My mum used to joke about my hometown, Solo (a city in Central Java) by making an anagram out of it– from Solo to Oslo, “just to make it sounds cooler (and for the fact that it’s a European city. It’s common for us to romanticise everything European.)”.
The thoughts on being actually in Oslo, moreover for my 24th birthday, never crossed in my mind until I came across ticket deals for a round trip to Oslo at the end of October. I checked Skyscanner like I always did in my spare times to see if somewhere is worthy and cheap enough to visit. Perhaps Oslo wasn’t a really popular destination during the period so the airlines gave £20 for a round trip? Without further ado, I purchased the tickets. The reason why I did so was because I was beyond stressed that time. I tried several attempts to land a job in London but failed miserably (due to some reasons whatsoever). I decided to gave my mind a break. Later, I contacted a friend of mine who happens to be studying in Alta, Northern Norway, for his blessings on this hilariously spontaneous birthday trip:
“What if I go to Norway? 3 days for Oslo, and 6 days for around Northern Norway?” I typed.
“Are you being serious? Go for it!” he promptly answered.
That’s how I finally set my foot in Norway for my birthday. The first ever birthday solo trip.
Flying around Europe (in this case, London– Oslo) is never a pain in the ass since it will take no longer than 3 and a half hour, so I’ll skip to the part when I arrived safely in Oslo. Getting around the city is extremely easy due to the existence of an online ticketing system called Rutterbillet (which I studied enough before I arrive). With the tip of the finger, I purchased transport tickets such as a one-way ticket to the city center from Oslo Gardermoen, and one-day passes for the subsequent days.
It was 5 PM when I reached Nationalteatret station near the city center followed by an en-route to the place where I’ll be staying. Regardless of being the capital of Norway, Oslo that day was quiet, extremely quieter than London. I expected crowds of people commuting home but everything seemed to contradict from it. 10 minutes into walking, I arrived at my apartment located in a neighbourhood called Vika. It was a strategic place where I can get around the city center easily within some few minutes walk. Perfect for my birthday plan which was two whole days of museums and art galleries walk.
I can always predict myself getting too overwhelmed after flights, no matter how short it was. I opted to ease up for the rest of the night and as everyone can predict, work a bit on something (I was doing a commissioned illustration that time). Additionally, I booked tickets for the museums hopping the next day. I was extremely exuberant.
However, it wasn’t everything rainbows and unicorns the first night I arrived in Oslo. Despite that I fell asleep quicker than I usually do, I was woken up by a sudden asthma attack– on my freaking birthday. I couldn’t believe my body decide to surface an illness that has been dormant for at least almost a year (I stopped having asthma attacks since I moved to London). The worst thing about this attack was I didn’t bother to pack medicines and inhaler since I never consume any of them for months. I came upon a solution to build a homemade nebulizer by boiling a pot of water and inhale the steam. It worked.
I quickly continued my sleep so that I can get up on time of my schedule.
Everything went magnificently as I woke up as I expected: 9 AM sharp. Having nothing in the fridge for breakfast, I decided to get ready and went on a mission to find any open restaurant before 11 AM. Everyone might already know which specific restaurant was the only thing open during that time on a Sunday (re McDonald’s). Shortly, I ordered the classic McDonald’s breakfast menu (a muffin sandwich and a hash brown), complete with a cup of piping hot latte. There was no one else when I eat my breakfast– that time might be the most peaceful McDonald’s breakfast I ever had in my life; exactly on my birthday.
The National Gallery – Nasjonalmuseet
The first museum I was getting to was The National Gallery of Oslo, located just within a small walk from its closest train station, Nationalteatret. It was specifically located near the tourist gem of Karl Johans gate, a main road of Oslo. When I reached the place, people were lining up, waiting for their turn to get into the building and got their bags and belongings checked. It didn’t take too long for me to get inside the museum building, got my pre-booked ticket scanned, and put my bags and coats to the cloakroom. One stunning thing that I saw from museums in Oslo is they didn’t make me spend money for cloakrooms, compared to museums in London that’ll charge everyone £1.
The National Gallery of Oslo was a humble, compact museum, compared to what I saw across Europe (talk about Victoria & Albert Museum of South Kensington or Louvre!). I was set to see the permanent exhibition on the second floor of the building, that begins with me climbing a grandeur staircase in the middle of the foyer. I went directly to the room where the paintings of the well-known Norwegian maestro, Edvard Munch is (The Scream, The Dance of Life, Madonna, and The Sick Child were all displayed in this museum). Perhaps my decision to skip through the other parts of the museum was worth it as there weren’t any people in the room during the beginning of the opening times, and they prefer to go through the museum sequentially (and it’s just me, breaking the rules, as always).
What I found incredibly interesting from The National Museum of Oslo is the existence of Drawing Studio, where visitors can sit down, take a piece of paper and pencils, and start drawing an object that is in front of them. This time it was a sculpture of a mother and her child embracing each other, which I perceive as a really sweet gesture. I found this experience quite relaxing, as it has been a while for me since the last time I dedicate myself for live drawing; presumably when I was a BA student in Jakarta.
