Postcard from... Oslo


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The Independent Online


It is hard to escape Ibsen’s whiskers in Oslo. Those who were not aware of the playwright’s  impressive sideburns before  holidaying in the Norwegian capital will be quite familiar with them by the time they leave.

They seem to swirl all over a canvas in the Munch Museum, and look quite stately standing to attention on his frowning  face on a statue outside the  National Theatre.

Visitors who don’t understand Norwegian, however, may leave with less newfound knowledge about his plays. One representative from a business and tourism group in Oslo told local media recently it was “embarrassing” that visitors could not see any plays by the famous writer in English this summer. The director of the Ibsen Museum retorted that there simply were not enough tourists coming to one  of the most expensive cities in the world to justify staging the plays outside their native  language. They could, however, get tours in English at the  museum, he added.

Better, perhaps, to while away an afternoon following in the playwright’s culinary footsteps.

Overlooking Oslo’s modest parliament building is the Grand Café, where the writer would head at both lunch and  dinner-time at the turn of the 20th century to ponder life’s questions and knock back an open sandwich, a beer and a shot of the potent local schnapps.

All his favourites remain on the Grand Café’s menu today – although with Oslo’s prices  they will probably cost as much as a ticket to see one of his plays in most other capitals.