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25 Things You Should Know About Oslo

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Within Oslo’s city limits are 40 islands, 343 lakes, and an entire forest, yet it’s only the third largest Nordic metropolis, behind Stockholm and Copenhagen. But it's the melding of urban and natural landscapes that gives the Norwegian capital its distinct appeal. Notable art is showcased in the parks and woods, and modern landmarks pay homage to the country’s scenery. Say hei to 25 more facts about this Scandinavian city.

1. The original city was founded around 1050 by King Harald Hardrada, but destroyed in a fire in 1624. So Christian IV of Denmark-Norway set up a new town further west, and changed the name to Christiania. The spelling was switched to Kristiania in 1877, but Parliament reverted to Oslo in 1925.

2. In 1814, Norway’s first constitution designated Christiania as the official capital.

3. Oslo is Norway’s most populous city with 647,676 residents as of January 2015, comprising 12.5 percent of the country’s total population.

4. If Oslo's average temperature of 22°F in January feels a little chilly, you should just go ahead and blame yourself: “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing choices,” as a popular Norwegian saying goes.

5. Norway’s King and Queen live at the Royal Palace, located at the top of Karl Johans Gate (essentially Oslo's Main Street). Construction began in 1824; the palace was first used in 1849 by King Oscar I. Foreign heads of state also stay here when visiting the capital on business, and the public can tour the royal residence during the summer (ticket sales for this season started earlier this month).

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6.
There are actually four existing versions of Edvard Munch’s most famous work, The Scream. An 1893 tempera-and-crayon one hangs in Oslo’s National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, or Nasjonalmuseet, while a 1893 pastel and a 1910 painting are at the city’s Munch Museum, or Munchmuseet. The fourth, produced in 1895, which bought for around $120 million at a Sotheby’s auction.

7. The Scream depicts the vantage point from the hilltop of Oslo’s Ekeberg neighborhood, with the fjord, town, and hills below.

Edvard Munch's The Scream, Google Art Project //Wikimedia Commons


8.
Get lost in the 62-acre sculpture park Ekebergparken, which was opened in 2013 by philanthropist and collector Christian Ringnes. As of today, 34 sculptures are peppered throughout the grounds, including works by Salvador Dali, Auguste Rodin, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. A highlight? James Turrell’s Skyspace: The Color Beneath, which changes hues, thus altering the viewer's perception of the work—and his or her perception of "the sky above," as the work's description reads.

9. A naked man juggling four infants, an angry stomping baby, and a 46-foot high tower of 121 humans are just a few of the more than 200 art pieces at Vigeland Sculpture Park located inside Oslo’s biggest greenspace, Frogner Park. Sculptor Gustav Vigeland made every one of the sculptures himself and also designed the architecture of the 80-acre park, which was finished between 1939 and 1949.

10. The sloped marble top of the Oslo Opera House, designed by architecture firm Snøhetta, resembles an iceberg jetting out of a fjord—and visitors are encouraged to climb the roof all year long. The 414,411-square-foot building, which opened in 2008 and cost $665 million to build, sits on the Oslo waterfront, and is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet.

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11.
Just a 15-minute metro ride inland from the capital’s center is a forest, Oslomarka, completely within the city limits of Oslo.

12. As a kid, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl used to spend his summer vacations visiting his grandparents in Oslo.

13. Every year since 1947, Oslo has given London its Trafalgar Square Christmas tree as a thank you gift for the UK's support during World War II. The city has also given Reykjavik one annually since 1951. But in 2014, Fabian Stang, who was then the mayor of Oslo, said they would no longer be gifting a tree to the Icelandic capital because of the high costs involved. After then-mayor of Reykjavik Jon Gnarr fired back, the tradition was reinstated without a break.

14. The city’s Viking Ship Museum houses three historical boats: the Oseberg, made of oak in the year 820; the Tune, which was the first Viking ship to be excavated when it was found in 1867; and the world's best-preserved Viking ship, the Gokstad, discovered in a burial mound on a farm in 1879.


15.
A noble date: Every year on December 10, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in the presence of Norway’s King Harald V at Oslo City Hall. The other Nobel Prizes are presented in Stockholm.

