Where's Sam the Man

48 countries, 12 months, one man, half a brain

Name: Samuel Hathaway
Location: Roaming..., Germany

Monday, July 23, 2007

Norway

Ahh, Norway. Let's start with the basics. First, Norwegian men are the most manly Scandinavians. Their jaws are squarer, they wear their hair in ponytails...in short, you would want them on your side in a bar fight. Danish men are just too small, and Swedish men are all baby-faced. You point out that I have not seen the Finns, yet, and you would be correct. However, whenever I talk about Finland with other Scandinavians they always have a pitying smile on their face. Finns just don't count. According to the people I've talked with, the Finns are blond like Scandinavians, but drink like Russians, talk like Martians, and drink a coffee so terribly weak that they are considered completely apart from everything Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian.

Second, Oslo is remarkably unremarkable. In fact, it is remarkable only for its unremarkableness. You walk the streets and can't help but mark the unremarkable nature of the town, and remark what you marked about the unremarkable landmarks to your friends, and how remarkable it is. Admitidly, it has all of the criteria of a European city: cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes, expansive parks, old churches, etc. But it has none of the cultural vibrancy or richness that I found in Copenhagen or Vienna. Actually, much of the city is quite modern, making the old town quite small. What does remain is not ugly or a disgrace -- it is simply bland. It is a city without a face. The one exception to this is an astounding sculpture park out on the edge of town, almost hidden away, as if Norway was ashamed at its rebellion to Oslo's dullness. It is built to honor the work of a Mr. Vigelund. Actually, it was while he was still alive (you may infer that he is now dead) that he was given a house and an empty park nearby in anticipation of a museum and sculpture park honoring his accomplishments -- I call that pretty trusting. Especially when you consider Oslo's cultural richness (or lack thereof). Nonetheless, he came through, and created an outstanding, thought-provoking series of 215 sculptures for this park. Each sculpture is a naked, Art-Deco styled human posed in an ever-ranging variety of puzzling, fascinating poses. They range in size from tiny babies to a massive tower of intertwined bodies. They are spread out over acres of land, supporting fountains, decorating bridges, scaring young children. You could walk for hours through the park, contemplating each sculpture.

Third, Norway is one of the most beautiful, pristine countries in the world. I started my first day of biking in Norway, and I don't think I will have another day like it. As soon as you leave Oslo, you are thrust into glorious, untouched wilderness. Broad, rolling hills of pine rear up alongside displays of birch, fields of wildflowers, moss-covered troll caves, pristine streams... The trees grew so thickly there was hardly room for the little country road I was on, much less room for breathing. I was alone for most of the 120 km; the sweeping hill-top views didn't reveal a house for miles. The few cabins that I did pass were of the most charming Scandinavian style, painted rich reds and golds, with carefully tended gardens. It was a painful ride, but there was no way to get tired of the scenery. Completely breathtaking. Both the land and the bike ride.

In sum, make your alliances with Norwegian men, and come to Norway for is natural, not cultural, riches.

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