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Blog: Blog2

Light Roast Coffee, St. Olav, and La Traviata

The sun rises at just before 5:00 AM, so I was happy to have slept until 6:30 yesterday. I got up and fixed my spinach and eggs, and ate my plums that I had purchased the day before. I think the spinach must not come pre-washed here–there were some gritty bits in there. I’ll know better tomorrow! I also made coffee in Ole’s fancy Mocca Master coffee maker. I read that everyone in these very northern countries love their coffee and they they drink light roast. That’s what Ole had. I understand that light roast is supposed to be the best, but I prefer the taste of dark roast. I also prefer dark chocolate, and it seems to be pretty rare in this country! The milk chocolate is yummy, though!

My first stop of the day was to be the National Museum. Now that I’ve figured out the public transportation, which is great, my phone guides me to the bus or tram station. On the nice, sunny walk there, I passed 2 very fat cats. Everyone has pots of flowers outside their buildings, like this one.

I made it to the museum before opening time. It was around 9:30 when I arrived, and they didn’t open until 10:00. I saw a shiny object in the distance, so I walked to see what it was. I still don’t know, but there it is. I saw a coffee shop nearby that looked interesting, so I thought I would give it a try. Yet again, it was light roast, so I didn’t really like it. I wandered around a bit and visited St. Olaf’s Cathedral. It also was not open, but I got a nice picture of St. Olav and his peace sign. I noticed a sign for the St. Olav bookstore, but of course it was also not open until 10!

I spent the rest of the time near the entrance of the museum because I realized I could use the wifi. Also, a group of fashionable Italian senior citizens was there, and one of them kept bumping into me as she needed to walk by me several times. Finally, the door was unlocked at 10:00, and I bought my ticket and got started. The layout of this museum is great, because it goes in chronological order by period. The rooms corresponding to each stylistic period are painted the same color, so you know if you’ve gotten off course.

Somewhere in the Baroque is where the art started appealing to me most, like in music. Then in the Romantic period, it really got good. Of course, the highlights of this museum are the Norwegian landscapes and Munch’s Expressionist paintings. The landscapes are beautiful and made me excited for the train journey I’ll be taking tomorrow! Seeing several of Munch’s paintings along with “The Scream” made me realize that all of his paintings are not about nightmare scenes. They’re all kind of dreamy but not scary.

After the museum, I realized that I was by the Royal Palace, so I walked over there to check it out. There is a beautiful park with many flowers blooming (it’s early Spring here), including some strange lily I’ve never seen before. Maybe someone can identify it. The shoes I wore today are not at all comfortable for walking, I’ve realized, so I didn’t make my way all the way up to the palace. Seeing it from a distance was fine.

Turning around, I noticed that I was on one of the major streets, Karl Johans Gate, which is like their Champs-Elysées. “Gate” is the Norwegian word for “street,” by the way. There were many shops and tulips and pansies. At the other end of the street would be the Oslo Domkirke (Cathedral). I found it and realized that on Fridays, they are only open from 4:00-Midnight. I thought I might return later in the day–after the opera. There are some interesting cafes and art shops surrounding the Cathedral as well.

Next stop: Aker Brygge, which is the pier where you can buy peel & eat shrimp right off a boat. As it was time for lunch, that is exactly what I did. They were 100 NOK for a liter. Fortunately, I was able to buy 1/2 liter for 50 NOK ($6), which was plenty. Being me, I needed a vegetable, so I went in search of a simple salad to go with it. Finally, I found a nice place where you can have them create a salad for you. Actually it was too nice since it cost 99 NOK ($13), and I had to get 4 vegetables and 1 protein. I chose goat cheese for the protein since I had 1/2 liter of shrimp to eat. I made my way back to the pier and sat and ate the shrimp. They were the most delicious, sweet shrimp I have ever eaten. It was quite a job to eat them since not only were they cooked with the shells on, but also the head were still on. I’m sparing everyone a photo of the remains.

I was very tempted to buy ice cream from one of the many vendors by the pier, but I resisted. Also, I didn’t have 35 NOK in change to buy the one scoop I wanted. The Nobel Peace Center is right at the pier, so I went in to see what it was about. I read a review that it might be a waste of time, so I didn’t pay the admission. The gift shop had some interesting things for sale, though, including a t-shirt that said “Imagine Whirled Peas.”

