October 21, 2001
Dear Friends and Family,
In Olso, we did more than just look at boats of intrepid Norwegian seafarers. We covered other museums, a fortress, a cathedral and of course, some shopping.
Actually, on this voyage, shopping is a bit of a rarity. The car won't hold much more but, for Oslo, we had left enough space for one sweater apiece. Throughout the trip, we had seen a number of wonderful Norwegian sweaters with both traditional and modern patterns and designs. Here in the capital, we found even more variety but not at any particular cost savings. I think "cost saving" and "Norway travel" are mutually exclusive.
Anyway, after going through two or three shops, Marianne settled on a sweater she liked. While we were paying, we overheard one of the sales people say she had learned her English so well because she had lived and studied in Fresno California for five years. We immediately told her of Marianne's Fresno connection and the two proceeded to compare notes. It turns out that the young Norwegian lady, also named Mary Ann, had recently returned from the States after playing basketball for the University of Fresno for five years while earning a triple major. She had also been on the Swedish national team. It was fun talking to her about her experience in our country and our experience in her's.
Then it was on to museums. Our first was the Museum of Decorative Art and Design. The museum was founded in 1876 and had an eclectic collection of decorative art ranging from 16th century tapestries to 19th century glasswork. Marianne was particularly taken by a sitting room suite from the turn of the 20th Century. It's a good thing we are between houses or we'd have gone shopping for a comparable suite in the local antique stores.
It's impossible to go to Oslo and not see The Munch Museum. This Norwegian artist is most famous for his picture "The Scream", but the museum has over 15,000 of his works and Edvard Munch needs to be recognized for much more than a single scary print. His career lasted from the late 1800's through his death in 1945 and along the way he experimented with different styles and developed his own views of the world. His view seems a bit dark but it is wonderfully evocative and he becomes yet another of our Norwegian icons.
While getting lost on our way to one of the many art museums, we ran across a small museum of Norwegian Theater. We went there to take pictures to send back to cousin Maryetta and husband Rob to demonstrate that even their Norwegians in Ballard have a thespian cultural history. Due to mysterious technical reasons, the digital pictures failed but the tour was enchanting. Beyond Henrik Ibsen, we know nothing of Norwegian theater. The museum docent proceeded to teach us and take us through the displays of costumes and artifacts of 19th and 20th Century theatre in Norway. She had the enthusiasm and charm of someone who had lived with the theater. She also lamented the modern dominance of English among the young but said Norway continues to make Norwegian films for television and theaters despite the competition from abroad. We had to admit that the prevalence of fluent English made our travels easier but we could also see the cultural threat to Norwegian, a language spoken by only a few million people.
Our final museum, located in our only fortress of the visit, was the Resistance Museum honoring the five years of Norwegian Resistance to the Nazis' occupation from 1940 through 1945. As is normal for museums of this type and theme, the mood cast was somber - even by Scandinavian standards. In this period, Norway gave the world the word "quisling" meaning traitor, in recognition of the Norwegian politician that established the Nazis-backed regime against which the resistance movement fought.
Interestingly, teachers were among the leaders of the resistance movement. In retribution, ten percent of them were sent to primitive camps in the far north where many perished. Their sacrifice brought down the Quisling regime, although an oppressive Nazis occupation continued for the balance of the war. During that occupation, a relatively small band of active resistance fighters managed to disrupt a large occupying army by striking from Norway's mountains and hidden valleys. Maybe the lesson for today is that unfriendly occupation of someone's mountainous homeland may be impractical, if not impossible.
The rest of the Oslo stay was spent doing "regular things". We rode the subway. Maybe we could publish a practical guide to the subways of the world but the fact is that, in a relatively small system like Oslo's, little guidance is needed. Stockholm will be different.
We also worked in the mandatory visit to a cathedral. Every stop must have a church visit, I suppose, and Oslo should be no different. We found the building to not be remarkable but the visit was because we entered a service, of sorts, for small children. There were children's' banners hung from the chandeliers and toddlers through ten-year-olds filled the pews. It seemed like they were all well behaved, well scrubbed and cute enough for soapbox pictures. More Norwegian culture and heritage to be proud of.
Take care. Look around. See what's there. Don't worry too much about what's not.
John and Marianne.
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Created October 28, 2001
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