On a recent visit to Oslo, I found a vibrant city of interesting contradictions and surprises. For instance, it's a mistake to think of it as a homogenous city of blond, blue-eyed Nordics. Immigrants make up almost a quarter of its 540,000 population. The once-seedy area of Grunerlokka is being revitalized with ethnic markets and cafes. When I was there, about 100 Afghan refugees seeking asylum had pitched tents outside Oslo Cathedral, staging a hunger strike to protest deportation. It's the capital of a socially progressive constitutional monarchy, and its people are devoted to its royal family, which is pretty progressive itself. In 2001, Crown Prince Haakon, heir to the throne, married Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby, a single mother with a son born out of wedlock. -- Beverly Beyette Read more: Oslo is Norway's grand prize of a cosmopolitan city Pictured: A view along Karl Johans Gate.