We urgently need to charge our video camera before going anywhere! We hope to find an electricity socket at the tourist information near the train station and indeed, we are lucky! So we spend an hour here, reading through the various options of what to do in Oslo. Amazingly Oslo has 52 museums and since we already checked out the city on our bicycles yesterday, we are keen to check out some museums today. The big question is: To get the Oslo Pass or not to get the Oslo Pass?! The The 24hr Oslo Pass is 270NOK (57EUR or about $70) per person and will give you free entry to most museums, free parking in the city council car parks and free public transport, including the ferry to the museum island. Looking at it realistically, how many museums can you visit in 24 hours when the opening times are only between 11am and 6pm? We decide we want to visit at least 4 museums, ideally 6!
– Holmenkollen Ski Museum = 110 NOK (This requires a 15min journey with the subway)
– Viking ship Museum – 60 NOK
– Norwegian Folklore Museum – 100 NOK
– FRAM Museum – 80 NOK
– Kon Tiki Museum – 70 NOK
– Maritime Museum – 60 NOK
Should be do-able, shouldn’t it? We decide for the Oslo Pass and jump on the subway number 1 going to Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Ski Jump. We stamp the Oslo pass at the train station but later realise we did so in the wrong area. Oops. The subway soon becomes a normal train, as we exit the underground train network and now drive up higher and higher, soon overlooking all of Oslo and the fjords.
Of course the rain begins to pour down once we arrive at Holmenkollen but gladly we brought a rain jacket and a frog green rain poncho. Firstly we discover the ski simulator which takes you onto the ski jump and the downhill ski track, pretending to reach more than 100km/h. This is an extra 60NOK per person but we have to give it a try. Now, having done it, I guess it was ok but it’s difficult to really simulate ski jumping!
Now the ski museum: We enter, show our Oslo cards and are permitted in without any problems (even though there is supposed to be a start date and time on the Oslo pass but the space is still blank). So basically the 24hr valid time hasn’t started yet.
The museum exceeds all my expectations! I thought we may see some old skis from the 50ies and a few photos of ski jumping but instead the museum’s story starts with Roald Amundsen’s journey to the south pole. One of his dogs is displayed here, stuffed obviously.
We get to see some of their equipment but mainly of course the skis and sleds. Just around the corner I find a man dressed in reindeer fur holding up his skis – 4000 years ago! This man belongs to the Sami culture. Original skis from 600AD or skis that are beautifully decorated with ornaments from the 1890’s are being displayed. Until about 1890, skiers only used one ski pole for breaking and balance and often the end would have another function. It could have been in the shape of a spear for hunting bears, a shovel or even a drinking cup.
There are stuffed animals like this very large elk and some of the photos are quite amusing; one showing two laughing women in their early 20th century dresses and on skis all covered in snow, another one showing a little 2 year old boy on his skis and with the question: Are Norwegians born with skis on?
Another highlight is the spectacular preview of the documentary film “Being There” made by producer Filip Christensen (Field Productions). It shows an amazing view (mostly from the helicopter) of the worlds best free skiers climbing and skiing down mountains in the fantastic Norwegian landscape. There are no words to describe this footage, you need to see it for yourself. As soon as we are getting wireless internet, we will download the full movie from iTunes. I also love the soundtrack!
From inside the museum you can take an elevator up to the top of the ski jump and get a 360 degree view over Oslo, fjords and forests. Very nice!
Eventually we are coming down to the souvenir store where Logan does not only pic up a Viking T-shirt and some Norway stickers, he also shows his love for Norway by trying on a I-glitterheart-Norway cap, as well as hugging the “little teddy bear” and the pretty troll girl.
Off to the Viking Ship Museum!
We get back to the city centre, pick up our bicycles and ride to the port. From there we catch the free (with the Oslo Pass) ferry to the museum island and walk up the road to the Viking Ship Museum. We only have about an hour until the museum closes.
