The Coastal Path in Norway – Vigelandsparken Part IV: The Wheel of Life

After the Monolith Plateau and Circle of Life comes the final part of the Vigelandsparken.  There is a sundial with images of the zodiac and a little further on a final sculpture, the Wheel of Life.  Poor old Ben looked quite tired by this point, although it must be remembered he started the day some 700 miles away.

Wheel of LifeThe Wheel of Life is designed like a wreath and formed of four people and a child, holding on to each other as they float around in a circle.  They carry with them the overall theme of the park:  the eternal journey of life, from the cradle to the grave.

Wheel of LifeAt the time of taking this picture I hadn’t realised that its focal point was a rather shapely looking backside.    Still, it’s too late now – the photo has been taken; it is what it is.  I suppose the shot does at least remind you that as you journey through life, from cradle to grave, you ought to try to see some sights along the way.

But the sight I liked was looking back to the Monolith Plateau:

Looking back to the Monolith and Circle of Life

The Fountain (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Monolith Plateau:  N 59° 55.662 E 010° 41.936
  • The Sundial:  N 59° 55.684 E 010° 41.863
  • The Wheel of Life:  N 59° 55.711 E 010° 41.782

The Coastal Path in Norway – Vigelandsparken Part III: The Monolith Plateau

The Monolith Plateau is the most popular part of Vigelandsparken; deservedly so in my opinion.  It lies above the other parts of the park and once we had arrived we found it hard to pull ourselves away.  The monolith itself is a raised central granite column 17.3 metres high.  It took three stone carvers 14 years to complete.  It is surrounded by 36 separately carved platforms, known collectively as the Circle of Life.

Monolith and Circle of LifeThe Monolith itself contains 121 figures, snaking and swirling up the column, stretching up towards the heavens.  Many of Vigeland’s sculptures represent the everlasting circle of life, where new life grows from death.  The Monolith offers a different perspective.  The figures here are reaching out for death; embracing it; almost striving for it.

MonolithSurrounding the Monolith is the Circle of Life, my favourite part of the park.  I walked around it several times.  The rock hard granite faces were full of emotion.

Stretching away from the Monolith, the Circle of Life comprises 12 separate arms, each consisting of three platforms.  Each arm is concerned with a different phase of life.  There is birth…

Circle of Life Close Up …growing into childhood.

Circle of Life Close UpChildhood turns into adolescence…

Circle of Life Close Up…which can become quite boisterous at times…

Circle of Life Close Up…until a certain level of maturity is reached.

Circle of Life Close UpThere is love.

Circle of Life Close UpAnd perhaps, at times, conflict.

Circle of Life Close UpHappiness is in growing old together.

Circle of Life Close UpAlthough Time soon catches up with us…

Circle of Life Close UpSome manage to give Time a pretty good run for its money.

Circle of Life Close UpEventually, however, there is only one outcome for the living.

Circle of Life Close UpAnd we must all embrace Death, for Death will most certainly embrace us.

Circle of Life Close Up

The Fountain (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Monolith Plateau:  N 59° 55.662 E 010° 41.936

The Coastal Path in Norway – Vigelandsparken Part II: The Fountain

After crossing the Bridge with all of its sculptures, the Vigelandsparken leads through an ornate, formally planted garden and then up a set of steps.  These steps lead to the Fountain. Although this piece was originally designed by Vigeland to be placed in front of the Norwegian Parliament building, the press and public were not supportive of the idea.  In the meantime, the initial design started to expand to the point where the Parliament site would have been too small in any event.  The Fountain is now one of the centre pieces of Vigelandsparken.  Its sculptures and reliefs depict the eternal circle of life growing out of death.

FountainThe Fountain is surrounded by sculptures of trees.  Intertwined in their branches are people, from young children to adults.  Some of the figures in the trees look quite comfortable.  Others look trapped within the branches; they seem to be struggling to break free.  Still others are on the outside of their trees and appear to be fighting to get back inside the safety of the branches.

