Follow by Email

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Back to Oslo, Terje's apt, a few museums, the Opera House, a wonderful reunion with my friend Maryna, parting thoughts...

After a visit to the folklore museum in the morning, we hit the road, heading back to Oslo for our final stop and last two days. We had booked a second airbnb apartment for our second stay, giving us a chance to experience two different neighborhoods of the city.

We’d originally told Terje, our host, that we expected to be at his place around 1pm. As it turned out, though, his prior guest wasn’t leaving until 3pm. So he emailed that we could get in at 301!  And, we would have been there exactly on time, except for traffic as we approached the city, and then, googled mislead us, routing us to a dead-end with train tracks blocking our way. It took us another 10 minutes to figure out how to get around the tracks to the building.

And there was Terje, waiting for us at the door, and very friendly and welcoming. This was his own apartment, and he was just heading out on vacation, to Denmark.  We were actaully the first ones to have booked his place, although someone else subsequently booked the two days before us.
His apartment was great, with a beautiful balcony with good view and comfy chairs. And we were so lucky with the weather, there and on our entire trip. It rained some days, but only part of the day. I think we had much more sunshine than is typical. We were able to spend time on the balcony there, and outdoors in every place we visited.

 Terje was a collector, of a number of things. Although his style was a lot more sparse (Scandinavian?) than mine. He had mini figures of various kinds in different places in the apartment, and a collection of rubber duckies. He also had extensive collections of comic books, vinyl, and cds.  All meticulously arranged. I felt compelled to leave him a little gift, and found it in a toy store. I got Loring to spend about 20 minutes in because the Nobel Peace Museum, right down the street, wasn’t yet open for the day.

I bought him a windup jockey on horseback. Of course, I got myself one too, but mine was a cowboy. I left it on his turntable, where I hope he will find it soon, but not immediately upon his return.

Those windups came in handy later that day, when we met up with an old young friend of mine, Maryna, and her husband and daughter. More about that in a minute.

So we headed over to the Nobel Museum. To me, the most interesting part was before we went in. Outside was a large poster of Matt Damon as Bourne, quite a juxtaposition with the museum building. I’d seen a sign outside the museum asking folks to post pix to their fb page, which I think I will do.Not certain they'll appreciate the irony, tough.

The museum itself was a disappointment, sorry to say. There was an exhibit about a German man, a journalist and peace activist, who was imprisoned in 1934, to an international outcry. There had been a movement to have him awarded the prize, hopefully as a way to highlight his situation and force the Germans to release him. He contracted tb in prison, and died while supporters were trying to negotiate his release. That was fairly interesting, although the presentation was pretty dry.

The permanent part of the museum was of all the winners of the prize. But it was strangely done, with screens popping on and off, I guess to attract your attention, but forcing you to wait until the info about the person appeared. And they were in no particular order, forcing you to look for the ones you wanted to see. Perhaps that was an attempt to make it more interactive and interesting, but it was more frustrating than  anything else.

After the Nobel museum we went to another, the Ibsen house and museum. Again, the exhibits were very unineresting, and sparse.  One exhibit was about the connection between the Beatles and Ibsen, something I had not been aware of. Apparently, the Beatles double album had been named A Doll’s House, the name of one of Ibsen’s most famous plays. But another band used the name before the White album was released.   Yoko had been very fond of Ibsen’s work, and introduced John to it. Most interesting of all was the implication that John’s look with the granny glasses and sideburns, was a direct influence of Ibsen’s. That was the only interesting part of the very small museum.

Ibsen’s apartment, which he and his wife lived in for eleven years, and both died in, was very interesting, though, and well worth a visit. They both died in the early years of the 20th century, and from then until recently, the space had been used as offices. Their furnishings and possessions had all been disbursed.

In the early 2000’s a group was forced to restore the apartment to its appearance in Ibsen’s time. Amazinly, they were able to retrieve most of the furniture, and to recreate things fairly accurately from photographs. It was a large apartment, and we were able to see most of it, all except for the maid’s room. And the kitchen was not completely restored, was still being worked on, which only made it more interesting to me.

There were just the two of us, plus one other woman, and the guide. She had lots of interesting stories about Ibsen the man, and his peculiarities. Of most interest was the anecdote about how Susannah, his wife, had threatened to divorce him if he didn’t have his character Nora leave her husband in A Doll’s House. This made me wonder if perhaps Susannah had been author of aat least some of Ibsen’s work, a situation not unusual in famous male writers' life stories. And what a irony, since the story is entirely about a woman’s quest for autonomy.

