Adventures In the Land of the Vikings – The Beginning
I just had to turn almost all the way back to the beginning of my stuffed journal to re-read this adventure.
In March 2017 I went on my first real solo trip, to Norway and the Faroe Islands. I’ll start with Oslo. Here is a little excerpt from my journal:
“I am well into my third month studying abroad, and our long awaited ‘winter’ break has arrived.
There is a screeching sound combined with a noise like metal springs being murdered, as the subway (above ground) pulls up to the Holmenkollen station where I am sitting. Of course, it’s going in the opposite direction from where my plans will take me. My subway should be getting here in about 15 minutes, but I don’t mind the waiting. I’ve gotten used to being okay with missing trains and subways in my time commuting from Täby to Stockholm and back in Sweden. After all, the wait now is giving me time to write this.
As the subway pulls away from me, it leaves me sitting across the tracks, a little less than 350 meters above the city of Oslo. Behind me are the sloping roads and drops offs leading down into the fjord which has a strange sunny mist playing over the whole thing. Birds are prattling on in the trees up here, and though there’s still some snow on the ground, I’ve already had to stuff my sweater in my camera bag/backpack. Spring is really coming.
I’m on my train now. It’s clean, un-crowded, and filled with sunlight. Nothing like the subways of New York underground. In my opinion, Scandinavia just keeps wining at the public transport game.
Man, it’s so sunny. To get the view of the fjord includes getting slightly roasted. Coat off.
Yesterday was the beginning of my truly solo Nordic adventure. One day in Oslo then a train-bus-boat journey of 2 days over to Bergen. Then 2 days in Bergen, and then flying off to the Faroes. …
Today, museums. Heck yeah archaeology.”
I’d flown from Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport to Oslo and taken the airport train to the Oslo train system. From there I got to my hotel. I’ll be open about the finances of this trip. Norway is ridiculously expensive, and I was ridiculously lucky to have financial help from my parents. They treated me to the stay in the gorgeous hotel at the top of the hill looking out of the fjord, and the wonderful meal I had there. For the rest of the time in Norway, I tried to eat at not so nice places, and didn’t do much souvenir shopping… much. But it’s still definitely a trip to save up for or to put on a Christmas list. It was certainly more affordable as I was just hopping over from Sweden. I also bought the Oslo Pass which give you deals on museum tickets, transportation, and more! I found it worth it to get a day pass for my day there.
I mean… Look at this gorgeous nordic castle of a hotel! I arrived the night before in the evening, and rose in the morning to see this place shine. I felt like possibly the luckiest college student in the world.
It was a daydream I was hesitant to leave, but there I was, as you read in my journal, at the subway station ready for a day of exploring Norwegian history.
From the subway I walked to the harbor-side and hopped on a ferryboat which brought me to the “museum island” Bygdøy across the Oslo Fjord. The main highlights of the island are: The Viking Ship Museum, Norsk Folkemuseum, Kon-Tiki Museum, Polar Ship Fram, Norwegian Maritime Museum, and the Holocaust Center. I made it to four of the six before I returned to the mainland.
The Fram Museum
The Fram museum holds two of the world’s strongest polar vessels and a rich collection of polar exploration artifacts and stories. The Fram was the strongest wooden ship ever built in it’s day, and you can walk across its beautifully preserved decks. Around the outside of the huge room, one that reminded me of my dear Vasa Museum back in Sweden, was a huge timeline of the explorers that called this ship their home over the years. I highly recommend this place. Learn about the Northern and Southern expeditions, Nansen, Roald Amundsen, being trapped in the ice, and more. The Gjøa is the first ship that made it through the Northwest Passage, and sits in another building, also part of the museum. I could have spent hours in both. It was humbling and fascinating.
I was a pretty happy camper as I left one maritime exploration museum for the two more…
The Norwegian Maritime Museum and The Kon-Tiki Museum
I have always loved boats. Especially wooden ones. Especially sailing ones. But I can still never imagine being on the open, I mean really open, sea. These two museums taught me a thing or two about being humble when faced with the ocean. The Norwegian Maritime Museum walks you through hundreds of years of history and the people who really make Norway, from sailors to pirates to the women who traveled with them, and much much more (see the last circle photo below).
