My first time in Europe in ten years, I’m summoned by the landscapes I’ve only seen on television. But first it’s Oslo, Norway’s capital, with its mix of the nation’s past and present.
Fanning out from a splendid harbor, Oslo spreads onto winding neighborhood streets and wide avenues circumnavigated by the ever-present trams. In the city center, Henrik Ibsen stands imperiously in front of the National Theatre, just blocks from the Grand Cafe where he once took his daily lunch. Along the harbor, an imposing medieval fortress stands sentinel over a burgeoning modern waterfront, while on a peninsula out on the bay, Viking ships are a reminder of Norway’s rough-hewn past.
Further afield, the royal palace in the Slottsparken sits atop a long flight of stairs looking down on a pedestrian avenue. Its grounds open onto a green park of quiet paths and pleasant ponds that is a favorite place for people on nicer days — when there are nicer days.
My first day is gray and drizzly, strolling through the city, but on the next day the sun bursts to life as I set out across the water for Bygdøy pensinsula. A week later, following my venture into the heart of Norway, I return to overcast skies for a day of strange sculptures and royal history.