I realized that the train just in front of the Nobel Peace Center goes to Frogner Park, which is known for all of its 212 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. Some are in granite, and some are in bronze. I overheard a tour guide telling a group of children that at the age of 70, Vigeland began making one sculpture per month so that he would finish the project before he died. The centerpiece of the park is the obelisk with hundreds of bodies spiraling up it. Surrounding the obelisk are rows of statues that show people in different stages of life. It was pretty amazing, and I’m glad I went! I believe this was all done during the 1930s, and I love the art deco gate at the entrance!

On my way back to the apartment for a nap before the opera, I stopped by the Oslo Central Station to pick up my train tickets for my Norway in a Nutshell tour that will happen Saturday-Monday. I’ll be spending the night in Flåm and Bergen, and we makes stops and transfers at a few places in between. Apparently I’ll be seeing amazing fjords and waterfalls. What freaks me out a bit is the Flåm railway, which has one of the steepest inclines of any train in the world. I suppose the brakes work!

Picking up the tickets was a breeze, so I took the bus the rest of the way to the apartment. Ole was there, and I asked him for a dinner recommendation near the opera. He said there was a tapas place just over a short bridge from the opera house. Sounds perfect! I had a brief nap and headed out! I walked part of the way and took the bus the rest of the way. I saw the restaurant that Ole had described right away. It was in a new area that is being built right on the water. This all kind of reminded me of Battery Park City in NYC. The bridge from the opera house was some sort of temporary floating bridge. I love that they have ramps on nearly all stairways here to help people take their bikes up the stairs!

The restaurant, named Promenaden something or other, was not very busy when I arrived, but the outside seating area was pretty bustling. I suppose it was early for dinner, but it was necessary to eat before the 7:00 opera! This was clearly a place for locals so far, because the menu was only in Spanish (because it’s tapas) and Norwegian. Fortunately, I eat tapas as often as possible, so I basically knew what I was ordering. I got a fig salad, salmon ceviche, and bacalao. It was delicious and not terribly expensive. However, I do prefer Eclipse di Luna in Atlanta!

I was finished around 6:15, so I walked around a bit, took some pictures of the opera house, and visited the gift shop. The urinals in the bathroom were the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, by the way. I didn’t take a picture, but it was kind of like a waterfall with very nice tiles. It appears that people eat & drink in the lobby until the last minute, because most seats were empty when I got to my seat. It’s a very nice opera house with beautiful woodwork and nice orange seats. My seat, which only cost about $12, had a good view, but it was a padded stool without a back. I was fine with that.

A man sat next to me who I found out was French but lives in Norway. He said that Norwegians don’t have any culture (like the French do, I assume), and that only the old people (like him) have culture in Norway. He also said that the opera house is now always full for every performance because it is a beautiful new building. According to him, at the previous opera house, you would always buy tickets at the door instead of purchasing in advance. At least people are going to the opera! Another thing he said was that they do very modern staging here, which he doesn’t like so much.

As the opera began, it was clear that this was, indeed, a modern staging. The set consisted of what seemed to be a ballroom floor built on a raised platform about 3 feet off the ground. Some of the staging was PG-13 at best, in a very suggestive way, especially in the “Brindisi.” Violetta sang the beginning of “Estrano…” in the fetal position, which was quite impressive. Some of this staging didn’t work for me, but overall it seemed pretty effective and sort of helped bring out some of the drama. I think the director was using a lot of it to symbolize background information on the characters. For example, in Germont’s big aria, there was scene with the family, including Alfredo, sitting down for dinner back in Provence–sort of like a flashback. Oh, and Germont shot Alfredo. I don’t think Verdi wrote that. My French/Norwegian neighbor said, “It is a new opera!” Alfredo came back later. He looked pretty dead earlier, but he had more to sing. Maybe he was supposed to be in Violetta’s imagination?

About the voices, I thought Violetta was quite amazing. She sang beautiful, floaty high notes and rich, full tones when needed. She did the acting very well too and was absolutely crazed by the end. I did not really enjoy Alfredo’s voice. Unfortunately, he was an American tenor. It lacked the ease, beauty, and resonance, that I would like to hear. Germont was pretty great and had better high notes than the tenor, although, as the Frenchman said, it should have been a more bass type of voice.

When the opera got out at 9:45, the sun was setting, which made for much better photographs of the opera house. I was really hungry about 1/2 way through the opera, so I got a chocolate covered pistachio ice cream bar from the 7-Eleven (yes, 7-Eleven). I got home, talked to Ole about my departure the next morning, and wound down from a long day.

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