Moments later, the emerged from the kitchen. I could see in his eyes, he knew.
Leading my son and I outside, he lit a cigarette and good-naturedly diagrammed our journey which involved about a mile hike up a deeply wooded path, several twists and turns until, he told us, we would be standing right at the site, precisely where Munch had been. "Good luck, my friends!"
Excitedly reaching the top of the path, the good chef's directions stopped making sense. We cold not locate the paths he described. But we did find a RV park in a clearing. So we asked a woman who worked at the office desk for help.
With a broad, knowing smile, she nodded. She knew where the bridge was located? "Ah, you have arrived," she said. "But there is no bridge. There never was a bridge."
She explained that Munch had imagined the bridge, but that in reality it was merely a footpath where they walked, a walkway outlined in prehistoric stone. She added that we were a mere 100 yards or so form the path and that the stones were still there. Was this it?
We rushed across the field in the rain and spotted the rocks embedded in the ground. There was a plaque on one of them. Had someone commemorated the Munch landmark?
Breathlessly, we examined the plaque, which read, "Skalgroper fra bronsealdren. 1800 f.Krf, - 500 f.Krf."
Some strange Munch code reserved for history detectives such as ourselves? Nearby, a male groundskeeper was working. We brought him over to translate. He read it.
The plaque marked the remains of an ancient, Ice Age glacier.
Pleading our case to him he, lit up. "Ah, Munch! Shriek! Yes! I will direct you!"
Ready to Scream
So he sent us down yet another path. Charlie discovered the local equivalent of poison oak—but no Munch. I approached a woman walking her dog to ask. She appeared to develop a toothache due to my presence. "What" she grimaced? "No Munch, no Munch!"
Undaunted, we retreated to the office, where a new woman was at the helm. I explained how her counterpart had sent us to the rock path. With a raised eyebrow Catherine Deneuve smile and a coy shake of the head as if to say, "You people are crazy," she took up our cause. She called the curator at the Munch Museum and obtained a new version of where we should go.
So we set off on a new path, through more miles of fields and muddy paths. But no bridge.
Charlie wanted to press on but it was getting dark and so I told him, sadly, that we best call it a day.
Heading down the original path, we finally got to the restaurant where the adventure started. The head chef was out back, having another smoke and jawing with some of the servers when he saw us, chilled and a bit demoralized. He called out, "Did you find it?"
I explained everything. And he was concerned. "It's up there, guys. Even a little sign as I recall."
He repeated his original directions once more and Charlie said, "Dad, that's the last spot where we just were—where I wanted to continue."
What to do but head back up the hill, right?
This time though, it all clicked. Charlie was right. Rounding a bend that we had almost reached before, there it was. "The bridge." Overlooking the city. Precisely where Munch stood. And we lined it up with the original.
"… I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature," Munch wrote.
Right here where we stood, in the geographic pocket of his creation, connected to his muse.
Though a few may have initially found us to be as crazed as the person in Munch's Expressionist masterpiece, we made some lovely acquaintances today; adventure, mystery and "the hunt" seem to be universal magnets. People stopped what they were doing—they made calls, they gave us warm smiles on a damp, dreary day.
In the end, we found it—and like so many places we've tried to locate, as elusive as it seemed, it was right there all along, almost in front of us.
The lesson for us is something we experienced many times before. We can't be afraid to explore - to dig deep and to connect. You never know where it may lead, perhaps to a bend in the road high in the Oslo hills, overlooking a fjord, to a place where an artist met a ghost.
Chris Epting is the writer/photographer of 18 books, including Hello, It's Me - Dispatches From a Pop Culture Junkie. Others include James Dean Died Here; Led Zeppelin Crashed Here; Roadside Baseball; and The Ruby Slippers, Madonna's Bra, and Einstein's Brain. He has contributed articles for such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Westways, Travel + Leisure and Preservation magazine, and is the National Spokesman for the Hampton hotel Save-A-Landmark program. Chris lives in Huntington Beach, CA with his wife and their two children.
Photos by Chris Epting, paintings by Edvard Munch.
Travel by the Glass by Chris Epting
Let's Spend The Night Together by Chris Epting
The Covert Casanova Tour in Venice by Tony Perrottet
Notes Towards a True Historie of the Vikings by Edward Readicker–Henderson
Other Europe travel stories from the archives
Books from the Author: