This post will be in two parts. Simply because we have two full days and judging by today’s experience it will warrant another post!
Oslo is easy to navigate. The map we picked up when we first arrived is all we have really needed to get started. We made our way back to Central Station to the Information Centre to plan out our itinerary. For apx $17 each we bought a ticket that provided 24hrs access to the public transport network…buses, trams, trains and ferries if we needed it. On the first access it’s a simple tap to register and then off we go. On and off whatever we need whenever. The transport all seems to run very regularly and the longest wait we had was 7 minutes for a train returning from Holmenkollen.
So ticket in hand off we set to find the tram out to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. This is one of Oslo’s most popular places which shows the life work of Gustav Vigeland. There are more than 200 bronze, granite, and iron sculptures laid out over hectares of parkland – also designed by Vigeland. The sculptures of human form seem to be depicting human relationships of all varieties. Not just the relationships themselves of say, parent and child, but many of the different aspects. So as an example there are statues showing a mother holding a baby, then another piggybacking her two children around many examples of different interactions between siblings, parents, grandparents, couples etc. The figures are all without clothing to differentiate class or style or to judge in any other way. They are simply people interacting with one another.
From the park we headed back by tram to the station Majorstuen where we caught the train up to Holmenkollen. The train took us through the suburbs which are picturesque at each turn. Holmenkollen is where we find the ski jump that has been part of the Oslo landscape since 1866…not quite as it is today, however there has been a ski jump on this site since then. It has been transformed and upgraded over the centuries and has featured in Olympic and World Championships. Since my first visit to Oslo in 1992, it has been expanded and improved twice. Each improvement gives more technical scope for the athletes to achieve further distance with their jumps. Quite honestly, just climbing the stairs of the spectators area gave me vertigo, let alone hurtling down it on two planks of highly technical equipment. The arena and jump itself are quite impressive feats of engineering and I’m glad we made the trip out to see it. There’s no snow at the moment so there was no action to see unfortunately.
Our self guided itinerary changed slightly to attempt a train to bus connection purely from our own understanding of the network…it seemed pretty straightforward. We caught the train back towards the city and got out at National Theatre Station. For those following on Facebook, this was where the buskers were. Trumpet, saxophone, piano accordian and bass – magnificent.
The bus stop was a short walk away, but we didn’t have to wait long to be heading through the streets in a different direction out towards the area of Bygdoy. It would take a full week to visit all of Oslo’s Museums, so we have had to cherry pick the ones of greatest interest and it is in Bygdoy that we find the Viking Ship Museum. The bus ride took us through Kongsgarden – The Royal Farm. Acres of farmland, barns and sheep which has been owned by the monastery and purchased by royalty and back to the monarchy appropriated for military provisioning and back to royal use as a summer residence. Its links to the Royal family date back to 1305. Today it is working organic farm.
The Viking Ship Museum features 3 ships found in the area around Oslo Fjord that had been discovered under burial mounds. Two of the 3 were amazingly preserved under the earth and peat and recovered back in the late 1800’s having laid under the earth since around the year 900AD. The Vikings buried with these ships would have been notable in their time and were sent to the afterlife with goods, equipment and animals that were deemed required. So the discovery of these particular ships provides a great insight into the life of their time. Despite these sites having been plundered by Vikings within a hundred years or so of their burial many items remain. Kitchen utensils, farming equipment, sledges, dogs, horses even peacocks were found on these ships. Natures preservation even made it possible to study the skeletons of the owners to determine the lifestyle and health of the deceased. It is an impressive collection of artefacts that have survived for centuries.
On the bus ride back to Oslo we met and talked with a couple of gents from further north. They talked about the difference in culture of Norway to the northern area. To them Oslo is pretentious with its Arts and coffee culture. It’s busy and unfriendly compared to the north. As tourists we have not noticed it to be particularly unfriendly, however saying that they are the first people to ask where we are from and to want to engage in conversation. We disembarked our bus back at National Theatre Station and enjoyed Oslo’s coffee culture. A latte, cappuccino and cake each cost us $37 in total. A little more than back home, but worth it for the view and people watching on Stortingsgata.
By this time it was about 4pm in the afternoon and the sun was heading in. The sunsets a long and it was great light to go and take pictures around the Palace. The Royal Palace is very accessible. It is possible to walk within 4 meters of the front door. If the guards weren’t there to warn you back you could actually walk all the way up and ring the bell. We wandered around the Palace and its picturesque Slottsparken. We came across an eclectic group of sculptures which whilst interesting seemed a little incongruent with the regal parkland. However we then found the plaque explaining that this was Princess Ingrid Alexandra’s Sculpture Park. A part of the park that is dedicated to sculptures by children for children. The park opened in 2016 and the project will be complete in 2019. During this time 1-2 sculptures will feature from each region of Norway from an art competition open to children in year 6. The competition is in honour of the 25th anniversary of the ascension of King Harald and Queen Sonja.
From the Palace gardens we wandered back through the streets of Oslo to our Hotel to rest and prepare for our evening plans.
After dinner we went to the Ice Bar. This is a bar which as the name suggest, is made entirely of ice. The bar, the seats, the tables, the walls even the drinks are serviced in ice glasses. We just had to experience it. Each season the bar is created featuring sculptures and art from a particular artist. On our visit it was a Norwegian artist called Munch. There is a museum in Oslo dedicated to his work. We won’t have time to visit the real museum, but at least got a feel for his work as it was represented in ice.