“The Scream” perfectly matched our moods just before arriving at the Munch Museum. We’d spent a couple hours online trying to find lodging for Bergen and our first night on Lofoten and either there was no room at the inn, or a totally plain room would cost $400. ARGH….
We were so happy to leave the hotel and be tourists, and we started the day viewing Edvard Munch’s masterpieces. I really love his paintings and think it’s a pity he’s mostly if not only known for “The Scream,” which of course has been commercialized in a hundred ways. (Even I, yes, have displayed blow-up Scream dolls at several jobs.) The guy was talented but not what you’d call upbeat, a few titles to wit: “Melancholy,” “Angst,” Despair.” He does, however, have several versions of “The Kiss” and a lovely “Starry Night” of his own.
The newest “museum” in town is the Nobel Peace Center, which opened in 2005. It’s near City Hall, which is where the Nobel Prize for Peace is awarded yearly. The overriding messages as well as the current exhibit, “The Places We Live” about slums worldwide, are tremendously moving. But also, the center’s displays use the latest technology. It’s a very hip place, with a cool gift shop to boot.
At Vigeland Park, an open-air gallery of more than 200 sculptures of Gustav Vigeland, you also can’t help but be moved. Vigeland’s work celebrates the humanness of humanity, young and old, fat and thin, angry and loving. Everyone, including us, loves his most known piece, “Sinataggen” or “Little Hot-Head” which humorously portrays a little boy having a tantrum. But, like with Munch’s “Scream,” this shows but one side of the artist.
On the peninsula of Bygdøy, a quick ferry ride from the harbor, you can see old wood-beam farmhouses and a glorious stave church at the Norwegian Folk Museum. There’s also more contemporary housing, from the 30s, and even a look inside a stereotypical Pakistani immigrant’s home. (Most taxi drivers here are from Pakistan.) I loved the exhibit on the indigenous Sami (f.k.a. Lapps), both past and present. The museum was filled with schoolchildren, many wearing fluorescent safety vests with the school’s name and phone number. Very cute.
Just around the corner at the Viking Ship Museum we marveled at the three Viking ships from the ninth century that were excavated from 1867 to 1904. Just that they are there is amazing; their ornate carvings were a bonus. So was the busload of Russians there, chattering among themselves.
But the vessels that most fascinated us were the balsa raft that sailed from Peru to Polynesia in 1947 and the reed boat that crossed the Atlantic in 1970. Both were piloted by late Norwegian explorer extraordinaire Thor Heyerdahl and are at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Bygdøy. Wessel had long wanted to see them. Me, the ignorant American, had never heard of Heyerdahl or his scientific and cultural explorations. If you’re in the same boat as I was, do yourself a favor a read a little about this fascinating man. We need more like him.