While we were camping most of the time in beautiful Norway, we did also have a few opportunities to marvel at some of the ingenious architecture across the country. And though we saw so little of it, it still made quite the impression!
We got our first taste of the Norwegian architectural prowess during our extra day in quaint Oslo.
The main town didn’t really boast much more than ordinary buildings and adorable European complexes hugging welcoming courtyards. The true masterpieces were saved for the waterfront.
The opera house is a must-do in Oslo, and it’s plain to see why. It’s almost a park unto itself. Whether or not you have an affinity for opera, the structure is a marvel to behold. From the water, one can only see a massive ramp ascending from the bank. Walking along the concrete shoreline, visitors can continue right up onto the roof of the massive building. Once there, people take in the city views, explore the massive rooftop, admire the details on the vertical surfaces, and just rest in the shade. It’s the ideal spot to watch the sun set – after you’ve been burned by it, of course.
And while the exterior is entertaining to explore, the interior tantalizes the eyes.
The lobby stretches all the way to the pinnacle of the structure, some three or four stories up. Wood paneling lines a spiral ramp that spans the length of the building and leads to the levels of the auditorium. Multilevel windows fill the entire space with natural light.
Even the bathrooms are a treat to visit, sending visitors down a corridor of mirrors and illuminated geometric patterned walls.
It was delightful.
The wonders continued at the other end of the marina when we found ourselves in a posh waterfront neighborhood of canals and condos. Even concrete steps were inviting. And we were able to view it all from a glass elevator that sent us far above the rooftops.
Once we branched out into the countryside, we were more focused on the landscapes; architecture was few and far between. However, each town had its own touch of structural art. Most prevalent were beautiful churches.
We first came upon the quaint St. Olaf’s Church in Balestrand. I was thrilled to photograph the outside, a tad hesitant to venture inside.
But I’m so glad we did!
Ornate woodwork greeted us, from the pews to the elegant rafters. I was mesmerized by the details, from the welcoming front door, left ajar, to the modest altar.
This church actually inspired the small church featured in the coronation scene of the Disney movie, Frozen (didn’t “Olaf” sound familiar?). While it lacked the choir loft, it was a remarkably similar representation.
Later in our journey, we visited the Lom Stave Church. This one stands proud on a hill in Lom, stretching tall with its central spire. We could pay to go inside, but we opted for the free self-guided tour outside. This made me even more glad we saw the interior of St. Olaf’s.
We wandered the surrounding graveyard and marveled at the intricate rooftop tiles. It was all quite fascinating! It was so rustic and beautiful, I couldn’t get enough.
Of course, we couldn’t visit Norway without seeing dozens of viewpoints. Understandably, most were labeled with the suffix, “juvet,” which means “gorge.” As most of the lofty vistas looked down upon windy roads and crystal-clear fjords, this makes perfect sense.
But the landscapes were only part of what drew our attention.
Stegastein boasts a wooden waterfall platform that makes visitors feel as though they’re about to tumble down into the fjord far below.
Gaularfjellet features triangular stairs that hug the viewpoint, each unique and fascinating in their structures.
And the famous Trollstigen takes visitors down a path past a long shopping outlet that seems to sprout right out of the landscape, a beautifully arrayed tiered pool that leads the main waterway down a staircase cascade, and the viewpoint proper – a wood and concrete structure jutting out over the tall cliff overlooking the photo-worthy windy road below.
But I think the most fascinating spot was Gudbrandsjuvet. This unbelievable place not only has an unforgettable walkway of curvy railings that passes over a rushing waterfall, but the accompanying coffee shop is just as intriguing. Constructed with a modern decor, the concrete floors and metal accents might seem imposing at first. But it’s perfect on a hot day, especially with a bit of house-made coffee ice cream in-hand. The far wall is comprised of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the raging water, and table nooks extend in triangular fingers.
It felt like we were sitting atop the water with our afternoon treat.
And the bathrooms! I don’t usually gush about facilities, but these need mention.
First of all, you’d never find them if you don’t know where to look. The door is an entire metallic wall, and each unit blends in seamlessly. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to lock the doors – a large bar that slides across. This was more than just a necessity, it was an experience.
We saw countless additional little examples of art in architecture all throughout Norway – from bridges and buildings, to fountains and roads. And we loved each new discovery.
Where have you seen the most memorable architecture?
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