Perhaps it is the other way round, though.  Maybe the people who look trapped are actually trying to climb back into the trees they have outgrown.  Maybe the people hugging the branches from the outside are not trying to get back in – perhaps they have just climbed out and are about to let go.

I quite liked this little chap, newly born into protective branches which are now beginning to part to set him free into the world.

Fountain Sculpture DetailAround the edge of the fountain are bronze reliefs, depicting the eternal circle of life.  The fountain took so long to complete that Vigeland made 112 of them, although only 60 were used.  One depicts two children hugging a skeleton, perhaps to be taken as an embrace of death.  Many of the reliefs show figures swirling around as if they are underwater.  I quite liked this, because the surface of the water from the fountain lies just above them.

FountainCan you see the central relief in the photo above?  Three fish are swimming down to a figure lying on the seabed.

Out of death grows life.

The Fountain (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Fountain:  N 59° 55.614 E 010° 42.073

The Coastal Path in Norway – Vigelandsparken Part I: The Bridge

Norway!  What a country!  We flew into Oslo’s Gardermoen International Airport.  We got the quick, clean FlyToget train into the city.  From there we walked over to our hotel in a blistering 30 degree heat, wondering if we were in the right country.  We dumped our bags, walked back to the station and got a T-bane straight over to Vigelandsparken.

VigelandGustav Vigeland (1869-1943) is Norway’s most famous sculptor.  Born to a farming family in the south of the country, he apprenticed in Norway, before training further in Copenhagen, Paris and Italy.  The Vigelandsparken in Frognerparken lies to the northwest of the City Centre.  It contains a massive display of his work – 212 pieces in total along an 850 metre axis.  Its central theme is the circle of life.

Immediately upon walking through the park gates, a monolith in the distance beckons you, but there is a lot to see on the way.  The first section of the display is the Bridge, lined on both sides with bronze sculptures.  The figures are of men, women and children of all ages.

The BridgeI identified with a lot of the sculptures.  As a father of twins I certainly identified with this one:

Bridge SculptureAnd at times I have most certainly felt like this:

Bridge SculptureI wasn’t the only one who identified with the sculptures here.  Deb most certainly identified with her doppelgänger.

Bridge Sculpture Deb PosingOh let me try that!

Bridge Sculpture Nic PosingHmmmmmm.  And  there I was thinking my body would look exactly like his…

“Hey kids, your turn!” we yelled, but they were nowhere to be seen.  They had stormed off in embarrassment, disowning us.  The Vigelandsparken is one of the top tourist attractions in the entire country, after all.  There are a lot of people to witness the excruciatingly painful antics of your parents and our kids wanted none of it.

“Oh come on, Ben,” I said, “try this one”.

Angry BoyOf course, there was no way Ben was going to try any of the poses, and particularly not this one.  This was Sinnataggen (the Little Hot-Head or the Angry Boy), supposedly modelled on a child Vigeland had seen in London.  It is one of the most popular sculptures in the park and there were a lot of people admiring it.  In fact we struggled to get close.  We went off instead to admire some of the others.  The depth of feeling in some of those faces was beautiful.

The Bridge MosaicWhen on the Bridge it is not just the sculptures you want to look at.  Wander down to the river below else you might miss the waterfall.

Bridge and WaterfallHave a sit down.  Leave the throngs of tourists on the bridge and take some time out.  Nobody seems to come down here (even in the 30 degree heat).

Gardens by BridgeWe sat down and rested for a while before heading on to the next stage of Vigeland’s passage of life.

The Bridge (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Bridge:  N 59° 55.560 E 010° 42.235

The Coastal Path in London – The Shard

Although walking the coast of Britain is our primary objective, we also have a side mission – to go to the top of every one of the World Federation of Great Towers.  There are 45 of them.  If we really are going to get to the top of all of them (which I’m sure we won’t) we will have to travel to every continent in the world and visit places we would never normally go to.  That, of course, is the main reason for doing it in the first place.

