Visiting Oslo I learned that first impressions are not always the best impressions.
19.04.2005 - 29.04.2005
I did not have the best first impression of Oslo. I was not sure what to expect. Outside of elementary school Social Studies class and ninth grade Geography class Norway was not a place that I had thought about very often. It certainly was not a travel destination that I had dreamed about visiting. My traveling partner at the time had a business meeting in Copenhagen he had to attend. We were looking at the map to see what other places were near by that we had not seen before. So I found myself in Oslo. We boarded the train from Gardermoen Airport to the city of Oslo. We were soon put off the train in a little town called Lillestrom. We had boarded the express train by mistake and they would not accept our non express train ticket. Stupid tourists.
After our little mishap on the train we finally arrived to the train station in Oslo. We walked out of the station to the little square in the photo on the left of the page. I was not impressed. The square was not very large. There was a small unattractive tower in the corner. And there was a man with a Middle Eastern musical instrument sitting in the square playing some very strange sounding music. Nothing about this reminded me of anything I knew about Norway.
In spite of our little delay in Lillestrom we were still too early to go to the Bed and Breakfast we had booked. So we took some time to explore the square before looking for a taxi. The first thing we found was a large statue of a large anatomically correct tiger.
This was not the first thing I expected to see in Oslo. So why was there a tiger in front of Central Station in Oslo? There is a reason for it being there. For the 1000th anniversary celebration in 2000 for the city of Oslo the city requested a bronze statue be placed in the square, Oslo's nickname is Tigerstaden or the City of the Tiger. The name most likely came from a poem by the Norwegian poet Bjornstjerne Bjornson. His poem "Sidste Sanq" was written in 1870 and describes a fight between a horse and a tiger. The tiger represents the dangerous city and the horse the safe countryside. My first impression though was not a dangerous city. It was just a small odd city and I was not sure what I really thought of it yet. There were a few other odd statues in the square that I was finding interesting also but odd.
We finally found a taxi and gave the driver the address of the Bed and Breakfast we had booked. Like everything in Oslo, the Bed and Breakfast was not quite what I had expected. It was an old white clapboard house across the street from Frogner Park. More about Froger Park a little later. But needless to say I found it somewhat odd also. We were a good ways out from the center of town, but fortunately there was a tram stop right in front of the house which we could use to go back into the city. The house was clean and the owners were friendly. But once more there was a lot of oddness around us. We were in an upstairs bedroom without a lot of heat, Our bathroom had a toilet and a bidet. And oddly for some reason the owners used the bidet for a magazine rack. It was filled with unusual Norwegian comic books.
<<<<<Sitting on the steps by the door to our room.
Statues at Frogner Park
Directly across the street from the Bed and Breakfast we wound Frogner Park. Frogner Park is home to the world famous Vigeland Installation. Although many times referred to as Vigeland Park, it is actually just the name of the sculptures in the park. They were created by Gustav Vigeland between 1920 and 1943. So what was odd about the park? Every statue was a nude statue telling the life cycle of man.
I have been using the term odd a lot. I don't mean it in a bad or derogatory way. I found Oslo any thing but unpleasant. It's not the most beautiful European capitol I have visited. But it's also not the least interesting. The people of Oslo could not have been friendlier. The owners of the Bed and Breakfast were very pleasant and made us feel very welcome. I was growing to like Oslo more each day and finding it somewhat unusual made it all the more interesting.
So what odd things did we find in Oslo? We found a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. This honestly was the last thing I had expected to find in Oslo. The memorial is located in Frogner Park. The monument was created by Paul Fjelde from Valley City, North Dakota and was donated to the people of Oslo by North Dakota Governor Louis Hanna.
We took a brief train ride out of the city of Oslo up into the mountains to do some hiking and also to see the historic Holmenkollen Ski jump from the 1952 Olympics. There was nothing odd about this. This was something I had expected to see in Norway. The train runs from Central Station in Oslo to the top of the mountain in Frognersteren. There is a wonderful restaurant located near the Frognersteren station when I did get to sample reindeer which was something else I had expected to do in Oslo.
Larry on the ski trail at Frognersteren