16. The Akershus Castle and Fortress, which was used during the Middle Ages, still serves as a military base. Look familiar? There's a replica of it at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

17. Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen worked in theaters in both Bergen and Oslo, but moved to Germany where he wrote his most famous work, A Doll's House. Later in life, he returned to Oslo, where he died on May 23, 1906.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain


18.
In February, Oslo’s Maaemo restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars, making it the only restaurant in the country with the honor. The inspectors said the cooking at the restaurant, whose name means "Mother Earth," is "intricate, original and visually stimulating with some sublime flavor combinations.”

19. The Oslo Airport is the first in the world to offer biofuel to all airlines, and Lufthansa was the first to use the Air BP aviation biofuel in an Airbus A320 on January 22.

20. Music lovers visiting the Norwegian city have a wide variety of events to choose from. There's the Inferno Metal Festival in March, and the Norwegian Wood Rock Festival in June. Oh, and then the Oslo Jazz Festival in August, the Oslo World Music Festival in November, and the Oslo International Church Music Festival in March.


21.
Who said bigger is better? The city’s Mini Bottle Gallery is the only museum of its kind on the planet. It contains 53,000 bottles, 12,500 of which are on display across the 16,147-square-foot space.

22. The Holmenkollen ski jump hosted competitions annually from 1892 to 2008, and was even the site of the World Championships in 1982. A new jump was built in 2010, and Holmenkollen is now known as the world’s most modern ski jump, featuring 1000 tons of steel over the 440-foot long hill. The observation deck provides panoramic views, and more daring visitors can zipline down the hill for about $70.

23. The big cheese in town: Brunost, which translates to "brown cheese." But the tan-colored slices aren’t actually cheese at all. The fudge-like texture and sweet-yet-salty taste comes from the caramelization of goat’s milk whey.

24. Oslo was ranked the most expensive city in the world in 2013, but this year it dropped out of the top 10, coming in at number 13.

25. Play more than 100 video games from 1972 to today at the Game On 2.0 exhibit at the Norwegian Museum of Science & Technology, or Teknisk Museum (through January 29, 2017). Visitors can challenge each other to the original arcade versions of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, and more.

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25 Things You Should Know About Barcelona
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With its Catalonian roots and modernist architecture (much of it by the legendary Antoni Gaudí), Barcelona's charm feels timeless. Read on for more about this coastal metropolis, the former home of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.

1. Nobody knows exactly how the city got its name, but two legendary figures are frequently cited. According to one account, Hannibal's father, Hamilcar Barca, named the settlement "Barcino" in the 3rd century BCE after his family's surname. A different tale credits Hercules, whose ninth ship (barca nona) was said to have washed ashore in the area.

2. The Eixample section of the city is a nearly perfect grid, although the corners of each square are cut off, effectively making every block an octagon. In the 19th century, geometry-obsessed architect Ildefons Cerda designed the areas to ease traffic patterns and navigation, but also to build a community within each block, which featured a communal garden in the middle. As a bonus, the setup also maximized sunlight and the ventilation of the surrounding homes.

3. One of Barcelona's most popular arteries is the three-quarter-mile road called La Rambla. During the Middle Ages, it was the site of a polluted stream outside the city walls affectionately known as Cagalell, or "stream of shit." Today, the road is divided into five sections—Canaletes, Estudis, Sant Josep, Caputxins, and Santa Mònica—which is why it's often referred to in the plural as Las Ramblas.

4. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), more than 1000 underground bomb shelters were built to offer Barcelonians refuge from enemy attack. You can experience the claustrophobic atmosphere of one of the subterranean structures, Shelter 307, a massive bunker with specialized rooms (toilets, a children's room, an infirmary, and more) linked by 400 meters of tunnels. The Museu d'Historia de Barcelona manages the site and offers public tours.

5. The annual Sant Jordi festival (which took place this year on April 23) toasts Catalonia's patron saint, Saint George. As part of the celebration, men traditionally give their loved ones a rose. But it's also the anniversary of both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes's deaths, so women give a book in return.

6. A 200-foot-tall monument of Christopher Columbus is located at the end of La Rambla, near the harbor. Completed in 1888 by sculptor Rafael Atche, the towering column honors the explorer who returned to Barcelona from the Americas and reported his findings to his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. In his left hand, he holds a scroll, and with his right, he supposedly points toward the New World.

