With a population of about 500,000, Oslo, Norway, is one of the smaller capitals in the world, but still offers a beautiful setting with much to see and do, ensuring that not one visitor will ever be disappointed.
Founded more than 1,000 years ago, the city is relatively compact and easily accessible, with its beauty actually three-fold: The scenic approach from the sea; the center-city docking location; and the charm of its parks, waterfront, tree-lined boulevards and urban architecture.
But it wasn't always so. Oslo lost much of its luster during World War II, when some 760 Jews were eventually deported to Germany. Most were lost, while 925 were saved as they fled to Sweden and other countries. Of those, 559 came back, and found, miraculously, that their synagogue was unharmed. Even the Torah Scrolls had survived, and the Jewish community was re-established.
Today, there are some 1,500 Jews in Norway, enjoying all kinds of Jewish activities organized mainly by the communities in Oslo.
Fittingly, Oslo has established itself as a city of peace with the building of the Nobel Peace Center. Opened in June 2005 — and housed in the historic railway station close to Oslo's harbor and city hall — the center's mission is to create peace and to reflect humanity's best efforts to achieve it. It is a must-see for any visitor to this beautiful city.
For the intense sightseer, an Oslo "Pass" provides great convenience because it includes one-, two- or three-day use of all city transit and entry to the most popular attractions.
After a visit to the Nobel Peace Center, the Akershus Castle, looming above the docks, is probably a good place to go. Now a museum, it is filled with fabulous history, as well as documents detailing military stories from the Vikings through World War II.
Close to the castle is the city's principle shopping district. Restaurants, cafes and some of the smarter hotels line the wide boulevards and adjacent streets. The flower market on the main square is worth the trip. And although prices in Scandinavia are generally high, so, too, is the quality of Norwegian knitwear and arts-and-crafts.
For something different, be sure to take a walk through Vigeland Park to view the world's largest collection of sculptures executed by one single artist — Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). The park contains 192 sculptures with more than 600 figures, all modeled in full size. Vigeland also designed the architectural setting and the layout of the grounds.
"The Monolith," some 46 feet high, is carved out of a single block of stone, consisting of 121 figures. Surrounding it are 36 groups in granite depicting the cycle of life. Wrought-iron gates surround the Monolith Plateau and the park.
Next, visit the Viking Ship Museum, where spectacular exhibits will draw you back into a glorious chapter in Norwegian history. Centuries-old wooden vessels, which were discovered by archaeologists, have been carefully restored.
Then, take off to the museum that houses the Kon Tiki, Thor Heyerdahl's balsa raft, which became famous for its historic 101-day crossing of 4,970 miles from Peru to Raroia in Polynesia.
No trip to Oslo would be complete without a visit to the open-air Norsk Folke Museum, spread over 3,500 acres with more than 140 rustic buildings. It depicts how people from every walk of life lived in this beautiful country from the 16th-century Reformation to the present day.
And no one should ever leave Oslo without trying to catch a glimpse of one of Norway's most famous inhabitants — the trolls. Learn as much as you can about the trolls — Norway's national symbol — and Norwegian mythology, which is full of them.
The legend of trolls was born in Norway's dark forests and mountainsides. The creatures are said to emerge from their hiding places only after sunset, and to have the ability to transform themselves at will and, when provoked, are notoriously quick to anger.
So stay on their good side — and before you leave this beautiful city, be sure to check your luggage carefully for trolls who would prefer traveling along with you to your next destination!