There is daylight outside, although it is already midnight. There is no complete darkness to allow our tired bodies fall asleep. In Oslo, a very long day passes as one waits for the sunset, and you inevitably become tired as a result of the liveliness of the city. And around 4 o’clock in the morning, the sun is again on stage to wake you up….
As we arrive in Oslo, we become delighted to see that there is a summer festival in the city. It is possible to see an event going on all around the city, in which all people including those passing by may actively participate. As we walk along the Karl Johans Gate, we see stands built next to each other, from the beginning of the street to the City Hall. In those stands, organic products coming from various districts and villages of Norway are sold. Right next to them, people are watching the performance of “hippies” with great interest and moving with the rhymes. As we turn left, we arrive at Aker Brygge area, which has achieved a significant development in recentperiod. Here, a stage is built, where anyone can sing and lose himself/herself in the wildness of heavy metal music, which found its soul in Scandinavia. The Aker Brygge, which functioned as a quay for ships in the past, is now seen as a symbol of modern Oslo. The area including many shops, restaurants and cultural activities is also very close to the fiords. According to Norwegians, this combination of fiords with the center reminds of initial Norwegian settlements dating back some 1000 years. Norway, hosting one of the largest maritime exhibitions in the world, Norshipping, fascinates people with its wilderness nature and ever-green flora. The country’s capital Oslo has a quite cosmopolite structure due to immigration and opens its doors to many tourists during summer. Oslo, which was selected as the most expensive city in the world by getting ahead of Tokyo, according to a survey made by “The Economist Intelligence Unit” (EIU) last year in terms of the prices of goods and services on dollar basis, has a population of 551,832, of which 22% came through immigration. Although there are certain doubts about the meaning of “Oslo” in literature, researchers state that “Os”, which means “high and narrow hill”,may also be interpreted as “Pre-Christianity God”.
The second part of the word “Lo”, means “land, field”. Thus, “Oslo” either means “The Land Down the Hill” or “Land of Gods”. In the 1300s, the city was a major trade center. At those times, all buildings were made of wood, yet following the great fire in 1642, King of Denmark, Christian IV rebuilt the city from stone and brick, and named it “Christiana”. The name of the city remained as such until 1878, which was then changed to Kristiana between 1878 and 1924. Some of the buildings of that age are
currently under protection at Kvadraturen region. The population of the city, which was similar to those of a small district in the beginning of the 19th century, rose significantly since the middle of the 19th century as a result of immigrations from many other parts of Norway. According to city records, the population increased from 30,000 up to 220,000 between the years 1850 and 1900. Upon its separation from Sweden in 1905, the Parliamentchanged the name of the city to Oslo in 1925. The city, which is currently the capital of Norway, is administered both as a municipality and a state, and acts as the biggest city of the country.
CITY OF FIORDS
We get into a small boat to see the fiords and islands. A guide, who is probably a Mexican, informed us about Oslo and told us stories about what we see, in English. Stories of self-sacrificing women who go to the city center by walking on the sea that freezes in winter, of the dead bodies lying under the sea… The patron saint of Oslo is St. Hallvard. This derives from the legend of young Hallvard, of royal lineage, who sacrificed his life in a deed of valour some nine hundred years ago. According to legend,
a pregnant woman was fleeing from assailants who had accused her of theft and were therefore trying to kill her.Hallvard was present and wanted to help the woman escape. He rowed her out on the fjord in a boat but was unable to escape the pursuers. Hallvard and the woman were both killed. They put a millstone around Hallvard’s neck and sank his body in the cold water. Shortly after a strange thing happened: his body floated to the surface with the millstone still round his neck. This event led to the canonization of Hallvard, making him a saint. Today, St. Hallvard adorns the Oslo city arms. The city’s many astonishing features are unusual for a European capital. The city limits encompass wilderness areas as well as an array of restaurants almost unparalleled in Scandinavia. In winter, the city has an artificial skating rink only a stone’s throw from the National Theatre and the University. Oslo City Hall is located in the city centre only a few hundred metres from the city’s main street and overlooks Oslo Fjord filled with moored pleasure craft, shrimp trawlers, cruise ships, charter boats and ferries to all the islands. Oslo is considered to be one of the most leading shipping cities in the world. During peak season, many cruise ships dock at the quays that are still within walking distance of the city centre. It is only a ten-minute drive from these same quays to splendid bathing beaches with clean water. The city also has hundreds of kilometresof well-prepared cross country ski runs and eight alpine slopes within its city limits. This was the same alpine environment in which Kjetil Andre Aamodt skied down his first slopes.
Then, there appear the Vikings as the indispensable symbol of Norway. It is impossible to walk through the tourist avenues without stopping by the souvenir shops and purchasing a Viking cap, Viking gondola or a troll figure. In many places, there are also troll sculptures and ornaments. This outlook largely owes to the significance of Vikings for Norwegian history. The Vikings were strong-willed, fearless warriors who craved new conquests.They were potential threats to anyone who was not their ally. Fortunately that was almost one thousand years ago, however. Today, the Nordic Vikings are just a memory from a dramatic era marked by violent disputes and a boundless urge to explore.
Despite this violent past, we also have to admire the Vikings for their maritime skills. They built swift, highly seaworthy vessels, and they were excellent mariners, far in advance of their time. The Vikings sailed their slender long ships from Scandinavia southwards to the Mediterranean countries. They travelled down Russia’s mighty rivers from north to south reaching all the way to magnificent Byzantine, modern-day Istanbul. Wherever they went, they arrived without warning and struck without mercy when they were least expected. When the war cries sounded from the attacking warriors, few dared to confront them with drawn swords. The Vikings were more than warriors and seafarers, however. They were also peaceful farmers and merchants. They harvested crops ontheir farms, often under harsh climatic conditions. The Vikings also distinguished themselves as excellent craftsmen. They founded towns such as Dublin and Limerick, Ireland, and governed their own society with far-sighted laws. As this part of their existence was not very dramatic, historians have given it little notice. Vikings in Oslo Oslo offers us many opportunities to obtain more information about Vikings and their era, especially about their ships sailing on high seas. It is possible to see many of these ships at the Viking Ships Museum. Though it may be hard to associate these luxury ships and their attractive and elegant details with those merciless invaders, one has to appreciate the art of Vikings, in addition to their maritime affairs. The 24-metre Gokstad Ship is the largest of the preserved Norse Viking ships. It has a thirty ton displacement and was probably used on overseas trade.
Why was the viking ship well-suited for war?
The slender lines of the Viking ship clearly indicate its speed and manoeuvrability and why it was so well-suited for war, forays and overseas trading in distant latitudes. But other parts of the vessel’s design were crucial, as well. The keel of the Viking ship is very shallow. This meant it did not need a harbour, but could be pulled up on the beach. This enabled the Vikings to make quick, merciless – and totally surprising – attacks. In the dead of night they could land their ships without being seen, pull the vessels onto the beach and attack. The vessels gave the Vikings great range and striking power and were the main reason that the Vikings succeeded in making predatory expeditions and trading voyages to distant climes and in conquering parts of the European continent and the British Isles.
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