I still remember it as if it were yesterday that I was enjoying the best vacation of my life in Northern Europe. It was this 15-day magical trip from one end of Scandinavia to another is what kind of changed my life. It gave me both a chance to experience the magnificence up and close, as well write about it and build a blogging career. Although up until I visited Scandinavia, I acknowledged this side of Europe as either the homeland of ABBA or the mystical filming locations of the Hollywood blockbusters such as the Star Wars and the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I got my first glimpse of Stockholm from the cabin window of Silja Tallink which transferred me from the Finnish Helsinki port to this Swedish capital city.
While trying to establish a sitting balance on the narrow fringe of the round cabin window, I gazed out at the blue waters of the Baltic Sea and was particularly amazed by the sea waves that encircled every small island we crossed. As far as I could look, the clear skies enhanced the depth of the ocean, the islands and even seagulls from time to time. At 11 AM, Silja Tallink arrived at the 12th-century well-preserved port of Stockholm. I’d call it, love at first sight because the moment I saw the vivid silhouettes of Stockholm’s architectural beauty casting phenomenal reflections in the quayside waterfront, I knew I was bowled over. It was as if nature had painted a perfect backdrop sketch and Swedes had filled colours into it.
Whether admiring the impeccably preserved gabled buildings or paying a visit to enchanted monuments, I was successful in covering most of the significant landmarks of Stockholm. However, one monumental building pumped my adrenaline like no other. It was the grand venue of the Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset) that hosts the Nobel Prize Ceremony on December 10th each year. Stadshuset is where I discovered Sweden’s wisdom bank, cultural riches, national romanticism and royal legacy, all together, under one roof.
Stockholm City Hall’s princely black metal gate opens to a large courtyard setting, exhibiting a trail of interconnected arched frames. This curved framework is interlinked, with Tuscan-Order columns that delicately highlight the 18th-century dome influence. In totality, Stadshuset is built, from 8 million bricks with an evident largeness. Whether interiors or exteriors, the elemental placement of vertical wall windows and 23 gilded figures add a distinct sophistication to the venue.
Then on December 10th, each year, the King of Sweden endows his blessings on the Nobel Prize laureates in the fields of cultural, academic and scientific advances. While on other days, visitors catch sight of the City Hall’s three Royal Crowns, and golden spire that epitomizes Swedish Power.
Beyond the elaborate courtyards are the visionary Blue and Golden hall that mark, the banquets of the Nobel Prize ceremony. The Blue Hall hosts the annual Nobel Prize banquet in the memory of great Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel, wherein, the Golden Hall conducts the post-ceremony ball. The Blue Hall, on the ground floor, unlike its name is not blue, in colour. Its name supposedly represents the essence of its original design, including an organ which has 10,000 pipes. On the other hand, the Golden Hall on the first floor, like its name showcases a series of fairytale mosaic designs in 10-kilogram gold. The grandeur of the Golden Hall struck me intensely and also, made me contemplate Sweden’s antiquity and creative vision. Every ounce of this room was oozing hand-crafted Byzantine depictions of the Swedish intellectual history.
Earlier today, I saw Queen of Lake Malaren’s effigy on the Northern Wall. And before leaving, I also checked out the Southern Wall, where I found the inscriptions of Saint Erik, Tre Kronor castle, Riddarholmen Church, Katarina Elevator, and the Stockholm Harbour. With that, the City Hall tour concluded in Stockholm, and I was all set to catch a flight to Oslo, the next day.
Norway is a dream of a destination! Or perhaps, the amount of love I received here in one week is what makes this nation top the chart of my travel list. The Oslo exploration began with a visit to the City Hall, the Nobel Prize venue that gives out awards for contributions in the sphere of peace. On this lightly cloudy day, as I approached the Rådhusplassen road to take a tour of the City Hall, a large swan fountain from far distance marked my arrival. Behind which tick-tocked, the most-spoken astronomical clock of Norway.
Similar to Stockholm City Hall, the Oslo Rådhus is also a red-bricked edifice except, this one sports a boxed architecture style. Once I arrived at the Radhuset Square, I finally caught a glimpse of the massiveness of this Nobel Prize Venue which, was enveloped in an undescribed state of peacefulness. It was only natural for my heart to swell with pride, after all, what an honour it was to be here, the world’s only Nobel Peace Prize venue.
The Oslo City Hall was inaugurated in 1931 to celebrate Oslo’s 900th anniversary. Next few minutes were spent taking pictures with the impressive layout of the bricked building and copper-ish-bronze Swan sculpture fitted in a fountain, said to be paying homage to Saint Hallvard.
I had opted for a guided tour which commenced as soon as, I stepped inside the quiet lobby of the venue. Coated elegantly in the shades of off-white and cream, City Hall appeared to be a perfect venue to host city council to discuss administrative affairs. I mean who would imagine that the foundation of this administrative building was once in the possession, of a restaurant? Only much later in 1930, this plot was bought by the Norweigan government to build an atrium that would eventually host political parties, theatrical performances, and the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. The lobby dwells on the venue’s past and the present which is best represented by the vivid wall paintings.
As I walked past from one gallery to another, I spotted several art forms built from local material. In particular, the aesthetic ‘Folket-I-Arbeid-Og-Solid’ and ‘Arbeid-Administrasjon-Festival’ paintings intrigued me the most. Take a closer look to notice Nordic mythology depicted in paintings, frescoes, and the embroidered tapestries. On December 10th each year, Oslo City hall celebrates Alfred Nobel by rewarding Nobel Prize to Laureates in the presence of the Royal family. Whether you are here to collect the big award, or to tour the intellectual base of the world’s wisest beings, Stadshuset and Oslo Radhus are bound to sweep you away with their National Romanticism.