September 20 - October 4: Two Weeks in Europe
Return to the Index for 1986


September 13-19, 1986
A Week in Oslo, Norway

 

The first half of 1986 didn't present any picture-taking opportunities; Grant was absorbed in his job with Senco, until he changed jobs in September and went to work for Anderson and Associates, a contract furniture showroom in the World Trade Center over on Stemmons expressway. He seems pleased to be working with furniture again. For my part, I continued to travel and teach, going mostly to places not known for being tourist destinations (which is why there are no pictures of those places).

In August, though, an assignment in Europe was given to me; it would be three weeks of classes for NATO. The first week would be in Oslo, Norway, and the other two weeks would be in Mons, Belgium. These would be picture-taking opportunities, so I took my camera. Unbeknownst to me, though, the camera began to malfunction shortly after I arrived in Norway, and a good many of my pictures from this trip did not turn out very well. So on this album page and the next, you'll find the quality of the pictures not as good as they have been.

 

Getting to Oslo and the Norum Hotel

Grant wasn't too pleased that I was going to be gone for three whole weeks, but I promised him I would call regularly, and I did. I didn't like being away that long either; I am basically a homebody at heart, but we both had to grin and bear it.


I am still using Steve Goldberg from Chicago as my travel agent (doing all your own arrangements online, which is very common today, was unheard of in 1986), and I always ask him to be as conservative as possible when it comes to the cost of the trip (even though the client always pays the travel costs); the minimum cost trip involved a number of stops (although there isn't a direct flight to Oslo from DFW anyway).

I wanted to arrive in Oslo on Saturday, rather than Sunday, so I could get acclimatized and have a day for sightseeing as well. So Steve put me first on an overnight flight from DFW to London.

I am starting to build up a significant number of miles in American's new AAdvantage frequent flyer program, and I have reached the first elite level, so I like to fly them whenever I can (as I get better treatment).


The flight to London on American Airlines left about 5PM from DFW, and it arrived at London's Heathrow Airport early on Saturday morning.

At Heathrow, I I connected to Scandinavian Airlines (one of American's partners in its worldwide program); the flight went first to Amsterdam and then on to Oslo, with one short stop in the town of Stavanger on the southwest coast of Norway.

Stavanger is Norway's third-largest urban area, and it is located on the Stavanger Peninsula in Southwest Norway. The city was founded in 1125, the year the Stavanger Cathedral was completed. Unlike most cities today, Stavanger's core is to a large degree 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses that are protected and considered part of the city's cultural heritage. This has caused the town centre and inner city to retain a small-town character with an unusually high ratio of detached houses.

The city has grown rapidly in recent years, primarily a result of Norway's booming offshore oil industry. Norway's largest company, the energy company Statoil is headquartered in Stavanger. I am going to be working at a NATO installation outside Oslo; Stavanger is also home to NATO's Joint Warfare Center.

When I arrived in London, the weather, which had been fairly warm in Dallas, had turned decidedly cooler, but when the plane landed in Stavanger, I could tell that the weather was cooler still. Finally, landing in Oslo, I found I needed my jacket. The temperature stayed in the 60s throughout my stay, and the weather was overcast most of the time.


I actually arrived in Norway early on Saturday afternoon; I followed the directions given me by the class coordinator to find my way from the airport to downtown Oslo and the Norum Hotel. I arrived there just after mid-afternoon, and checked in to this older hotel where NATO puts up people who come to the city to work at one of their installations.

I had gotten a map of Oslo at the little bookstore at the airport, and had located it on the map, so when the shuttle took me into town, I kind of knew where it was headed. The Hotel Norum turned out to be right in the city center, about a ten- or fifteen-minute walk from just about everyplace.

I spent the afternoon walking around the area by the hotel, and walked down to the city center for dinner that night. I have gone to look for some information I can include about the Norum, but they don't have a website it seems. I did find out that the hotel became part of a larger chain sometime after my stay this year; it is now the Frogner House Norum Hotel, if you want to look it up.