We have been up the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.  It was accommodating enough to stand right on our Coastal Path.  We have gone half way up the Eiffel Tower (meaning we’ve got to go back to do it properly).  We have been up Berlin’s Fernsehturm.

But there was one tower which was much closer to home which we had not yet been up – The Shard in London.  Completed in 2012 and standing at 310 metres (1,016 feet) The Shard is (at the time of publication, at least) the tallest building in Western Europe.  You need a wide-angle lens to get it to fit in a photo.  It dwarfs all other buildings.

The ShardIt is worth walking away from it and then walking around it – there are some impressive views to be had.

The ShardThe Shard is so tall that you have to get two lifts up.  The first stops half way up the tower.  You have to get out and cross over to another one in order to get to the very top.  I’m sure this is a gimmick – a deliberate travelling disadvantage.  “It’s so tall you have to get two lifts up!” is what they want you to say.  And of course it works, because that’s exactly what I did say at the beginning of this paragraph.

But what we really came for were the views.  Were they any good?  We’d been on the London Eye on a couple of occasions and enjoyed the views from that.  Oh look!  There’s the Eye – down there!

London EyeAnd look!  There’s the Walkie Talkie!  This is something on an infamous building in the UK.  Whether or not its infamy is known outside of the UK I don’t know, but this building has literally melted cars!

Walkie TalkieIn 2013 poor old Martin Lindsay parked his Jaguar in the City of London.  Two hours later he arrived to find that parts of it had melted.  Was it vandals?  No!  It was the sun reflecting of the glass exterior of the Walkie Talkie!  The developers had to pay Martin Lindsay for the cost of the repairs.

The glass exterior curves inwards and downwards, channeling the sunlight into a heat ray that every schoolboy with a magnifying glass can only dream about.  Do you see the black sheet over the building in the picture?  That’s a permanently fitted sunshade to stop anymore damage to the nice shiny cars of the people of London!

Most of London’s iconic buildings could be seen from The Shard.  We saw the Tower of London…

Tower of London…and next to it was Tower Bridge.

Tower BridgeOver in the distance was the Thames Barrier (which keeps us Londoners dry).  Can you see it?  Its those strange humpy things sticking out of the Thames.

The Thames BarrierEven the viewing gallery had a viewing gallery!

Viewing GalleryThere is one feature I like to see on any tall tower.  It is the cherry on top, so to speak.  It has to have an open-air deck.  If you are going to go up a tower you want to feel the chill air and cold breeze at the top.  I was pleased to see that The Shard has one.

Open Air DeckThe Shard is expensive.  Have no doubt about it.  For a family of four it cost £87.90.  That’s a huge amount compared to other tower experiences.  Even so, The Shard was packed and we enjoyed our visit.

Four Great Towers of the World Federation down (well OK, three-and-a-half)!  Only 41 to go (well OK, forty-one-and-a-half)!  Next stop Žižkov Tower I hope!


The Shard (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Shard:  N 51° 30.270 W 000° 05.190

The Coastal Path in Scotland – Dalmore and the Cromarty Firth

On Day 2 of our Scotland trip we visited Dalmore Distillery.  Dalmore sits on the north bank of the Cromarty Firth.  This is a picturesque setting, as we saw when we took a wander up the pier after our tour.

Dalmore DistilleryAs we strolled along the shoreline we disturbed an oystercatcher.  It circled around us, shrieking warnings at us.  We moved back inland and after that the bird dropped down to a point on the shore, out of site.  Clearly we had been too close to its nest.

OystercatcherThe Cromarty Firth is well known for its oil rigs.  At the entrance to the firth is a dry dock which is used for the repair of oil platforms.  From our jetty we got some great views up the firth towards the maintenance work.

