Traveling from the airport on the ultra-tech FlyToGet train is nothing but praise for us.
Santiago Garrido, a Venezuelan friend who is exploring Europe, summed up well the financial frustration that can be felt immediately in Norway, as in the rest of Scandinavia: “so I fly from southern Europe there for twenty euros and then land and pay double just to get to the city center??
Something is wrong on this continent of yours!”
Another aspect that intrigues us more. As we walk through the station on our way to the exit, we have a different feeling than we expected when we arrived in Norway.
The tall, fair-skinned, blond or red-haired passersby seem to us a small minority in the multi-ethnic mosaic we are crossing.
The Unexpected Multi-Ethnicity Upon Arrival in Oslo
Groups of Somalis stand out completely from the Scandinavian imagination for their dark complexion and, above all, for the women's long and exuberant garments. These Africans are not the only inhabitants to differ.
We passed busy clans of Kurdish men, hailing from Bosnia and Kosovo as well as other parts of Eastern Europe. Also by Pakistanis and Vietnamese. Few or none look like tourists.
Its presence is more visible than ever in front of the central station and in the Gronland district. It is due, in part, to the Norwegian tradition of receiving refugees – despite only those already considered so by the United Nations – and also to a recent openness to emigration that the recurrent lack of labor demanded.
Few nations contribute like Norway to foreign aid and refugee programs.
Oslo immigrants now number over 25% and their rate of reproduction, together with that of the Norwegians themselves, makes the city's population one of the fastest growing in Europe.
The prosperity of this Nordic nation also contributes to the number of newborn children we also meet.
The Savings and Weighing Some Say to Come from Viking Times
The notion persists that Norwegians are obsessed with saving and investing well.
In bygone times in its history, the Viking ascendants norse they have gone through atrocious needs. They often had to resort to systematic raids and looting that terrorized Europe and earned them an unenviable reputation as incorrigible barbarians.
In addition to medieval plunder, the nation later went through other difficult phases that led to a strong movement of emigration to the Americas and – joke with the subject – generated in Edvard Munch the despair that led him to paint “The Scream".
These days, the European economy is languishing but it was recently reported that the Oslo government was having trouble deciding how to invest the 570 billion euros accumulated in its gigantic sovereign wealth fund, an amount originated mainly with the sale of extracted oil and natural gas in the North, Norwegian and Barents Seas.
As might be expected, the city's inhabitants show no apprehension. Neither with the solution to the investment problem nor with any national or private financial issue.
Oslo's Well-Being That Norwegian Prosperity Only Reinforces
It's Saturday morning. The capital gave itself heart and soul to the outdoors and sport.
On the streets, an athletics event is being prepared in which several thousand Scandinavians participate and which blocks traffic in several key streets. A little everywhere skaters pass us at great speed.
And, on trails in vast green areas, even cross-country skiers who, even without snow, continue to keep in shape for the competitions that will return with the winter.
But it's not just physical activity that makes the day. We walked through Slotts Park when we came across two little women and a boy, all in traditional costume. In the distance, we glimpse several other people in similar robes.
The discovery intrigues us. We can't resist starting a conversation and asking questions.
The Added Value of Norwegian Cultural Roots
Amalie, the eldest of the brothers aged 19, offered to explain: “We have all come for Lutheran profession of faith ceremonies. The costumes are typical of the region and village in which we live, called Frank, just like our nickname.
It is on the west coast of Norway. The ceremonies will take place in the City Hall. Several of the guests are atheists or agnostics and, therefore, chose not to do them in any church.”
Respect for the beliefs of others and a strong tradition of intervention in the pacification of the World and its celebration is predominant in the country.
It has headquarters at the famous Nobel Institute and the Nobel Peace Center which we passed after a strategic stop at the entrance to City Hall.
There, we can contemplate and photograph the dozens of picturesque natives from the Frank area who arrive and greet each other with feeling.
It has never been more notorious than now that Norway, and Oslo in particular, have their problems.
The Stains of the Far Right and Apolitical Crime
With the crazy attacks that perpetrated against government buildings in the center and in Utoya island, against the young participants of the AUF summer camp (Working Ungdomsfylking or League of Young Workers), Anders Breivik gave expression to a tiny faction of xenophobic Norwegians and, at the same time, extremists.
Even if the Oslo police declared some time ago that the city was the safest in Europe, surprising figures show that crime has increased, surpassing that of other cities in the north of the old continent, to the point that a German travel guide book having dared to dub Oslo the city of “The Scandinavian Crime Capital”.
In the superficial day-to-day of a visitor, this reality shows little or nothing.
At Vigeland Sculpture Park, a laid-back crowd of residents and tourists alike enjoy the eccentric statues. They photograph themselves interacting with them.
The summer day weather does not match that of southern countries. But it only takes a few more minutes of walking, this time along the Stranden docks, to see how the Oslo Norwegians have become used to compensating for the lack of sun.
Reassured by the unquestionable national prosperity, they now enjoy increased well-being, travel frequently to distant and exotic places, consume much more and almost always more expensive.
Austerity no longer makes sense in these parts.