Sweden, Norway part III: Closed for Easter

National Gallery in Oslo has photo taken in Hoonah

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2007

Last month I ended Part II: Sweden and Norway with the statement, "We were unaware of our big mistake." Our big mistake was that we picked up an Oslo/Bergen schedule at the train station without talking to a Scan-Rail information clerk.

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The next morning, we took a taxi to the Central Station. The station was extremely busy. Most of the folks carried skis. We boarded the crowded train. A conductor asked to see our reserved seat tickets. We did not have reserved seats. He told us that there were no seats left because of the one-day airline strike. All the passengers were on their way to spend their traditional week before Easter at the ski resorts or at their mountain cabins.

We pulled our suitcases back to the Hotel Stefan and checked in for two more nights. Because the Stefan was closing for a week before Easter, the clerk booked us into the Thon Hotel Opera for Sunday night. The Opera was not closing for the week before Easter. Many hotels, restaurants, shops and museums were closing for Easter.

We spent the rest of the morning in the National Gallery. The gallery is organized around schools of art and every gallery includes Norwegian artists and sculptors. The psychologist in Don was especially in awe of Munch's Scream and the fact it was in angry colors. Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was Norwegian, and he painted a number of versions of the Scream including the famous black and white version that is found in so many textbooks. Munch also painted works that are more traditional than the Scream.

We were astonished when we walked into a gallery that featured a photograph titled, "Friday/Saturday, Dixie D's Snack Bar, Hoonah, Alaska, Early Hours of the Morning 1999/2000." The photo is of a woman sleeping on a lawn chair in the kitchen of Dixie D's Snack Bar. We were surprised to see a photo taken of Hoonah in Oslo's National Gallery. Tacita Dean, of London, was the photographer.

After lunch we walked to the Akershus Fortress Complex. We spent an hour in the Norwegian Resistance Museum. In 1940 the Nazis invaded Norway. Even though the Norwegians lost more than they won during the occupation, they never gave up their resistance. The Norwegians printed newspapers, had ham radio contact with Britain, fought battles, trained resistance fighters and refused to do what the Nazis demanded. Many died.

I was especially moved by the fact that teachers refused to teach what the Nazis demanded and some of the teachers ended up in concentration camps. We also learned that there were far more concentration camps than we were aware of. The Resistance Museum's map of Germany was covered with camps; there must have been at least 100 concentration camps. The Resistance Museum left us drained by the horror.

Oslo has many fine museums. I wanted to see the Henrik Ibsen Museum. However, the playwright's museum was closed for Easter and renovation. Most of the Ibsen portraits and statues suggest that Ibsen was quite grumpy.

We took the ferry to the Kon-Tiki Museum. Don and I remembered hearing about the voyage of the Kon-Tiki and we read (everyone read) Thor Heyerdahl's book in the 1960s.

Therefore, it was a thrill to actually see the papyrus Kon-Tiki and Ra II in the museum. Heyerdahl hired international crews. When they arrived at their destinations, he and his crews did archaeological digs. In 1955 on Easter Island, Heyerdahl found that the famous Moai heads had bodies. After the excavation, Heyerdahl, his crew and the Easter Islanders raised the sculptures into an upright position.

In addition to the Moai stone statues, the Easter Islanders also have secret caves and narrow chambers leading down and across to the caves where they worship and show respect to their ancestors. We also saw photos of Easter Island that we had never seen before. The island is dramatically green surrounded by the blue Pacific Ocean.

Heyerdahl received many honors and awards. He was awarded an Oscar for his documentary of the voyage of the Kon-Tiki. Also on the grounds is the Fram Museum. The Fram is a ship that made voyages of exploration to Antarctica and the Arctic.

We took the ferry back across the harbor. The Nobel Peace Center is quite close to the ferry dock. A visit to the Nobel Peace Center is a powerful experience. The temporary exhibit featured Robert Capa, war photographer and friend to John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Ingra Bergman. He covered wars from the Spanish Civil War to the Viet Nam War where he died. Capa seldom took photos of the dead. Instead he showed the effects of war on the faces and body language of those affected by death and war. We watched the 55 minutes documentary about his life. The exhibit and the film brought tears to the eyes of most of the visitors. The Nobel Peace Center's permanent exhibit features all the recipients of the Noble Peace Prize.

We ended our day in the Hotel Opera's luxurious restaurant. The starter was shrimp with pomegranate seeds and orange peel. The filet of beef was tender, flavorful and beautifully presented. The one serving of lemon pie came on two plates with coconut ice cream and sugared lemon. Our waiter's personality and jokes reminded us of Victor Borge.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.

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