Nasjonal Musset for Kunst

Today was rainy and cool, so we went to the art gallery of the National Museum, which displays art from Roman times up to the mid-twentieth century. Much of it is from Norwegian artists, but there is art from all over the world. (There’s even one piece by a Swedish artist, Anders Zorn.)

The go-to piece here is Edward Munch’s “The Scream.” As you might expect, it draws quite a crowd – but unlike the Mona Lisa, you still can get close enough to appreciate it – if art appreciation is what you had in mind.

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Maggie and I hadn’t had that much exposure to Norwegian artists. We were impressed by the quality, and by how connected they were to trends in the rest of the art world. They had an intense appreciation for the natural world around them; even though it was sometimes pretty harsh, they found beauty.

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Another feature that differentiates the Norwegian art is how unhappy so many of the subjects were. For the most part, they were sick, hungry, cold and tired. The people seem to feel all of the depths of the human experience with very few of the heights. Their only saving grace seems to be that they had artists of passion, skill and empathy to capture their misery.

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The art from the rest of the world is more upbeat. One piece that stood out to me was Artemisia Gentileschi‘s “Santa Maria Maddalena Penitente.” Take a look at this for a minute:

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This painting is unusual for several reasons: for one, it’s by a female artist, one of the few women painting in the post-Renaissance era; for another, the tone of the painting is completely the opposite from that shown in most of the other paintings of Mary Magdelene, where instead of being filled with inspiration as she is here, Mary is either sexualized, consumed by regret for past sins, or both; her life is spent, and all that remains is fear of divine retribution. It goes without saying that those other works were all painted by men.

For us, the one take-your-breath-away painting was Andrew Wyeth’s “Albert’s Boy.”

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It’s hard to see in this picture, but the level of detail is amazing. Maggie and I were sucked into this boy’s world and couldn’t get away. Even the detailed photo below doesn’t begin to show the work that went into making this painting. The surface has been repeatedly scraped and scratched, then washed over with a fine glaze. Clearly, Wyeth was expressing the depths of feeling that were raging under this placid exterior.

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It was a good reminder for us of why we need to keep going out to look at actual paintings. A photo just can’t convey the three dimensional reality of an original piece.

All in all, this is a fine art museum. There’s a nice variety of art, it’s all approachable, the crowds were manageable on the day we went, and it’s a decent size, so we weren’t overwhelmed at the end of the visit. If nothing else, for a few hours we left the crushing reality of the outside world and entered into other people’s reality for a little while. I’m happy to say that we were glad to be back – those “good old days” weren’t necessarily as good as people would like to think.

Nasjonal Musset for Kunst

Musikkfest Oslo

On the first Saturday in June, Oslo welcomes summer with hundreds of musicians on almost 40 outdoor stages, pulsating  the atmosphere all over town. All sorts of genres are represented: rock, country, pop, electronica, jazz, hip hop, world music, choirs (even Norwegian folk music, they say — but we haven’t heard any of that). The Norwegians declare it National Music Day; the local version is Musikkfest Oslo. Bands play in streets, parks, stages and squares, from noon to midnight, all over town.

It’s all for free – we don’t know who pays the musicians, but we assume it’s a government function of some sort. If this is Socialism, I say:Yes says Clay

There’s an open air bar in the block behind us, so we don’t have to leave the apartment to hear music. Unfortunately this venue leans more towards Euro/techno pop that’s not our favorite. After today, we may develop a taste for it. (We have definitely developed a taste for the pizza and beer they have there. Spicy sausage and an IPA – yum!) And hey, if you don’t like the music, you can always start your own band.

Clay playing instrument (002a)

Yes, Austinites, this is June 3rd, and we’re wearing jackets. Some of the locals are in short sleeved shirts, a few are in shorts — but hey, it’s less than 100º, so we’re bundling up. On the other hand, it takes a lot to discourage us from getting an ice cream cone.

