Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oslo 2

The Good Ship Fram


Vicki at the Kon-Tiki

The National Gallery: alas, no pix within

Building near Karl Johans Gate

Another pretty building

Viking ship at the Viking Ship Museet

Bow carving

Detail from Viking ship grave find: note the posture of the figure: I conjecture that this came from India, down the Ganges, across the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, up the South Atlantic, then the North Sea, etc., in a bamboo boat, and the Viking culture is actually Hindu in origin

Folk dancers at the Norse Folk Museum; no hurdy-gurdy

The Gol Stave Church, very different, very impressive

Altar background

Our Oslo card did not expire until 3PM, so we were up and at it early Sunday, taking the subway and ferry to the Fram museum and the Kon-Tiki museum, both on Bygdoy, a peninsula sort of thing that hangs down into the fiord. Norwegians, I gather, are not always into doing easy things. The Fram is the specially-designed polar expedition ship that took Nansen to the Arctic and Roald Amundsen, famously, to the Antarctic. It was Amundsen who beat Robert Falcon Scott to the Pole by only a few days, back in the early 20th. Scott and his party died, infamously, on the return trip. (Vaughn-Williams' Antartica Symphony, from the sound-track to the 1946 feature film, is another favorite). And the Pole was only among Amundsen's adventures. He, too, died tragically, but trying to rescue other explorers. Anyhow, the Fram is there, in the Fram buildng, a really well-done exhibition, ship and all, covering all aspects of polar expeditions of the era, and giving due attention to those that failed as well as the considerable Norwegian triumphs. The Fram itself once spent three years locked in polar ice. I hope they had plenty of DVDs. Anyhow, the museum gewts three stars, according to me. (And, FWIW, the spectacularly successful Fram is only about half the size of the spectacularly unsuccessful Vasa. FWIW).

Adjacent is the Kon-Tiki museum. As I said, Norwegians don't always go in for easy things. Along with Heyerdahl's 1947 Kon-Tiki voyage, attempting to show that Polynesian culture could have come from South America, via balsa raft, there is also the Ra II, his 1970 attempt to show that South American culture (well, the Incas) might have come from Egypt, via reed raft. The balsa and reed ships are interesting, and the adventures impressive, aptly documented. It is a shame Heyerdahl did not live to show that European culture might have come from Mars or Andromeda IV. Oh well. I give the guy massive credit for being an academic who knew how to deal with mass media and get massive attention. Not to mention the fund-raising. And now a big museum, too. See below for further conjectures.

We missed the National Gallery and its Munch rooms the day before, so we hastened back across the fiord/harbor via ferry and took in more despair and angst at the Gallery. We are becoming experts on the different versions of The Scream. I grow more impressed and interested in Munch, too. You can really see the stylistic/philosophical/personal changes the guy went through. He read Nietszche and therefore has to be basically OK.

While Vicki digested lunch (our usual ham and cheese with mustard on whatever local bread intrigues us, with diet coke or local beer, respectively), I walked the main streets downtown, saw some more interesting buildings, including the Dom (lots of scaffolding and tarp, unfortunately).

Then we were back on the ferry, across the fiord, to the Viking Ship Museum and the Norse Folk Museet. You'd think we'd seen enough Viking ships and Viking paraphrenalia, and also enough Scandinavian folk stuff. But these museums were interesting and interestingly different from others we have seen. The Viking ships are the real thing, found in burial mounds with basic grave goods, obviously restored a bit but still impressive. The exhibits on Viking culture generally and on the contents of the graves were interesting too.

The Folk Museum was very similar to Skansen, in concept at least—an open air historical museum—but not as extensive and with fewer live presentations. We saw the obligatory folk music and dance performance and toured lots of historic buildings. The Folk Museet's real prize, however, is the 1280 Stave Church brought intact from the village of Gol more than a century ago. The church is all timber, very tall, no windows, but a sort of porch that wraps around, more, we thought, for buttressing the high walls than anything else. Its interior was sparse, except for some carving, and the 17th century painting behind the altar.

We bussed back to the Marina, amid crowds of Osloians who had been to the beach, on the water, etc. I was a sunny but pretty warm day, not what we expected of Oslo.

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