Travels With TR – 2016 Summer Edition
The final days of the Baltic cruise brought us to two beautiful cities in Norway. Two hundred and fifteen nautical miles from Copenhagen, Denmark, we landed in Oslo, Norway. Oslo is the capital of Norway, and is the city hub of trade, banking, industry and shipping for Norway. It is the oldest of all of the capitals in Nordic countries. In 2012, the city was ranked #1 in the world in terms of quality of life. The city was recently ranked in the top 10 in the world of greenest, most livable cities.
The city is surrounded by 40 islands. It was founded in 1040 by King Harold III as a trading center. The city has been destroyed several times by fires. The first time was in 1624. The city was rebuilt and renamed Christiania after King Christian IV. In 1877, the city name was changed to Kristiania and remained with this name until 1925 when the city name was changed back to Oslo.
The city of Oslo is a very modern city in many respects, but it also is an expensive city. In 2011, Oslo was ranked as the second most expensive city in the world behind Tokyo. By 2013 the city had fallen to 4th most expensive. Oslo is a city on the rise and offers a lot for the growing population. There are currently 16 institutions of higher learning in and around Oslo. There are over 50 museums in the city. The public transportation provides easy access to all areas of the city. The buses in Oslo all run on biodegradable fuel and there are numerous bikes available as 2 hour loners for anyone to use. Oslo is also known for its architectural diversity.
Some of the newer buildings in Oslo are the Oslo Opera House, opened in 2003, and an award winning building. The Opera House covers over 40,000 square meters and was designed by the same architects as the Ground Zero Monument in New York City. The Edvard Munch Museum was opened in 1963 and a new, larger art museum is being built. Edvard Munch’s most famous painting is “The Scream”. The Nobel Peace Center compliments the Oslo City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony is held. The twin towers of the City Hall were built in the 1950’s. In the inside lobby is where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held. This area has huge murals painted by some of Norway’s most distinguished artists that depict various times in Norway’s history.
Some of the museums are very diverse. The Norsk Folk Museum features old buildings from the history of Norway. The Kon-Tiki Museum features the boats designed by Thor Heyerdahl in the 1940’s to prove his theories about the population and movement to the Pacific islands and South America. The Royal Palace was built in 1849 and is the current residence of King Harald V and Queen Sonja and is open for guided tours. The Oslo Cathedral was built in 1697 with major renovations over the years. Akershus Castle and Fortress dates back to 1299 and was rebuilt in the 1600’s. The castle features huge walls along the coast line, a church, banquet halls and the Royal Mausoleum. The Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower overlooks the city of Oslo and has the world’s largest ski museum and features a massive ski ramp used to train ski jumpers.
One of the museums we visited was the Viking Ship Museum located not far from city center. In this museum you will find three of the world’s best preserved Viking ships along with artifacts from burial ships and Viking ceremonies. The Vikings lived in this area from around 750 until 1066. The last Viking chieftain died in 1056. By the year 1000, the Vikings had reached parts of Canada, New Foundland and possibly upper regions of the Americas. The three ships in the museum are called The Oseberg Ship, The Gokstad Ship and the Tune Ship. Each of the ships were not only ocean going ships, but also burial ships. Over 95% of the Oseberg Ship was found in one of the fjords of Norway. The museum is in the shape of a cross. A new Viking Ship Museum is in the planning stages and will be three times the size of this current museum.
One of the most unusual museums in Oslo is the Vigeland Museum in Frogner Park. The outdoor museum has more than 212 huge sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, most involving intertwined naked human figures scattered over the parks 80 acres. A large monolith is in the center of a complex. The monolith has human bodies spiraling up the obelisk. It took 14 years to build the monolith, with 3 other craftsman assisting Vigeland. Two large metal gates are at the entrance to the top part of the area around the monolith. The gates represent the 3 women in the artist life and the gates were designed by the artist’s blacksmith. Vigeland did not name any of the statues, but names have been assigned to some of the statues, such as Wheel of Life and an unusual statue of a mad baby boy stomping his feet, referred to as Sinnataggen. One of the most impressive series of statues is the Titans statue that hold up a large fountain. All of Viegland’s statues were donated by the artist with the only request that he be provided with a home to live in and food to eat. He worked more than 40 years on the statues for this most unusual park.
Oslo is a city that features both old and modern and incorporates both styles harmoniously as well as having very unusual features that add a fun side to the city.
Our final Baltic city to visit would be 113 nautical miles from Oslo to Kristiansand, Norway. Kristiansand is the 5th largest city in Norway and has a strong tourist trade. The city was founded in 1641 and named for King Christian IV. Next to the cruise ship docks a tourist train picked up interested site seers and took them on a short ride around town to check out sites visitors might want to see later. The Kristiansand Cathedral is the third largest cathedral in Norway built in 1885, seating more than 1,300 people. The Christiansholm Fortress was built in 1672 by Fredrik III. Kristiansand’s Old Town is a residential area that has a collection of wooden houses built in the style of old wooden homes from Northern Europe. The area is called Posebyen. The central area of Kristiansand has numerous pedestrian streets with many shops and restaurants. Not far from here is Skippergata, known for their quaint coffee houses and family-owned cafes. Close to the downtown area is the Agder Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden. This is one of the oldest museums in Norway and the garden is built in the style of an English landscape park. One of the more unusual museums is the Kristiansand Cannon Musuem featuring one of the largest cannons ever built during World War II. The cannon is 65 feet long and weighs 110 tons. Other weapons from World War II are also featured in the museum. Like many of the cities in Norway, Kristiansand also has an open air museum called Vest-Agder which is composed of 40 old houses and buildings that represent farmyards and buildings from the old streets of the city. Not far from the dock where the cruise ship docked was the Fiskebrygga, the fish market with a number of seafood restaurants next to the water. Also in the market are several ice cream shops, a traditional Scandinavian tradition. Kristiansand was a relaxing stop for the final city on the Baltic trip and a place to do some last minute shopping before the push across the English Channel to Southampton, England, some 591 nautical miles from Kristiansand.
Southampton would be our final port of call, the meeting place for Carolyn and myself to join my sons Chris and Brian and Chris’s wife Leslie as we would begin the next part of our summer trip, a return to Scotland and new adventures.