Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oslo Encore

Most mornings we have had to drag ourselves out of bed to be ready for 9:00 or even 10:00 o’clock tours. Today we were up at 8:00 because we could not disembark until 11:00. Go figure.
At breakfast this morning, we were watching what we assumed was the Oslo Fjord slide past us. The closer to Oslo we got, the more housing and small towns were visible among the pine forests. MA thought these semi-isolated houses and cabins would be good places for writers to live and work. When one of the MDR captains came to the table to pay his respects and hustle tips, MA said, “I wonder what kind of people live in these houses.” Without skipping a beat, he replied, “Norwegians.”

Our objective for this visit to Oslo was Vigeland Park. D has wanted to visit this park for over forty years, ever since he saw photos taken by his parents when they visited here. So off we trooped to find a taxi to take us to the park. We could have taken the HoHo again except that [1] it would have taken an hour to get there and [2] we weren’t docked at the regular passenger pier this time. A taxi might have been more expensive but it saved us time. With the threat of rain heavy in the forecast, time was an important factor.

Vigeland Park is a sculpture garden and public park. The vast majority of the park is open grassland suitable for picnics and play, but the real reason for tourists to visit is the sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland [VEEG-land to the locals.]. Vigeland created a series of figures in both bronze and granite depicting the “ages of Man.” Statues commemorate everything from childhood to adolescence to courtship, marriage, old age and death. The faces are obviously Nordic but nevertheless anonymous and age is depicted through expressions, beards and body sag. It reminded us of both of The Family of Man and the recent movie Babies. The themes are universal.

The park is bisected by a stream and the bridge over it has bronze statues on the balustrade. Each piece of sculpture is different from the others but the total effect is like the entrance to Angkor Thom in Cambodia [except there all of the statues were the same face]. Beyond the bridge were steps leading to a fountain and a series of granite figures. MA and Roxanne waited on a bench at the end of the bridge while D and Ed explored more of the park.

The fountain was at the head of a flight of steps. There were more bronze statues here supporting the fountain itself. These figures all showed groups of people intertwined with trees. At the base of the fountain were friezes depicting more of the cycle of life. Beyond the fountain was another flight of steps which lead to the granite statues.

These last sculptures showed more complex relationships of people young and old. There were grandparents and children; groups of children playing; and couples of all ages, both mixed and same gender but none of them sexual by any connotation. In the center of this display was a “totem pole” of intertwined figures seemingly climbing to the top, a Tower of Babel, in a sense. It appeared to be one solid piece of granite perhaps thirty feet tall.

Vigeland created all of these pieces and willed them to the government on the condition that they be displayed free for anyone to see. The park was created following his death in 1943. We don’t know if he did all of the work himself or designed them for subordinates to finish. Regardless, they are magnificent. [Pictures will be available on Shutterfly in a week or so for anyone who is interested.]

We decided to be adventurous and go to the city center on the tram or light rail. Finding the station at Vigeland was easy but figuring out which train we wanted and how to use the ticket machine required a bit of help from some locals who spoke English. We finally had everything we needed just as a tram arrived at the station. Again, we needed help to validate the tickets once on the tram but were rescued again. And again when it was time to get off – a group of high school students let us know when it was time to get off at the City Hall stop.

We wandered like the Israelites for a bit, inadvertently circling City Hall where D had seen a few cafes when we were in Oslo on August 12. Too late we discovered that they were all either Italian or closed, so we settled on Italian for lunch. We found a taxi to return to the ship and were there in time for trivia.

We did not do well today but were still able to eke out a win, n umber eight in the streak. Perhaps the competition will be stiffer tomorrow when we have a sea day and no one is off on a field trip. [What song from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid won the Oscar for best song? What novel depicts an epic 1885 cattle drive? What religion was Christopher Colombus?] As usual, there were grumblings about some of the answers, but the answer on the host’s sheet is always correct, at least for that day.

We read; we napped; we had dinner [sesame noodles for both] and then went “home” to read some more. The captain predicted strong winds and heavy seas after 11:00 tonight as we exit the Oslo Fjord and enter the North Sea. The seasick bags were mounted on the banisters by the time we finished dinner at 9:30 and Scooby-do urged passengers to secure anything which might “wander” during the night. Our cabin stewards picked tonight to take our luggage from under the bed so it could fall over in the predicted heavy seas. D stowed the bags in the closet where there wasn’t room for it to fall over.

Tomorrow – Our last sea day

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