I was very tired after the overnight flight to London, and traveling most of the day to get to Oslo, so I really didn't want to try to do much sightseeing today; that's what tomorrow will be for.


I did take a couple of pictures of my room, which was comfortable but very basic. In the investigations that I have done this year, I've found that the hotel rooms have been significantly remodeled (perhaps a few times, since it has been 30 years after all between my visit and the time I am creating this page).

The Norum is an older hotel, built, I think, in the early part of this century. For a long time, Oslo was not much of a tourist destination, so the chain hotels didn't build here, and hotels like the Norum had all the business. Now, however, you can find everything from a Sheraton to a Hilton, but the NATO people still stay here. There is a convenient bus right to the NATO compound, and since the NATO people recommended the hotel, we feel constrained to stay there, even though there are newer, more luxurious and more expensive hotels further downtown.

As you can see, the room is quite plain. Their version of a queen size bed is one bed with two narrow mattresses that don't connect. The electric service was obviously added at a time after the hotel was built, since all the wiring is outside the walls. There is no television, although what I would do with Norwegian TV is beyond me, at least it would be something to have on for background.

I did find out a day later that there was an English-language channel, SkyChannel, and that the hotel has small televisions available for guests that want them, and I did pick one up at the desk. SkyChannel was mostly news and British shows, but it provided a bit of entertainment and background.


There are two chairs, the small desk you can see, and a small chest. The bathroom is pretty standard, although the fixtures are quite old. The centerpiece is a large bathtub. Europeans are more into baths than they are showers, but the Norum has added a shower head for its guests.

In the two pictures I took, you can see all of the room, save for the small bathroom near the door. I was about four flights up, and there was a little elevator- good for three or four people at the most- or you could use the stairs (which I did most of the time).

(I have noticed in the pictures I have found of the hotel's rooms today that they now, like almost every hotel anywhere, have flat-screen televisions in their rooms.)

On the other side of the room there was another small table, and two more chairs. There is a telephone, but I have been cautioned against using it to call home, since most European hotels add a hefty surcharge to any calls made with their phones. Sometimes, the surcharges can multiply the cost of the call by a factor of ten or more. There are no ice machines or vending machines, although I can get small amounts of ice from the dining room. The Norum, like most European hotels, serves a full breakfast that is included with the room, with just about everything you can think of, with the emphasis on Norwegian products, like fish. All in all the breakfast is quite good, and if I were more of a breakfast person, I could make a big meal out of it.

Two or three days I couldn't resist the breakfast buffet, and got up early enough to have a full breakfast before the shuttle bus out to the NATO installation arrived. Other days, I chose to take some fruit or a few of the packaged items to eat at lunch.

 

A Sunday Excursion Around Oslo

Saturday evening, before I went to bed, I collected some information at the front desk about places to go around Oslo. I didn't have a car, so I got some information about how the train system worked, as I would need that to go to one stop- the site of the 1952 Winter Olympic Games.


At left is a map of Oslo and the area around it; it is only as detailed as needed to give you an idea of where I went around town on Sunday. First, I walked around the area by the hotel, visiting a sculpture park a few blocks to the northwest. Then I introduced myself to the local transportation system by taking a train further northwest of Oslo to the mountain park that was the site of the 1952 Winter Olympic Games. Then I took another train back to the center of Oslo to walk along the harbor area. (I knew Grant would ask me about the boats I might see, and I wanted to take some pictures for him.)

I got up early on Sunday and went down through the lobby for my tour of Oslo. Anyplace in the US, the Norum would probably be the oldest building in town, but here it fit right in with the rest of the entire neighborhood. Down the street to the right were a number of small restaurants and neighborhood stores and shops, including a laundry where I did my shirts and things for the next week on the Continent. The Norum had a small lobby, but such oddities as a room on the second floor with a piano and places to sit and listen. No one was ever playing it that I could tell, but I sat down a few times without any audience and played for myself. The hotel was not air-conditioned, but then it was not very warm at this time of year. The bus to NATO stopped right in front of the building. The architecture of the hotel is really interesting, and would be quite a standout anyplace but here.

