Tuesday, September 2, 2008
This was it. This was my gateway to achieving my 17 year dream of going to Norway and now I had achieved it. I had only one day to explore Oslo. Oslo is a beautiful city, lots of statues, clean streets, (except for the section of downtown that was torn up for construction), fountains, a mix of old and new architecture (the majority still had the antique feel) and lots of flowers.
My first stop in Oslo (after a much longer than anticipated trip the day before from Copenhagen) was the Akershus fortress and castle. Much of the building dates back to the late 13th century. This was a great place to take some pictures and get a view of the city.
My second stop in Oslo was the National Gallery. So many wonderful works of art and masterpieces that were centuries old from different Norwegian artists. My favorite part was the room dedicated to the most well-known artist, Edvard Munch. I am fascinated by how he is able to convey such intense and personal feelings, philosophies, and experiences into his work. He is most well known for his painting of "The Scream", which I have a parody on the left side of my blog. It was fascinating to learn about how this painting was inspired by a personal experience of his. This particular version (he made multiple "Screams") was stolen a few years ago and recovered earlier this year. The restoration efforts, due to some defacing it underwent, were amazing. I was also able to enjoy the beautiful "Madonna" painting that was also recovered this year. Another painting that I was fascinated by was "The Sick Child" which was a work he painted at the age of 22 and was inspired by the death of his own sister. Despite the harsh criticism he received for his style and technique, I thought it was an excellent work. If I had more time, I would have visited the Munch Museum in Oslo, but I felt like I did get a good introduction to his life and works.
After an afternoon visit to the Royal Place and gardens, I spent the evening in Frogner Park and the Vigeland Sculpture Park.
The theme of the Vigeland Sculpture Park is the Human Condition and the cycle of life. Over 200 bronze and granite statues were designed and created by Gustav Vigeland during the early half of the 20th century. One of the highlights of the park is the Monolith, a single, carved piece of stone consisting of piled figures that look as though they are struggling to rise to heaven. This work is said to represent man's desire to become closer with the spiritual and design. It is suppose to portray a feeling of togetherness as the humans embrace one another as they are carried toward salvation. Another interesting point about the Monolith is that the humans at the top are children and babies, those who are closest to heaven and all that is divine. There was something about the range of human affections, emotions, and relations portrayed in all of the statues in the park that I found intriguing. The essence of the human soul and its basic relationships- parents, children, friends, siblings, lovers, enemies - all depicted in stone and bronze; giving life to the lifeless. It was a very memorable experience.
My day in Oslo ended with a trip back to the hostel on the tram, just in time to barely miss the beginning of a thunder and lightening storm. I wanted to see it, but it was quite late and I had a morning train ride to Bergen. Plus, risking electrocution when one is alone in a foreign country may not be a good idea.
Some other random observations about Oslo:
* I've never been to a city where street performers are dressed up as famous natives (well, maybe the exception of the Ben Franklins in Philadelphia). In Oslo's case , it was the playwright Ibsen.
*There were a lot of Spanish-speaking tourist in Norway. I would have never thought...
*I finally caught on about the true value of the recycling redemption value of plastic water bottles. A refund of a krone (probably about 20 cents) is a krone more to spend, especially in a country like Norway. I finally gave up buying bottled water in Bergen anyways.
* I did take a couple breaks from walking all over the city to watch some children play in the city's fountains on a hot, summer day. I was tempted to join them, but I refrained.
It is safe to say that Oslo was the cultural highlight of my trip. Stay tuned for more Norwegian beauty and adventures...