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?


Nordic Adventure, Part 3: Skansen

The heart of the Djurgården in Stockholm is the Skansen open air park and museum.  Skansen, founded in 1891 by Artur Hazelius, is 75 acres of traditional Swedish houses and a small zoo.  There’s even a funicular.  Skansen attracts more than 1.3 million visitors each year.  Skansen is so large that I actually got lost inside-  I thought I was heading toward an exit but I was completely turned around and wound up on an entirely different side of the park.

This is not the main entrance.  I thought it was at first, but this is actually a smaller side entrance.


Here’s another rune stone.


My favorite part of Skansen was, naturally, the zoo.   This is a baby reindeer and a mama reindeer.  The baby was way cute.  I try not to think too much about how delicious the reindeer was that I’d eaten two days previous.


Another reindeer, looking a little more stereotypical.


It was a warm day and the moose wasn’t having any of it.  This moose really just wanted a hammock and a beer.


Even the seal was complaining about the heat, and he was in the water already!


That’s a big horse there.


There were a couple of bear cubs playing around.  They look so cute that it’s easy to forget just how deadly these fuzzy fellows can be.


This is a lynx.  It’s fascinating to me that despite being a large predator, the lynx behaved exactly the same as every cat I’ve ever known.  The elegant turned back when it didn’t want to acknowledge all the people trying to take photographs of it, the sudden attraction to the motion of a bird that landed in its enclosure, and the normal kitty stalking that all cats do when something fuzzy gets their attention. This picture doesn’t really showcase the black fur points on his eartips or show just how big his paws were, but in every other regard, a lynx is just another slightly larger cat.


Toats ma goats?


This is a wolverine.  He was bounding around his enclosure so quickly that it was incredibly difficult to get a clear photo.


…and a meerkat.


Golden Lion Tamarin.  Tiny little fellows.


The lemurs were sharing space with the humans-  the walkway here was right through the lemur enclosure.  Mostly they ignored me.


These two were just on the other side of a railing.


I actually had to step over this one’s tail to get by.  He was totally enjoying the sunlight.


Babboons, I think.


I took so many pictures of the meerkats.  They’re so adorable.


A type of Ray, I think.  I forgot to check the label.  There were some regular stingrays in this tank.


Tree snake, just hanging out.  Erm, no pun intended.


Have you ever been to Skansen?

Nordic Adventure, Part 2: Stockholm

After spending a couple of days in Helsinki, I went on to the next stop in my trip:  Stockholm, Sweden.  Stockholm is a beautiful city, which may be why they have more gypsy beggars per square meter than any other city I’ve seen on this continent. As with Helsinki, my photographs in this post aren’t in chronological order.

The northern part of the old city in Stockholm is an island called Gamla Stan.  The Royal Palace and Parliament are in Gamla Stan, along with lots of narrow streets and cobblestone.  Much of it dates from the 1600s and 1700s.  For example:


There are also Viking rune stones in various places around Stockholm.  This one is actually embedded into the foundation of a building in Gamla Stan because someone in the distant past decided to relocate it from its original resting place.  Rune stones are often memorials to the dead, but this is not always the case.    This particular stone is a fragment; the part which is readable translates to “Torsten and Frögunn had this stone raised after their son.”


This is Tyska Kyrkan, the old German church.  The section of Gamla Stan containing this church has streets named after German iron merchants and craftsmen who settled in the city


This is the narrowest street in Stockholm, at a width of 90 centimeters.


This is one of the metro stops in Stockholm near my hotel in Karlaplan.  I just thought this was a really nifty looking metro station.


This building is the Town Hall. The thing at the top is three crowns, which is a commonly used logo for the city.


Of course you can climb the town hall.  It’s a lot of steps, but it’s well worth it because you get a view like this.


Off in the distance, you can see the Ericsson Globe, which is a concert venue.  It also has a nifty attraction attached called SkyView, which I visited later.


This is the SkyView at the Ericsson Globe.  There are two spherical capsules on custom-built tracks which go up the side of the building to get a 360 degree view of Stockholm from the top.  This is fabulous, but it’s pretty far outside the center of the city, so the view isn’t as nifty as I would have hoped.  Still, this was worth it for me because: tall places!


Inside the Town Hall tower, there are artifacts from the history of the city.   I especially liked the sculpture of the very tall warrior.


The Djurgården is an entire island which was once a royal hunting ground.  In modern times, the Skansen open air park, the ABBA Museum, and the amusement park Gröna Lund are on this island, along with the Vasa Museum which I mention below.  Sometime in the past, a king decided to open the park to visitors, and the Blue Gate was erected.  It has been moved several times, but it is believed that the current location is near to the original one.


