After we had finished our tour of the Opera House, we came to the conclusion that Oslo was a big city and to get to some of the important sites, we would need to take public transport or catch the Red Bus, a brand name that seems to be present in most major cities of the world. Generally we have been happy to use the Red Bus in other cities, not just for the transport but for the commentary on the places we passed. There was a Red Bus stop just outside the Opera House so we decided we would let the Bus Ride determine the next port of call. Unfortunately, the bus we caught was very crowded and the conditions for sightseeing were less than optimal so we decided we would exit the bus once it reached Frogner Park. The Red Bus Oslo map below shows that Frogner Park is quite a distance from the centre of Oslo. It is the largest park in Oslo covering 45 hectares and the main attraction is that it holds the world’s largest sculpture park. It is Norway’s most popular tourist attraction, with between 1 and 2 million visitors each year. As we discovered, this is a place not to be missed.
The park itself was established in the middle of the 18th century with gardens and a manor house. It went through various owners until it was bought by the municipal government for the recreation and sports use by the locals. It hosted the 1914 Jubilee Exhibition but it was subsequently decided that the park should be used to display both the sculptures and larger objects (fountain, bridge etc) created by Gustav Vigeland between 1920 and 1943. I had read about this park in tourist info before arriving in Oslo but I was amazed at the quality of the work we saw during the slow walk along the ‘trail’ down the centre of Frogner Park.
There appears to be no reasonable public map of the park and so the image to the left is the best outline of the park that I could find. To see all the works of Vigeland, it is quite a long walk but it is at least all in one direction. There are four separate areas along the park road where the nature of the sculptures change due to their setting.
The first collection of sculptures is along the edges of a bridge that crosses the Frogner Pond. This bridge was the first section of the new park to be opened in 1940 while the rest of the park was still under construction. The bridge is 100 metres long and is lined with 58 statues. It is difficult to make choices amongst the 58 but below are four examples of Vigeland’s work from this bridge.
In between the bridge, there is a geometrically laid out series of lawns and gardens before we arrived at the next section of statues set around a large fountain. This fountain was originally intended to stand in front of the Parliament Building on Eidsvoll Plass. It consists of 60 bronze statues and is surrounded by 1800 square metres of white granite mosaic. Unfortunately on the day we passed the fountain, the water was not flowing.
From the fountain, the path leads up to a raised platform called the Monolith Plateau that houses what could be best described as a totem pole consisting of entwined bodies, surrounded by examples of smaller collections of enmeshed human torsos (36), desperate to fit together as efficiently as possible. There are also a series of wrought iron gates that surround this platform. These were designed in the 1930s but not erected until after Vigeland died in 1943. It is believed that the monolith’s structures were designed in 1919 but the construction of them didn’t begin until 1929 and took three stone masons 14 years to finish this work.
The last feature of the Frogner Park sculptures that lies on the axis of the park is called the Wheel of Life, carved in 1933-34. The Wheel of Life consists of four adults and two babies.
After inspecting the wheel of life, it was time to turn around and walk back to the entry gates of the park which gave us another opportunity to re-inspect many of the sculptures that we had passed on the way down the central pathway of the park. We discussed which was our favourite statues and I chose the one on the right. Having sired four babies in my life, I felt I could begin to feel the pain of the character being attacked by four feral babies.
For those interested in the Bygdøy Peninsula, I have placed below an extract from my favourite travel website, Crazy Tourist, to provide more information on this important part of Oslo.
On the west side of Oslo, you’ll find yourself coming back to the Bygdøy Peninsula time and again. As well as the Bygdøy Royal Estate, the peninsula has five national museums: The Viking Ship Museum, the Fram Museum, the Norwegian Folk Museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum and the Norwegian Maritime Museum. Every one of these deserves your time, and most are on the list below, but when the weather’s good this quiet, residential corner of the city is also somewhere to get out into nature or take a dip in summer. There are countryside and coastal trails for walkers and cyclists, and the tempting, sheltered beaches at Huk.