And the Kon-Tiki Museum… well it mostly taught me what a crazy bastard Thor Heyerdahl was. I kid, I kid. It gave me the upmost respect for Thor, who crossed the Pacific Ocean on the balsa raft called Kon-Tiki, in 1947. What a feat… He didn’t stop there, either, and built two more rafts (including the Ra). The museum itself is brilliantly set up, especially giving you a real feel for adventure concerning archaeology, as Heyerdahl also explored Easter Island and several other sites. Really fascinating stuff. I couldn’t recommend them more. Plus, these two are right across from each other!
The Viking Ship Museum
Nothing really compares to walking into a museum and seeing the real-life artifacts that you’ve been learning about in class for months. Well, at least for an archaeologist. I’d spent three months already learning about viking archaeology at Stockholm Universitet, including ships, burials, art styles, and more. The Viking Ship museum (in Oslo- I’ll write about the danish one later) has it all. Well, specifically it features grave goods and ships from four main ship burials in Norway. Oseberg, Gokstad, Tune, and Borre. All these ships were used as “ocean-going vessels” before being used in burials. The ships, large and small, from these burials are magnificently preserved, as are the masterpieces of burial goods found inside them. After looking at them only in books, it was emotional and incredible to see them in person. (Actually, I had been here before, as well as the Fram museum, as a wee bitty child. It was interesting to see that I had combined aspects of each with each other in my vague memories. Nice to sort that all out again as an adult, and sad to see how much I had lost or gotten wrong in those childhood memories.)
I won’t bore you by going into details of each burial, or the artifacts I took photos of, but one amazing fact I will share is that the largest boat, the Oseberg Ship, appears to the the burial of two powerful viking women. Their burial goods include not only the massive and gorgeously decorated ship, but also three sledges, a wagon, beautiful animal shaped headposts (incredible examples of the viking art style that actually got its name from this find), five beds, six dogs, fifteen horses, two cows, and more.
Gods do I love Viking Ships…
The last stop of the day before I headed back to the hotel – I had an early start on the next leg of my adventure the next day – was wandering along the harbor and exploring, and playing really, around the Akershus Fortress. I love a good castle-park-fort exploration and had far too much fun by myself; taking photos, posing with the statues that were part of an art exhibition at the time, and generally feeling like I was in another world. I’ll show the rest of the day with photos, because it was too gorgeous a place for me to describe.
Oh also, it’s free entry! – I never went inside any buildings, so not sure if those require entry fees or are even open to the public… there was so much to do outside and it felt like springtime for the first time! (You’ll see me without a sweater in a couple photos!)
I had a fantastic time. I think I’ll have to write a post about taking photos of oneself while solo-traveling, because this was the first step of that learning curve. It was a fun first step though, and I have some great memories captured now to show for it.
I remember one moment in particular. I was taking the photo (the first in this blog post) and there was that long beautiful avenue of trees on a hill above the main cobbled walking path below, and I thought the light was just perfect. So, I set up my tripod, set off the timer, and sprinted down the avenue of trees, away from the camera, to spin around and pose in that ridiculous but joyful moment you see above. Panting and grinning, I ran back to the camera to see how it had turned out, and heard a voice call out from below.
“That was so nice!”
A young man, maybe tourist maybe local, but with a Scandinavian accent for sure, was beaming up at me, having seen my skipping gullumfing moment. Apparently it had made his day. I shouted a thanks and he gave me a thumbs up before continuing on away with his friends. That one little comment made me feel a lot better and less silly for all the other photos I had taken before that moment.
I went back to the hotel exhausted, only to go out again as I was invited to the art-opening of a popular bar in the city. But that’s a whole other story. I finally got to bed exhausted, delighted, and feeling seriously empowered, excited to continue my solo journey across Norway.