Dr. Srutimala Duara
When I was in school I read about the midnight sun in our geography book. When our teacher explained how the sun could be seen in the skies even at night, it was something so wonderful to dream about. Never thought at that time I would be visiting this land of the midnight sun.
The year was 2011. It was summer time when I was with friends in Oslo. From the airport, we took the airport bus by paying 150 Norway Kroner each and it took us an hour to reach our hotel “Royal Chistiana”. The driver was kind enough to drop us right in front of the hotel; perhaps he took pity on us as we had so much of luggage with us. I was very happy to discover that our hotel was right in the midst of the square with shopping areas and plenty of people.
Before long we were out on the square. We hopped from shop to shop, from one spot to the other, inspecting prices of clothes, souvenir, food etc. and found things were quite expensive. Meghali informed, “Oslo is the most expensive city in the world.” We decided not to buy anything; but Anuradha of course wanted her souvenir. She was always on the look-out for plates and bells or dolls of each of the places we toured in the month of July that year. We clicked just a few pictures and then tired, we retired.
The next day we bought day tickets. The Hop on hop off bus cost 380 Norwegian Kroner and the 24 hour day ticket cost us just 70, and we could be on tram, bus, ship, metro everywhere and for 24 hours; whereas the Hop on hop off would be over by latest 5 pm. So taking the 24 hour-pass we enjoyed our freedom to hop from bus to bus, tram to tram and saw Oslo like perhaps no tourist had seen. Our bus number 30 took us to Bygdoy, which is a peninsular, the land jutting out to the sea. We sat by the water, visited the Kan Tiki Museum, clicked photos, stood near the statue in memory of the navy guys who gave up their lives in World War.
On our return by bus 30, we got down at Norsk Folkemuseum. It is a museum of cultural history, displaying how people have been living in Norway since the 16th century.
Once again we took bus number 30 and went to Vigelandsparken. The park contains 192 sculptures with more than 600 figures, all modeled in full size by Gustav Vigeland. As we walked across the bridge I took time taking in the statues, which my friends found “erotic”. But I asked them to look at the statues as works of art. 58 bronze sculptures on granite parapets stand on either side of the bridge portraying people of widely differing ages, although there is less emphasis on old age than others in the park. Many characteristic representations of children are noticeable. Dominant motifs among the groups are the relationships between man and woman and between adults and children. In one sculpture I found a bronze wheel enclosing a man and woman linked together in a rotating movement. The circle being a well-known symbol of eternity, the sculpture may indicate the constant attraction and love between the sexes or a figurative version of the Eastern symbol of "Yin and Yang."
We walked towards the fountain. It has an interesting sculpture. In the center of the basin, six giants hold the large saucer-shaped vessel aloft and from it a curtain of water spills down around them. The men, representing different ages, may be interpreted as toiling with the burden of life and the effort expended in lifting the heavy vessel varies. Water, a universal symbol of fertility, is used within the fountain complex in a meaningful juxtaposition with the twenty "tree groups" on the surrounding parapet, the latter evidently symbolizing the "tree of life." I got to know that the combination of human beings and trees in two meter high sculptures is one of Vigeland's most original concepts. The tree groups represent a romantic expression of man's relationship to nature. This also forms the setting for life's evolving stages, stretching from childhood and adolescence through adulthood to old age and death.
One of the most famous sculptures is the Monolith. The column is carved out of a single block of stone, consists of 121 figures. and is completely covered by human figures. At the bottom there are seemingly inert bodies.
Above them, figures ascent in a spiral, the movement halting midway and then rising at a fast pace towards the summit which is covered by small children. Surrounding the Monolith are 36 groups in granite depicting the cycle of life. While I admired the sculptures, Anuradha was more interested in the flowers. The flowers were blooming in riots of colours, shaped and designed exquisitely.
Out of the park Anuradha wanted to see the highest skiing point that was quite famous. She had heard that at the very top of Oslo towers the new Holmenkollen Ski Jump - the world's most modern ski jump is located. It is an imposing monument of steel and concrete. Holmenkollen hosts FIS World Cup ski competitions each year. We asked people for direction and got on bus 20, changed to bus 1B at a stop and went up to the ski point, in fact past it.
We wanted to see what lay further up. The view was simply fantastic. It was high, so high that Anuradha said, “The air is thinner here. I could feel it.” We were just opposite the sea front where we were earlier and it looked far below across. We got down on our way back at Holmenkollbakken, surveyed the ski spot and were taken aback at the sheer height of it. We then took the next bus 1B back to Majorstuen where we had got up earlier and changed to a tram Disen 11 that went past our hotel and we decided to get down to freshen ourselves. It was a long tour of the city and the time was 5:45 pm.
After a cup of coffee in our rooms and freshening up we were out again. We took tram number 18 and sat through the entire route seeing places so far on either ends that we felt we had seen enough for the day! The tram took us up another hill from where we could see islands, lovely houses, gardens etc. It was indeed a fulfilling day. We decided that we would take another day ticket the next day and get a full view of the places that we might have left unseen!
Our third day in Oslo. Once again we took a day ticket for 70 Norwegian kroner and from our Jernbanetorget stop near our hotel, first took bus 30 to the Theatre House spot where there were plenty of flowers and beautiful fountains. As my card did not work on the bus though I had paid for it, we first went to ‘Seven Eleven’ store to try it out, because we had bought our cards at the ‘Seven Eleven’ shop near our hotel. But the boy there could not do anything about it and said that the card was loaded. I had my receipt with me. One should never throw the receipt of such cards. We went to the Metro station and Meghali got my card validated. Otherwise if the police happened to check we would be in trouble.
After sitting for a while in the park taking in our cameras the fountains and the beautiful flowers of the place, we took a tram back to our hotel. But before getting down at our hotel stop we set out on another trip simply sitting on the tram without getting down anywhere. The rest in the tram did us good!
Later, we took the Aker Brygge destination bus number 54 and went to the pier. Then we took a ferry to Bygdoy island just to have some experience in boat on the sea. We walked leisurely past the main pier, the castle, and to the point where the ferry took us to different islands. We did not get down, just savoured the sea ride to the islands. After the sea rides we once again got back to our hotel on bus number 60. Our hotel was at such a central point that almost all lines stopped at Jernbanetorget.
After some rest we went to the pier taking the same bus number 54. Public transport is so much convenient in these places. We had to wait just for 5 to 7 minutes before we got the next bus of the same number. And the best thing is that the numbers of the buses keep on flashing on a digital board in every bus or tram station telling us which bus would come at what time and exactly at that given time the bus or the tram would arrive.
We sat at the pier for some time enjoying the view of the sea, the food joints, and the people sitting there. Then as rains started to fall we went inside a mall, did some shop hopping, bought chicken roast and lamb moussaka and ate at the same shop before getting on to bus 54 back to our hotel.
The three days that we were in Oslo, we spent long hours outside, till almost midnight. And we could see the sun still in the skies.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]