The amusement park Gröna Lund, as seen from the water.  The park is seasonal, and I was in Stockholm too soon to go inside.


The Vasa Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sweden.   Here’s why:  The Vasa is a warship which set sail on her maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, and about a half hour into the trip, she sank into Stockholm Harbour.  333 years later, she was raised, restored, and a museum was built around her.   The vessel is something like 98% original parts with a coat of sealant for the wood, but they had to redo all the rope bits.


There are models showing the process of raising the Vasa from the bottom of the harbor.


The ship is huge.


The original mainsail was not intact enough to stay on the displayed vessel, but they put it in an environmentally controlled glass case so you can still see it.


I did not actually go past the lobby of the Abba Museum because it was too late in the day, but I was sorely tempted to come back.


Meanwhile, back in Gamla Stan,  the Nobel Museum contains details about the Nobel Prize and its founder, Alfred Nobel.  I had no idea before this trip that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and gelignite, or that he owned armament factories.  He was once nicknamed the Merchant of Death, despite being a pacifist.


Each of the more than 800 Laureates who has been awarded a Nobel Prize so far is presented in a random order, with a portrait and a prize citation.  The portraits move around the museum on a spiral track that loops back to the museum’s center.


This sculpture represents Orpheus going to hell to bring back Eurydice, surrounded by eight male and female figures.  It stands in front of the Concert Hall at Hötorget in central Stockholm.  One of the male figures has the facial features of Beethoven because the sculptor really liked Beethoven.  I saw this sculpture briefly from a moving bus and I liked it so much that I went back on foot later so that I could get a good picture.


This sculpture, called Non-violence, is used in various places to represent peace.  It was originally sculpted after John Lennon was assassinated, and there are sixteen of them around the world.  Three of them are in different places around Stockholm.


This is a typical street in Gamla Stan.  I don’t actually recall why I specifically took this photo.


This is the Swedish Parliament in Gamla Stan.


Sergel’s Tor is a popular meeting place.  It’s connected to the main train station for Stockholm, along with shopping, dining, public transportation, and a really nifty tall sculpture thingie.  Also, the building to the right is called the Kulturhuset-  it has exhibitions, a children’s library, and several restaurants.


One of the tours I took while in Stockholm was the Free Tour with tour guide Ira.  Free Tour Stockholm offers old city and regular city tours, and the whole thing is free- they work for tips.  It was very informative.  In retrospect, I don’t think the girl in the glasses wanted very much to be in my photograph.


Gustaf Dalén’s lighthouse.  This little structure was set up in 1912.   Dalén won  a Nobel Prize in physics for his work on regulators in lighthouses and buoys.  When this lighthouse was electrified in 1980, it was discovered that the sun valve had been working continuously since 1912 without the need for an overhaul.


If you have to have a permanent crane on your waterfront, why not paint it to look like a giraffe?


The Swedish Central Bank, Sveriges Riksbank, is the oldest central bank in the world.  It was founded in 1668.  This is not the original structure, though.  They moved here in the 1990s, I believe.


The Monarchy in Sweden is just chockablock with Carls and Gustavs.   This plaza is Gustav Adolfs Torg.


This quiet pleasant little circular area is offset from Gamla Stan-  you have to walk through a passageway that looks a bit like a hallway to reach it.  It’s the sort of thing you find if you’re willing to explore a tiny bit off side streets and alleys.


The Royal Palace in Gamla Stan is the “official” place of residence for the royal family, but they don’t really stay there.  They do have official events there, and they do receive state visitors there.   There are, naturally, Royal Guard members standing and marching in front of the Palace.


This is a big church that gets used for big events.  After a few years in Europe, the Big Important Churches are kind of starting to run together.


This statue is called “Iron Boy.”  It’s also called “Boy looking at the moon.”  The statue is only fifteen centimeters tall, and is considered Stockholm’s smallest public monument.   The Iron Boy is behind a church and is very easy to miss.  People leave coins and rub his head for luck.  There’s also a legend that he helps women become pregnant, but it’s entirely possible that our tour guide was just messing with us.  I would not have seen this without Free Tour Stockholm’s guidance.


St. George and the Dragon.


These buildings are in the same square as the Nobel Prize museum, and they each have a pastry restaurant at their base.


Have you ever been to Stockholm?

Nordic Adventure, Part 1: Helsinki

I scheduled a bunch of time off for another trip that didn’t quite pan out, so I decided to use the time to visit Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Reykjavik.  I started my two week romp through the Nordics with a day in Berlin, where I checked off the last three Category One stations and attended a concert by Hayseed Dixie.  The next day, I flew from Berlin to Helsinki, Finland.

