Friday, July 31, 2015

Oslo- the Saudi of Europe

Norway, with its population of 4.6 million on the northern flank of Europe, is today one of the most wealthy nations in the world, both measured as GDP per capita and in capital stock. On the United Nation Human Development Index, Norway has been among the three top countries for several years, and in some years the very top nation.

It is a very beautiful city which breathtaking natural sceneries, and the rose gardens are awesome:

In 1969 Philips Petroleum discovered petroleum resources at the Ekofisk field, which was defined as part of the Norwegian continental shelf. This enabled Norway to run a countercyclical financial policy during the stagflation period in the 1970s. Thus, economic growth was higher and unemployment lower than for most other western countries.

All residents with residence permit in Norway are usually members of the National Insurance Scheme. This allows for social security for all people, giving them the benefit of pensions, benefits for unemployment, pregnancy and birth, single parental care, sickness and injury, disability, old age and death.

But while roaming around Oslo, the city didn't reek of the richness that we expected. The railway platforms were dirty, there were many beggars on the street.

 We were extremely lucky to get sunny days to explore the city. We thought we had arranged for beds in Anker hostel, but on arrival, realized that the beds were in the Anker apartment. Usually the stay in hostels are enjoyable, the common kitchen is  a meeting place for people of different nationalities. And they provide breakfast too.

In the Anker apartment, there was no breakfast. Though there was a refrigerator and hotplates in the room, there were no utensils at all! One has to take the kitchen box that  contained some pans, plates, cups, ladle by giving a deposit of 100 kroners, and return it within three hours, everything cleaned and dried, and get back the deposit. This was too much of a hassle.

On arrival we wanted to have some coffee, and got just 30 ml of espresso coffee in a minuscule cup for 15 kroners! On the first day we went walking to the botanical garden and really enjoyed the scenic areas with beautiful flowers and water bodies. One can really relax and enjoy the botanical variety and diversity. Most of the area is designed as an Arboretum, with about 1800 different plants. There is a large and varied collection of trees and shrubs planted in a systematic fashion after plant family.

Views of the botanical garden:

To explore the city it is economical to take a three day Oslo pass, which gives unlimited usage of buses, trains, boats, trams, free entry to the museums (and there are many museums with stiff entry fee), and a 20% discount in some selected restaurants.

The Munch Museum's collection was left to the city of Oslo by Edward Munch, who has a unique position among Nordic painters, and is considered a pioneer in expressionism. The museum has a collection of paintings, graphical prints and drawings.

The Nobel Peace Center is about the Nobel Peace Prize. This center opened in the heart of Oslo on 11th June 2005. One can learn about the various Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and their activities as well as the remarkable history of Alfred Nobel. It was a moment of pride too, to watch big pictures of Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian who  delivered his Nobel lecture on December 11, 2014 at the Oslo City Hall, Norway.

One morning we took a boat ride to the island Nesoddtangen. On the way we saw a castle and the opera house. When we reached the island, bus was waiting which took us around the island for an hour. The island was so beautiful and  full of greenery. An interesting finding there was that post boxes with names of the local residents were hung on the wall in the bus stops. Many of them were not even locked!

An afternoon was spent in visiting three museums - Mairtime  museum, Kon Tiki museum and the Reptile museum. The first one is for ship building, fishing and marine archaeology, boat models and marine paintings. Norway's oldest boat, Stokkebaten, is also exhibited here. The Kon Tiki museum has on display the original boats and exhibits from Thor Heyerdahl's world famous expeditions. The Oslo Reptile park contains more than 100 species of reptiles. It has a wide range of exotic and colorful animals like snakes, frogs, spiders and crocodiles. On Tuesdays there is a feeding show and we wee lucky to be there on a Tuesday. It was interesting to watch a small snake swallow a whole rat, slowly and steadily.

It is important to keep in mind that a flat fee is charged every time you exchange money in Oslo. Despite being a touristic city, there are very few places to change currency, like airport, railway station and big public places.

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