I spent around 30 minutes here, redoing some sketches all over again (since I got extremely nervous when someone watches me drawing over my shoulder). I moved frequently across the room to get the perfect standpoint of the figure. Eventually, I found a perfect (blind) spot just in the corner of the room and finished a dessin I consider as satisfying. Upon finishing the drawing, I was given the choice to bring it home or pin it up amongst others in the room. I made up the latter decision, as I left a piece of my heart and thoughts in this pleasant, lovely place.
Note: It turns out that this museum is currently closed during January 2019 to facilitate the move to the new National Museum opening in 2020. The works of Edvard Munch will be displayed in the new National Museum, so I suggest if anyone’s travelling to Oslo during those months to keep an eye on the news as some key artworks such as The Scream will be touring across Norway. Alternatively, the digital collection will always be available online.
Munch Museum – Munchmuseet
The second place I was visiting was Munch Museum, located in Tøyen, some few stops from the central Oslo via subway ride. The idea of building a museum was suggested by Munch himself, back in 1927. It all came to reality in 1946 when Oslo city council fulfill his wish and decided to build the museum in Tøyen after some few considerations of other locations such as Vigeland Park, Frogner district, or just in the downtown.
The museum is pleasantly located in between two parks, the University Botanical Garden and Tøyenparken. It was late autumn where the leaves mostly fell off the tree already, making the pathways to the museum feel like the yellow brick road to Oz. Since it was a weekend during my visit that day, I expected some families with little kids wandering around the museum. Dealing with kids is not really my cup of tea, but I guess that day was tolerable since I just want to be focusing on what was displayed rather than people of my surroundings. After doing some essential things for a museum visit in Oslo (bags check, ticket validation, cloakroom business), I got into the first part of the museum.
It was an interactive family-friendly section where everyone can grab the brushes provided and paint with water (the medium was made to produce colours when interacting with water). I particularly enjoyed this part of the museum since I drowned into my own thoughts regarding interactive, immersive experiences relatively quick. It was an interesting addition to the museum for everyone to relish. People seemed to be enjoying the weekend more in such a place. Perhaps this is something that we can also apply in museums back home in the capital Jakarta?
There are no permanent exhibition displays in this museum despite being the home of more than half of Munch’s collections (approx. 1,150 paintings, close to 18,000 prints depicting more than 700 different motifs, 7,700 drawings, and watercolours as well as 13 sculptures). Instead, there are temporary exhibitions which are usually related to or responding to the works of Munch. I was seeing the exhibition of ‘Moonrise’, displaying works of Marlene Dumas (South African artist and painter) alongside with Munch’s works which she was inspired on.
I was fascinated that this exhibition made me know the fact that Munch had worked on a series of lithographs in 1908 called ‘Alpha and Omega’ (read more about the work here. It is an interesting ‘hidden gem’ of Munch everyone must know about!), which ultimately inspire Dumas to work on her respond series named ‘Venus and Adonis’. Both works were displayed next to other works by Dumas that revolve on the themes of innocence, sexuality, loneliness, anxiety, and death, which I found amazingly relatable.
I’m glad to leave the museum with new knowledge and some further intimacy with the prodigy himself.
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
The last destination I was going for the day was more of a spontaneous act rather than a planned one. Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art is coincidently located at the hip pier area of Aker Brygge overlooking the Oslo fjords, 2 stops by bus from my apartment. The museum is home for various works of contemporary art including Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons– who were mostly dominating the main scene of the museum. The 2 main buildings and Tjuvholmen sculpture park were designed by the world-renowned architect Renzo Piano.
I was considerably lucky to be there during 2018, which was Astrup Fearnley’s 25-anniversary special exhibition that showcased their best of the best collections. That day was the first time ever I witness a formaldehyde-preserved animal work of Damien Hirst– and several times I observe Jeff Koons’. The adjoining part of the building includes the solo exhibition of Norwegian contemporary artist Fredrik Værslev.
The day ended short as early as 4 PM when it just got darker and foggy. I was standing by the pier of Tjuvholmen sculpture park to admire the fjords that were slightly disguised by the mist. Despite not being on its best weather, I can still see the astonishing view of Hovedøya, Lindøya, and Gressholmen-Rambergøya simultaneously.
I rewarded the accomplishment of the first day of my birthday museums and galleries hopping by buying myself… 500 grams of chicken wings to devour greedily as dinner (although I didn’t finish them instantly on one sitting). It wasn’t something posh like everyone else did to treat themselves, but I love that I had my own way to celebrate.
Oslo, thank you for being so peaceful during my birthday (perhaps being on a Sunday also a fair reason behind this).
As I end the day by climbing up my bed for a sweet slumber, I whispered in silence,
“I’m ready for the part two of my journey in Oslo”.