Monday, June 13, 2011

Oslo 3:On Holiday

I didn't realize that today was a holiday in Norway -- Pinse (whitsunday, or Pentecost). We had to look it up. We were walking along the main drag in Oslo and there hardly any people, and only a few of the shops were open...must be a bank holiday, we thought. Nope - national holiday where everyone in the city heads off to be in the countryside (which is why it was such an issue on thursday with the flooding).

Most of the tourist-y stuff is open, of course. We got up early to wander around the Vigeland sculpture park, which is absolutely gorgeous in the morning sunshine. it took only a few minutes for the tourist buses to show up, though; we managed to stay ahead of the hundreds of people who tended to stop at the tops of stairs and in the narrow gates. The park is really great, and the sculptures are oddly compelling -- as is the story of how it came to be: more than 20 years working on the project obsessively. The column--the centerpiece of the park--is fascinating. We even managed to get a picture of the crabby little boy, who is so popular that the bronze statue is rubbed shiny. My notes say that the rumor is that Vigeland gave the little boy chocolate and then took it away...

The tram loops around to the harbor again, so we hopped on and rode back to Akershus fortress and the military museum. Mark started out a bit 'meh' about it, but the exhibits on WWII are really, really good, with lots of photos and a collection of artifacts that the museum has just recently rediscovered and displayed. It was surprisingly absorbing.

There's not much exciting going on at Akershus fortress, to be honest. While it's still used for state events (they can host huge banquets, etc), the rooms don't have much in the way of historic details that make them interesting. There are some collections of period furniture, of course, but beyond that, the rooms are plain and undecorated for the most part. You can only get into the tower wing, so we walked through and back out to wander the grounds, which are open as a public park. The views out over the harbor are good, though, if you can see around the enormous cruise ships that are tied up just outside of the fortress. Seriously, those things are HUGE.

Once again, we were thwarted in our attempt to go inside the cathedral -- since it's a religious holiday, there are services all day and so popping in as a tourist is a bit gauche. We decided to walk up and down Karl Johan's Gata instead, and people-watch from one of the sidewalk cafes. There were only a few people, though --it had been much busier on Saturday, all seems deserted. We grabbed lunch at a deli and sat in the sun for awhile anyway.

We're driving back to Stockholm tomorrow, so an early start!

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