Nordic Adventure, Part 5: The Vigeland Installation

Frogner Park, in Oslo Norway, is often referred to inaccurately as Vigeland Park.  The 450,000 square meter park is home to the world famous Vigelandsanlegget, or Vigeland installation.  Referring to the park as Vigeland Park is a very common mistake but the name has no official status and is considered wrong.  I didn’t know this while I was in Oslo, by the way- I only learned that the park was called Frogner Park when I sat down to write this post.

The Vigeland sculptures were created by Gustav Vigeland (born Adolf Gustav Thorsen in 1869).  This is the man.


The sculpture area in Frogner Park covers 80 acres and includes 212 bronze and granite sculptures designed by Vigeland.  The Bridge was the first part of the installation to open, in 1940.  You can see the Fountain and the Monolith in this picture.  We’ll get to those.


The sculptures in the Vigeland intallation are all naked, because the sculptor didn’t want clothing to date them.  Most of them reflect the human condition.  Many of them represent children at play.  The titles are often not very creative, but they’re precise.  This one is called “Man lifting girl with one arm.”


This fellow is one of the most popular sculptures in the park.  He is Sinnataggen, or Angry Boy.


Say hello to “Man inside a ring.”


I wasn’t able to find a name for these little ones.  It was possible to purchase a guide to the installation for a small fee, but I didn’t buy one.


Man and woman inside ring.  I vote that we rename this one “Tumble dry low.”


This is called “Man running,” but I think it’s a stretch to call this running.


This one is “Dancing young woman.”


This one is actually called “Man chasing four geniuses,” but I like to think of it as the ultimate “No, I don’t want children!” statue.


Once you walk past the bridge, you reach the Fountain.  While the center fountain itself was done somewhere around 1909 the full installation of the Fountain here was completed in 1947.  The ground around the fountain is an 1,800 square meter mosaic in black and white granite which forms an almost 3,000 meter long labyrinth.  If you have an hour or two, you can walk through it.


This is the Fountain itself.


The Fountain is surrounded by tree sculptures.


Here’s a view from above, looking back toward the Bridge.


Moving past the Fountain, you reach the wrought iron gates to the Monolith.   There are eight of these gates, depicting man at different ages.


Next, we reach the Monolith.  This plateau is the highest point in Frogner Park.  The Monolith is carved out of a single piece of granite, and is just over seventeen meters high.  It is not clear what the column is supposed to represent, and there are many theories.


Surrounding the Monolith are 36 figure groupings, depicting the cycle of life.


This one is called “Standing man lifting dead man.”


As you can imagine, these are popular with tour groups and children.


This kid is perched atop “Man throwing woman.”


This one is called “Young boy and girl.”  Again, Vigeland wasn’t much with the creative names.


Continuing in the same direction, we reach the final sculpture, The Wheel of Life.  The wheel supposedly represents eternity, and is a ring of men, women, and children holding onto each other.


Have you ever been to Vigeland… sorry, to Frogner Park?


Nordic Adventure, Part 4: Oslo

The third stop in my traipse through the Nordics after Helsinki and Stockholm was Oslo.  I traveled from Stockholm to Oslo by train, a decision I actually kind of regret.  It took three or four times as long, and thanks to poor train management, it was damn near 10:30 at night by the time I checked into my hotel.  I made the best of it though.


This is a seafront plaza behind the city hall.  That building in the distance is the Nobel Peace Center.  I’ll come back to that.


The Oslo Radhus (City Hall) has some fascinating carvings on the walkways up to the main entrance doors.  I only photographed a few of them.

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The structure in the tower on the left is a set of carillon bells which rings every hour.  The clock face visible in the center is an astronomical clock- a more traditional clock face is visible on the opposite side of the building from the seafront.


Here’s a closer view of the  Nobel Peace Center.  While most of the Nobel Prizes are  awarded in Stockholm, the Peace Prize is given out in Oslo.


The exhibits in the Peace Center weren’t quite as interesting to me as the exhibitions in the Nobel Museum back in Stockholm.  This one looked pretty nifty, though.


These screens contained changing images of Nobel winners.  Kind of a nifty visual presentation, in my opinion.


In one of the stairwells, I found this anti-Nazi cartoon that I quite liked.


This sculpture by Monica Bonvicini, called She Lies, is made of stainless steel and glass panels, and it floats next to the Oslo Opera House.  The art installation floats on the water on a concrete platform twelve meters above the water surface.  The sculpture turns with the tide and wind, which changes the look of the reflections.


…and now for something completely different.  Say hello to the Holmenkollbakken, a ski jump and stadium with a hill size of HS134, whatever that means.


The ski jump will hold up to 30,000 spectators.


One of Oslo’s attractions is Bygdøy, a museum island.  The Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum, the Viking Ship Museum, and several others are on Bygdøy.

The Viking Ship museum has several Viking sailing vessels.  Por ejemplo:


The Kon-Tiki Museum was of particular interest to me because I vaguely remember seeing a film about the Kon-Tiki at the Society of the Four Arts when I was in middle school.  For those who are unfamiliar with the Kon-Tiki, it was the raft used by Thor Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands.  The Kon-Tiki expedition is pretty fascinating stuff.


The Fram Museum is another museum about a boat.  In this case, it’s about a ship which was used in both Arctic and Antarctic expeditions.  The Fram, which is entirely preserved in the museum, sailed farther north and farther south than any other wooden ship.


This poster was in the Fram Museum, and it made me giggle.


After I crossed back from Bygdøy by ferry, I walked past a building that housed a movie theater.  Inside, there was a life-sized Toothless and I couldn’t resist snagging a picture.  Moving on…


This is a view down Karl Johan’s Gate, one of the main streets in the city.


The opposite end of Karl Johan’s Gate ends at the Royal Palace.  This is actually as close to the Palace as I went, because it was starting to rain and I wanted to go to the National Gallery.

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The National Gallery has some truly amazing pieces.  A lovely little Degas, anyone?


I’ve seen a few Thinkers in my lifetime- the first one I saw was actually in 1997 in a touring exhibition of Rodin’s work.  I’ve also seen the one in the Gates of Hell in the Bay Area of California.   There are 28 full-sized castings out there, and a slew of smaller copies as well.  I never pass up an opportunity to snag a picture of a Thinker when it crosses my path.


This is the real reason I wanted to go to the National Gallery:  Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”  This is one of four versions Munch did of this piece, actually, but this is easily his most well-known work.    Oslo also has a Munch Museum, but this painting isn’t there, it’s here in the National Gallery.  Always do your research before you travel, children- it helps you to see amazing things.


While I was in Oslo, I took advantage of a well-timed concert schedule to see the Oslo Philharmonic play.


I’m not so crass as to take a picture during  the show.  This was a program of Don Juan from Strauss, a little Mozart, and the entirety of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica.’


Have you ever been to Oslo?  What kinds of art and music do you like to see when you travel?

The Art of the Brick

When my friend Charlotte was in New York, she went to an Art of The Brick exhibit.  She posted about it on her old blog back in April.

Art of the Brick is an exhibition of art by Nathan Sawaya.  Rather, it’s a series of exhibitions.  There are currently exhibitions in New York, Miami, and Dublin.  I caught the Brussels exhibit in its last weekend there.  Everything in the pictures below is made of Lego brick.

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What’s the biggest Lego kit you’ve ever built?


Scheveningen, The Hague

When we went to Keukenhof for the tulip festival and flower parade, we stayed in Scheveningen, a district of the Hague which borders the North Sea.  It contains a nice seaside resort area.

Before we went, I was convinced that the name of the place sounded a little bit like a lawnmower starting up.  I was wrong, though.  Click play on the sound bar below to hear what it really sounds like.

The three of us stayed at a nice hotel called the Boulevard Hotel.  We wanted to stay near the ocean, and it was one of the few places in our price range that had a room with three beds.    My bed actually folded up into a console when not occupied.    Jenny said I looked a little bit like Harry Potter under the stairs when I was on this.


As soon as we dropped our stuff off in the hotel room, we walked back out to check out the beach and boardwalk, and to find some dinner.  It was windy, but amazing.


We stopped at ‘t Pannekoekenhuisje, a pancake house, for dinner.   When we were walking in, this adorable little moppet was playing in an alligator and I couldn’t resist taking pictures.  Cute, eh?

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Anyway, back to the pancake house.   In the Netherlands, pancake houses aren’t much like iHop or anything that most Americans are used to.  For one thing, the pancakes are served as one ENORMOUS pancake that tends to be larger than the plate it’s served on.  For another thing, not all pancakes are sweet; some are savory.  Mine had mushrooms, garlic, and bacon.


After dinner, there was more walking around the boardwalk-  this far north, the sun doesn’t set until pretty late, so we had plenty of daylight.  I was tickled by some of the touristy stuff going on here.


