Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Superficial Impressions of Oslo

We spent a little over two days in Oslo as part of our recent trips. Some quick impressions.

1) The scale of the city is perfect for tourists; one can almost walk everywhere, but the transit system is efficient and pleasant to use.

2) Capri pants have won the battle there; I am not sure whether this means it is a coming trend elsewhere or Oslo is just an odd place - many women in Vienna were also wearing Capri pants. As late as early June they had made very minimal inroads in Paris.

3) The Munch museum is a depressing place, combining neurotic security (given some of the losses they suffered one can see some security, but what they have is nutty and does not address the problem), and paintings by someone who never got over his teenage angst.

4) The Ibsen museum is a delight, if a bit light on content - Ibsen did get over his teenage attitudes. Part of what makes it special is this summer's emphasis on Ibsen, on the centenary of his death.

5) Holmenkollen. Take the T-Bahn to the station and then take it back down again and skip the ski jump. The view from the train down to the city and fjord is wonderful, and the marginal improvement from the top of the ski tower is not worth the additional effort (and anxiety, for some).

6) It's expensive. But not so much as I recalled from my previous visit.

7) People seem so happy. Of course it was mid-July with sunny warm weather, so I imagine that brightens spirits enormously.

8) It is unsettling having the sun set around 11pm. And equally unsettling to find it up again at 4am.

9) The Vigeland Park. Ahhhh. Worth a separate post. Along with the museum.

10) Akker Brygge - just a great place to walk around, and, if you don't care about prices, eat.

11) Karl Johann's Gate. A great place to walk around, and, if you don't care about prices, eat. Actually, this proved to be a bit of a Rodeo Drive the evening we dined there on a patio - motorcyclists flaunting their wares (male and female) up and down the road.

12) A Fjord cruise. On the day well worth it - it spared us walking (we were tired from long walks the day before), and it exposed us to the riotously sensual elements of Oslo life in the summer - the 'beaches' (rocky shorelines), the summer homes out in the fjord, and the like. Generally, it is just plain fun taking boats.

13) Viking ships museum - well worth it, straightforward and informative.

14) Kon-Tiki museum. Here we encountered one of the most interesting aspects of Norwegian culture. In most artistic areas, there is one giant in Norwegian history, and all pretty much from the late 19th and early 20th century - Grieg, Vigeland, Munch, Ibsen. However, in exploration, there is a real battle - Amundsen, Nansen, and more. Somehow Heyerdahl got his own museum, and it looks as if it is devoted mostly to the cause of showing that he is at least as good as Nansen, who got the Nobel Peace Prize (it is clear in the museum that Heyerdahl wanted it and tried). But this museum is overkill. Moreover, there is a curious undocumented transition between the idyllic early life in the South Seas with wife X, and the later documentation of his widow, clearly wife Y.


At 5:24 PM, Blogger JE Hagen said...

I couldn't agree more on what you say about Heyerdahl. Going to the Kon-Tiki Museum nowadays feels quite strange. The museum is quite run down, and it all happened such a long time ago. Not too many people nowadays remember the voyages to the Easter Islands in the 50s, and how it captured the imagination of the world. The insane amount of books that were sold, and the documentary film that won an Oscar. In addition, the scientific theories that Heyerdahl wanted to prove have since been disproven. Bummer. The last nail in the coffin is perhaps that Indiana Jones like archaeologist heroes thankfully have gone out of fashion.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Alan Adamson said...

I am of an age that the Kon-Tiki expedition was a great moment. But Heyerdahl's conclusions seem largely to now be not accespted, though he did show all the passages were at least possible. The guide who ran our fjord trip did mention in passing, and asserted that Heyerdahly had proven that his anthropoligical theories were true. Now they did not claim that in the museum, but I suspect Norwegian nationalism has blurred some major distinctions here.
But wow - what a hagiographical museum - I do not know its like elsewhere.

At 4:54 PM, Blogger JE Hagen said...

It might have something to do with nationalism. Norwegians surely are nationalistic, but in a positive sense, I hope.

Perhaps the explanation is the same as for why Americans still seem to believe that they found the weapons of mass distraction in Iraq -- most Americans aren't the least bit interested in foreign affairs. Therefore they won't be exposed to new information that contradicts the first version they heard. The version the government carpet bombed the population with and made sure nobody missed.

In an analogous way, some Norwegians don't give a rats ass about science. Therefore the good story wins over the truth. Again.

BTW: I made up that theory about why people believe in the WMDs. Sounds plausible, though.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Alan Adamson said...

Of course it is nationalism combined with a superficial reading of what the guy achieved. He did show some things were possible; what he did NOT show is that they had happened. There seems to me a large gap between those.
But the other side of it is that to show that those things were possible was a GREAT achievement - one should never let that thought slip. And he was a very interesting person.
But that museum - oh heavens.
As for the WMDs - well, I doubt we see it the same way, and it is not nationalism or neglect of evidence.


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