Oslo is awe-inspiring. Why, because it’s the capital of the country with the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, currently over $1,370 billion. Work that out. Individually, the wealthiest Norwegian, however, is ‘only’ worth $7.7 billion.He’s Ivar Tollefsen, 62, who started in business at 12, managing four paper rounds before breakfast and school. Now his real estate empire seems to include a large chunk of Germany: he also finds masses of time for sport, setting the world record for crossing Greenland on skis in 1991 and two years later pioneering Antartic mountaineering, and in 2009 coming fourth in the gruelling Dakar rally.
But wealth brings responsibility, in the form of taxes, and apparently over 300 of the richest Norwegians have decamped to Switzerland. Those who remain enjoy free education and healthcare, a year’s parental leave after a birth – and a lovely way of life. Buy an electric car and get free import tax and VAT and complimentary parking in the centre of town. There are sensational modern buildings to visit. The Opera House, by architects Snøhetta, rivals Sydney’s for its exterior, which includes an awe-inspiring Carrara sloping approach (interestingly it was finished in 2007 ahead of schedule at $52 million under its $760 million budget).
Almost next door, as if chiaroscuro, is the highly controversial MUNCH, a 13-floor high construction of recycled steel and dark carbon. It’s here that Munch’s The Scream was stolen, and recovered four years later by Oslo police. It’s here that there are tens of thousands of works by Edvard Munch, who had written at 17 that he intended to be an artist and he had a long life, 1863-1944, to fulfil that prophesy.
SS Splendor arrange three-hour tours of Oslo. Girlahead loved the car-sparse streets (much traffic is diverted underground) and the imposing Royal Palace, at the top of sloping Karl Johans Street. Soon out in hilly, wooded countryside, you come to a futuristic ski jump, above, supposedly sticking out of nowhere – an integral elevator takes you to the top. Nearby is a disk-golf course, an environmentally sound and investment-free game played with frisbee-type platters. According to the sport’s official website, by the way, one world champ lives in Kansas City.
As you all know, Girelahead learns, LOTS, every day. Sadly, on this particular day there was no chance to visit two Viking ships, each in its own museum. Next time…