I had arrived in Oslo on Saturday so that I could spend Sunday wandering around the city, and I got an early start so I could see as much as I could; I had no idea when I might be in Scandanavia again (as it turned out, this would be 22 years hence).

 

Around the Norum Hotel

As I said, the Norum was in a pretty nice neighborhood. I discovered that there were a couple of foreign embassies within walking distance, as well as some Norwegian Government buildings. I decided to head over to a nearby park, and took a couple of pictures on the way:


The Norwegian Parliament Building

In Oslo, there are plenty of buses and electric trolleys, but mostly I walked around the city. This building, another classic example of the style of construction in Oslo, houses the Norwegian Parliament and is connected to the residence of the King of Norway. The area in front of the building is a very pretty park.


A Typical Residential Street

The city is full of areas like this, where the building are mainly apartments, and there are lots of little shops to serve the needs of the neighborhood residents. The area reminded me of Chicago; like Chicago, there isn't much parking except what you can find on the street. Off in the distance are the mountains that surround Oslo.

 

Frogner Park/The Vigeland Sculpture Park

In the middle of the 18th century Hans Jacob Scheel, then owner of the Frogner Manor, laid out a baroque garden adjacent to his new manor house. It was expanded by the people who followed him, starting with Bernt Anker (1746–1805) who bought Frogner in 1790 and expanded the main building. Benjamin Wegner took over the property in 1836 and he transformed the garden into a romantic park around 1840. Later, most of the arable land was sold to private developers.


Frogner Park was located northwest of the Norum Hotel, both of which are in the borough of Frogner; the park was historically part of Frogner Manor, and both the park and borough took their names from the original manor house. I walked the four or five blocks to it; very near the entrance there was a bridge/walkway into the park. From a point just inside the main gate to the park, I stopped to take a picture of the bridge ahead of me; it leads to a fountain and a monument called "The Monolith". From fairly bright weather earlier this morning, the sky was becoming rapidly overcast, and the temperature was dropping (not precipitously, but it was becoming noticeably cooler). The park is broad and well-laid out. One thing that struck me about Oslo was the complete lack of any kind of blighted, slum area. The entire city seems solidly middle-class.

Around one square kilometer remained when the City of Oslo bought the property in 1896 to secure space for further urban development. The municipal government decided around 1900 to make a park for recreation and sports. Frogner Stadium was opened near the road and the area near the buildings was opened to the public in 1904. Norwegian architect Henrik Bull designed the grounds and some of the buildings erected in Frogner Park for the 1914 Jubilee Exhibition.

The municipal government subsequently decided that Gustav Vigeland's fountain and all his monuments and statues should be placed in the park. The area was ready for Gustav Vigeland fountain in 1924 and the final plan was released in 1932 by the city-council. Most of the statues depict people engaging in various typically human pursuits, such as running, wrestling, dancing, hugging, holding hands and so on. However, Vigeland occasionally included some statues that are more abstract, including one statue, which shows an adult male, fighting off a horde of babies.

Frogner Park is the largest park in Oslo and covers about 125 acres; the sculpture installation is the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist. Frogner Park is the most popular tourist attraction of Norway, with between 1 and 2 million visitors each year, and is open to the public at all times.


The bridge was an excellent introduction to the park, and walking across it I got a close-up view of many of the Vigeland sculptures.

The Vigeland installation, originally called the Tørtberg installation, is located near the present centre of Frogner Park. It is the name of the arrangement of sculptures and not of an area as such, although tourists and maps often refer to the area as "Vigeland Park", a name rarely used in Oslo and considered inaccurate.

The sculpture area in Frogner Park covers 80 acres and features 212 bronze and granite sculptures all designed by Gustav Vigeland. In 1940 the Bridge was the first part of the Sculpture Park to be opened to the public. 58 of the park's sculptures reside along the Bridge, which is over three hundred feet long and about 50 feet wide. It serves as the connection between the main gate and the lawn just inside it and the Fountain.