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Musikkfest Oslo

Early Observations about Olso, Norway

General:

First impressions of Oslo have been great.  Perhaps it has something to do with delirium from jag lag or the wine?  Regardless, adjusting to Oslo has been quick.  The first night here I slept 13 hrs. straight through and 11.5 hours for Clay!  Wow!  Never done that on an overseas trip before.  Our AirBnb apartment is just what we had hoped for when we booked it months ago.  It is in a great location and has a separate bedroom, kitchen, bathroom (with washing machine), living room/dining room, and a nice entry way.  AirBnb rocks!

Prices:

I am so glad people had warned us about prices in Norway.  They were correct!  We were prepared for it by planning to spend less by only eating out once a day.  Lunch is the cheapest meal (daily specials) so we have made that our main meal of the day.   Curious to me is why the grocery store prices in our neighborhood “cheap” grocery stores is about what you find at Whole Foods.  We were actually happy about this when you compare it to eating out.

Wine prices didn’t surprise us too much because we were in Sweden last year, and know about state monopoly prices.  You can only buy wine at the state stores; however, we found wines we were familiar with, and the prices looked like Whole Food’s wine department prices.  Where is Trader Joe’s when you need them?

Beer is the strangest of all.  You can buy beer at only 2 types of stores.  Beer can be bought at local grocery stores, but only beer with less than 4.5% alcohol.  An IPA will run you about $4.00 per beer so consider our surprise to pay $24.00 for a 6 pack of beer.  Think we will be drinking wine here.

The state monopoly stores sells beer with alcohol greater than 4.5%.   Apparently drinking is a problem here with such long cold winters, so the government is trying to control drinking by only allowing purchase at state stores. Maybe they should switch over to coffee, like the people of Seattle.

People

Oslo folks are friendly and English widely spoken.  Good thing because our Norwegian is almost zero.  There is a surprising diversity of people here, and I would assume because of the new immigrants.  Lots of ethnic restaurants in our neighborhood and we approve!

One of the things we have observed is –  like Stockholm, you see Oslo men everywhere pushing baby carriages.  I absolutely love this!   Both parents receive time off from work.  Parental leave – how civilized.

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Early Observations about Olso, Norway

The Naked Tourists

Maggie and I are off on our next big trip: we had so much fun in Sweden last August, we decided to beat the Texas heat and spend this summer in Scandinavia. We’re actually not going back to  Sweden on this trip, but not for any reason other than it’s a big world and we’ve seen so little of it, we don’t want to repeat ourselves. This year’s itinerary is a tour around the Baltic Sea: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, finishing up in Denmark, then back to Austin.

We didn’t plan this trip as thoroughly as we usually do. By the time we wound up putting on two weeks here, an extra few days there, we had a total of 99 days that we’d be gone – completely forgetting about the 90 day limit for foreigners to stay in the Schengen region. Surely that wouldn’t apply to us! Who would not want a few more days of Clay and Maggie! But no! A little checking revealed that it depends on what country you’re leaving from – the farther south you go, the less they care. A stern warning from the Dutch customs agent on our arrival, confirmed by a quick  email to the Danish embassy in New York, was enough to chastise us. Feeling like stupid Americans, we are having to change our return date to the 28th of August, our 90th day.

One way that we did repeat ourselves was to have our luggage lost in Amsterdam. For the third time in a row of changing planes in Amsterdam, our luggage remained at the airport while we flew on to our destination. In this modern age, everything is recorded and tracked on computers, so the woman at the lost luggage counter in Oslo could tell us exactly where our bags were; she just couldn’t tell us exactly when we would get them — that requires human intervention. At this point we’re still waiting for the baggage delivery human to intervene. We’ve been wearing these clothes since Tuesday and now it’s Thursday afternoon, so we are anxiously anticipating his arrival.

Well, it’s a beautiful day – warm and not a cloud in the sky, so we’re going to head out a little and explore our neighborhood, while keeping a close ear to the phone for the luggage delivery guy. More stories and pictures to come!

As you can see, the luggage delivery guy eventually did show up.

The Naked Tourists