Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oslo, The Beginning

As we headed for Norway, Kirk took these shots of our ship going under the Storebælt Bridge. This is the second longest suspension bridge in the world (the suspension portion is 6.6 kilometers, though the full bridge is 18 km!) and it has to be one of the most expensive! We crossed it earlier on the way to Odense and it was 215 DKK or about 30 Euros each way! The ship barely fit underneath! Look out Norway, here we come!!!We docked in Oslo and Kirk had been smart enough to make arrangements for us to permanently disembark here - one day earlier than our cruise officially finished. The Emerald Princess left Oslo a few hours later to return to Copenhagen. But we wanted to see more than just 4 hours of Norway so we blew off that last leg and checked into a hotel. We stayed at the Thon City Hotel Cecil. It was a few blocks from the port right near City Hall so we were able to walk with our luggage there. Oslo is the third most expensive city in the world so even saving that cab ride was helpful and I definitely recommend this hotel - GREAT location, yummy breakfast, friendly staff, right price. Leave it to me that my favorite stop on our cruise was the third most expensive city on Earth. Figures!There are trolls like this all over Norway adapted from Norse mythology. And boy are they popular!Scotland played Norway in soccer while we were there. All over Oslo there were Scotsmen in their kilts and knee socks roaming the streets. It was hilarious. Something about hearty men in skirts just makes me smile. I had to sneak a shot as the pleats bounced back and forth in front of me! Another Scandinavian capital and another famous Nobel Prize city hall. The PEACE part of the Nobel prize is presented here annually following the Stockholm banquet.
Rick writes of Oslo's city hall: City halls, rather than churches are the dominant buildings in this northern corner of Europe, where people pay high taxes and are satisfied with what their governments do with the money. The main hall of Oslo's City Hall actually feels like a temple to good government (the altar-like mural celebrates "work, play, and civic administration").Presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize.The murals are pretty powerful. A fitting place for a powerful award recognizing peace!We took the public ferry across the harbor to the Bygdoy neighborhood to see the acclaimed Viking ship museum. As we walked from the boat I was captivated with the surrounding residential area. The homes were subtle but magnificent. They reminded me of Martha's vineyard, but in Norway. The Viking Ship museum did not disappoint. By this point we had seen ship relics near Copenhagen and in Stockholm; I was skeptical this could be that much different!
I was wrong. These Viking ships were authentic and preserved beautifully. They were larger than life while still being believable. In the stark setting I could close my eyes and picture the fierce Viking stereotypes of rape, pillage, and plunder!
We left the Viking ship museum just as our Emerald Princess was pulling away on the adjacent water. It felt strange not to be aboard. But we waved goodbye to the 3,000 passengers on the top deck. They were pulling out through the Oslo fjord so most were atop to see the beauty that lie just beyond the port.After our farewell we went to the Fram Museum to see the 125-foot, steam-and sail-powered ship that traveled into the Arctic and Antarctic, farther north and south than any ship had gone before.On our way to the brand new, out-of-this-world Oslo opera house we found Kirk's street! Then we proceeded to scale the roof of the opera house as the evening began to approach.
It was surreal to be amongst the clouds and the wind and the sea.
I would like to meet the architect who designed this mind blowing, artful building!To cap off the day we took the metro to the Munch Museum. We had toured Norway's National Gallery earlier in the day and saw Munch's "The Scream" --- this painting always reminds me of being in college. During exam week our school had a traditional midnight scream. All the students cramming away would open their windows and SCREAM when the clock struck 12. The emotion of Munch's "Scream" was always the way I felt during exams - chaotic, frustrated, unsure, and overwhelmed. I was glad I got to see this masterpiece in person.
But even more glad that I got to know a little more about Munch, the painter and the man. Munch was a man who knew suffering as he lost both his mother and sister to tuberculosis and his father had a nervous breakdown. His hurt and emotion comes across as uniquely tangible and at times bizarre in his work. But also oddly engaging.I found myself drawn to his unusual portrayal of women. Hair everywhere and colors deeply engaging.It was almost as if the art jumped off the canvas and followed us back to the hotel. We saw this strange pointing hand sculpture in the middle of town...
...and this tiger representing Oslo; the city's affectionate nickname is "Tiger City" - the explanation is illogical but Connor really liked the tiger so we needed a photo to remember!We returned to Oslo for a second day after our "nutshell" tour (blog upcoming) and together those two visits made me love the realness of Oslo. Perhaps the charm doesn't come off the page in my writing about it, but Oslo was brimming with art and life and friendly people. I never knew what was around the next corner - but there was always something!
An interesting sidebar about Norway: High taxes contribute to Norway's high standard of living. Norwegians receive cradle-to-grave social care: university education, health care, nearly yearlong maternity leave, and an annual six weeks of vacation. Norwegians feel there is no better place than home. Norway regularly shows up at #1 on the annual UN Human Development Index.

1 comment:

Jenna said...

Your cruise sounds amazing! We are so hoping to be extended, maybe through the summer. If we are we are want to go on this same cruise! It sounds like you guys travel alot like we do, we want to see everything but hate to do the "tour groups"! Reading your blog inspires us in places we would like to go! :D We are going to Mallorca in Oct and I was looking back on your blog post and Connor looks so little in the pictures! She is such a beautiful girl, and it sounds like she is a great travel companion! I love reading about all of your travel adventures!