For a Torontonian, Oslo is easy to hate. Already, I have several reasons, but I will confine myself to three. Number one is Bygdoy, the “Museum Island of Oslo.” In a previous post, I mentioned the Fram Museum, which houses both the Fram and the Gjoa, two ships that played major roles in the exploration of the Arctic. Yes, here they are, beautifully preserved at Bygdoy, and presented with a vast array of polar-exploration material, including even three of my own books. How large an avalanche are we expected to handle? And today, revisiting Bygdoy, we had to deal with two equally overwhelming experiences: the Viking Ship Museum, which houses three ships salvaged from the 800s (not a misprint), and the Norwegian Folk Museum, which is like Upper Canada Village or Black Creek Village, but with a far longer history.
Bygdoy alone would make me hate this city. But Oslo offers a welter of corollary reasons. Number two has to be the spectacular waterfront. OK, it can’t quite compare with that of Sydney, which is arguably the most beautiful in the world. But that is mainly because, with a metro-population of 1.5 million, Oslo is considerably smaller. Even so, a Torontonian has to face a transit system that works, and that includes not just buses, LRTs, and subways, but also ferries that transport commuters up and down an eye-popping fjord to towns and communities along the water, always in the never-ending sunshine. And the waterfront itself features a superb promenade lined with high-end restaurants, in which you can sit and watch the passing parade of sailboats and kayaks and cruise ships. For a Torontonian, it’s mortifying.
The third reason I hate Oslo is Edvard Munch. Everybody knows The Scream, his most famous painting, but that is just one of numerous towering works he created. I know this because Oslo has devoted an entire museum to Munch, as well a vast room in the National Gallery. Munch evokes and represents this city’s attitude towards its great artists and writers, which is one of pride and joyful celebration. Any Torontonian, and indeed any Canadian, knows that the appropriate posture is one of indifference and disdain. So there you have it, three good reasons to hate Oslo: the Museum Island, the waterfront, Edvard Munch. If those seem insufficient, we have a couple more days here, and already I see more reasons coming.