7. Construction on Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece cathedral, La Sagrada Familia, began in 1882 … and is still going. The Gothic- and Byzantine-influenced design reached its final stage in November 2015, but projections still target 2026 as the completion date. By then, it will have 18 towers and reach a height of 564 feet, making it the tallest religious building in Europe. Despite not being finished, it's still Spain's most-visited monument.

8. A modernist masterpiece, Park Güell is a complex of public parks designed by Gaudí and a local industrialist, Count Eusebi Güell. Originally, in 1900, Güell had envisioned the complex as a housing development interspersed with green spaces, but only two homes were ever built and few buyers showed interest. The residential project was abandoned in 1914 and the city later converted the rest of the area into municipal parks with roads, walkways, a plaza, and gatehouses designed by Gaudí. Today it's one of seven properties in UNESCO's Works of Antoni Gaudí world heritage site.

9. Another site in the UNESCO group is Casa Milà, an apartment building designed by Gaudí and nicknamed La Pedrera, or stone quarry. It took six years to build and was completed in 1912 in the Catalan Art Nouveau style. With 48,438 square feet of space for visitors to explore, its most recognizable feature is the roof terrace with its winding paths of ventilation towers, chimneys, and stairs.

10. Spain's most powerful supercomputer, MareNostrum, is housed in the 19th-century Chapel Torre Girona on the campus of Barcelona's Polytechnic University of Catalonia. A team of researchers uses the MareNostrum for mapping the human genome, detecting complex weather patterns, and other massive projects using huge amounts of data.

11. The first boycott-free Olympics since 1972 was held in Barcelona in 1992. The summer games took place amid global political shifts—South Africa had outlawed Apartheid, the fall of the Berlin Wall had reunited East and West Germany, and 15 former Soviet countries competed as a "unified" team. More than 9000 athletes (6652 men and 2704 women) competed in 257 events—including baseball, badminton, and women's judo, which all made their official Olympic debuts that year.

12. The coastal city's beloved beaches are actually man-made. To prepare for the 1992 Olympics, industrial waterfront buildings were torn down and palm trees were imported from Malaga, resulting in two miles of idyllic waterfront space. Today, there are more than four miles of beach.

13. Singer José Carreras, who was born in Barcelona on December 5, 1946, sang the part of Tony on 1984's West Side Story recording with Leonard Bernstein. He later joined forces with Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo in 1990 to form the powerhouse combo The Three Tenors. Their first live album (recorded at their debut concert in Rome) went multiplatinum that year—and won a Grammy for best classical vocal performance.

14. In 2004, Barcelona-based candy shop Papabubble started making hard candies completely by hand. Today there are more than 40 locations around the globe, in cities including Beirut, Dubai, Lima, New York, Paris, Sao Paolo, Taipei, Toronto, and Zhengzhou.

15. Built for the 1929 International Exhibition by Carles Buigas, the Montjuïc Magic Fountain features a dancing water show with more than 50 shades of colors coordinated to music. Located at the end of Avinguda Reina Maria Cristina, it was restored for the 1992 Olympics and also hosts an annual Piromusical show, synchronized with fireworks, for the city's La Mercè festival.

16. For a panoramic view of Barcelona, hop on the scenic Montjuïc cable car, which travels up a hillside for 277 feet, with stops at Parc Montjuïc, Montjuïc castle (built in 1640), and the Mirador de l'Alcalde. From the upper terminal, board the Montjuïc funicular to ascend to more cultural attractions, including the Fundacio Joan Miro and Barcelona’s ethnological museum.

17. Barcelona's local cuisine combines the hallmarks of the coastal Mediterranean palate—fish and shellfish, legumes, tomatoes, peppers, other fresh vegetables, fruits, and wheat—with the rustic fare of the mountainous interior. Pork (especially Serrano ham) and wild boar, sausages called botifarras, wild mushrooms, cheeses, and wines add heartiness to the Catalan table.

