Today was our first full day in Oslo and it was perhaps the most amazing day of travel I’ve ever had. We woke up early and had a traditional organic Norwegian breakfast at Goat, the restaurant attached to our hotel. The apple, carrot and beet salad was quite good as was the cheese and crackers, and fresh bread.
We set off for the information center at Grand Central station, and enjoyed sites along the way. We booked two 48 hour Oslo passes, which allow you to uses public transportation and gain admission to most museums. The nice thing about these passes is you can write the date and time on them yourself, so they ‘start’ exactly when you want them to. This was great, because a free city walking tour was scheduled to leave the information center 5 minutes after we arrived. We joined the tour, and learned some fun stories about the buildings located nearest to the City Center and Norwegian culture.
I’ll share two interesting Norwegian facts — one — young people are “required” to serve in the military for a year. It’s a loose requirement because if you decide you don’t want to, that’s generally okay. Norway seems pretty easy-going in regards to individual choice. Interesting fact — two — houses are generally painted 3 colors, and historically, this was an indication of wealth with the better off living in white houses, middle class in yellow houses and the people of least means living in red houses.
Next, we did a tour of City Hall. The walking tour used to go into city hall together, but our guide explained that within the last two weeks, they upgraded their security protocol, similar to an airport. So, we parted ways with the tour in order to get a closer look at city hall. City halls are generally not places of interest to me personally — but this one is actually pretty special. It’s where the Nobel Prizes are awarded every year on December 10.
I was pretty excited to finally see this place in person, as Concordia, my undergrad, had a unique focus on the Nobel Peace Prize and hosted a biannual forum that replaced most of our classes for 3 academic calendar days. I also did undergraduate research for a faculty member on peace education for children during May seminar one year. These experiences aren’t ones I think of often, but when I stop to think about it, they’re woven into who I am today. The tour focuses on the murals and their historical meaning. Near the end of our tour, a choral wedding processional marched down the stairs. I, too, might consider a Wednesday morning city hall wedding if I lived in Oslo!
Next up we visited the Nobel Prize Center. The first floor is currently dedicated to nature and sustainability — the exhibit was creative and beautiful, but not overly informative. The second floor was dedicated to the 2018 peace prize winner — Dr Denis Mukwege — who has treated 44,000 war victims of sexual violence. The exhibit was incredibly informative and emotionally moving. The final exhibit is dedicated to all peace prize winners over time. It’s beautiful and you could easily spend a half day in there if you were committed to thoroughness. But, my sense is, most people skim through, focusing on the people they recognize, before moving on.
Next, we took a ferry boat over to the Bugdoy neighborhood to visit several museums. We started out at the Norwegian Folk Museum, which was felt incredibly familiar to me, despite this being my first trip! My family is Norwegian and their pride in this hardy culture has stayed with them despite a few generations of geographical separation. The museum is open air, and includes several different period homes and town buildings which were moved onto museum grounds and restored. There are also people dressed in period clothing who perform demonstrations and answer questions. The genuine stave chapel was cool to see (Joe and I got married in a replica stave chapel ourselves).
Inside, there’s a display of folk-art. I was blown away by one piece in particular from Rindal, Norway, where my Dad’s family emigrated from — a bridal trunk. Here’s the picture and the translation of the description:
Trunk FROM RINDAL, More Og Romsdal DATED 1834 Trunks were used for storage, and existed in all households – high and low. Thus, it became among the most common objects in which popular decorative art could unfold. Finest was the bride’s trunk as the girls gathered equipment, such as this one.
Next up, we visited the Holocaust museum. I’m guessing this particular site isn’t frequented by non-locals as much as some of the other museums in this area, because we were the ONLY people there, and the unlike everywhere else we visited today, everything was in Norwegian. Luckily, the woman at the counter gave us each a tablet which helped with some translations. And, we walked away with quite a bit of new knowledge about the German occupation of Norway during WWII. They also had a small exhibit near the end dedicated to genocide in Iraq, which left us walking away feeling heavy and discussing other relevant current events.
Next, we visited the Viking Ship museum — a seemingly lighter-toned museum, although the Vikings were apparently pretty scary characters. The word Skol!, which is shouted during Vikings football games, is referring to the Vikings who drank beer out of their enemies skulls, apparently… Their ships are really big and very cool. I wonder what it felt like to be at the oars, rowing. It looks logistically impossible, but it worked, I guess?
Our second, ship-themed museum was the Kon-Tiki. I knew nothing at all about this until I visited, but a guy named Thor decided to provide proof of concept for his theory that South Americans could have settled Polynesia. He did so by building a raft out of reeds (like they also could have), and sailing it 101 days across the ocean. I get the impression Norway really really admires this Thor guy, as does the world. He flew the United Nations flag on a follow up voyage from Morocco to Barbados, with a crew comprised of men from many different countries, plus a monkey and a duck(?) Thor sounds sort of crazy, but smart and fun too.
Lastly, we visited the Fram museum, which is dedicated to Norwegian explorers. We walked through a couple ships, and went through the (unrealistic, tacky) Arctic simulation. Either northern MN is much colder than the Arctic, or their simulation is simply inaccurate (and also bizarre with the addition of a haunted house ploys).
We rode the ferry back to City Center, and got grilled cheese and aioli fries from the Good Mood food truck. If you’ve ever spent close to $45 on grilled cheese and french fries, perhaps you’ve been to Oslo.
I’m in bed now, and it’s 11:38 pm, but it’s still kind of light outside. I’m not sure if the midnight sun is giving me energy, or if I’m still jet-lagged. Hard to tell!