Feeling So 20th Century in Oslo

The lecturer on the ship told us that in Oslo we would be tie up at Askershaus, a fortress fairly close to much of what I wanted to see in Oslo.  He told us there would be a money exchange, a tourist information center, taxis, hop on hop off bus public transportation and maps.  We really docked about a 20 minute walk away at an industrial port.  There was no money exchange, no map, no tourist information, and no readily identifiable public transport.  The hop on hop off bus made a special stop at this pier that day and there were a couple of cabs.  We did notice that a ship from The Color Line was docked near us, and knowing that saved us later.

We could have walked if Holland America had bothered to tell us where we were so I could find it on a map, which I didn’t have so we took the hop-on-hop-off bus.  The Ho-Ho is a pretty good way of getting from point to point, it hits all the places we were interested in, but it is a lousy way to sightsee because right across the front window of the double decker they have a huge decal saying “City Sightseeing Norway” making it impossible to take a picture, for instance, at the King’s palace, without having “City Sightseeing Norway” in the picture, backwards.  On the lower level of the bus, where we often sat because we were only going one stop, they had super graphics that covered much of the windows. 

But, it did take us where we wanted to go. (although they stopped running before we ran out of Oslo so we had to make our own way back to the ship.  Fortunately, we remembered the name “Color Line” and were able to get a $30 taxi ride from the Opera House back, Norway is pricy.)

Oslo is too interesting for a one-day cruise ship stop, but that’s what we had so we limited ourselves to four things.  The first was Frogner Park where there is a sculpture park featuring the work of Gustav Vigeland.  Suzi and I spent time in this park on our honeymoon and wanted to see it again.  It lost none of his magic to us.  Statues of concrete, stone and bronze show people of all ages, every muscle and sinew (or ring of fat) depicted.  One statue is disturbing because of the way people react to it.  A little boy stands looking like he is about to transition from a pout to a tantrum.  His penis is shiny because some folks who walk by can’t resist the urge to feel it.  (Pictures from the park are in a separate post.  There were too many Oslo pictures for one page.)  

Our second stop was the outdoor Folk Museum.  Suzi and I also spent time here in 1968 admiring, in particular, the stave church, a rural Norwegian type of wooden church.  We wanted to go back because in Eastern Slovakia there are churches that, seemed to us, to be similar and we wanted to check our memories.  This is one on only 28 remaining stave churches left in Norway.  It is still a building of wonder and beauty.  Looking at the carvings I see how it influenced some of the decorative carvings at St. Olaf College.

The next stop was the Fram museum which displays the ships Fram, which Fridtjof Nansen used on his polar explorations and Roald Amundson used to base his trek to the South pole and the Gjøa in which Amundson first transited the Northwest Passage.  The museum has lit the ships dramatically to give them almost a supernatural aura.  Nansen is a particular hero of mine because after his polar explorations he was a diplomat and humanitarian, setting up the refugee agency during World War I, working on Armenian famine relief and leading other efforts in the international aid community.  He created what is still known as the Nansen Passport for stateless displaced persons.  He won the Nobel Peace prize and is the spiritual father of those of us in aid work.   

Finally, I wanted to see the new Opera House.  It’s designed to resemble a glacier moving into water.  Suzi’s reaction was “Sydney has a rival.”  It is billed as “A place for music and magic.”  The architectural firm Snøhetta is the same firm that designed the Library in Alexandria Egypt where we both worked.  The opera house is a combination of ice, snow and Norwegian wood.  We lingered on the terrace over a coke.

We ran out of time, the Viking ships, maritime museum, resistance museum have to wait for another trip.  We found a cab at the nearby Central Station and went back to the ship.

I eavesdrop on conversations.  One Norwegian was bragging to a foreigner that Norway was becoming a carbon free society, using hydro power, converting to electric cars, electric heat, electric everything.  He was very sanctimonious until the woman he was with said curtly.  “Yes but you EXPORT oil.”  Touché

The strangest thing about the day was that we touched no money until we got to the Opera house.  We found no ATM machines.  A cruise mate asked for one, was directed to a site and the machine was torn out.  Another did find one but decided that the fee the machine charged was too much.  Every transaction in Norway, it seems, is electronic.  Bills are paid on computer, money spent with a phone app or using a credit or debit card.  I actually bought a coke, A COKE, with a credit card because I couldn’t find a place to change money.  The woman at our last stop, the opera house, saw I was uneasy and allowed me to over charge a book I was buying and gave me some money so I would feel comfortable.  She thought I was silly.  I am SO 20th century.

Back on the ship I found that this is a problem for crew.  Many are from Indonesia or the Philippines and some don’t have credit cards.  Julia, our morning waitress, has a credit card but because she is away from home half a year at a time is not comfortable using it because she feels she can’t keep track of things and is afraid of “getting into trouble.”  I have to admit feeling uncomfortable about having every purchase I make trackable.  I am SO 20th century.   

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