Home: Encyclopedia: Oslo
Oslo is the capital city of Norway, and has 518,929 inhabitants, which is 11.4% of the total population in Norway. The conurbation extends into the surrounding county of Akershus and has a population of 801,028 (Jan. 2004). The urban municipality (bykommune) of Oslo and county (fylke) is the same entity, covering an area of 454.0 km², of which 115 km² is built-up and 7 km² is agricultural. The open areas within the built-up zone amounts to 22 km².
Oslo occupies an arc of land at the northern end of the Oslofjord. The fjord, which is nearly bisected by the Nesodden peninsula opposite Oslo, lies to the south; in the other directions Oslo is surrounded by green hills and mountains. There are 40 islands within the city limits, the largest being Malmøya (0.56 km²), and scores more around the Oslofjord. Oslo has 343 lakes, the largest being Maridalsvannet (3.91 km²). This is also a main source of drinking water for large parts of the western part of Oslo, mainly Vestre Aker and Nordre Aker. The highest point is Kirkeberget, at 629 m. Although the city's population is small compared to most European capitals, it occupies an unusually large land area. Its boundaries encompass many parks and open areas, giving it an airy and often very green appearance.
According to the Norse sagas, Oslo was founded around 1048 by king Harald Hardråde. Recent archaeological research has uncovered Christian burials from before 1000, evidence of a preceding urban settlement. This called for the celebration of Oslo's millennium in 2000. The origin of the name is still somewhat unclear. It has been regarded as the capital city since the reign of Håkon V (1299-1319), who was the first king to reside permanently in the city. He also started the construction of the Akershus castle. A century later Norway was the weaker part in a personal union with Denmark, and Oslo's role was reduced to that of prvincial administrative centre, with the kings residing in Copenhagen. The fact that the University of Oslo was founded as late as 1811 had an adverse effect on the development of the nation.
Oslo was destroyed by fire in 1624, and was rebuilt at a new site across the bay, near Akershus castle, by king Christian IV of Norway and given the name Christiania (later Kristiania). The original name of Oslo was restored in 1924. But long before this, Christiania had started to regain its stature as a centre of commerce and culture in Norway. In 1814 Christiania once more became a real capital when the union with Denmark was dissolved. Many landmarks were built in the 19th century, including the Royal Palace (1825-1848), the Parliament (1861-1866), the University, The National Theatre and the Stock Exchange. Among the world-famous artists who lived here during this period were Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Munch, Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset (the latter two won the Nobel Prize for literature).
Oslo's prominence in the political, cultural and economical life of Norway has been and still is a source of considerable controversy and friction. This has not changed during the last century, despite numerous attempts at decentralizing power by giving incentives to investors in other regions and moving government institutions outside the Oslo area.
The city was once referred to as Tigerstaden (City of Tigers) by the author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson around 1870. This name has over the years achieved an almost official status, to the extent the 1000 year jubilee was celebrated by a row of tiger sculptures around the City Hall. A harsh picture of the city was drawn by Knut Hamsun in his novel Sult (Hunger) from 1890 (cinematized in 1966).
There are daily ferry connections to:
Connections in the directions of: Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Copenhagen, Vestfold, Skien, Gjøvik.
All public transport within Oslo operate on a common ticket system, allowing free transfers within a period of one hour, if you buy a regular ticket. Oslo has the following public transportation systems: Bus, Tram, Metro (T-bane), Ferries to Oslo islands and Train. Oslo's Tram- and Metro system is the largest in Europe compared to the number of innhabitants.
The city of Oslo constitutes a county of Norway. It is governed by a city government (Byråd) based on the principle of Parliamentarism. The government consists of 6 government members called commissioners (byråder, sing. byråd), and is appointed by the city council, which is the supreme authority of the city. The council consists of 59 popularly elected representatives.
Following the latest reform of January 1, 2004, the city is divided into 15 boroughs (bydel) that are to some extent self governed:
In addition to these boroughs, there are:
The newspapers Aftenposten, Verdens Gang, Dagbladet, and Dagsavisen are published in Oslo. Most of them have their offices placed in Akersgata, close to Stortinget. The main office of the national broadcasting company NRK is also located in Oslo, in the borough of Majorstuen.
Oslo was host city for the 1952 Winter Olympic Games. Except for the downhill skiing at Norefjell, all events took place within the city limits.
The Bislett Stadion was used for speed skating events at the Olympics, but in recent years it has been better known for its annual Bislett Games track and field event. The whole Bislett Stadion is now beeing re-built, prior to the Bislett Games 2005.
Two football teams from Oslo, Vålerenga I.F. Fotball and Lyn Fotball, play in the Norwegian premier league (2004).
Page Updated: Mon Nov 1 17:24:43 2004
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