Not only are we surprised at the beautiful weather in Oslo, but so are the Norwegians. Two sunny days of 17 – 18 degrees are very unusual for this time in late April and everyone is telling us that. Tomorrow it will be back to 11 degrees with some rain, but we have finished walking around Oslo and we will be on our way to Voss on the train.
After settling into our hotel yesterday morning, we spent the afternoon walking around the city. We found a deli on the opposite corner from the Grand Hotel and had a sandwich before heading towards some of the main tourist sites. Most shops were closed over this Easter weekend, but there were few people and no crowds.
The rather austere looking town hall was completed in 1950 to commemorate the city’s 900th anniversary. The entrance is lined with wooden reliefs from Norse mythology and the interior halls and chambers are decorated with splashy and impressive frescoes and paintings by some of Norway’s most prominent artists. It’s here that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on the 10th of December each year
From there, we walked around to the harbor, enjoying the sun with lots of other tourists and local families. It was interesting to see a number of tall ships and the harbor busy with ferries and cruise boats.
On a high point to the eastern side of the harbour is the medieval Akershus Castle & Fortress. It was first built in 1299 to defend the city from the Swedes and has seen many changes over the centuries. This is obvious from the variety of styles of bricks that one can see in any of the buildings These days, it serves a venue for concerts and is open to the public who enter across the moat through one of the original gates where a drawbridge used to be. The area remains a military installation and young soldiers, who I assume are national servicemen act as sentries.
We finished the day with a drink at a very pleasant outdoor cafe in an older part of town. The beech trees were just bursting into bud, the sun was shining and It was a very pleasant ending to the day.
Today, we had our fill of museums. We crossed over to the Bygdøy Peninsular by ferry from the wharf behind the town hall. On the way, we saw the king’s ship KS Norge which was presented to the Royal Family as a gift in 1947. It’s a bit like the Norwegian version of the ex British Royal Yacht Britannia.
We spent the morning at the Norwegian Folk Museum. This very large outdoor museum includes more than 140 buildings, mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries which were gathered from around the country, rebuilt and organised according to region of origin. We were able get quite an insight into Norway’s past in the rural area of the museum with its old barns, raised storehouses and rough-timbered farmhouses with sod roofs. On top of a hill is the restored stave church, originally built around 1200 in the town of Gol and shifted to Bygdøy in 1885.The section displaying urban buildings is a reproduction of an early 20th-century Norwegian town and includes a village shop and old petrol station.
In the afternoon, we walked up the road to see three of Oslo’s famous nautical museums.
The first was the Viking Ship Museum. In a building shaped like a cross, are two reasonably intact ships and the remains of a third. All were built of oak in the 9th century (600 years before Columbus sailed to the New World). They were pulled ashore and used as tombs for nobility, who were buried in large mounds that preserved the timbers. The largest ship, the Oseberg, is 22 metres long and required 30 oarsmen. It has has an elaborate carved high prow and stern. As well as the ships, there are a number of good exhibits about the life of the Vikings.
From this museum, we walked for about 20 minutes past a number of embassies and ambassadorial residences to the Kon Tiki and Fram Museums.
The Kon Tiki Museum is dedicated to the balsa raft Kon-Tiki, which Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl sailed from Peru to Polynesia in 1947. The museum also displays the totora reed boat Ra II, built by Aymara people on the Bolivian island of Suriqui in Lake Titicaca. Thor Heyerdahl used it to cross the Atlantic in 1970.
Across the road is the Fram Museum. In 1910 Amundsen set sail in the Fram (meaning ‘forward’), intending to be the first explorer to reach the North Pole, only to discover en route that the American, Robert Peary had beaten him to it. Not to be outdone, Amundsen turned the Fram around and became the first man to reach the South Pole. Otto Sverdrup also sailed the schooner around southern Greenland to Canada’s Ellesmere Island between 1898 and 1902, travelling over 18,000km. The Fram is designed as a three masted schooner with a total length of 39 metres and width of 11 metres. The ship is both unusually wide and unusually shallow in order to better withstand the forces of pressing ice.