Sunrise: 8:20AM Sunset: 3:45PM. After my trip to Svalbard, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Oslo with some lovely friends that took SUCH good care of me. Thank you so much Lenka and Daniel!!!
Oslo, like Stockholm, is a lovely city developed around a medieval core, and surrounded on most sides by water and islands! With the exception of the new opera house and the ‘Barcode’ development, I found the Norwegian architecture to be much more utilitarian and restrained than most of the architecture of Sweden, but it was still a lovely place to wander!
The Tjuvholmen area is a new development on a peninsula out on the Aker Brygge, where many of the ferries arrive in Oslo. It is part of the contemporary canon of post-industrial redevelopment/gentrification. There were some really lovely moments of public spaces that brought people close to the water, and pricey waterfront restaurants. I found my way to Tjuvholmen on my way to the Astrup Fearnley Museum, which sits at the end of the little peninsula.
I think that this planter below is adorable, low-cost, and low-maintenance. It’s so incredibly simple and lovely! I can’t get enough.
As I went to cross another little footbridge to reach the Astrup Fearnley Museum I ran into this train wreck… The most heinously detailed stramp I have ever seen… I don’t even know how this got by the planning department. What is happening in Oslo?! There are SO many examples of successful stramps… how could this be so awkward and awful?!
The Astrup Fearnley Museum is a lovely little contemporary art collection at the end of the Aker Brygge peninsula. The museum moved to its current location, two buildings designed by Renzo Piano, in 2012. The roof is lovely, because it’s Renzo Piano…. and the wood cladding has echoes of the Scandinavian tradition, but has a really lovely texture that reflects light in a dynamic way. The other side of the building has a walkway with several ladders into the sea, and a small sculpture garden. The cafe on that end of the museum was GREAT! I had one of the best soy mochas of my life that day.
The temporary exhibition was a little lackluster, it was called Los Angeles: A Fiction, and was meant to examine the image of Los Angeles as a series of cliches related to climate, Hollywood and its lifestyle, as juxtaposed with issues of race and class. BUT, in my experience, Europeans and Scandinavians in particular are very unaware of issues of race and class. I was not particularly moved by many of the pieces, but then again, maybe I didn’t ‘get’ them. I was also a little perturbed that the works of most of the women artists in the exhibition were quarantined in a small room on the third floor.
The two works below were the only ones I liked.
The permanent collection had a lot of pieces in the tradition of pop art, and contemporary American artists. My favorites below. I LOVE Damien Hirst and was so delighted to find not one but TWO of his ‘Natural History’ pieces in the first gallery!
I hit a few more museums, including the Folk Museum (Norwegian cultural history), the Viking Ship Museum (Old ships dug out of Viking burial mounds), the Fram Museum (Norwegian history of polar exploration), and Vigelands Park!
I think the funniest part about the Norwegian folk museum, and my experience in Norway in general, was how proud Norwegians are of their wool sweaters, and how many Norwegians wear these amazing works of art! On Svalbard, one of my Norwegian guides prosthelytized about the incredible nature of Norwegian wool work, and then I go to the Folk Museum, and there is an entire room dedicated to sweaters. The Norwegians are into their wool sweaters, there are plenty of Norwegians wearing these things around town, they were on sale everywhere in Svalbard, and there were so many huge 70s/80s-style sweaters for sale in the second-hand store near the train station (UFF, if you are in the market for authentic 80s leather jackets, sequins, or pleated pants).
In addition to a sweater room, the folk museum has an area where five traditional Norwegian structures were transported from throughout the region to Oslo during Oscar II of Sweden’s reign (Norway became independent from Sweden in 1905, even though they drafted their own constitution in 1814). The King decided he wanted traditional buildings to be moved into Oslo, and he was king… so they did. A stave church, two lofts, a store house, and a summer house were moved to the part of the city that is now the Folk Museum!
The Fram Museum is all about the Norwegian legacy of polar exploration and it is truly overwhelming and incredible! The design of the structure mimics the fish drying racks typical in western Norway. The museum houses replicas of two polar exploration ships used in the late-19th and early-20th century to EXPLORE THE ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC. If you don’t recognize how crazy these people had to be to initiate such an undertaking let me tell you, they were crazy. To set off into uncharted territory — and I emphasize uncharted, not undiscovered, because they bumped into numerous Inuit folks who helped these Norwegians thrive and survive — with a sturdy boat and some hunting and mapping equipment is NUTS! Visiting the museum was worthwhile to gain perspective on the crazy amount of ambition it took to undertake these scientific explorations and survive a polar year under the frigid and inhospitable conditions.
Then I stopped for lunch and paid the equivalent of $19 for this Chipotle-style burrito bowl….
The Viking Ship Museum is home to three Viking ships that were exhumed from burial mounds. I did not realize until visiting this how widely the Vikings traveled — out to the Black and Caspian Seas in modern-day Russia and Ukraine, and into Newfoundland in Canada. The Vikings also basically forced the English to give them a bunch of land, and their settlement and intermarriage shaped the English we speak today. All of this in only about 300 years, roughly 750 to 1050.
Norwegians clearly have a history of being crazy seafarers, what with the polar exploration in the 19th and 20th centuries, these Viking boats are 1) not that big 2) have no motors 3) have no hull or shelter, these crazy Old Norse people sailed these things across the entire Atlantic so they could pillage in Newfoundland! I find that incredible.
My favorite place in Oslo had to be the Vigelandsparken in the northern part of town. It is part of the larger Frogner park, which is a large, classically designed park. The Vigeland portion of the park is a lovely promenade up to a sculpted stone pillar and several stone statues. The promenade carries you over a bridge decorated with numerous bronze sculptures of nude figures having very intimate and joyful moments with one another. I found the style captivating and so beautiful. It was also so inspiring the way in which Vigeland captured human life, his work reflects a true interest in the human spirit and the beautiful but sometimes painful ways that we relate to one another.
Vigeland studied with Auguste Rodin in Paris and had a very prolific and publicly lauded career. He even designed the Nobel Peace Prize medal in 1901.
At the end of my day in Oslo I went in search of some chocolates because by amazing hosts are pregnant, and one cannot deprive a pregnant person of chocolate! I found a listing for the Oslo Mathallen, a yuppie-seeming artisan food hall nestled into a residential neighborhood in northeast Oslo. When I got there, I found that the Mathallen was part of a bigger development with condos, plazas and shops being built in this narrow space next to a hotel and offices.
True to form the artisan food hall was yuppie as all get-out, but I did find some nice chocolate. I am disappointed that the US does not allow the import of meat because otherwise I would be able to bring home reindeer sausage.
During my time in Norway I also spent time with my friend Tine at her family’s farm and event center outside Tønsberg, about an hour southwest of Oslo. Apparently, Tønsberg is Norway’s oldest town! She was so incredibly hospitable, and her home was so gorgeous! PLUS her dog, Scott, is hilarious and cute as all get-out. He even has his own couch with his name on it.
Tine and her boyfriend are both artists and turned the family’s greenhouse into an art gallery with a little bar in the back where the tomatoes grow! There wasn’t an exhibit at the time I visited, but can you just imagine this space full of art and classy people clinking wine glasses?! So adorable…
After hiking with Scott, I took the bus into town and had a good walkabout… The harbor was very cute, and there was a woodworking studio where several people were making replicas of Viking ships. Tønsberg had some cute shopping streets and a lovely little square.
My favorite part about the place were the small bronze replicas of historic buildings, it was a creative way to visualize the history of this ancient city!