This panorama is from a downtown ice-skating rink. It's not quite Rockefeller Center standard, but, hey, it's free and open to the public at all hours, at least those with BYO skates. In the summer months, the oval outline of the track frames a reflection pool and water fountain. The metal structure in the middle is not an encounter of the third kind, as one may suspect. It hides the summer sprinklers and doubles around Yuletide as a speaker tower for Feliz Navidad
, a classic for all polyglot Santas, on a frustratingly short loop. Whoever designed this questionable centerpiece probably had the artificial sun from some sci-fi venture in mind when topping off the creation with a dome, softly reflecting the spotlights onto our dark winter solstice in a practical bid for aesthetic redemption.
Oslo is in many ways a unique capital city. Huge tracts of wilderness, known collectively as "Marka", surround it. In fact, the city limit is effectively drawn negatively by what we call "Markagrensen", meaning the border to these areas, and Oslo as a city thus defines itself equally by the many forests and lakes that surround it. Over the years, "Markagrensen" has remained the contested front line in battles between urban developers, salivating on the prime real estate of the loftier hills, and those that seek to preserve these surrounding sanctuaries. Due, perhaps, to the immense popularity of outdoor pursuits like hiking, biking, skiing and skating in "Marka", the politicians and zoning authorities have not dared to declare a mission creep across this frontier, despite strong economic incentives to do so.
A free public ice-skating rink, situated right in the middle of downtown Oslo, serves as a reminder of the happy reversals whereby one develops and finds sanctuary in the midst of a hectic urban life.