Thursday, December 12, 2013

Norwegian Naked People Park

Gustav Vigeland is the Norwegian sculpture behind the design of the Nobel Peace Prize medal, but he's probably more well known for his bronze, granite, and cast iron statues of anatomically correct people on display in the center of Oslo.

Frogner Park may be the official name of this lovely green space in the middle of Oslo, but if you ask the little C&Gs they'll tell you it's Naked People Park. Europeans are clearly much less repressed when it comes to nudity, so be prepared as you step into the park to see body parts of all assorted shapes, sizes, and genders on the more than 200 sculptures created by artist Gustav Vigeland in the 1930's and 1940's.

Vigeland Sculpture Park is on everyone's must see list when you mention you're going to Oslo. We were headed back to our hotel from the Holmenkollen ski jump and decided to get off at the tram stop in front of Frogner Park to see what all the nakedness was about. At the park entrance is a visitors center and a small cafeteria with sandwiches and snacks (the park has some beautiful spots for picnicking) and there's always an ice cream truck or two not too far away.

You'll see the giant monolith at the center of the sculpture park, but first you must walk the gauntlet of naked people, one of which is the famous angry baby. Legend has it the sculpture gave the little barn a bar of chocolate only to take it away to get just the perfect reaction. It definitely worked and to this day the little C&Gs pull out the angry baby face when they don't get their way around dessert time.

The endless labyrinth around the fountain will keep your kiddos busy for hours. We happily grabbed a seat on a bench and watched them try to work their way from one side to another. I was glad they were distracted, the fountain is surrounded by statues depicting the circle of life (sing it, Lion King fans) from birth to death and I found it kind of creepy. If you don't look too closely it's pretty, but the people tucked in and around the bronze trees weirded me out.

At the highest point in the park is the monolith, an incredible work of art with 121 figures all carved out of one single piece of granite. Surrounding it on the stairs are another 36 groups of statues of naked people in all sorts of strange positions. Be sure to walk by the pile of babies and just try to stop yourself from pinching a tush or two.

A very common sight throughout Frogner Park is young Scandinavians spread out on picnic blankets with a gourmet feast and a few bottles of wine. Dining out is incredibly expensive in Oslo so most young families pack up some goodies and a portable grill and head outdoors for the evening. Norway's largest outdoor playground is located right near the main gate, making the park a perfect spot to spend an afternoon or evening. So find the nearest convenience store, grab some snacks and a bottle of wine and raise a toast with your plastic cup to all the tushies.

Frogner Park is free and open to the public year round. For a more in depth look at the work of Gustav Vigeland, visit the museum which is only a 3 minute walk from the entrance, on Halvdans Svartes gate. We made up our own stories to go with the sculptures with a little help from my Rick Steves guidebook and didn't stop by the museum. The boys still talk about how funny the sculptures in "Naked People Park" were. Definitely don't miss it, because you know you'll never see anything like Vigeland Park back at home.

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