Oslo sprawls into forest on three sides with a fjord on the fourth. And it is one of my very favorite bragging points. What other capital in the world boasts forest on nearly every border? Where else can I get downtown in 22 minutes and walk just five minutes to hiking trails, lakes and views of the entire city? (My close proximity to nature is due to my super special neighborhood along the Eastern Oslo Wilderness, so not every Oslo resident can say the same thing. Or they might say it in reverse, downtown in five and nature in 22…)
Miles of hiking trails turn into cross-country skiing trails in winter (and include flood lights for short winter days), making access to nature a year-round affair. Norwegians value nature. They make a point to be outdoors, regardless of the weather. In fact, it’s safe to say that the national pastime is a long (at least an hour), cheek-flushing walk. Children regularly play outdoors and learn to ski not very long after they learn to walk (the joke is that all Norwegian children are born with boots and skis on). Even infants nap outdoors in their strollers (yes, year round!).
Getting downtown in 22 minutes is achieved via the excellent public transportation system. Each metro line conveniently departs every 15 minutes (or less) during the day. And an app can help plan your departure and the lines you should take, easily getting you to your destination on time. A vast network of tunnels spreads beneath Oslo with supplemental bus- and tram- lines above ground. Oslo’s dependable public transportation equals less pollution, no sitting in traffic, no parking hassles and no worrying about directions. It’s pretty ideal to me!
Garbage is sorted into the following categories: glass and metal, paper, plastic, food waste and trash. Rolls of blue and green bags are available at any grocery store for recycling plastics and food waste (respectively). Each neighborhood has an area for disposing of all garbage categories plus a hazardous waste recycling center (typically at the gas station) and a small recycling stand in the grocery store for old light bulbs, batteries and small electronics.
I have great ardor for the system of recycling plastics because anything – ANYTHING – that is plastic can be tossed into that blue bag. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there is a lot of plastic packaging these days (hint of sarcasm here). We empty blue bags twice as often as we empty our trash, so yeah, it’s possible to recycle a LOT of plastics.
The green bags are a boon. They take all of our food waste including egg shells, banana peels, carrot peelings, teabags, unwanted leftovers and they make…dun, dun, dun...biofuel! That’s right – Oslo’s fleet of red busses is powered by the likes of my broccoli stems and orange peels. This gives me immense satisfaction (just in case you couldn’t tell…).
In my opinion there is nothing more refreshing and life giving than water (we are, after all, made up of about 60% water). I can’t think of anything better than a cold drink of water from the tap in Oslo. As I sip it I picture myself by a bubbling spring in some distant, verdant hills surrounded by large ferns and the distant tinkling of sheep bells. Ok, not really. But seriously, it tastes like a draught from the freshest of fresh water springs. A recent advertisement on the metro read, “Yes, Oslo’s water is so pure we could have bottled it. Our solution is even better – the freshest water straight to your home, 24 hours a day.” Yes, please (and thank you).
Oslo has a host of museums, art galleries, a national theater and an opera house. As a capital, Oslo is also a stop on all major world tours. That includes the likes of Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, John Legend, Michael Bublé and (even) Dolly Parton (these are just the names I’ve caught wind of, trust me, there are lots more). The convenient metro system makes concert/opera/theater-going a breeze. No traffic, just a line at the concert and when it’s over everyone rapidly disperses.
Ok having said all that, I must admit, this is the only capital I’ve ever lived in. My grandiose admiration should therefore be taken with a very small grain of salt…