Hello, hello. Welcome to part two of the Scandinavian leg of my journey with Mom. After taking a train from Stockholm, Sweden to Oslo, Norway, Mom and I hailed a cab in order to escape the torrential rain. By the time we made it to our hotel, we were ravenous, so we scavenged for food… only to find that everything in Norway closes very early at night. Fortunately, we managed to find a teeny burger joint that was still open. I know, I know, I go to Norway only to eat an American-style burger. What can I say? Desperate times call for desperate measures. Have no fear, I shall soon present you with traditional Norwegian food.
On day one, we visited the Fram Museum, a museum dedicated to Norwegian polar exploration. In particular, it honors three great polar explorers: Fritjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, and Roald Amundsen. The museum houses the incredible exploration vessel Fram, which was used by Norwegian Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen on a drift over the Arctic Ocean in 1893-96 and by Roald Amundsen to Antartica for his South Pole expedition in 1910-12.
The Fram Museum also harbors the Gjøa, a magnificent ship used by Roald Amundsen to traverse the Northwest Passage in a three-year journey finished in 1906.
Although the ships certainly impressed, I was most intrigued by the in-depth stories of polar exploration and how explorers dealt with the harsh conditions of the arctic. For instance, in order to stay warm, explorers adopted the traditional attire of local Indian tribes: polar bear trousers! Doesn’t that have a marvelous ring to it? Polar bear trousers. Ah, how I love it.
Mom looked particularly dashing in her polar bear suit.
Speaking of suits, I think captaining a ship suits me.
After a roaring good time at the Fram Museum, we headed to the Viking Ship Museum. I may or may not have gotten a wee bit lost on the way there. In my defense, the bus map was in Norwegian. I got us there eventually; I just took the scenic route.
The Viking Ship Museum displays the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking ships built in the 9th century. An aura of mystery surrounds the Oseberg ship, which was first utilized in 820 AD as an ornate Viking vessel and later utilized as a burial ground for two unknown, powerful females whose skeletons rest with a fantastic collection of burial gifts.
We ended the day by visiting the Vigeland Sculpture Park, which turned out to be the strangest park I have ever witnessed. It contains a plethora of statues of human men, women, and children that all follow a certain theme. In Mom’s words, it is “a park full of naked families.” Rather creepy.
At this point, we were cold, peckish, and thoroughly disturbed. I think this picture sums up our reaction to the park better than any words I could muster.
Amidst laughter at the absurdity of the situation, we hightailed our way out of there. On to satiate our stomaches with classic Norwegian cuisine. Norway produces some of the best salmon in the world, so we naturally had to try it in Oslo. In addition to the salmon, we tried one other Norwegian speciality: reindeer. Mom was slightly adverse to eating reindeer, so I told her to remember that grandma got run over by a reindeer; hence, all reindeer are fair game.
On our second day, we visited the National Gallery, which contains a myriad of paintings by Edvard Munch, Norway’s most famous painter whose evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon the main tenets of late 19th century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. His most well-known work is The Scream; however, I prefer his ethereal piece entitled Self-Portrait with Cigarette.
One cannot visit Norway without seeing City Hall, the grandiose edifice that hosts the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony every December 10th.
We wandered into the adjacent Nobel Peace Center, a museum that showcases the Nobel Peace Prize and the ideals it represents by promoting debate and reflection on topics such as war, peace, and conflict resolution.
It contained a fascinating photography exhibition called Targets, which showed how images of the enemy are created. For the exhibition, German photographer Herlinde Koelbl travelled to military training camps in 27 countries, including the UK, USA, China, Russia, Turkey, and Israel, and took pictures of the targets soldiers use when they are training to kill.
Koelbl also took portraits of those who may end up as living targets: the soldiers. Videos and excerpts from Koelbl’s conversations with the soldiers accompanied the photographs, providing a glimpse of the challenging position the soldiers are in and raising the question, “what even is an enemy?” It was the most thought-provoking exhibition I have seen in a long time.
Our time in Oslo culminated with a visit to the Opera House. Designed by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta and costing around €500 million to build, the Opera House was designed to resemble a glacier floating in the waters off Oslo.
‘Twas time to bid our adieus to Norway because Copenhagen stood eagerly in the wings! I shall leave you with a fun trivia question about Norway and Scandinavian countries in general:
How much do you think two cups of tea and one cookie to share typically costs in Scandinavia?
The answer is D. Our wallets are bleeding. Good thing the second leg of our journey will take us to Eastern Europe, where we can actually afford tea and cookies.