Having arrived in Oslo yesterday, it didn’t take me long to work my way around the tram system, and find my hostel lugging my backpack to the top of the hill. I’m quickly learning that there are two very different types of hostel across the world. There’s the shoe-string student traveler type, often with bar attached and generally coupled with a group of 20-something travellers sitting on the doorstep watching the world go by and picking out newcomers that might be worth speaking to before anyone else does.
Then there’s the ones with endless character-less corridors filled with clean, comfortable and spacious rooms that are behind various different stages of Vegas-like key card check points.
In this case, wanting a more relaxing trip, maybe even with less travelling than Vietnam – this just about suits me. But I wouldn’t have wanted it anywhere else 😉 Norway, like most of the Scandinavian countries is one of the few places in the world that I as a Londoner can walk around thinking, “damn that’s expensive.” Actually, with the current strength of the pound there are probably a lot more right now, but Norway is at least consistent. It’s made me think that I should be freelancing a lot more web sites out here, as well as caused me to struggle to find a 500ml bottle of water for under 2.50.
But it’s not like it wasn’t expected.
So for a mere 6.50, I found myself a 24-hour tram pass which should get me through my first and final full day of Oslo, providing I wake up early enough to get to the train station tomorrow.
The first stop was a Gordon-recommended trip to Frogner Park, which houses Vigelandsparken, a sculpture park featuring hundreds of statues by a man Gordon describes as someone who would most likely have “been put on a register if he was alive today.” I’m not going to argue. The statues are all part of a collection that culminate in a central obelisk featuring humanity as Vigeland saw it. To paraphrase Rough Guides – a writhing mass of playing, fighting, teaching loving, eating and sleep humans all clambering over one another to reach the top. Other statues around the park represent different parts of this view. A particular favourite of mine depicting a man balancing four babies on his arms and feet, in a desperate struggle to protect or play. I’m not entirely sure. But certainly the man would be on a register, now.
Like many statues in Norway, and I think the same can be said for the style I saw in Iceland, the figures are very much bold, strong figures with chiseled (excuse the pun) jaws and wide thick torsos. It reminds me a lot of the communistic displays of power I saw across Poland, and dotted throughout Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. But there’s something a lot more human, personable and connected about the ones I’ve seen in Norway. I worked out how it could be best described today, and I’d really like it if the phrase “communists with jazz hands” caught on.
Onwards from the sculpture park, and I took a trip to the National Gallery to see one of the versions of Edvard Munch’s Scream paintings (the one that wasn’t stolen). There’s a funny thing about seeing paintings in the flesh – not being a particularly well-scholared art-lover and instead a fully paid-up member of the digital information, more more more age – I can’t really explain it. There is a certain reverence from seeing the brush strokes up close, and knowing that you are one of millions of people to have stood in the exact same spot staring at the exact same picture. Every picture tells a different story, and every person sees a different side.
I am starting to get more of an idea of where I’m heading, now. So tomorrow I’ll try and catch a train west to Myrdal, and take one of the world’s steepest train lines to Flam, then ferry to Gudvangen along the Naerofjord, before heading onwards to Bergen, and a smooth 7.5hr train ride back to Oslo later in the week. Having said that… I have just read if I go North beyond Trondheim, there is a place called Hell (meaning “good fortune” in Norwegian, but I don’t want to spoil it). It’s incredibly attractive to ditch all my plans and go there instead. Not least because if anyone tells me to “Go to hell” in the future, I can assure them I’ve already been, and it was rubbish. But it probably still wouldn’t earn me any friends.