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With the success of its North Sea oil industry, Norway is now the richest Scandinavian country and is no longer considered the poor cousin.

Signs of change show up here in old shipyards converted to trendy shopping areas, international foods like kabobs and pizza, immigrants creating their own pockets of familiar stores and language. The wealth also affects the cost of living, making it the most expensive Scandinavian country for food, clothing and essentials.The effects of urban migration are most obvious along Karl Johans Street, a pedestrian-only avenue in the heart of the city. People crowd into sidewalk cafes and cluster around street performers.

The street performers reflect the changing scene, too, as the city attracts tourists and people from all over the world: a mime from Holland, a juggler-fire eater from Seattle, a pipes ensemble from Peru, a St. Petersburg accordionist and singer, a Russian classical quartet.

Before I left Boston, everyone who had been here said: "Don't miss Vigeland Sculpture Park." I took note, but I ended up saving that for my last day, because once I arrived, I realized how rich the city is - not just with North Sea oil - but in things to do.

During my four-day stay, I couldn't do all the museums or tourist sites, particularly because I wanted to take advantage of the sunny Nordic light that, in mid-July, lasted till midnight. I wanted to be outdoors, sunning on benches, people watching, walking in parks like the one near the Royal Palace. I also wanted time to savor a delicious pastry in places like Halverson's, a Viennese-style tea room, or find arts and crafts galleries.

One of my favorite crafts stops was Finnmark. With its name, you may wonder why the art of Finland is featured in an Oslo gallery, but it's not Finnish art. Drop in and learn about the Samis, the northern nomadic tribes of Lapland, who do beautiful handicrafts, turning functional creations into beautiful creations. The Sami owner, who came to Oslo in 1994, knows the craftspeople whose work she carries, including sweaters, Christmas ornaments and decorations, fish skin purses, boots, paintings. It's a small shop - look for the reindeer statue standing guard outside - but she carries a good mix of items. She'll also talk as much as you want about her native land.

I also took time to sample some deli-style items at the friendly Fena Knocken on Tordenskioldsgt near City Hall. The shop specializes in Norwegian smoked specialties liked reindeer, sheep, reindeer-beef and salmon, even cheese.

My first museum stop was the Edvard Munch Museum, a modern setting for the internationally famous Expressionist painter who willed his hometown a collection of 1,000 paintings, 4,500 drawings and 18,000 prints. The museum rotates the works, so it's never the same art hanging year after year.

During his lifetime, 1863 to 1944, Munch experienced personal loss and mental breakdowns and recovery, all of which are reflected in his art. The paintings allow the viewer to connect with the artist, but the connection also arouses curiosity about his family, where they lived, where he painted, what influenced his art. Many of the answers to such questions can be found in the downstairs galleries where photos, memorabilia and documents reveal vivid details about his boyhood, his family and friends. I left knowing more about the artist than just his famous work "The Scream."

(Editor's note: In addition to the Munch Museum, a room in the National Gallery in Oslo is devoted to the works of Munch.)

Three of the major museum complexes - the Maritime Museum, Viking Ship Museum and the Folk Art Museum - are accessible by bus or boat ferry. You can do both in one day if you get an early start, but there's a lot of walking and a great deal of information to absorb, so it's better to do them on separate days.

The Folk Museum is large, with a variety of buildings and demonstrations. It reminded me of Old Sturbridge Village because of its setting and role of re-creating village and rural life with costumed interpreters in period activities. The terrain is natural, so wear walking shoes.

What I liked was that the museum dealt with both village/city and rural lives. The village section was a cluster of period merchant shops, crafts studios, and homes. I was drawn to the studio where five weavers create fine cloths and linens year round, not just when the museum is open in the summer. Looms are set up in several rooms, and each weaver has distinctive patterns and colors. Their lovely creations are for sale in the studio or musem gift shop. Other craftsmen included a potter, silversmith, engraver.

The village includes a friendly general store, plus homes with furnishings that reflect the wealth of the original owners. One of the summer demonstrations in the rural section was preparation of lepe, a holiday sweet pancake, cooked on a griddle (in this case over a fire), drizzled with butter, rolled and eaten warm. The sample was delicious. I don't spend much time in gift shops, but the Folk Museum's was stocked with interesting folk art, sweaters, books, cards, pewter ornaments.

The maritime history complex is in two sites. One is the Viking Ship Museum; the other is a trio of buildings housing different types of seafaring vessels.

The Viking Ship Museum seems small and unimpressive on first sight, but once inside, the first look at the ships is breathtaking. It's a churchlike setting - two ships in naves, the biggest one is the center - and the high windows allow natural light to stream over the boats. Considering the ships' age, from AD 900, and their history, I could understand the sacred-like setting. The museum houses five ships that are in extremely good condition because they were buried on land and under blue clay that acts as a natural preservative.

The three ships were excavated between 1867 and 1904 at burial mounds in Oseberg, Gokstad, and Tune on the Oslo fiord. The archaeologists unearthed more than ships. The wealthy Viking women and men were buried along with the ships, horses, slaves, wagons, clothing, accessories, jewelry, cooking utensils and other objects they would need in the afterlife.

