7 August 2011

Another day in Oslo

The packaged part of the holiday ended with a train ride from Trondheim back to Oslo for one final day to include a coach tour of some of the main attractions.

The arranged tour only took an afternoon with left a couple of mornings free to do some free-form exploring. And that's the kind of exploring that I like the best.

I was back in the Thon Hotel Opera, ideally situated in the small area between the central railway station and the ultra-modern opera house.

This a sign told me is part of the Opera Quarter where a building frenzy is turning some redundant docks in to something rather different.

substantial changes are being made to the roads there too and so the first part of the expedition was a little challenging but it was worth it just to cross a bridge as crazy as this one.

The triangular beam above the bridge looks very purposeful and structural but I have no idea what it does. Apart from looking great.

Negotiating a few more roads and a few railway lines took me to the hill to the immediate West of the harbour.

Here a series of footpaths through the trees took me quickly up to the top and then slowly down the other side.

Along the way I passed several camping sites, a farm and several sports fields. All this seemed incongruous so close to the centre of the city.

The North side of the hill was a charming older part of Oslo with a familiar European architectural style.

This is one example where familiarity does not breed contempt, instead it gives a reassurance that this is a normal city, where normal people live and normal things happen. Sadly this proved to be untrue only a few days later.

The coach tour did what I wanted it to do and that was to take me to the main attractions that I could not walk.

Our first stop was the Norsk Folkemusem. I don't think that I need to translate that for you.

As with other ethnographic museums that I've been to from Sussex to Latvia, this is a collection of buildings from different ages and places reassembled in one place and time.

This lack of context makes it harder to pull the picture together but taken individually each buildings each have a story to tell and it's a story worth hearing.

This is a stave church. That means that it is made of wood, which is obvious, and that it has leanings towards the pagan religions, which is less obvious.

Elsewhere in the museum are traditional farmers' cottages with earth roofs, communal halls and other examples of how people used to live in what is essentially a harsh environment.

Next on the list was the Viking Museum.

Given that Norway is heavily associated with Vikings you might have expected a little bit more from a Viking Museum in Norway; something on the scale of the Maritime Museum in Liverpool. It isn't.

What it lacks in volume it makes up for in age.

There is one almost intact full-size Viking ship that you can get close to but cannot quite touch and a gallery that you can look down on it from.

Around it are a few fragments of other ships, some smaller cousins and nautical relics from that time.

The point in going to the museum is to see that one well preserved old ship and to see how it was cleverly constructed.

The next stop was completely different.

Holmenkollbakken on the North-West side of Oslo has been the centre for ski jumping 1982 but the latest incarnation is from 2010 and was built for the Nordic World Ski Championships in 2011.

The jump looks strange without its thick coating of snow but the beauty of the construction is obvious.

The jump is there to propel people down the steep slope and through the air but in their absence the structure draws your eye upwards instead.

Our final stop was Frogner Park which is simply insane. It is reminds you of the follies that the madder English gentry built but it is weirder than that.

Vigeland Sculpture Park covers 80 acres and features 212 bronze and granite sculptures all designed by Gustav Vigeland. They are all nudes and are all in non-traditional poses.

Water compliments the statues in several places and this tableau is fairly typical of the park.

I did try a few times to take pictures the show the sweep of the park as it rises up one hill then falls down the other side accompanied by water but this is a very popular place and everywhere I looked there were far more people than statues which rather spoilt the view.

The tour ended back where it started, at City Hall. The guide informed us that the austere brick building was full of art and so I decided to go there the next morning, my final day in Norway.

I was expecting a few classical paintings in a darkened room, not this.


The entrance hall sets the scene. Large paintings fill the room as they also do on the floor above.

The composition is as busy as Bruegel and, I presume, tells stories from the history of Norway and Oslo. Certainly there are lots of Norwegian flags in the pictures but there is also a topless woman on a bear which is a story unknown to me.

The pictures were an unexpected discovery and set the seal nicely both on the two visits to Oslo but also to the eleven days in Norway. Next stop Malmo.

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