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("Election 2005"). The single word in this newspaper headline, maktskifte, means "power-shift" and this announces that the reigning government lost this week's general election in Norway. The three people you see are the leaders of the three political parties that will form the new coalition government. In the centre you see Jens Stoltenberg, leader of Arbeiderpartiet ("the labour party"), which received the most votes in this election (32.7%). On the left is Kristin Halvorsen, leader of S.V. (Sosialistisk Venstreparti, the "socialist left party"), which received 8.8% of the vote. And on the right is Ã…slaug Haga, leader of Senterpartiet ("the centre party"), which received 6.5% of the vote. This coalition will be a challenge for all concerned. Arbeiderpartiet has been in power before but has never had to share power, and this will be S.V.'s first experience in government. But there was general dissatisfaction with the previous coalition government, so...

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Here's something which may or may not be unique to Norway, but I haven't experienced a system like this elsewhere. Whenever you buy a soft drink bottle, or a beer bottle or a beer can, the money you pay for it includes pant. The amount of pant you pay depends on the type of can or bottle. For example, a 0.5l plastic bottle of water has 1kr pant and 0.6l has 2.5kr. This is a money deposit that is returned to you if you bring your empties back to the shop. This is best experienced in a supermarket, where you can do this at a self-service machine, the Panteautomat. First you put your bottle into the hole. A conveyor belt comes to life and - whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr - your bottle is taken deep into its belly. As you add each bottle, the amount of pant owing to you is totted up...

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Medieval Stave Churches, so called because they are constructed with wooden staves, could once be found in various parts of Europe, but they have survived only in Norway. There are 28 here and I visited two of them. Most of the stave churches were built between the 1130s and 1350. The Black Death spread in Norway from 1349 and construction of all kinds soon ceased. Borgund Stave Church (pictured here and below) in Sogn was constructed in the 1180s and is the least altered of all the churches. There are additions like the 1654 altarpiece depicting the crucifixion, but the Medieval stone altar is still intact. The stave churches became altered as Christianity evolved. For example, in Heddal Stave Church ( in Telemark, constructed in 1147 and the largest of its kind) the figurative mural on the walls from Catholic times had a simple pattern painted over it when the...

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One of the most important artists in Norwegian history, and especially in the history of Oslo, was the sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). The Vigeland sculpture park on the West side of Oslo is a place with a very special atmosphere. Seeing all the sculptures of human figures, including babies and the aged, in their expressions of joy or sorrow, anger or tenderness, almost gives the impression that all of human life is displayed here. It is not only a great achievement in sculpture, but also in landscaping and urban planning, and if you visit you will appreciate its symmetrical design and its paths as much as the sculptures. In terms of its central city location, and its testament to the vision of a single artist, this place is unique, and it gives Oslo a special kind of identity. Vigeland's agreement with the city was that if they built him a...

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More about the Norwegian music scene. A Norwegian journalist once told me that "the extremes of music thrive in Norway." Now, I don't know whether this is because of the psychology of the culture - a small population, with a kind of introverted nature, living in a uniquely dramatic landscape - but hunched over their instruments as they are, Supersilent is a band that plays at the extremes. "The ear cries out for melody and rhythm the way the eye cries out for the figurative in painting," a friend said to me at the end of a long Supersilent concert in Oslo's basement-like John Dee venue this week. He meant that Supersilent try to leave the "figurative" behind. This is explained by the different musical traditions of which Supersilent is an unprecedented mixture. These are: the free jazz tradition set in motion by Ornette Coleman (Supersilent's music is wholly improvised);...

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Another thing this blog will cover is contemporary Norwegian music. An esoteric subject, you might think, but it's something I'm very enthusiastic about and I'm very glad that it surrounds me here in Oslo. I'll write about the music I think is uniquely Norwegian, but I intend to describe only about four or five key acts. I start with Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, who have released one album, List of Lights and Buoys (2004). I've seen them live three times: at a gallery on Hoxton Square in October 2003, at the London Jazz Festival in November 2004, and this week at Parkteatret in Oslo. Initially it seems like some outrageous Scandinavian cliché: Susanna, beautiful ice maiden, her face almost hidden by cascades of long hair, emerges from swathes of dry ice, and a long-haired, bearded man (the entirety of the magical orchestra) hunches over a heap of keyboard instruments,...

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I want to write about Norwegian art, so of course I must start with the best-known Scandinavian artist of all, Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Pictured here is a version (from 1893) of his most famous work The Scream, behind bullet proof glass (see the shine?) at the Munch Museum in Oslo. The security features didn't exist until recently. Last year, armed robbers grabbed a more famous version of the painting (Munch made five), along with his Madonna, and now the Munch Museum has airport-like security. It's a very different place to the one I first visited three years ago, when movement through the galleries was not so restricted. However, this museum will always be an exciting place to visit, as it is the largest collection of Munch's works to be seen, because he left his estate to the city of Oslo. Recently I have also seen the Munchs in the Rasmus...

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I'm in this week's photo, which was taken by Ian Brunswick. I had two musical jobs this week. I DJed at a place called Indigo with Leon, a friend from London (newly moved to Oslo). I also gave a half hour performance of my songs at Blindern to International Summer School (ISS) students. Indigo is a cafe-bar for the summer, but normally it is an art school. Its arty riverside atmosphere encouraged a great night to occur, one which us tired DJs thought took a long time to get going! But Oslo friends came along, as well as ISS students discovering the city, and two groups of people celebrating birthdays. And DJing can be a nice deal in generous Norway. We got free food, free beer, and all the cover charge money. In return, people got to hear exciting music (electro, funk, afro-beat etc.), and we tried very hard to...

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As you can see, I have no photo(s) from my travels through the Norwegian province of Telemark. This is because I have until now been using the camera on my phone, and now that my contract with T-Mobile in London has ended, the phone is locked, until I receive the pin number with which to unlock it so I can put a new sim card in it. I paid T-Mobile for this pin back in June, and despite phone calls, emails and a hand-written letter, they still haven't given it to me. So no phone, no camera. If you are in the UK or wherever else T-Mobile "operate", don't make my mistake of becoming one of their customers! This is the worst "customer service" I have ever experienced. Let their logo stand here as an anti-advertisement for their "services". To those of you who think I should have bought a...

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Up until now I've been writing about my experiences in the city of Oslo, capital of Norway. But Norway's previous capital was the west coast city of Bergen, a far more dramatic place, which I have just visited. Oslo and Bergen are not near each other. I think the train distance is about 470k and we took the roads. I went with the summer school who organized a bus tour for about 65 of us. We stopped overnight at Lærdal and then arrived in Bergen the following evening. Bergen is famous for its constant rain, but while there I experienced everything from downpour to beautiful sunshine. I was told this was atypical, even for July. So expect rain if you go there. I'm sure this is something that may put you off the place at first, but once you get beyond that there is so much to discover. Bergen has...