18. Pablo Picasso's family moved to Barcelona in 1895, and he lived there on and off through 1904. "There is where it all began … there is where I understood how far I could go," he said of the city. Barcelona’s Museu Picasso, founded in 1963, houses 4251 of his works in its permanent collection, including early self-portraits in the figurative style, Cubist works, studies of harlequins and horses, and later sculptures.

19. Catalonia’s artistic legacy wouldn’t be complete without Surrealist master Salvador Dalí, who was born in Figueres, a small town about an hour northeast of Barcelona. He spent the last decades of his life creating a museum in his hometown to preserve his work. "I want my museum to be like a single block, a maze, a great surrealist object. It will be an absolutely theatrical museum. People who come to see it will leave with the feeling of having had a theatrical dream,” Dalí once said. The Dalí Theatre-Museum’s collection includes more than 4000 Dalí works, 11,300 photographs, and 537 manuscripts.

20. Barcelona’s most visited museum is dedicated to the city’s beloved football (that is, soccer) team, FC Barcelona. Within the team’s stadium, dubbed Camp Nou, is a collection of multimedia exhibits, memorabilia, and trophies from the team’s 22 league titles, four Champions League victories, and many more. Visitors can also take a tour of the locker rooms, the players’ tunnel leading to the field, and other hallowed spaces. In 2013, more than 1,530,400 fans passed through the doors, more than the Dalí Theatre Museum in nearby Figueres and the Museu Picasso.

21. The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria is the city’s main market for food and drink. The current market was established in 1840, but the site has been a well-trodden spot for farmers to trade their produce and city dwellers to buy fresh food since the 13th century. Today third- and fourth-generation sellers offer fresh and salted fish, poultry and eggs, meats of every description, breads, pasta, wine, fruits and vegetables, and even frozen foods.

22. The old Sant Agustí monastery now houses the Museu de la Xocolata ("Museum of Chocolate” in the Catalan language), showcasing a sweet part of Barcelona's history. In the 15th century, shipments of chocolate from far-flung regions arrived in Barcelona and were distributed throughout Europe. Exhibits focus on the chocolate-making process, historical roots of the product, and even chocolate-themed works of art.

23. Barcelona’s Avinguda del Portal de L'Angel is Spain’s most expensive retail street. As of 2015, commercial real estate on the street sold for $335 per square foot.

24. The au courant clothing chain Mango was founded in Barcelona in 1984. Now, the brand has 2415 stores in 107 countries and operates Europe’s largest fashion design hub, the Hangar Design Centre.

25. The Royal Institute of British Architecture's highest honor, the Royal Gold Medal, has always be awarded to a person—except in 1999, when it was given to the city of Barcelona. Citing the city’s widespread revitalization after the 1992 Olympics, the organization announced, "Barcelona is now more whole in every way, its fabric healed yet threaded through with new open spaces, its historic buildings refurbished, yet its facilities expanded and brought up-to-the-minute.”

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Chocolate Maps Turn the Streets of Famous Cities Into Edible Art
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Chocolate map of Tel Aviv.
Tamtik

At first glance, the gourmet chocolate squares below look like works of modern art. But if you’re familiar with the streets of London, Tel Aviv, or New York City, you might notice that the abstract designs actually look a lot like the maps of these iconic cities.

According to My Modern Met, Tamtik chocolate has partnered with online retailer Nisnas Industries to bring their gorgeous, edible maps to Kickstarter. Each creation is made by pouring liquid dark chocolate into a mold of an urban landscape. Once it has hardened, the treat shows every block, park, and city street as fine chocolate contours and intricate geometric shapes. The three varieties—London, Tel Aviv, and New York City—are each crafted by chocolatiers from their respective cities, further connecting the products to the places they represent.

Making of chocolate city map.
Tamtik

Each chocolate map comes wrapped in artisanal packaging, making it the perfect gift to remind a loved one of their favorite city. There’s also nothing stopping you from opening the box and enjoying the delectable artwork on your own.

Tamtik is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to make these masterpieces, with more than a month left to reach their $10,000 goal. You can reserve a chocolate city map of your own with a pledge of $45 or more. A pledge of just $1 allows you to vote on which city Tamtik should add to their lineup next.

Opening a box that contains a chocolate city map.
Tamtik

[h/t My Modern Met]

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