My pictures from Helsinki are in no particular order.

This is the statue of Alexander II and the Lutheran Cathedral, as seen from about a third of the way into Senate Square.    If you do a Google Image search just on the word Helsinki, the Cathedral is going to be the single most common image.  It’s pretty well known.


This is Esplanade Park, a short walk from the Harbor.  The statue is  J.L. Runeberg, the national poet of Finland.  This park is a meeting point for locals and tourists, and there are free concerts here during the summer.


A convergence of tram lines near the harbor.


Uspenski Cathedral, the  Russian Orthodox behemoth of a church on the hill in the background, is walking distance from the Harbor.


Helsinki City Hall, I think.   It’s possible that I made the wrong assumption here.


Uspenski Cathedral again, this time from a bit closer.  Uspenski is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe.


I quite liked the feel of Helsinki.  Any city that puts out paired lounge chairs for its citizens can’t be all bad, you know?  I didn’t try out these chairs, but I should have.


The railway station.  I walked through this building to see the inside, but it wasn’t as impressive as the front.  This totally looks like it could be used for establishing shots in the upcoming Justice League movie, don’t you think?


Completed in 2012, the Kamppi Chapel of Silence in Narinkkatori square isn’t really a church.   It was designed by architects, and is built out of wood (Alder, spruce, and ash, according to the signs.)  It won the International Architecture Award 2010, and is part of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 program.

Inside, the sound of the city is blocked out, and it’s muted and quiet-  something you might expect from a place called the Chapel of Silence.    This is only a kilometer from Senate Square, so it’s easily reachable on foot or by tram.


I had never heard of Moomins before this trip.  This is yet another instance of the United States completely and utterly missing a swath of culture from other places.  The Moomins, created by Swedish speaking Finnish auther Tove Jansson, have been cartoons, comic strips, stage shows, movies, novels, and even a theme park.  They’ve had exposure in England, Russian, Japan, Austria, and Cuba… but until this trip, I’ve never seen a Moomin.  The Jansson family has turned down offers from the Walt Disney Company, so that explains some of my lack of exposure.


The Three Smiths statue, unveiled in 1932, is another popular meeting place for locals.  Also, it’s directly in front of the Hard Rock Cafe, if you’re into that sort of thing.  I actually ate at Kaarna, another restaurant nearby.   I had a delicious reindeer burger patty with braised onion and salad wrapped in Laplandish flatbread.


This sculpture still bears damage from being shot during World War 2.


The Church in the Rock, or Temppeliaukion kirkko, was blasted out of granite bedrock.


The outer walls still show exposed granite.


The ceiling is entirely made of copper.


The Jean Sibelius Monument in Sibelius Park.  This was created in 1967 by Eila Hiltunen.  The intension was for visitors to interact with the design by creating sounds and echoes in the pipes.


Artsy shot!


This statue is called “A Mother’s Love.”  I thought it was nice.


Harborside Market, in Katajanokka.  Here you can buy crafts and local foods.


The Helsinki Pool and Ferris Wheel isn’t open yet-  It was slated for Spring of this year, but the 40 meter tall ferris wheel wasn’t open when I was there.


Suomenlinna could easily be separated into a separate blog post, because it’s an on a different island.  Suomenlinna is a sea fortress built off the coast of Helsinki in the mid-1700s in order to defend the city. The fortress is well preserved and is a frequent attraction for tourists, but the island is also home to around 800 residents. There are tour boats that go to Suomenlinna, but you can just easily reach the island using the HSL ferry-  if you’ve already purchased a day-ticket good for all the buses and trams, you’re covered for the ferry to Sueomenlinna as well. I purchased a multi-day ticket at the airport, and it covered me for the entire trip.


On the walk in the direction of the King’s Gate.


Kustaanmiekka is part of the original bastion fortress with guns constructed by the Russians at the end of the 19th century for coastal defense.


Plus it looks a tiny bit like the Shire.


I didn’t manage to see the Vesikko while I was there  Vesikko is a Finnish submarine built in the 1930 for World War 2.  It has been restored and set up as a museum.  Regrettably, I didn’t find the Vesikko, but I did spend quite a while on the defensive wall of the fortress.


The original structures from 1748 still stand and can be explored.


There are people in period costumes all over the Fortress museum area.


The Suomenlinna Church was a Russian Orthodox garrison church in 1854.  In the early days of Finnish independence in the 1920s, it was converted into an Evangelical-Lutheran church.   The steeple still operates as a lighthouse for air and sea traffic.


Katajanokka as seen from the ferry back from Suomenlinna.


Have you ever been to Helsinki or Suomenlinna?