Norway is a top travel spot for watching the Northern Lights, hiking and skiing. But the capital Oslo is good for a few days stop.
If you want to travel deeper into Norway’s largest city, bring this book with you on the trip: “Hunger” by Norwegian author Knut Hamsun from 1890. So book a flight to Oslo and sink into Norwegian despair – just like a local did 100 years ago.
It was during the time I wandered about and starved in Christiania: Christiania, this singular city, from which no man departs without carrying away the traces of his sojourn there.
The capital of Norway used to be called Christiania and Kristiania. Now, it’s Oslo. The former name originated from the Renaissance King Christian IV – king of Denmark and Norway (who is buried at my workplace by the way).
Even though today Norway is very wealthy country; in the late 1800 most people lived in rural areas and life was hard. As in any other country with a upcoming industrialization, the rapid movement towards the cities created a large low-income population. The book is actually partial autobiographic… Today, Norway is one of the top 10 richest countries in the world!
The sun stood in the south; it was about twelve. The whole town began to get on its legs as it approached the fashionable hour for promenading. Bowing and laughing folk walked up and down Carl Johann Street. I stuck my elbows closely to my sides, tried to make myself look small, and slipped unperceived past some acquaintances who had taken up their stand at the corner of University Street to gaze at the passers-by. I wandered up Castle Hill and fell into a reverie.
The street of Carl Johann/Karl Johans is also known through another Norwegian: Edvard Munch. His second-most famous picture after “The Scream” is “Evening on Karl Johan Street” a bleak group of people on that particular street painted just two years later. Munch’s pictures capture some of the same feelings which “Hunger” describes. Today, it’s where TGI Fridays, Zara and Burger King is located.
What should I do with myself whilst I waited? I could not visit a cafe with empty pockets, and I knew of no acquaintance that I could call on at this time of day. I wended my way instinctively up town, killed a good deal of time between the marketplace and the Graendsen, read the Aftenpost, which was newly posted up on the board outside the office, took a turn down Carl Johann, wheeled round and went straight on to Our Saviour’s Cemetery, where I found a quiet seat on the slope near the Mortuary Chapel.
I sat there in complete quietness, dozed in the damp air, mused, half- slept and shivered.
Hamsun later won a Nobel prize, but was also closely connected to the Nazis. He lived at manor called “Nørholm” just south of the city.
If you’re heading North, there is a Hamsun festival in August and an Hamsun center, and the Hamsun Society arranges ferry trips along the Norwegian coast with Hamsun-stops! It might be good to catch up on your Norwegian though… If you’re staying in Oslo visit the Munch Museum instead – it will paint a picture.
Buy the book here!
What’s your favourite travel literature?