Friday, September 27, 2013

Visiting Friends in Gothenburg, Sweden

After a Friday morning of window shopping in Oslo, we left for a weekend with friends.
We traveled through the rural countryside of Sweden
to Gothenburg by motor coach! It was the nicest way to travel: clean, air conditioned, and not crowded.

The purpose of this excursion from the tourist hotspots was to visit friends we got to know over thirty years ago at Crossworld headquarters in Philadelphia. John and Kris Voss had children near our children's ages, so as the kids played, we bonded. The Vosses have lived in Sweden since then, and we have kept our friendship through correspondence and sporadic visits. 
When they first went to Sweden, John worked at a counseling service housed in this lovely compound.

They recently moved back into their home which was destroyed about three years ago by fire.

 On Saturday morning, Kris fixed a lovely Swedish coffee for the ladies in her church.

Kris' friends were thrilled to see her happily resettled in her rebuilt home, and they graciously listened to a talk I had prepared from the book of Ruth on "How to Get Along with the Women in Your Life".

Since Kris' daughter, Tina, their son-in-law and adorable grandson live in Gothenburg, we were able to get acquainted with them.

Their youngest son, Lars, was visiting from Chicago to be a groomsman in a friend's wedding. 
So, in the afternoon we were able to witness a Swedish wedding in an historic state church.

Our friends explained the Swedish custom of a couple exiting their wedding in a humorous, BIG way.

Bill and I were a bit more sedate. 

On Sunday morning, we attended church with the Vosses; it was John's turn to preach.

After a lovely family dinner, 

we bid our farewells. What a special weekend, not seeing sights, but seeing friends!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Oslo: By Land and By Sea

The Norwegian capital's name, Oslo, means "Meadow at the Foot of a Hill". Quite literally, homes  cascade down the hill above Oslo. Then public buildings cover the flat land at the foot of the hill, and summer homes spill across the 40 islands in the Oslofjord. What a beautiful city.

We began our Oslo tour at the apex of the hill where we walked around the Nordic ski jump viewing area that can accommodate 30,000 spectators! 
Over the years, huge audiences have watched Olympians or contenders for the Ski Jumping World Cup fly down the ski jump, go airborne leaning out over the snowbanks, then softly land on the snow-covered incline. No wonder the city's slogan is "See Oslo, ski Oslo"! 

On our descent, we tried to catch glimpses of the many beautiful homes hidden behind walls. At the bottom of the hill, we arrived in time to see the changing of the guard at the Palace.
Then we walked a few blocks to the National Gallery in the University section of the city to take in paintings by the country's famous artist, Edvard Munch. We were fortunate; this was his 150th birthday, so a record number of his works were amassed in a comprehensive exhibit. Seeing his body of work, we came to appreciate his contribution not only to Norway, but to the world's art scene. 

Several versions of his most famous painting, The Scream, were on display.

Leaving the museum, we walked by the Opera House and National Theatre made famous by Henrik Ibsen, Norway's national playwright, on our way to City Hall where every December 10th,  the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.
We were overwhelmingly impressed with the city's divers cultural offerings.

A short walk from the city center through gardens, we arrived at the harbor.

During the summer the inhabitants of the capital work in the city during the day...

...then boat to their summer cottages after work. 

The harbor shoreline is dotted with miniature boat houses painted to match each family's larger summer residence.

On mini-islands jutting from the fjord are amazing architectural masterpieces--contemporary
and historic.
After our late afternoon harbor cruise, we walked down the pier to a restaurant recommended by locals. Located in a prefab building,
 the interior had an industrial, chic vibe.

Our meal was delectable. featuring a fresh vegetable salad.
just-from-the-sea catch, and
berries picked from the hillside.

It was a perfect ending to our Oslo land and sea excursion. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Inspired by a Norwegian Sculptor's Lifework

An author might consider a single best-seller a worthy life's work; a composer might aspire to having a single symphony performed by a world-class orchestra, and most artists only dream of having one masterpiece hung in a national museum. Not Gusray Vigeland. The Norwegian sculptor produced apprixmiately 1,600 sculptures in his lifetime, with 227 of his granite and bronze sculptures displayed in Oslo's 80 acre Frogner Park. Vigeland Sculpture Arrangement is his legacy.

The sculptor's themes are apparent, appearing again and again throughout the park. Multiple statues chiseled in stone or cast in bronze depict the continuation of humanity beginning with a baby in a womb, nurtured by a mother and father, then relating to peers before finding a mate and beginning a new cycle. Meanwhile the man and woman mature in the process, until finally, old age overtakes first one and then the other.

Travel with me through the park on man's journey from cradle to grave. Take note of the relationship between a man and a woman on the wheel of life. See family illustrated. You will be amazed and inspired.

Vigeland seems to be saying that life comes full circle with a man and a woman supporting each other.

The sculptor tells the universal story of every man, every woman. Just inside the park below the bridge, he placed eight statues of infants at various stages to illustrate how we all begin.

The small statues encircle a column on which rests an unborn child.

Just above on the bridge are statues of mothers protecting infants,
 fathers carrying children,

and parents playing with their offspring. 

No wonder adults care for little ones. Who hasn't loved a child about this age in spite or because of his willfulness?

Vigeland captured the innocent, free abandonment of childhood,

as well as the protective role adults play in their development.

As one progresses through the park, you experience the vigor of young adulthood

and the sweet protective love of a young husband for his wife

which makes room for offspring.

Vigeland's depiction of a grandmother's love for all her grandchildren captured my heart,
while Bill related to the grandfather passing on his love and wisdom.

I smiled at the expression on this elderly woman's face. You have to agree, it would be disconcerting to see this in the mirror! 

At the apex of the park stands a column made up of 121 figures. Observing you see people drawn upward holding on to each other. Don't we all yearn for heaven, but need one another?

These photos are a smattering of the over 200 hundred sculptures in this park. Furthermore, these are a tiny fraction of the over 1600 works Vigeland created in his lifetime (1869-1943). No wonder he is called the most prolific sculptor of all time!

Personally, I was overwhelmed by the scope of Vigeland's vision. He saw life from beginning to end and clearly wanted to communicate the importance of parents and grandparents passing on to the subsequent generation love.

As I reflected on Oslo, Norway's treasure produced by one man, I was forced to ask myself, "What do I want to pass on to the next generation? Am I hard-working enough to produce a body of work that passes on that message?"

Thank you, Gusray Vigeland, for motivating me to push myself to accomplish more with my life--so those who come after me really grasp love.