The Viking Age lasted from about 800 – 1050AD. During this period the Norseman were the lords of the sea. They were excellent shipwrights and sailors. Their ships were fast, well built and suitable for long sea voyages which enabled them to go on journeys in most of the northern hemisphere. From Scandinavia the Vikings sailed west over the North Sea to the British Isles and then over the Atlantic to Iceland, Greenland and North America. Some sailed south down the coast of Europe and entered the Mediterranean, while others sailed east down the great rivers of Russia to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
At the beginning of the Viking Age Norway consisted of a number of smaller chiefdoms, but was later gradually united under a single king. Viking society was divided into classes with great economic and social differences between them. The ships exhibited in the museum were built for members of the upper class. The farmers formed the backbone of the society; they were free men with the right to bear arms and to participate in meetings of the “ting”, or assembly. The slaves were the lowest rank in society; they were the property of their owners and had no legal rights. Many of them were foreigners who had been taken prisoner on a raid.
Since the Vikings came from Scandinavia, from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, they had to adopt to a great variation in their landscape, climate and agricultural conditions. In good farming country, crops and animal husbandry were the main means of livelihood, while in other parts people relied more on hunting and fishing which were profitable activities. Furs, bird down, and walrus ivory were highly prized commodities in the rest of Europe. Considerable quantities of iron were also produced in the Norwegian mountain hamlets and found a market both at home and abroad.
The Norsemen plundered churches, monasteries and even whole towns but plunder and conquest weren’t the only reasons why the Vikings took to the seas. Many of them journeyed abroad in order to trade, and others to find new country in which to settle. The Vikings were also merchants, selling their goods in towns and market places, and established trading colonies in Ireland and Russia. Many Norsemen settled down as farmers in the lands they had invaded, such as Iceland or Greenland and they were the first Europeans in North America.
In the Viking age it was customary to bury the dead in boats. In the ships exhibited here at the museum, the dead were placed in a burial chamber which was erected in the stern of the ship. They were buried with a good supply of food and drinks, horses and dogs, and both useful and decorative objects. When the ships were excavated, the graves were found to have been robbed and the jewellery, weapons, gold and silver were no longer there. The objects made of wood and cloth were well preserved, because the ships had been buried in blue clay and covered with stones, clay and turf.
Upon entry our view falls onto the huge and well preserved viking ship: The Oseberg Ship.
The Oseberg ship was found in a large burial mound on the Oseberg farm in Vestfold and excavated in 1904. The ship was built some time between 813-829 AD, but was later used as a grave ship for a woman of high rank who died in 834AD. The 22 meter long ship was built of oak and the number of oar holes indicate that the ship was rowed by a crew of 30 men.
The second Viking ship, the Gokstad Ship, was found in a large burial mound on the Gokstad farm in Vestfold and excavated in 1880. It was built around 890AD and later used as a grave ship for a Viking chieftain; the body lay in a grave chamber built of horizontal timber logs. This ship was 24m long with room for 32 oarsmen. It is the largest of the Viking ships on display and also the most robust. While the Oseberg ship was a luxury pleasure craft, the Gokstad was a sturdy and practical vessel, capable of sailing the high seas.
There’s also a third Viking ship in the museum, the Tune Ship. It was found on the Haugen-Hof in Ostfold and excavated in 1867. It was also built around 900AD but due to poor preservation conditions the grave gifts have not survived and the ship has has been severely damaged.
The skills of the Viking shipwrights were based on long and solid experience. They did not use plans or drawings but instead took measurements by eye. The sails were made of woollen cloth and it required almost as much work as the it did to build the ship. The Gokstad ship’s sail measured 110sqm. The origins of Norse ship-building can be traced back all the way to the 4th century BC. These traditions are still alive in Norway today.
In the back wing of the museum we find the grave gifts and other objects such as wooden carts, wooden animal heads, sleds, “camping equipment” and more. Everything made from wood is decorated with wave, animal and plant ornaments.
At the end we also have a quick look at the souvenir shop of course, where they sell books and dvd’s about vikings, but also viking jewellery. Most of it is quite expensive but Logan get’s himself a silver ring with viking ornaments on it for only about 6 Euros.
Museum Day 1 is over, we continue tomorrow!