Tuesday 14 July
We decide to drive around today because there is not too much traffic, Lilly’s knee needs a rest, and we have to pay for parking anyway. We start with Vigeland Park, an 80 acre park named after Mr Vigeland, a Norwegian sculptor who lived between 1867 and 1943. It features more than 200 bronze and granite sculptures in a beautiful park grounds with waterfalls and rose beds. Interesting nude sculptures of fairly solid men, women and children in various poses. Vigeland Park is open 24 hours and entrance is free.
Next stop is the Viking Ship Museum. The Vikings were undoubtedly master ship builders and some of the most famous Viking ships are on display at the centre. The ships were discovered over 100 years ago in an embalmed state in clay burial mounds. Two of them have been restored and one has been pretty much left in the state it was found. Quite remarkable that so much of the original framework has survived for about 1200 years in the ground. In each case it appears the ships were used as burial containers for special people. One was a grave for a Viking Queen, who was buried with all of her belongings to smooth passage into the next life. The Gokstad was a war ship and dates from around 890. It is thought that this was used as a burial for a great man, some of his bones were found aboard.
I know nothing about Norway’s history so here is a summary of the main developments: In the Viking Age from the 8th century Norwegians started expanding across the seas to the British Isles and later Iceland and Greenland. Christianization took place during the 11th century. Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden in 1397. After Sweden left the union in 1523, Norway became the junior partner in Denmark–Norway. In 1814 Norway was ceded from Denmark to Sweden. Norway declared its independence but was then occupied by Sweden. Industrialization started in the 1840s and from the 1860s large-scale emigration to North America took place. In 1884 the king appointed Johan Sverdrup as prime minister, thus establishing parliamentarianism. The union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905. From the 1880s to the 1920s, Norwegians such as Roald Amundsen carried out a series of important polar expeditions. Germany occupied Norway between 1940 and 1945 during the Second World War, after which Norway joined NATO. Oil was discovered in 1969 and by 1995 Norway was the world’s second-largest exporter. This resulted in a large increase of wealth.
Not far from the Viking Ship Museum and down at the waterfront we find three further “museums”. The Norwegian Maritime Museum (about Norwegian maritime history), the Kon-Tiki Museum (featuring Thor Heyerdahl’s crossing of the Pacific in 1947) and the Fram Museum (dedicated to the story of Norwegian polar expeditions). Although I would like to see all three we have neither the time or energy today to see any of them so we press on. We nosy around the local area Bygday (suburb?) in the car. This appears to be a wealthy area with many upmarket residences on large blocks. Lilly snaps away.
Next stop is the Akershus Fortress originally built around 1300 as a residence for the royal family and to protect Oslo. This is Norway’s most important medieval monument although it was apparently re-built in the 17th century in renaissance style and further added to in the 1930s. Which parts of it date back to 1300 I am unsure. In the 1700 and 1800’s it was a prison. The fortress is still a military area, but is open to the public daily until 21:00. The Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and Norway’s Resistance Museum can also be found there. Some members of Norwegian Royalty are buried in the Royal Mausoleum in the castle. They include King Sigurd I, King Haakon V, Queen Eufemia, King Haakon VII, Queen Maud, King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha.
We are intending to take a mini cruise ticket where you can hop-on/hop-off at Bygdøy, City Hall and the Opera House but have run out of time. We drive back to Sven Bruns Gate, park our car, have a quick snooze in the apartment and walk to the Historical Museum Hours 11am to 5pm. We have half an hour to see three floors. We walk through two floors in that time, really only time for a cursory glance at the exhibits. Make a mental note to look further into the Sami, Laplanders and Inuit. There are mummies in the Egyptian section dating back to about 800BC and we are in awe of Viking age bones found in a ship that date back a mere 1200 years!
(Wikipedia say of the Sami people, traditionally known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, that they are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. The Sami are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples, and are hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. The Inuit on the other hand “are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska.”)
Later we wander and have dinner at TGI Fridays, tasty but expensive. Lilly reminds me my one glass of beer is $16 and the steak is 349NOK or about $58, both about double what I would regard as acceptable.
Not so impressed with Norway. Car tolls are everywhere, we have yet to ascertain how much they are as cameras record our movements and we will be charged. Notwithstanding the tolls the roads are in bad shape. Same thing applies to toilet facilities. They charge as much a Euro, toilets are few and far between and when you can find one, it is smelly and pretty ordinary. Norway is notoriously expensive – they rip into the tourist for every little thing. Some aspects of Oslo are attractive, but it won’t be on the priority list for a return visit, unlike Sweden.