We disembarked the ferry from Denmark, grabbed a coffee and a croissant, and caught the local train into Oslo. Dave had visited before, and remembered an interesting sculpture garden in the centre which was our ultimate destination, but we stopped on the way to visit the grounds of the Royal Palace. Conway had had a rough night trying to sleep on the ferry and was feeling unwell, so we all relaxed in the pleasant grounds of the Palace and watched the birds so that he could have a snooze. Later it became clear that he wasn’t up to moving any further that morning, so we left him sleeping in the sunshine, and made our way into the city.
Vigeland Park, Oslo (Norway)
Frogner Park in central Oslo is dedicated to the works of the sculptor Gustav Vigeland. There are hundreds of life-like human figures, in bronze and in stone, engaged in all kinds of activities, both mundane and bizarre; juggling babies and fighting dragons as well as some beautiful thoughtful pieces.
The centrepiece of the park is a huge tower, carved (by seven sculptors over 11 years) from a single stone, and consisting entirely of human bodies; the bottom layers crushed and dead, getting younger as you move up the pile, to babies dancing on the top. This amazing piece is surrounded by twenty-odd additional sculptures of pairs of humans engaged in various acts depicting the path from birth to death.
Words cannot really describe this magical place.
On the way back to the Palace to check on Conway, we wandered through the streets of Oslo itself, and found that here, too, there were sculptures on every corner. I described the architecture in my diary as “quiet baroque interspersed with brutal concrete”, and noted that most of the young ladies had tinted their hair away from the ubiquitous Scandinavian blonde.
The temperature was now up in the low thirties, and Conway was very sick. We picked him up from the Palace and headed out on a local train to find somewhere to sleep, stopping on the way at a roadside shack for fish-burgers and ice-cream, where the kindly proprietor filled up a gallon water jug so that Conway could stay hydrated.
Later that evening, we tumbled out of the train on the shores of a likely looking lake, clambered over the rails, and found ourselves in some abandoned station buildings, the former Eidsvoll Station. We settled down nearby in a clearing in the trees, sending Conway to bed with a large tea and a dry crust, then set about preparing a meal. We had some packaged chow-mein that had been donated to us by some Chinese girls at the Copenhagen Interrail Centre, and a Vesta curry, and some macaroni soup. Not exactly gourmet stuff, but it was filling and washed down well with lots of tea.
We had intended an early start in the morning, to take the famous Oslo-Bergen line (widely acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world), but I’d forgotten to set my alarm, and we were all awoken at the last minute by Dave bashing a billy with a spoon. We quickly struck camp and then, with only eleven minutes to catch our connection, took the fastest route to the station which was to run along the rails to the platform. Boarding with two minutes to spare, we spent the short trip to Oslo washing up in the toilets.
We only really had time to breakfast in the Oslo station cafe. Conway was feeling a bit better, but was only able to force down some cornflakes. The rest of us examined the eye-watering prices for filled rolls, before realising to our delight that the cheapest option was to order tea with cream cakes, so that’s what we did.