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Oslo for the Holidays

Who would expect such soaring holiday spirit and such warmth in wintry Oslo? Oslo in December can be quite the experience;

The new opera building in Oslo
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Not only does Norway's capital practically hum with international guests surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize festivities, it has kept much of its charm as Scandinavia's smallest capital area. Our three-day stay included visits to Christmas markets and museums, a tour of the Nobel Peace Center (www.nobelpeacecenter.org), several excellent lunches and dinners, and, to top it off, a night at the Opera.

To anyone who has wandered through Oslo's Vigeland Park in the summer, visiting it in the winter will be a totally new experience. Gone is the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, with lots of tourists, and children climbing some of the 192 statues as if it were the most natural thing to do.
Set in the frozen landscape of a December day, all these sculptures of human figures, modeled in full size, men, women and children, interacting in various often surprising ways, take on an new, unexpected poignancy. The Wheel of Life, the Fountain, The Main Gate, the incredible 46-foot Monolith, with 121 humans intertwined and rising toward heaven - there's starkness about it, which is quite moving. For more info, see www.museumsnett.no/vigelandmuseet

A must in Oslo - regardless of what season you go - is a visit to the Fram Museum (www.fram.museum.no/en/), where you'll find the strongest wooden ship ever built. There, you'll also be told the stories of three remarkable Norwegian explorers: Otto Svedrup, who led an expedition to Greenland; Roald Amundsen, the first person to reach both the North and South Pole; and Fridtjof Nansen, who journeyed across the Polar Ocean and later became the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Folk Museum
A very special place in Yule-time Oslo is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (www.norskfolke.museum.no). Like Skansen in Stockholm, it is an outdoor museum with over hundred traditional houses, and a large annual Christmas fair. The museum includes a well-preserved Stave church from 1200 AD.

The new Opera House
After seven years of construction, Oslo's new Opera, beautifully designed and situated in what was part of the old harbor, is now in full swing, giving performances of the Nutcracker, or Nøtteknepperen, as this traditional Christmas opera is called in Norway. More info on the new opera house, see www.oslooperahouse.com and on performances: www.operaen.no
Written & photographed by Bo Zaunders

Air travel, as we all know, is not exactly what it used to be. Between long hours at the airport, security checks, increased fares and more crowded planes, it is often far from a pleasurable experience. I was therefore pleased, and not a little surprised, to find that SAS - the most natural choice when going to Scandinavia - has come up with a most clever idea: ECONOMY EXTRA. Right behind Business Class and in front of Economy, for a small additional fee, you will get wider seats, a lot of extra legroom, and service which, for all practical purposes, is equal to what you get in Business Class. It's well worth checking into. More info, visit www.flysas.com

For more information on travel to Oslo, visit www.visitoslo.com
More general info on Norway, visit www.visitnorway.com
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