The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the peace prize for over a century, but until last year there was no building open to the public that explained the prize and its meaning. In no way a staid museum, the new Peace Center uses high-tech, state-of-the-art exhibits - including digital wallpaper and an electronic "field" with all of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates displayed on motion-sensitive screens. There are also temporary exhibits and displays showing how the world looks from space, without national boundaries.

The goal is to provoke visitors to think about how one person can make a difference, says director Bente Erichsen, an Oslo native who spends every free winter moment on the cross-country ski trails.

“The message is that it’s fantastic what one person can do,” she says, sipping a coffee in the center’s café, which overlooks the harbor. “And if we can in one way or another have an effect on people’s minds, and get them impressed by the Nobel Peace Prize laureates or by the exhibits on display, then they will think, ‘It’s possible I can do something too.’ So I don’t think we will have an influence on world politics; that’s not why we are here. We are here to have a kind of influence on individuals who visit here. And I hope we will make them optimistic and make them think that if you have a kind of force, you can get results.”

This might not have been what Erichsen meant, exactly, but after leaving the Peace Center, I reflected on my time in Grunerlokka and on my seaside walks, and realized it was possible for me to do something, too: enjoy Oslo without taking out a loan to do it.