We’d arranged to meet up yesterday afternoon with my friend Maryna, from Czernowitz, and her husband and daughter. I’d met her eight years ago, in Ukraine, on my trip working to clear the old and overgrown cemetery there.  For those to whom I’ve not yet told the story – I signed up for a project to work in this cemetery knowing that my family had some connection to the city, but that was all I knew. As it turned out, when I started to look into the family history, just a couple of weeks before the trip, I found out that it was the city in which y grandmother, and my mother’s sister Clara, had grown up. My grandparents had left there in 1914, leaving my infant aunt behind with my great grandparents, planning to arrange for her to be sent to the US once they were established there. But WW I broke out, and it was not until 15 years later that she came to the US. By then, my grandparents had four more children, my mother and her three brothers. Clara of course had never met them, nor would she have remembered her parents. My mother had a clear memory of meeting her sister for the first time, a strange girl in old fashioned clothes who didn’t speak English.
Most amazing of all, my great grandparents were buried in the very cemetery that I was going to work to start clearing.

Maryna, who I saw for the first time in eight years yesterday in Oslo, was a local Czernowitz girl who heard about our project on the news. It was unusual for a group of foreign volunteers to be doing anything there, I’m sure, and the Jewish cemetery?!

She came to join our group. Several other local folks did, too, for a day or two,  but Maryna was athe only one who joined the group for the duration of our stay. She didn’t speak any English, the common language of the group, but that didn’t stop her from communicating with any of us. Several people in the group spoke Russian, which all Ukrainians do in additional to their own language, and helped to translate.

I had tried to find my g grandparents’ graves on one of the early days of the project. A Canadian group had previously taken photos of many of the graves a few years earlier, and I’d been able to obtain the ones of my relatives’ graves. But it was terribly overgrown and I got lost and entangled in stinging nettles and had an allergic reaction. And I’d decided I’d had enough, that I wouldn’t try any further.
But, on the second to last day of the project, one of the volunteers, Pedro, asked if I wasn’t going to try to locate the graves. I explained what had happened when I did, and also said that it wasn’t the reason for a the project, and I didn’t feel it was right to take other members of the group away from our project. That didn’t stop Pedro and four or five of the other volunteers, including Maryna, from immediately forming a posse to find my great grandparent’s graves.

So off into the bushes and brambles we all went.  I stopped at a certain place, not eager to break out in hives again, which had lasted, excruciatingly, for several days.  The rest of them plowed on, and within less than five minutes, a call went up that they had located them.

We were all gratified, and Pedro tried to translate what was written on the stones in German. Maryna, through Pedro, had a question for me. Would it be okay with me if she came periodically to maintain the gravestones? Okay with me? Are you kidding? I will never forget that question, and how touched I was.

So here we were, eight years later, looking for one another in the bizarre sculpture garden designed by Vigeland, in Oslo, then reminiscing as we wandered among the odd statues and the hordes of tourists posing with them.

In the meantime, Maryna has travelled quite a bit, worked as an au pair in Oslo, gotten married and become a mother, become proficient in Norwegian and English, and is going to go back to school. In Norwegian.

It’s amazing how you can  reunite  with someone you’ve only known briefly, and quite a while ago, and pick up as if you’ve known each other all along.
 She’s not the only one of our group with whom I’ve stayed in touch, or even the only one of seen again. I’ve met up with Sophie again, in Paris. She recently joined the UN group of peacekeepers in Mali. I hope she stays save.

And I recently saw Clare, in Boston. She’s from Australia, wound up studying Yiddish there, and now works for a Yiddish organization. She’s worked for the Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts, and has a friend who’s a student at Vassar, and who knows my nephew Aaron.

And there’s several others with whom I am still in touch, and hope to see again at some point, from this project and from my other ones.

Well, after that digression, back to Oslo. We are on the plane now, heading home, about 4 more hours to go. This morning we walked through town to the Oslo Opera House and ballet. WE’d seen if from a distance before. It’s an impressive building, and one that the locals seem quite proud of. Although yesterday Sven and Maryna told us they’ve been having financial problems, it was quite an expensive project, and there’s been some contentious feelings about how much was spent.

We’d heard that the view from the roof of the building is spectacular, and it indeed is. Again, like at the Vigeland Park yesterday, there were hordes of tourists. Everywhere, from every angle, people taking pictures. Us unabashedly among them. You have the view of the harbor and fjord, the coast and traditional buildings of the city, massive amounts of construction, cranes everywhere. In recent years they have transformed what was old docks and warehouses to parks and buildings. There’s no question that in another five years the landscape will look completely different, as it no doubt does now from several years ago.