Oil Rigs on Cromarty Firth

One day, if we’re lucky, we’ll be walking right by those rigs.  But that’s a good 4,000 miles away yet…

Points on this walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Dalmore Distillery:  N 57° 41.315 W 004° 14.340
  • Dalmore Jetty:  N 57° 40.806 W 004° 14.288
  • Oil Rigs at the Mouth of the Cromarty Firth:  N 57° 41.750 W 004° 01.600

The Coastal Path in Scotland – Dornoch

In June of 2014 I was back up in Scotland for a meeting with my friend Campbell.  Whenever we are in Scotland we try to visit some distilleries and we also try to fit in a walk along the coast.  If at all possible, Campbell tries to time our walks for when the weather is moving in, and also for when I have left my waterproofs back at the hotel.  In the past he has done this with amazing success.

This time we stayed in Dornoch and I was determined not to let my trouser pockets fill up with raindrops again.  So when I left my waterproofs in the hotel room this time I made sure I did it when the weather wasn’t moving in.  But this was Scotland.  The weather is always moving in.  Oh dear!

We walked out of the town centre and through the Royal Dornoch Golf Club to get to the coast.

Royal Dornoch Golf ClubBeyond the golf club we hit the beach at exactly the right time.  The sun still shone on the sands, but in the distance the clouds were rolling in, and on the horizon we could see a bank of rain.  Campbell almost melted in anticipation as I yearned for the waterproofs I’d left in my room.

Dornoch BeachDornoch is Gaelic for “Pebbly Place”.  We found rocks here today, but no pebbles.

Campbell on Dornoch BeachRather, the pebbleless flat sands stretched away into the distance.  All the better to draw my eye up to the rain clouds on the horizon which were making their way over.

IMG_7402One thing we did find on the sands were the husks of sea potatoes, a type of urchin.  More than a few of them had starfish hiding inside.  What was going on here we had no idea.  All we knew was that when the rain started to fall (and fall it did) the starfish had sea potatoes to hide under but we did not.

Starfish in Sea PotatoThe rain droplets were plump and heavy, but not too aggressive at this stage.  We got a bit wet but this was not a drenching, at least not yet.  Still, there was more to come and it was bringing heavier rain with it – look!

Rain Coming InWe decided to turn around and head back.  As we reached the outskirts of Dornoch something caught our eye.  It was a stone, dated 1722.  This stone marks the exact site of the last recorded burning of a witch in the British Isles (although not the exact date, for the date on the stone is wrong.  The burning actually took place in 1727).  The poor woman in question was Janet Horne.  Once a lady’s maid, by 1727 she was old and exhibiting signs of what today would be accepted as dementia.  She lived with her daughter who had deformed hands and feet.  Presumably it was these deformities which gave her neighbour the idea of accusing Janet Horne of allowing the Devil to shod her daughter so he could use her as his pony.

Both mother and daughter were arrested, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be burned at the stake the next day.  The daughter managed to escape, but Janet Horne was not so lucky.  She was stripped, smeared in tar, and paraded through the town.  When she arrived at her place of execution she reportedly smiled and warmed herself by the fire, oblivious to the fact that this was the same fire which would shortly consume her.

Poor old Janet Horne.  Her place of execution is now steeped in domesticity.  It lies in the garden of a house.  The owners hang their washing next to it.

Janet Horne's StoneWe gave poor Janet Horne a thought and wondered what happened to her daughter.  Then we returned to our hotel, the Dornoch Castle.

A most impressive hotel, we spent our evening at the bar where we sampled some incredible whiskys.  For any whisky lovers, Dornoch Castle is a must-do.  The owners are incredibly friendly and spent a good couple of hours with us stood in front of their bar.  I won’t tell you how much the most expensive dram of the evening was, for like some whiskys it would make your eyes water.  What I will say is that it was a 1960’s Bunnahabhain and it was worth every penny.

Dornoch is a beautiful place.  I hope to return one day.

Dornoch Castle

Points on this walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Dornoch Beach:  N 57° 53.111 W 004° 00.750
  • Janet Horne’s Execution Place:  N 57° 52.608 W 004° 01.440 
  • Dornoch Castle:  N 57° 52.785 W 004° 01.785

Walk Statistics:


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