I also think it’s kind of brilliant that spaced along the beach at intervals were poles with cartoon animals, the better to help children remember where their family is set up.   The beach wasn’t very crowded when we were there, but I can imagine that on a warmer day it would be utterly slammed with people.


There’s a seaside trampoline park here!  I was tempted to go for a bounce.


Not far from our hotel is a pretty amazing sculpture garden.  We missed it on our first trip down the beach because it’s up on the sidewalk and we were down on the beach.   On the way back to the hotel, however, it was impossible to miss.  The first two visible statues are enormously tall.


This was one of my favorites:  the traditional boy with his finger in a dike.


Most of these were based in fairy tales.  In fact, the entire sculpture garden is called SprookjesBeelden aan Zee (Fairytale Sculptures by the Sea) and it contains 23 sculptures by American sculptor Tom Otterness.

The sculpture garden is part of the Museum Beelden aan Zee, which is dedicated to sculpture and contains roughly one thousand different sculptures.  This one is called Crying Giant.


Some of them are tiny by comparison.  This one was just a few inches tall.


The fable of the Lion and the Mouse.  The lion had previously allowed the mouse to go free, and the mouse returned the favor later, after the lion had been captured by hunters.


The Herring Eater, a twelve meter tall statue.



I think we all know what this one is.


I’m not sure which fairy tale this represents.


These two are looking up at the Herring Eater.  I love the tiny ones hanging out with the midsized ones.


Hansel and Gretel, trapped in a cage.  The one in the background that I did not capture fully is also Hansel and Gretel, after they’ve been fattened up.


I really enjoyed these whimsical statues.


This one was my favorite.


Gulliver. I didn’t even notice the Lilliputian by his feet until Jenny pointed it out to me later.


I kept walking for a while after I finished looking at the sculpture garden.  I thought this was quite colorful.


Further down the beach is a traditional lighthouse and a memorial statue.  I haven’t been able to learn exactly what this is for, but the text on it says November 1813.


I’ll leave you with one last look out at the North Sea before I close up this post.


Have you ever been to Scheveningen?

Brussels, Belgium

My trip to Belgium included a bunch of time spent in Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union.  It’s a fascinating city.  I arrived via high speed train to the city around 5:30 in the afternoon.   Walking to my hotel from the station, I found something interesting in less than ten minutes-  this building’s angel/demon stone-work was just fascinating to me.


After I dropped my stuff off at the hotel, I went back out with my camera to see a bit of the city.  I also had a specific goal in mind, but I’ll get to that in a moment.  On the walk into the city, I found this Pop-Up Restaurant.  It was set up temporarily in front of the Le Monnaie De Munt, a rather nifty looking theater.  The Pop-Up Restaurant was set up so they could film a television show, according to the signage.  I briefly considered trying to get a table before moving on.


Walking further toward the Grand Place, I spotted this rather amusingly named restaurant.  It had pretty typical food on the menu and I almost had dinner there one evening, but changed my mind at the last minute.  Also, I thought the eggs were regular decoration, but they were just there because it was Easter weekend.


I wandered from there into the Grand Place.  It’s pretty hard to miss this enormous square.  The Town Hall has an enormous pointy bit.  I did not climb the pointy bit, as you had to make a reservation in advance to do so.


I mentioned above that I had a specific goal in mind for my walk through the city on the first evening.  Most everyone has heard of Manneken Pis, the famous statue of the little boy peeing.  That statue is widely associated with Brussels, and is one of the symbols of the city.   There are two more peeing statues, though:  Jeanneke Pis, a little girl peeing, was put up in 1987, and Zinneke Pis, a dog peeing, was put up in 1998.  I decided when I left the hotel that I wanted to find all three before sundown.

Zinneke Pis was the first one I found.    The tile Space Invaders art drew my attention to the corner before I spotted the dog on the corner.


Someone asked me if it was a male or female dog.  I can say with authority that it is most decidedly a male dog.  You just can’t see it in this camera angle.


Next up is the Manneken Pis.  This one is marked on sightseeing signs and tourist maps, because it’s the most famous of the three.  This fountain was erected in 1619, and they dress it up in various costumes several times per week.  There was no costume while I was there, which surprised me because it was Easter weekend.

This is not the only Manneken Pis; there are others in various cities in Belgium, and one in Tokushima, Japan which was a gift from the Belgian embassy.


I saw so many replicas while I was in the city, including one made all of chocolate, and this one dressed up for the World Cup later this year.


