I have almost fallen asleep! Especially when they sang in German and all my attention was focused on reading the English subtitles.

A glimpse of Oslo’s attractions you can watch in the short movie below. My favourite places are BI Campus, Domus Athletica Swimming pool, Aker Brygge and Karl Johan Gate where I’m spending the most of my time. Many of my friends as well as my lovely fiance expoited the opportunity and visited me in Oslo, for all of them thank you very much! We spent a gorgeous time together here.

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