Oslo, February 2012

Oslo is a major tourist destination but, fortunately for me, not in February. The competition in the museums wasn't from coach loads (or, worse, cruise-ship loads) of camera-toting tourists, but from legions of back-pack-wearing primary school kids.

I decided to stick to my maritime tourist theme for this trip and after wandering along the snow-covered quay sides, found a bus to the museums ghetto on Bygdoy peninsula a few miles west of the city centre. In the summer there is a ferry across the fjord to Bygdoy, but at this time of year the 'only way is bus' - as the young women in the tourist office assured me. Since the bus is the only way, it's the route that the school groups take too. The seven year old (I'm guessing) sitting beside me was happy to chatter in English about his school trip to see the Viking boats - his English being very much better than my Norwegian.

I paid a quick visit Roald Amundsen and his polar colleagues - the five of them are cast in bronze and stand looking gravely down the Olso Fjord just outside the Fram Museum - before going to see the Fram, the ship that Amundsen used on his successful trip to the South Pole in 1911. The boat itself is very similar to the Discovery I've visited a few times in Dundee, but despite being out of the water the Fram is in a much more original condition than the Discovery.

Fram was declared a museum piece in 1925 and retired when it was still pretty much in its original state when Amundsen moved on to his next ship. The Discovery went through several users who changed it to meet their needs before finally being properly 'retired' back to Dundee. I have visited the Fram before (almost 40 years before) but my recollections are I think mainly from the family photographs rather than being 'real' memories. The Fram museum has been through a major refurbishment recently, now it includes sound and light special effects (wind noises plus quite good Northern or perhaps Southern Lights effects). As well as visiting the far South Fram still holds the record for the Northern-most point reached by a wooden ship. There is also a 'freezer' room in the museum with a moving deck to give the passing tourist the sense of what the weather in the far North (or South) might be like when on board. It's probably quite dramatic at the height of summer, but is of limited impact for someone who's just arrived from Stockholm in February. Having seen and heard the Scott Centenary events in the UK, marking both Scott's reaching the South Pole in early 2012, and his death a few weeks later, it's very noticeable that all the similar Norwegian hoopla and souvenirs go big on 2011 being the Centenary.

Just next door to the Fram is the Norwegian Maritime Museum, which covers about 2000 years of water-borne history from dug-out canoes though to specialist oil rig vessels and bulk carriers and has examples of some of the older, smaller boats plus fantastic models of the bigger and newer vessels. There is a really good video presentation that flies you along the Norwegian coast from the Lofoten Islands round to Oslo, and combines both modern (helicopter-shot) video footage with historical photographs from the early 20th Century.

A little further back towards the centre of Oslo is the Viking ship museum - which houses three original Viking longships from various parts of Norway. All three were used as funeral vessels, and were buried with everything needed for the next life. Two of the ships look as if they could, once the ice had cleared, be moved off to the closest fjord and sailed away.

Three museums is my limit for one day, so my final stop in Oslo was Akershus Fort in the centre of the city, with beautiful views over the harbour, the city and along Oslofjord too, which almost, but not quite provided a sunset.

Just to round off the maritime tone that the trip is taking on, I walked past a rather smart looking motor yacht called Norge just below the walls of the Akershus - it's the Norwegian Royal Yacht. I'm told that this is one of only two Royal Yachts still in service in Europe, the other one is Danish.

1 comment:

Steve Millington said...

Great blog Ross, really interesting & very inspiring to travel further.