The March sun was warming the first Spring evening in London just a few hours ago, but it’s a winter’s tail that tells of Scandinavia now. Thirty centimetres of snow drape the train tracks in the station.
I fumble my way outside, and pull my coat around me. A mile of dark, uncertain streets leads past the midnight girls and drug dealers (who thought this city knew such things?) to my hastily-booked hotel.
No alarm call needed, as morning brings the sounds of a building site next door. The day is lightening outside my window, and pretty soon I’m running beneath a chill grey sky as deserted shopping streets lead me towards the Cathedral.
I take a short diversion to reconnoitre the address for my meeting, and then my mental map of Oslo runs out. Five circular minutes later I’m slithering across white snowy gardens around the Akershus Fortress, and then on to reach the waterfront.
The Oslofjord lies black and still before me, the quaysides completely empty. Five minutes of quiet is the time I need to clear my mind and think.
Three years ago, another job hunt brought me to this city. And here I am again. Across the harbour, the shiny blocks of Aker Brygge stand low against the fog, much as I do now.
The future calls and in an hour it needs to find me, so I turn back towards the city, run beside the National Theatre standing this morning in a wide field of snow, and past the pretty houses of Burg to the hotel.
Midday finds me back at Aker Brygge for a cold lunch beside the harbour. An afternoon remains to kill, and I start out with the new exhibition at the Nobel Centre. From King to Obama honours this city’s newest Peace Laureate, and the echoes of the Civil Rights struggle which led to Obama’s election.
Laid back in time, just a little, and set in perspective here aginst four decades of the civil rights movement, the epic scale of change and the long, heroic climb to the mountaintop look all the more inspiring.
Outside in the cold afternoon, I think some more. Norway may be a small player on the international scene, with just 5 million people to her name, yet her voice is heard each year through the Nobel awards. They make a difference.
Some saw it as surprising that Obama was voted as Peace Laureate for 2009, When he hasn’t done anything so far — and yet, I beg to differ.
Looking back already from just a year’s perspective, it’s clear that his landmark speech A More Perfect Union in Philadelphia and his Election Victory Speech will join the ranks of the most important oratory of our time.
Perhaps more significant still, his promise to the Muslim world in Cairo to seek A New Beginning set out a fresh agenda not just for US foreign policy, but for the wider world as well.
Obama said he would accept this Nobel Peace Prize as A Call to Action for all nations to address the new challenges of the 21st Century. Last December, Obama came here to receive the award in person.
The Slottsparken grips me first, with its snowy wastes set wide around the Royal Palace. Then with an hour left before sunset, I traipse northwards to find my final destination.
That should be disappointing, yet instead of Munch’s vision of primal fear above the fjord, Oslo shows me another view of Norway as I pass through the Asian district of the city.
It’s remarkable, in a way, that this nation with its Nordic roots and history should be quite so cosmopolitan, and yet here I find Bangladeshi stores, Indian tailors and a Turkish restaurant fresh from Istanbul. And now, in an Oslo winter’s dusk, that’s simply how the world is today.
By the time that evening wraps around me in the chilly district of Grønland, I’m more than ready for hot coffee, and the Evita Espressobar proves a warm and perfect place to ponder.
There are those who would make race and immigration into election issues, even in my country — but the times have moved on, and from Sharpsville to Scandinavia the world has become a bigger and a smaller place as well.
A few more minutes bring me back to the station. The cold darkness folds tight around my airport train, and soon, I must leave this city exactly as I found her. Yet with me I’ll take a winter’s dream of Oslo, of a future told in white and black.
139. Snow patrol – Holmenkollen, Oslo
195. The arc of history – USA election 2008
74. God Jul – from Copenhagen to Crawley
120. Norwegian blue – Stavanger
184. A beautiful day – Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination