Scandinavia 2019 Travel Blog – June 21

By Kim Andersen

Being ready to improvise is always a good idea. Unannounced Oslo City Hall was closed for the day due to an official event – it is after all a fully functioning city hall – so, we’ll be back at 9 a.m. tomorrow Saturday. For an impression of Norwegian history and national pride, in particular following WWII, Oslo City Hall is second to none.

Instead we visited the Historical Museum for its exhibit of archaeological treasures from the Viking age. Not the most extensive but it provided an opportunity for a concise overview of of the Viking age. Two useful years for framing it is 793 CE and 1066 CE, although, of course, it neither began in 793 nor ended in 1066. But in 793 Lindisfarne monestary by the North Sea close to Scotland, was attacked by Vikings having crossed the Western Sea, as we know it here, in their remarkable vessels. This was the first, at least most significant, such incident ever recorded. The Norman conquest of England in 1066 signaled a more centralized world making it difficult for small bands of Norse to continue their profitable ways.

Much like Haakon’s Hall and Rosenkrantz’s Tower in Bergen, Oslo’s Akershus Castle protected the city in the early Middle Ages and was since continuously expanded and changed, had its floors moved up or down according to usage and fashion. Our guide, Bjorn, provided context for the various halls and their contemporary usage, from the Royal Mausoleum to the reception rooms and church. The Norwegians make a particular point of giving ancient buildings and artifacts a new life (see also tomorrow’s report on the Viking ships). It is a building of living history, sensitively restored to offer a solid, occasionally stark mode seriously reminding a nation of its heritage.

Finally, for the day, we took the excellent tram to Vigeland Park, the out-of-this-world playground for an artist’s excessive improvisations celebrating mankind. Over-sized, granite sculptures of humans: men, women, toddlers, babies, all naked and clustered together in unnatural piles, the central pile containing all types reaching 60 feet into the air… Say no more. Except, remarkably we are all sorts of ethic groups there witnessing and curiously enjoying this odd work of art which in its massive assault upon our senses seems to transcend – au naturel – any cultural varnish.

Group of students standing before a sculpture.
Katie, Rivers, Kiera, Maya, Aiyana and Belle admiring Vigeland’s crazy sculptures.

Cougs waving the coug flag.
Kiera and Rivers, our WSU Cheerleaders, demonstrating a cheer.

Josie next to a collection of Viking swords.
Micki admiring intricate Viking artwork in gold.
Group led by a tour guide.
Bjorn guiding us through Akershus Castle.