What's impressive is not only the quantity of goods, but the quality of craftsmanship in carvings, textiles, jewelry. Since the Vikings have no written history, these artifacts reveal a great deal about not only what they looked like (a carved head portraying the head of an eighth-century man) and what they wore, but how advanced they were in engineering, metal-smith-ing, carving, and how their travels took them to foreign lands.

More Norwegian maritime history is at a harborside complex of three buildings: The Kon Tiki Museum details the adventures of explorer Thor Heyerdahl; the polar ship Fram focuses on three Artic adventures; and the Maritime Museum looks at commercial fishing, shipbuilding and marine archaeology through boat models.

I was especially interested in the Fram, a massive vessel that dwarfs everything and everybody. The museum is set up so visitors can explore the ship inside and out, up and down. The ship's history is impressive, detailed in displays and artifacts from three expeditions that Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup and Roald Amundsen led after the ship was built in 1892. Its last polar exploration was to the South Pole in 1911.

On the outside, near the dock, sits the Ajoa, the first vessel to sail the Northwest Passage, a feat that started on June 17, 1903, and ended 23 months later at King's Point in 1905, arriving in Nome, Alaska, in 1906. It arrived in San Francisco in 1906 and stayed at Golden Gate Park there until the ship was returned to Norway and the museum in 1972.

World War II history is the raison d'etre for Norway's Resistance Museum. Housed in part of Akers-hus Fortress, the original fort overlooking the harbor, the visit was an eye-opening experience because I knew so little about World War II's impact on Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway. Germany occupied the country for five years, destroying coastal villages, taking over major cities such as Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. But like other European countries, the Germans could not stamp out resistance that was conducted under their noses even in Oslo where they were headquartered. The museum details the horrors of occupation, concentration camps, and the daring tactics of resistance fighters, such as publishing a newspaper.

City Hall may not be high on a tourist's list of sites to see - in fact, some natives acknowledge that they've never toured the hall of government, but I was glad I did. The imposing, modern building overlooking the old shipyard wharf is a showcase of tapestries, mosaics, woodworking and murals detailing the city and country's heritage. A guided tour in English was informative. The building, inaugurated in 1950 on the 900th anniversary of the city, has another claim to fame: The annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is here. It's an honor bestowed by the Nobel Institute in Sweden because Norway never invaded any coun-try.

I used public transportation to get everywhere except the Holmenkollbakeken ski jump - I had the benefit of an Oslo friend who drove me to to the ski jump site, about a 30-minute drive from the city center. I'm glad he offered the native's tour because the view was spectacular, and it also provided insight into how much Norwegians value the outdoors and allow everyone access to open space.

He also stopped at the summit, site of the Rica Hotel, a turn-of-the-century lodge that uses native woods and Norse mythological figures in carvings and details in hallways, fireplaces and dining room. Its modern, ugly addition is totally out of place, so on a future trip I would stay in the old section or at least have dinner in its dining room. The lodge has an unbroken view of the Oslo fiord to the west and farmland and wooded valley to the north.

The final day, after 5 o'clock when most museums and shops are closed, I hopped on a tram to Vigeland Park, the 80-acre sculpture park designed by artist Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) and developed during the 1930s and '40s. It's a showcase of some 200 of his sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. "The Monolith," a column of intertwining human figures of all ages, dominates the park. You'll see it once you pass through the entrance gates Vigeland designed. A bridge is lined with more human figures, captured in movement and moments of joy. The park is a wonderful way to unwind, relax, and wrap up a stay in Oslo.

Other tips:

- Oslo is an easy city to get around - trams, subways, buses and ferries are fast and efficient; routes are clearly detailed on city maps.

- Oslo's train station is new and very user-friendly. Information counters for both regional and international trains are staffed by mulitlingual personnel who patiently answer questions. Brochures - Norway in a Nutshell - describe some of the most popular excursions to all parts of the country.

The new station is attached to the old one which has been converted into a food and shopping hall, with the vendors chosen with the traveler in mind: groceries, records, books, and fast food takeout.

- Tourist Information Centers are in two places, one at the train station, the other at 1 Vest-bane-plassen (wharf near City Hall). The centers sell tourist cards, travel cards, book accommodations, offer maps and answer all your questions about Norway and Oslo.

If you're here for more than a day, consider buying the Oslo Card. It's a 24-hour ticket that covers admission to some museums and transportation whether it's tram, bus, subway or ferry to the museums across the harbor.

If you're not going to visit what's covered on the Oslo card, then consider a transportation-only card. You'll be able to get to all key sites, including the ski jump.


Additional Information

How to get information on Norway, Scandinavia

For information about Norway and other Scandinavian countries, contact the Scandinavian Tourist Boards, P.O. Box 4649, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163-4649, 212-885-9700, or visit the Norwegian Web site at (www.norway.org).

The Oslo package is a way to save on hotel rates. Thirty-six hotels representing all price ranges participate in the discount program. You will also receive an Oslo Card, which is good for museum admissions and public transportation. Request a booklet that lists the participating hotels from the Norwegian Tourist Board.