By Dana Yu
@danamyu

operahusetWhen it is spring in Oslo, Norwegians walk with a little more bounce in their step, most of them wear sunglasses even if it’s mostly overcast outside, and patios fill up with friends enjoying the first utepils of the year. Directly translated, utepils means “outdoor beer,” and though it refers to any beer enjoyed outside, the first utepils of the year has become an annual Norwegian rite, a long- awaited celebration marking the end of the long dark months of winter.

At Aker Brygge, a popular waterfront area to shop, dine, or gather for an utepils (half of Aker Brygge’s total restaurant capacity is outdoors), many of the restaurant servers are Swedish. Because Swedes can earn sometimes double the amount of money in Norway as they make working a similar job in Sweden, it is common for young Swedish people to spend summers or longer periods of time working in Oslo to save money for their studies or travels.

Nearby Aker Brygge is the Nobel Peace Center. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year in Oslo at the Oslo City Hall.

Though Oslo draws tourists to the Viking Museum, Vigeland Park, the new modern Oslo Opera House designed to look like an iceberg, and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, there are other neighborhoods rife with character worth exploring.

kokosbollfillingGrünerløkka is a young, hip borough of Oslo likened often to Greenwich Village of New York City. During the 19th century, this neighborhood was a working class area, but today it is marked by designer boutiques and second hand stores, square parks and cafes, and Birkenlunden marked, a second hand market that takes place nearly every Sunday.

In Grünerløkka, you may stumble upon a shop full of kokosboller, light, round treats covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with coconut shavings, also known as “coconut balls” or “snowballs.” The filling is fluffy, similar to a marshmallow texture, and flavors vary from banana to mocha coffee.

Oslo may have been named the most expensive city in Europe and the second most expensive city in the world in 2011 by ECA, but the Norwegian capital is also steeped in culture, character, and more.

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