OSLO (Sunday, July 8)
Sunday begins with a buffet spread
that has everything one could want in a breakfast:
3 kinds of eggs, bacon, sausage, meatballs, and
that's just the warm area.
There are lots of cold meats, with pickled herring, cheeses, including
a brown kind I didn't care for, some good dark bread, croissants, waffles, cereals, fruits, yogurts, juice,
After breakfast we walked to the ferry for Bygdøy
with a brief side trip to
get money from an ATM and arrived just in time for a
We see some ducks from the boat, but we can't
identify them. They could be female mallards (boring). John sees a
which we later get a very close look at near the food cart
outside Kon-Tiki museum. We ultimately add quite a few birds to the
Salmon Bird List during this vacation.
Pretty easy when the life
list is as short as ours!
After a 15 min boat ride to the Bygdøy peninsula followed by a short walk,
we get to the Viking Ship Museum early.
The museum was pleasantly empty with just a handful of folks from the morning ferries.
A couple of tour buses arrived as we were finishing up, and the place filled up fast.
The Viking Ship Museum has three
Viking ships recovered from burial mounds in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The oldest known Scandinavian ship,
The Oseberg Ship built about 820 AD is front and center in the inviting
The ships are in remarkably good condition. Why doesn't wood
rot here? Were they in a peat bog? Anyway, they are very broad and
shallow. They don't look at all like ocean-going vessels. Some signage by
the Gokstad Ship indicates that the Oseberg wasn't really a robust
sailing vessel, whereas the Gokstad which was a little deeper and had wooden covers for
the oar-locks, was definitely used at sea before being buried with a
chieftain. The Vikings used a lot of iron nails to hold everything
together. We take plenty of pictures, including some shots of
the "mast fish".
Next stop is the Kon-Tiki museum.
We have some familiarity with Thor Heyerdahl's hi-jinks from
reading we did before visiting
Easter Island a couple of years ago.
We begin with Ra II (Ra 1 sank off
Barbados). Ra 1 was built by Chadian boat-builders using techniques that
work on Lake Chad. Ra II was built by Aymara Indians from Bolivia (near Lake
Titicaca) using South American techniques. For whatever reason (luck, a bit
more experience) the second Ra reed boat was less prone to water-logging, and
able to finish its journey. Photos show it in a bit of a shambles by
the end of the voyage. It's been spruced up for display at the
Thor Heyerdahl is quite the character. He must have been incredibly
charismatic to successfully get funding and volunteers for such quixotic
endeavors. While he certainly showed that Africans could have made the
journey to the new world, and earlier showed that Americans could have
made the journey to Polynesia, he never really came close to showing that
they did. But so what? He went on an adventure! He brought cameras, and
a gift for storytelling. He wove a story of international cooperation
(during the height of the cold war) and of environmental degradation (when
it was still a relatively new idea) into a classic man vs. nature and man
vs. man (those stick-in-the-mud academics who said it was impossible). Those
messages were worth getting out, even if the ostensible rationale for the
trips was proved wrong.
Between the Ra II and Kon-Tiki exhibits there's a brief early biography of Thor, where we
follow him and his wife to Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas.
Here as a honeymoon trip, they lived off the land for a
year in the 1930s. About 10 panels show them collecting
specimens, meeting with local tribesmen, and seeming successful in idyllic surroundings.
Toward the end of the display,
we read something about beer and the couple being driven from their
home, living in a cave, and sending out distress signals so they could be
rescued by a passing ship. There's definitely a story there. I wonder
if it's ever been told.
Yes, there is a book.
The Kon-Tiki looks way less sea-worthy than the Viking ships.
I doubt that it satisfies the Viking motto: "A ship
that has to be bailed 3 times in 2 days is fit for
any type of sea voyage".
We need to see the 1951 academy award
We just miss a ferry as we step out of the Kon-Tiki Museum, and decide
to pay a visit to the Polarship Fram Museum. In the end, this is
probably the best museum visit of the morning.
The museum is built around a big, BIG, ship, called,
you guessed it, The Fram. The surrounding museum building is 3 levels
and has walkways around all sides of the ship with
exhibits lining the walls.
One can also go in and wander inside the boat, also about 3 levels deep.
The organization of the museum was a bit confusing. The "start" seems to be in one corner
up on the third floor. Though "start" is only relevant for looking at the displays in some sort of
chronological order. We wandered around going backwards and forwards in time and
exploring the internals of the boat before discovering the "start" and then viewing things
in order from there on.
The first captain of the Fram was Fridtjof Nansen.
Nansen was multi-talented, a scientist, explorer, champion skier and ice skater,
and practical dresser when it came to cold climates.
He had an inspiring motto, "The west coast or death" which is
a bit more serious than the Salmon motto, no luden in scalas.
It seemed to work for him.
His back-story is much
like Heyerdahl's. Nansen had a theory about how the arctic ice flowed
west-to-east. The scientific community scoffed. So he had a super-strong
ship built, plunged it into the ice north of the Bering strait, and sat it
out for 3 years. Eventually, the ship made it out and returned to Tromsø.
Nansen got bored half-way and struck out for the pole. His watch failed,
so he couldn't get a latitude, and he turned back before making the pole.
He set up camp on one of the Russian arctic islands, where he accidentally
ran into an English explorer who gave him a lift home. It helps to be
Next, Roald Amundsen takes the helm of the Fram
with plans to go to the North Pole.
But Cook and Peary each get there first. So Amundsen
secretly(!!) decides to go to the South pole instead. He brushes off
questions like "Why are you taking dogs. You can get them in Russia" and
"Why are you building this really sturdy hut?". He doesn't tell the crew
they're going to the South pole until they leave from Spain. I guess they
notice the ship hung a left instead of a right.
Does anybody else know? It's not clear when the news gets back.
Does Scott know that
there's a race to the South pole? As we know, Amundsen wins the race.
Scott reaches the pole second, dies on the return journey, and became
an iconic British hero. A corner of the Fram Museum is devoted to
the Robert Scott story.
This time when we left a museum, we were perfectly timed for the next ferry.
We take the boat back and grab a small lunch at a harbor side cafe. Lynn
orders cafe au lait, which comes in a soup bowl.
We pass a street performer trying to drum up an audience and loiter
for a bit as he desperately tries to get others to stop.
Next stop, the modern art museum, where there's an exhibition of the kind
of geometric art that always appeals to us. It's called,
The Space of Shape-Time.
Perhaps this theme will be a successor to
Not Quite as Big Bamboo.
Lynn suggests doing it in the yard rather than indoors, which seems feasible.
One of these days, we'll actually do that.
Other exhibits include a
Spirograph-style crawling-men-with-guns, with plotting pens under
them contraption which is pretty cool.
We're also struck by the juxtaposition of the ornate
old building and the modern white-box style of gallery.
The hallways are a very textured brick with occasional marble flourishes.
The galleries are all-white. One of the downstairs galleries has gold
plated marble columns, paintings on the ceiling and general 19th century
opulence, but holds geometric steel and enamel paint sculpture. I'm not
really sure the juxtaposition "works".
Was the building some kind of
bank or mint in a previous life? The coat check room looked like a vault.
We eat dinner at Cafe Skansen. John orders classic Norwegian style shrimp with
lemon, dill and mayonnaise. A ginormous plate of unshelled shrimp comes. He asks
the waitress who demonstrates
the traditional way to eat them. Spread mayo on bread. Remove head,
tail and shell and pile shrimps on bread. Add lemon juice to taste. Eat. They're very tasty, but
quite a bit of work. Lynn finishes her cat fish and sits patiently while
John slowly works his way
through the shrimp.