All the sculptures are clad in bronze and contribute to the Human Condition theme of the park. One of the park's more popular statues, Angry Boy, was originally placed here, but is now located elsewhere. The bridge was one of the first elements of the park opened to the public, so visitors could enjoy the sculptures while most of the park was still under construction. At the end of the bridge lies the Children’s Playground, a collaboration of eight bronze statues, all in the likenesses of children at play.

At the highest point in Frogner Park lies the park's most popular attraction, The Monolith (which you can see in the distance in a picture above). Construction of the massive monument began in 1924 when Gustav Vigeland himself modeled it out of clay in his studio in Frogner. The design process took him ten months, and it is speculated that Vigeland had the help of a few sketches drafted in 1919. The model was then cast in plaster. I left the park and decided to take a local train further out northwest to the site of the 1952 Winter Olympics. On the way to the station, I took another picture of an Oslo neighborhood street, although the picture turned out much darker than I intended.

 

Holmenkollbakken

At the railway station, I found trains to both the city center and other parts of Norway. It was the desk clerk at the Norum who told me that one interesting trip to take was to take a train to the top of the mountains that border the city. I was told that you could get some good pictures from there. I found the right train to take up to the mountain, and then when the train stops you can take a bus to the top.


I found the bus ride to the top very neat as it wound along the curved highway getting up to the ski area, and I was able to ake a few pictures out the bus window. However, I was plagued by the same malfunctioning shutter as I have been before, so some of my pictures didn't turn out. The one at left was the best of those that did.

At the top of the mountain there was a snack bar and some facilities, including a gift shop, and great views of the countryside.

The 1952 Winter Olympics took place here and at other locations around Oslo. Discussions about Oslo hosting the Winter Olympic Games began as early as 1935; the city wanted to host the 1948 Games, but World War II made that impossible. Instead, Oslo won the right to host the 1952 Games in a contest that included Lake Placid in the United States. All of the venues were in Oslo's metropolitan area except for the alpine skiing events, which were held at Norefjell, about 70 miles from here. Oslo's games were the first where the host city built an "athlete's village" that was used for other purposes after the games concluded.

The Games attracted 694 athletes representing 30 countries, who participated in four sports and 22 events. Japan and Germany made their returns to winter Olympic competition, after being forced to miss the 1948 Games in the aftermath of World War II. Germany was represented solely by West German athletes because East Germany declined to compete as a unified team. Portugal and New Zealand made their Winter Olympic debuts, and for the first time women were allowed to compete in cross-country skiing. Norway dominated the overall medal count with 16 medals, seven of them gold. The Games closed with the presentation of a flag that would be passed from one Winter Olympics host city to the next. The flag, which became known as the "Oslo flag", has been displayed in the host city during each subsequent Winter Games.


Holmenkollbakken is the large ski jumping hill located at the site of the 1952 Winter Olympics. It has hosted festivals and contests since 1892. The hill has been rebuilt frequently since its first use; once a heavy snowfall collapsed it and it had to be entirely reconstructed. Of course, major improvements were made ahead of the 1952 Winter Olympics. In 1887, the road to Holmenkollen was opened, and in 1891 a local developer established a recreational center for winter sports and opened a tourist hotel in 1894.


The modern hill had its beginnings in 1948, when Oslo was awarded to host the 1952 Winter Olympics; a bonanza of plans followed. A new permanent grandstand was built, a jury tower was constructed, as was facilities for the delegates, the royal family and radio broadcasting. The in-run was rebuilt; while it previously had been a mess of open, wooden structures, it was shelled in, painted white and received an elevator. The hill was expanded and a new landing slope constructed. Below the lifted part of the hill a ski museum and restaurant were built. Even a lake was built nearby; it became a recreational and swimming venue for Oslo residents.