One of the newest districts is a business district called Barcode. When I first read about it I didn’t understand and thought it was something to do with bars. In fact the name derives from the idea that the lineup of buildings, each with its own distinctive architecture, resembles a barcode! 

We must have spent an hour up on the roof, or rather on the various facets of the roof, because it is all about angles and slopes and triangles. From one perspective I was reminded, by all the people clustered there, of people summiting a mountain. In their colorful clothes against the white slopes.
In the water just off the building is a glass sculpture that resembles an iceberg, and beyond it, a large white cruise ship docked, with another yet behind.

Parts of the building are marble slopes and walls, other areas are glass, others are textured concrete, to provide footing and keep folks from sliding. There aren’t many steps, but rather  ramps of jutting triangles in the floor surface.
From inside the building, the ceiling is what we were walking upon heading up the slopes of the roof. And we could see people peering down into the building through the glass surfaces, as others had no doubt seen us doing earlier.

Near the top, a seagull perched at a corner of the wall. It didn’t move as Loring got closer and took more photos. In fact, it was clearly posing. As we moved away, we saw others move in to take pictures as the bird remained. Surely it had once been tempted and training by people feeding it, but it no longer seemed to need that motivation. What was encouraging it to stay there and pose? The attention?

In the gift shop – lots of music and dance related stuff of course. Including batter stirrers with a musical score. Just as in the Munch museum with the Scream image. What is this about batter stirrers? A trend I have not yet noticed at museum stores in the US.

In a bin were a pile of well used pink ballet slippers, with a sign saying something like souvenirs,, not for use. 

I was tempted, I admit.

I peered around corners inside the building, hoping to find a view into the theatre itself, but no luck. I heard music, investigated, and discovered a film about a dance production of Swan Lake that had been created and performed there in 2014.  It was called “A Swan Lake” rather than just Swan Lake, and was clearly a different take on the ballet. 

  The film showed the performers building up to the premiere, rehearsing and talking about the work. Most impressive was a scene where they danced it a shallow pool of water on the stage, sliding, splashing, playing with the water.  We had come in after the film begun, so not sure what we missed. A different film aired afterwards.. But I’m sure that if I find out about another performance of the work, or even a filmed version, I will try my hardest to see it.
I also though,t having seen them perform in Boston recently, that the building would be an incredible space on which for Bandaloop to perform. They are an aerial dance group that dance on buildings. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if either the Oslo Ballet or Bandaloop have had this thought already. And oddly, in the Norwegian Airlines magazine here on the plane, there is a brief article about Bandaloop.

We walked back through the city to our apartment, stopping along the way for a snack/lunch in an old brick building that had formerly been a firehouse. Perfect last event to top off our stay. I had been mentally bemoaning the fact thatit seemed there were only pizza, hamburger, sushi, and kebab places along the way, when suddenly this placeappeared before us. They had shrimp sandwiches on baguettes ( the shrimp seem especially delicious here) and pastries and a delicious iced mocha. Loring thought it was too sweet. I said that was because he was thinking of it as coffee. He tried it again and decided it was much better than he’d previously thought. It is all a matter of perspective.
That is one of things I like best about travelling – the different perspectives it gives you, and how that changes you.

And now, a few last food related thoughts. We’ve read that pizza is the Norwegian national food, and it seems to be true. Apparently, next to the US, Norwegians are the largest pizza consumers per capita. And then there’s a brand of frozen pizza called Grandiosa that is supposedly a phenomenon on its own.  Something like the same with coffee.  This isn’t related to food, but I think they’re up top the scale on happiness too. Or maybe that is food related.

They have four meals a day. There is breakfast, lunch, midday, and then dinner. Dinner is light, sandwiches and such, and I think so is lunch. Midday is the big meal. It is actually at about 5pm.  I guess that is midday here, at least in the summer.

Pizza may be the “national” food, but my impression is that sushi is creeping right up there. It sure seems like there are more sushi restaurants than in the Boston area. Many of them are takeout.
Salmon, which is called laks, is prominent and not expensive. Shrimp, large and tiny, are popular too. We enjoyed the meals we ate out, but enjoyed the ones we cooked in our various airbnb accomodations just as much. Nothing better than a beer and some good bread and cheese, or salmon and potatoes, especially when paired with a view from a balcony or porch of a city or a fjord.  ( I surprise myself by thinking,pand saying, that about beer. It seems l I’ve come to a new appreciation of beer lately, either by circumstance or discovering better beers. Or maybe it’s just a matter of perspective.

So now we bid farewell to….I feel like I should let Loring end things here, as he begun this saga, with a few poetic words. But as he seems to be asleep at the moment, I’ll let it wait. 

No comments: