Since last Wednesday, Oslo has proven to me that not all major Scandinavian cities are created equal. That is not to say that one is better than another, but just to say that Oslo is a bit different. Oslo is more closely related to an American city than a European city in my estimation. Sure, there are still palaces, cobblestone streets, and residents who have seen the last 27 queens, but the spirit of the place is a bit grungier. Now, I appreciate and actually enjoy grunge, so I have been a huge fan of Oslo, but it is clear that the tourists have stuck it out in Stockholm and Copenhagen a bit more. They can have it. Give me diverse cultures, street food, an ever-evolving city, and an alleyway culture that is as strong as any other city that I have witnessed.
What Makes Strøget So Successful?
- Program - I spoke with the owner of 'Angst Bar' within the alleyway, and she explained how she felt that what brought people to the alleyway were the "strong businesses that have both regulars and adventurers." This might appear to have little to do with the design of a space, but in order for a successful business to thrive, you must first provide a corresponding space for them to use.
- Access - Similar to that of Västerlanggatan in Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Strøget is easy to access. Along the beautiful Torgatta pedestrian street, Strøget is obviously marked and provides users for a more intimate space than that of Torgatta. I found that many people would venture through Torgatta for different shopping/food options, or simply to get to the adjacent block without having to go all the way around.
- Inconsistencies - They do say that variety is the spice of life, right? Although stating consistent, and providing cities with clarity, sometimes the quirkiest areas catch our attention the most. This holds true with Strøget, as with the alleyway, there are bump outs, sky walks, walls of art, and variant businesses. These provide a user with a multitude of experiences without ever making the space feel awkward.
- Nighttime Use - Now, anytime I pose the question to anyone (young & old; men & women; any race) about what they feel about alleyways, almost every single initial reaction consists of safety, or lack thereof. Many average alleyways are used as passages during the day, but nighttime...well that is an entirely different story. In this alleyway, it is without question that your safety is secure. With a booming nightlife at restaurants and bars up and down the alleyway, this question does not even need to be posed.
I was blown away by the diversity of alleyways/sidestreets in Oslo. Unlike in Stockholm, and Copenhagen to a lesser extent, Oslo provided more than just historic sidestreets. Below are a few of the other alleyways I found in Oslo:
'City Passage,' is another architecturally interesting alleyway, but it lacks activity. This space could work considerably better if it has a fraction of what Strøget has in bunches...program.
A left over street from centuries past, Damstredet is a narrow picturesque passage that harks back to a simpler time in Oslo's history. Surrounded by urban industrialization, this narrow passage stands out in all of the best ways. Unfortunately, for what I am looking for, this passage does not necessarily do it for me.
News and Notes
- Though I celebrated Independence Day in Oslo this year, I was happy to be surrounded by semi-familiar things. BBQ, bluegrass, and baseball just to name a few. I have to say though...Norwegians swinging a baseball bat was all it took to bring a smile to my face.
- I arrived in Bergen today via train. People have spoken about how the train ride from Oslo to Bergen is one of the best in Europe, and it certainly did not disappoint. Moving from pastures, to snow covered mountains, to waterfalls, to crystal clear lakes, I had a difficult time believing that it was all one country.
- I am currently listening to......Highasakite. Ya know, mostly in case you haven't gotten your daily dose of Norwegian Feel Good Indie-Pop for the day.