Posted by: Ryan | September 27, 2007

Norway-Iceland, Day 1

Alright, alright. It’s finally time to write about our summer vacation to Norway and Iceland.

We took a Continental flight with a layover in Newark, and landed in mid-morning of the next day in Gardemoen airport northeast of Oslo. We rode the Flytoget (the Fly Train) through a landscape of lovely rolling green hills and cute villages. We arrived in Oslo and disembarked at the Oslo Sentralstasjon (Central Station, also known as Oslo S). Oslo S forms the eastern anchor of “downtown” Oslo, which stretches from Oslo S, along the pedestrian boulevard of Karl Johans Gate, to the royal palace in the west. Oslo, which is about the size of Seattle, lacks the modern downtownness of glass skyscrapers and flashing retail (visit the modern wharfside neighborhood of Aker Brygge for that). Its central area is pedestrian friendly, very walkable, with beautiful historic buildings (the royal palace, the national theater, the national church, and the parliament building), parks, and statues seemingly on every street. Our hotel, the Thon Hotel Cecil, was in a central location between the palace and Oslo S, only two blocks off of Karl Johans Gate.

Royal Palace

After settling in for a nice rest in our hotel room (after a full day of sitting on planes), we decided to venture out into the sunshine and see what we could of Oslo. Our first stop was the royal palace, or Slottet. Norway’s palace seemed to be very reminiscent of London’s Buckingham Palace, which we’d seen last year, but more austere and on a smaller scale. In fact, we arrived in time to watch Oslo’s changing of the guard, with an onlooking crowd a small percentage of that which we’d been part of in England. From the palace, we had a great view back along Karl Johans Gate behind us.

Vigeland's Bridge

We next walked west from the palace toward Frogner Park. It is home to the Vigeland Sculpture Park, one of the great tourist attractions in Oslo, a 75-acre project that Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland worked on for nearly twenty years until his death in 1943. The first sculptures we come across adorn “The Bridge,” with nude bronzes of various human figures placed evenly on each side of the bridge. The sculptures depict basic human emotions and relationships. The most famous of these is Sinnataggen, the crying baby. Another is a woman holding up the tangled strands of her hair. Another is a man seeming to “fend off” babies with his arms and legs.

Problems

After The Bridge, we came to The Fountain, surrounded on all sides by more sculptures depicting various stages of human life. My favorite was a young baby sitting in a tree of life. There’s enough art in the park to occupy one’s attention for hours on end.

Vigeland's Maze

Next up was The Monolith, probably the most famous work in Vigeland Park. It’s a 52-foot tall stone carving, composed of entwined and nude human figures, that took three stone carvers 14 years to complete.

Kim and the Monolith

Some figures push on others to climb higher, others are trampled upon, descending in pain or hopelessness, others lend the unfortunate a helping hand. Some are young, some old; some healthy, others sick. Perhaps the most memorable piece of art I’ve ever seen.

Monolitten

We stopped at the Frogner Park cafe and ate a really forgettable meal, disproving the maxim that hunger is the best sauce. It was time to head back to the hotel and, since we had 8 a.m. train reservations the next day, to sleep a long restful sleep and knock the jetlag out of us.

Vigeland Sculpture Park

More pictures here (Ryan) and here (Kim)!

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