Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Norwegian Fjord and Glacier Tour - Oslo Day 1 and 2

Day 01: Arrival in Oslo, the capital of Norway
  • Arrival in Oslo according to your own itinerary. (Note - This leaves you almost no time in Oslo, I strongly suggest you book 2-3 extra days here.)
  • Recommended attractions:
    • Vigeland Sculpture Park
    • Viking Ship Museum
    • Oslo Opera House
    • Kon-tiki Museum
    • Munch Museum
  • Accommodation in Oslo

To read the first posting in this series on Norway click here.

When booking a tour it's important to read the schedule carefully.  Glen and I booked the 8-day self-guided tour - Norwegian Fjords and Glaciers - offered by Authentic Scandinavia.  The first day of the tour is in Oslo, so if you arrive exactly this day, you only get a small amount of time in this city and no time to recover from the flight or adjust to the local time.  If you arrive the day before, then you will probably need to book an extra night in a hotel.  That said - one day in Oslo is definitely not enough.  We booked 4 extra nights here - 3 at the start of the trip so we had more time to explore and 1 at the end of the trip so we didn't get off the train and step on the plane.  It was well worth the extra money. 











The tour agency booked us in the Thon Opera Hotel which is located between the Central Train Station where we arrived from the airport and the waterfront. It was luxurious, comfortable and had first class staff that bent over backwards to help with any request.  It also offered the largest and best Norwegian buffet breakfast we had the entire trip.  One of the most surprising thing for us was the way they separated you in bed. There were 2 twin mattresses, each with an individual comforter. In the Thon the twin mattresses were placed on top of one single king box spring which worked, but in future hotels we found the room had 2 twin beds pushed together and they had a tendency to slide apart if you tried to cuddle.  The bathroom at the Thon also had a huge tub you could really sink into, but you had to request a room with a bathtub as not all had them. I made use of it every day. 

Glen and I arrived late afternoon on Sunday, checked into the hotel and then looked for somewhere to eat. A short stroll up a pedestrian only section of Karl Johans Gate led us to a pub called 3 Brodre where we learned first hand that food prices in Norway were a lot higher. This package of ketchup really brought home the fact we were in a different country as I had never seen one labeled anything other than HEINZ.  After supper, we only had time for a short walk over to the new Opera House on the waterfront across from the hotel.  This amazing structure is designed for tourists, with long sloping ramps on each side that take you up to the roof for a view of the water and city.  





Day 2 broke with mixed weather.  After first heading down to feast on the Thon's amazing breakfast buffet, we threw our rain jackets in a carry bag and headed out.  First stop was the tourist centre (again right near the hotel) to pick up our 48 hour Oslo Pass.  This is the best deal if you're wanting to site see as all your transit and entry fees are included and the list of places you can visit is enormous - way too large to list here.  Our first outing was to step on the local ferry over to Bygdoy which had several museums with a historical bent.




We began at the Kon Tiki Museum.  It wasn't large, but it was full of information and had both the Kon Tiki raft that Thor Heyerdahl sailed in 1947 as well as the Ra II, a reed boat he crossed the Atlantic with in 1970.  Seeing how small the Kon Tiki raft was, and thinking of those brave men sailing it in the middle of the ocean in 1947 with very little support, took my breath away.  The Ra II was an impressively larger reed boat with more space than the raft.  In1970 the support available to the crew was much larger, but it was still an impressive feat.




Next door was a museum that housed the Fram, the strongest wooden ship in the world.  It was 3 floors high and proved itself by drifting in polar ice for 3 years.  Standing at the bottom looking up, the size was overwhelming. It was impossible to get a picture that gives any feel for how enormous it truly is as it filled the small building that housed it.  If you climbed up the to the top floor, you could walk across onto the deck and explore or head below to see how the crew lived. There was also a 3rd museum here you could visit - the Norwegian Maritime Museum - with a small grouping of antique boats, an art gallery and a movie.



Then it was a short hop to another part of Bygdoy where we visited 2 other sites. The Viking Museum had a couple of large boats that were relatively intact, one that was only just pieces and interesting artifacts from the time. Several surprises awaited.  The Vikings decorated ornately.  I always thought of them as rough rogues looting and plundering, but the detailed carvings and embellishment on wagons, sleds and more was unbelievably intricate.  Well-to-do Vikings also used their boats as a grave.  They built a house for the bodies and sunk the boat along with the horses and household items.  Such a waste of resources at a time I am sure many were struggling.






Down the hill was the last museum we visited this day.  It was referred to in our brochure as the Norsk Folkemuseum and we almost by passed it thinking it was a small display of quilts, etc.  We couldn't have been more wrong.  This museum needs at least a half day to explore it properly.  Artifacts, buildings, photographs, furniture and more from the 16th century onward were there to see.  What I liked most was the 2 communities they had re-created.  At the back was farm land where antique buildings still sported sod roofs. Looking inside I was again struck by the ornateness of the decoration in what was a very simple home.  All walls and furniture were covered with intricate paintings.  Up a steep hill they had one of the oldest Stave churches in Norway.  In another area they had re-created the streets of a city from a later period with various buildings housing an antique bank, pharmacy and more.  One showcased furnishings from several different decades with each bedroom a specific period.  We barely scratched the surface at this museum and I hope one day to go back.









Check out the ornately painted walls of
this sod-roofed house
With sore feet and minds that could no longer absorb a single new fact, we jumped on the ferry and headed back to the hotel.  Supper and a long, hot soak in the Thon Opera's enormous bathtub ended the day perfectly.  We were thankful that there had been mostly beautiful weather with only the odd sprinkle of rain and cloud.  The most interesting non-tourist thing I saw was a car.  I couldn't get a picture as that was one of the few rainy moments, but someone had taken their black Austin Mini and painted the roof and rear-view mirrors in a black/white racing checkerboard.  Then they attached long, curved metal eyelashes around the headlight (actually called Carlashes).  It will forever be the picture I wish I had.  An internet search pulled up the picture below - but it's just not the same. :)



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