More upgrades were made when Oslo bid for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 1966, the take-off slope was moved back to allow for longer jumps, new concrete stands were built, and the tower was made taller. Another major reconstruction occurred in 1975, and the jump facility took on the form it has today. Throughout the late 1970s improvements were made in the electronic measurement systems, as well as lighting and audio systems, but these where more or less invisible.

In the off season, like now, you can pay a fee and go to the top of the ski jump where there are good views of the surrounding area. The fee was small and it turned out that the views were well worth it. Here are some of them:


The Head of the Skagerrak Fjord

Oslo is built at the end of a large, wide fjord, which provides access to the sea and makes Oslo a protected seaport. At the back here, the fjord widens out into a large bay, and there are a lot of boats it seems. This shot looks North. I imagine this is very pretty on a sunny day.


The Very End of the Fjord

Down there you can see a lot of private boats and a marina. On an afternoon later in the week I took a bus that takes you to the shores of the fjord, very near the marina that you see here. The area reminded me of Muskegon in the Fall, except for the mountains. This whole area Northwest of Oslo is residential.


Looking Southwest Across Part of Oslo

I am still on the the top of the ski jump at Holmenkollbakken.


A Lake in the Mountains Overlooking Oslo

I am back at what would correspond to a visitor center for these mountains. This shot looks South, and shows a small lake that has formed up here.


Southwest Across the Mountains Around Oslo

Outside of the cities and towns, Norway is pretty desolate, but beautiful. Perhaps it is something like Alaska.


Another View of the Mountaints Around Oslo

You can see the road through the facilities up here, and some transmission towers. I would imagine they are part of the main communication facilities for Oslo.

It was getting late in the afternoon up here, and getting quite chilly, so I thought I would head back to the hotel and then decide where to go for dinner. I caught another bus back down the mountain, and then a return train back into Oslo. Here is a view from the train as we came back into Oslo. I didn't encounter a lot of people today, but I enjoyed seeing parts of the city. I had dinner at a little cafe downtown; there were, actually, a lot of people out in the center city. And I began my class the next day.

 

An Afternoon Excursion to Oslo's Harbor

My class on Friday ended a bit early (as it usually does), so when I got back to the Norum it was only about three in the afternoon. Since I wasn't flying out until tomorrow morning, I decided to take a bus downtown and walk around the Oslo harbor that I had seen from the mountains the previous Sunday. Oslo is actually at the most inland point of the Oslofjord, one of the many fingers of the North Sea that intrude into the Scandanavian Peninsula. Located where it is, Oslo is a maritime center, with both commercial and private shipping and a large number of private pleasure craft.

(Picture at left)
This was a replica of an old sailing ship docked near the center of Oslo, Norway. Since getting together with Grant, I have been much more attuned to boats and boating and try to take pictures of the various boating areas that I might see on my travels. I know that these pictures interest Grant. I am not sure if this particular ship, or ones like it, were part of the "tall ships" flotilla that participated in the bicentennial.

 

 

(Picture at right)
Another view of the old sailing ship docked at Oslo, Norway. Note the complexity of the rigging. In the background are the familiar twin towers of the Oslo City Hall.


Very near City Hall, the picture at left shows some of the harbor area at Oslo, Norway. In the foreground are some of the private sailboats, and in the background is a ship that offers cruises up and down the coast of Norway and Sweden.


The harbor area at Oslo is home not only to commercial shipping, but to a plethora of private water craft as well. At right is one of the private marinas near downtown Oslo.

I think it is interesting that the boats and sailboats here are all much more sturdy-looking than the ones that I usually see around Dallas, particularly at Lake Ray Hubbard. I suppose that is because the weather here is so much more demanding.

As the weather got more overcast and the afternoon wore on, I took one final picture of the Oslo harbor. This is right at the edge of a marina area, with private boats in the foreground and some commercial shipping in the background. I enjoyed walking around Oslo, and indeed I enjoyed my week here. But tomorrow I will leave for my next two weeks of classes in Belgium.

 

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September 20 - October 4: Two Weeks in Europe
Return to the Index for 1986