Moving on from the Manneken Pis, I found my way next to Jeanneke Pis, erected in 1987 very close to the Rue des Bouchers, which is a narrow street full of restaurants.   Jeanneke Pis is not far from the Grand Place, and it is regrettably behind locked iron bars which makes getting a good picture of her somewhat difficult.


Jeanneke Pis is basically across the street from the Delirium Tremens Beer Bar and Cafe,  which made this a perfect time to stop for a nice Belgian beer before dinner.


I tried the Delirium Nocturnum, a strong delicious dark beer with an 8.50% alcohol by volume.  Did I mention it was delicious?


After leaving Delirium, I decided to look for some dinner before retiring for the night.  Passing by it, I saw the Beurs, the Brussels Stock Exchange, which is the location of the Art of the Brick Lego art exhibit.  I’ll come back to this in another post, because I checked out this exhibit right before I left Brussels two days later.


The next day, it was time for my actual tour of Brussels, led by a professional tour guide.  It started in the Grand Place, so here’s another view of that large plaza.

While I was waiting for the tour to start, I had a Belgian waffle covered in powdered sugar.  The powdered sugar made me cough, which caused me to be completely enveloped in a cloud of white powder.

Delicious high comedy.


Moving on, we walked past the Cathédrale des Saints Michel et Gudule (Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula,)  which was completed in 1519.


This is a monument to King Leopold I, the first king of the Belgians.  He ruled from 1831 to 1865.


This is at the base of a very tall monument, but none of my other pictures came out very well.  The structure is the Colonne des Congrés (the Congress Column.)  The four corners are statues representing the four freedoms of Belgium- Freedom of the press, of religion, of education, and of association.

The flame is atop a Belgian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,  from World War I.


Moving on, we visited the Parliamentarium’s visitor’s center, which is all about the European Union’s Parliament and how it governs.  It was pretty neat, actually.  This first section represents the main structures in the three governing cities of the EU-  Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg.


How far is it to your home city? Vienna’s only 917 kilometers away…


The exhibit had a detailed model of the European Parliament’s seating arrangement.  Interestingly, the seating is not by nation, it’s by political affiliation.


I missed all but the last three minutes of this film about how the Parliament makes decisions because I was fascinated by shiny objects on the other side of the hall.  It looked interesting, though.


On the way back from the Parliamentarium, we passed the Triumphal Arch in the Parc du Cinquantenaire, but alas, we didn’t actually go into the Jubilee Park, so this is the best photograph I took of the Arch.


This… this is just an enormously large flower pot that amused me.


I ate at two different restaurant chains that I quite enjoyed while I was in Brussels.  The first was called Quick.  The face of the restaurant was emblazoned with a giant lit up sign that said “Quality Burger Restaurant,” and the sign made me skeptical enough to try it.  (“Challenge accepted!“) It turns out that it’s got all the soul that McDonald’s has given up over the years,  and the burgers were delicious beyond all reason.  The other restaurant that I tried was a healthy chain called Exki.  This place was utterly delicious-  it was a little like the Pret a Manger and Eat chains that are all over London, but with more hot prepared foods and a few other interesting choices like the Ubuntu cola in the picture below.  (It was decent, but Coke is still better.)  They name their sandwiches with people names, so my lunch as pictured below was John.  The chocolate brownie in the background was so delicious.

I am excited beyond reason that they’re opening an Exki in New York City.  You have no idea.


My next-door neighbor Lori sent me a link before I left for Brussels with a list of the top ten places to get a great view of Brussels.  One of those places was a parking garage called Park 58.    Entrance is free (because it’s a parking garage, not a tourist attraction,) and the elevator will take you right to the tenth floor.  From there, you have a fantastic view in almost all directions.  This is the view looking back toward the Grand Place.


On the other side, you can see clearly all the way to the Atomium.  The Atomium is really cool, and I’ll talk about my visit there in another post.


This statue is near Grasmarkt.  I didn’t remember to catch the plaque that explains it, but I quite dig the man’s mustache and his friendly dog.


Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?  Yup!  I’m not sure why it’s in Brussels, but it’s in Place D’Espagne, and it’s a replica of the original statue in Madrid.


Last, but certainly not least, Brussels is another city full of art.  I kept noticing that the exposed sides of buildings were painted all over the city.  I only snapped pictures of these four, and there was one more of a swashbuckler that I wanted to go back for, but I didn’t have time.   I love that the buildings have this much character.  These four are in different places all over the city:


Have you ever been to Brussels?  What was your favorite thing about the city?