The Beauty in Norwegian Simplicity

In less than 24 hours, Oslo has captivated my heart. I somehow land on a surreal weekend, where the weather is 80 degrees, the sun is out, and people are joyous. I am travelling and oddly have no plans, except what I observed from watching a Travel With Rick Steves Norway episode online. As soon as I arrived at my hotel, I dropped my bags and tried to head straight to a Fjord cruise. Although it was sold out, I decide to meander towards this modern art museum: Astrup Fearnley Museet. Each corner I turned, I observed locals and tourists embracing the sun. They were eating in cafes outside, or sitting on built in benches looking out onto the water, grabbing ice cream cones, or bicycling around the city.

I made it to the museum shortly before it closed, but as I peered behind the building I was mesmerized. I saw a makeshift beach, it was exactly what I was looking for. Sun bathers stretched on towels after a careful dip into the pebbled cool waters that lined the city. Doggies shook themselves to dry off, after their child owners dragged them on leashes to be splashed. Selfies were taken by tourists who proved they got in the water (although they only dipped their toes). Stand up paddleboarders carefully passed by.

Even further behind the museum was an impromptu diving board. Teenagers showed off their cliff diving skills with somersaults into the sea. Crowds gathered and watched as they overcame their fears and exuded their bravery. As I observed all this, tears spontaneously came to my eyes. This is beauty. What we were all participating in did not cost any money. For a brief moment, everyone’s cares and stresses were diminished. We were embracing the sun, gathering by the water, surrounded by exterior art exhibits, and observing people show off their talents. I forgot how much I missed this, how much I missed summer. It was nostalgia, in a land I have never been to. It was this universal nostalgia that we all have, almost as Jung would say this universal unconscious we all briefly tapped into remembering.

There were other brief observations I made in these 24 hours while in Oslo that highlighted the beauty. Norway is more diverse than I had imagined it to be. I thought it would be full of tall blonde Caucasian Thor like Vikings. What I found is that the culture is highly ethnically varied. I spoke to a salesperson who physically shared the same Asian like features as me and seemed to have an American accent. When I asked her where she was from, she said Norway. I was shocked, she could have been me. I shouldn’t be surprised that numerous people have been attempting to speak Norwegian to me. I could be a local.

Another beautiful aspect is that art is everywhere. I haven’t had a chance to dip into the museums, but the city boasts an excessive amount of them. Yet, the art just doesn’t sit in four walled spaces. It is everywhere in the city. It’s also not just boring run of the mill art, it exudes sensuality, joy, suffering, and all the vicissitudes of life. Catch out this provocative piece that lined that the exterior of city hall:

These pieces all tell a story, you can’t help but be curious about. The city boasts the popular Scream painting by Edward Munch, but he wasn’t the only artist from here. Gustav Vigeland spent his life’s work beautifying the city. And it shows. A park shares over 200 of his sculptures, which is free for the public to enjoy. How can you not love a city that embraces art throughout everywhere you turn?

Art doesn’t just exist in the city, it exists on the people. So many people have tattoos here, which I find quite beautiful. Many of the tattoos aren’t tiny either, but massive on people’s backs, forearms, or legs. They wear their artist armor with pride. It shouldn’t be a surprise then since I have six myself, that people began to question my Norwegian residency.

All of the restaurants and cafes seemed to be lined with people reconnecting with their loved ones: close friends, family members, partners, and co-workers. The extended daylight and gorgeous weather lifted everyone’s spirits. Or maybe they were already lifted. In 2018, Norway was crowned the second happiest country in the world. Nordic countries to vacillate between the top spots. It must be in the genes or water.

These are my observations with only venturing into a tiny slice of Oslo. I have yet to take the fjord cruise, see the beautiful landscapes of land and sea the country has to offer, or to step foot into other aspects of the city. But I am already in love with the beauty, and the juxtaposition of city, nature, art, pedestrian and bicycle friendly, ethnically diverse tattoo driven people. I believe we all have the capacity to live this way, we simply just need to remember.

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