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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sights and sounds -- Oslo nights

OSLO, Dec. 12, 5:30P, local time

Spent some time back at Springbok, cooling out to mellow music with a Southern Africa vibe with a collective of jazz artists led by South African guitarist Banjo Mosele. He was joined by an additional guitarist, drummer, and saxophonist Jason Nemor Harden, of formerly of Iceland via Houston. A sister named Busi sprinkled some lovely vocals to the set. They literally stopped traffic in the House of Oslo mall, as onlookers dangled from over the banisters and popped heads out of nearby shops.
The clear night allowed me a great chance to take some snapshots and capture the  flavor of the Nobel town.
The Norwegian Parliament building. Known locally as Stortinget. Designed by a Swede, it opened in 1866.
One of the impressive features of this complex is the rich sense of history that permeates. From plaques to portraits, heritage is on display and available for anyone who is interested in learning.
If you're wondering why so many night shots, it's simple: Night comes fast and lasts long around these parts. The sun rises around 9-ish in the morning and sets a little after 3P. So it doesn't take too long for darkness to settle. But with the holiday lights and the considerable number of lit landscapes, the city has a lovely glow to it. At once you feel transported to another time, but then transfixed by the modern elements. Think nouveau town squares, with neon.

This  is a shot from downtown. (below)
There are plenty of shopping opportunities. Yes, I expected your standard multinational operations -- BlackBerry, The Body Shop, H&M, the requisite fast-food joints and all of that. I was taken aback by the number of 7-11's around town. Seriously. And you think it's convenient at home. Here, they have postal services, train tickets -- almost everything except check cashing and bill pay.

Check cashing always makes me think of robber-barons, and that's what the exchange rate is here. I had been warned, and justly so. The rate fluctuates more than opinion polls, and for the most part, the dollar has been on the losing side of the stick. But it's not just the dollar. It's just that EVERYTHING here is high! And small. Like buying milk. It's like you're buying the equivalent of a pint, rather than even a quart. And heaven forbid a gallon! But with small packages come a lot of efficiency. Especially where energy is concerned. I am so digging the coil-heated flooring! It was already on my wish list for my rehab project, but I'm doubly inspired. Nothing like toasty toes when getting out of the shower in the morning! And I packed all of these foot warmer packets that I ended up not really needing. Well, I take that back. I did use a few for late night jaunts.

One was to check out another "should-see" on your tourism list is the Norwegian Opera House. Its design is daring, with strong geometric slopes. In that it's at the pier, it has a  nautical feel to it as well. It's not only a great venue for music and ballet, but an architectural wonder.

I didn't get a chance to see as much of Norway as I wanted. Given the schedule I was keeping, I'm happy I got to see anything. I have plenty of room to fill the blanks on my return trip, whenever that is.

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