Saturday, 27 October 2012

Oslo - continued

\The Kon-Tiki

We took a ferry across the harbour to the Kon-Tiki Museum. Thor Heyerdal became famous for his epic journey across the Pacific Ocean on Kon-Tiki in 1947.  He believed that South Americans in pre-Columbian times could have colonized Polynesia. Using materials and the technology available in those times he built his boat. The journey was a magnificent feat but anthropologists have now discredited this theory. His excavations on Easter Island consolidated his reputation as a scientist. He followed up his Kon-Tiki voyage with expeditions on reed boats; he tried to re-create possible trading voyages of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The reed boats became water logged and had to be abandoned. The museum has the original Kon-Tiki and Ra 2, it was very exciting to see them as his voyages were very famous for years after their completion. He was a very fascinating person and tested his beliefs in all areas. It is a small museum but it was a very worthwhile visit and engaged us for a couple of hours.

Details about the Fram

We wandered towards the pier to catch the boat back; we passed the Fram Museum and decided to have a look. The Fram was built in 1892 and hailed as the world’s strongest ship. Extensive research had gone into the design so it wouldn’t be crushed by pack ice.  In its time it had sailed furthest north and south than any previous ship. It was used for three polar expeditions; first by Fridtjof Nansen, 1893-6, who researched how the Inuit survived in polar conditions and applied them to his expedition, Otto Sverdrup, 1898-1902 and Roald Amundsen 1910-12, the first man to reach the South Pole. You are able to board the Fram and wander over it the thickness of the hull and its unique shape was fascinating. There was also a temporary display on Scott’s expedition to Antarctica, he seemed grossly under prepared and relied too heavily on mechanical transport which hadn’t properly tested in the extreme cold conditions and was useless. It was a fair representation of Scott’s expedition but you couldn’t fail to see that the Norwegians were streets ahead in their research and understanding of what they were likely to encounter. We learnt a great deal from this visit.

Ibsen Museum

Back to the other side of the harbour again and off to another museum. We’re just about museum junkies but you learn so much from the small specific subject museums. So from adventure to literature, we headed for the Ibsen Museum. The museum is the fully restored apartment of Ibsen and his wife who lived there from 1895 to 1906 and 1914 respectively. Ibsen was rather vain about his appearance and writing; he had a portrait of his literary rival on the wall to inspire or was it to goad him to write better. Everyday Ibsen would walk to the Grand Café in the Grand Hotel, he had been a friend of Edvard Munch but they fell out when Ibsen paid a bill for him as Munch didn’t have the money on him. Munch was offended and never saw Ibsen again. You are given a guided tour of Ibsen’s apartment which is very informative plus they show an interesting film about his life the sessions alternate between Norwegian and English narration.
After this we decided that we had fitted enough into the day but as we wandered back to the centre we passed the Rådhuset (Town Hall) it was still open to visitors so we decided to have a look. The building was commenced in the 1920s but was officially opened in 1950; the delays were due to the Depression and war. It is a stark austere building that dominates the skyline; however the decoration and murals inside have an art-deco feel about them. The artwork depicts Norwegian history, on entering the building the lobby is filled with light and colour; the walls are decorated by a long list of Norwegian artists.  We enjoyed looking at the murals, and the various rooms, one named the Munch Room which displays some of Munch’s art. The carillon on the east tower plays a tune, often seasonally inspired music by Norwegian composers. The streets around the building are lined with restaurants, bars and shops.
After this we felt we had taken in enough for one day and our next big decision was where we would eat.  We tried to find a restaurant we had seen the previous day but it eluded us, we looked in at one with Norwegian cuisine but that didn’t really inspire us so ended up with Indian.

Munch Museum

The next day a short train ride took us to the Edvard Munch Museum. Apart from the National Museum the Munch Museum holds an extensive collection of his paintings. There is a permanent display and rotating displays of his other paintings. Puberty (1894) is a picture of a young girl sitting naked on a bed and expresses the vulnerable phase of the passage from childhood to adulthood which inspired the temporary display. Of course no Munch exhibition would be complete without another version of his painting The Scream which is placed with his paintings Anxiety and Despair.  Other motifs on display are the bewitchment of the dark forest and the allurement of water. It would be interesting to see what other paintings of Munch would be featured in 12 months time.
We went across the road from the museum to explore the Botanical Gardens it was a beautiful sunny day perfect to wander through the trees and flowers. Then we went back to the city centre to the Arkehus Castle and managed to get there before it closed this time. It was originally built as a medieval castle around 1300 to defend the capital. During the first half of 17th century the castle was rebuilt in the Renaissance style and surrounded by a bastion fortress then it fell into disrepair in the 18th and 19th centuries. It has since been restored. You can now wander from room to room which include the dungeon, Royal Mausoleum, Castle Church, and the Hall of Christian IV, Romerike Hall which today functions as a dining hall for official banquets and the Hall of Olav V. Each room has detailed information which makes the visit worthwhile.

The Opera House

The next and our last day we enjoyed morning tea at the elegant Grand Café,  we sat outside as the weather was warm and sunny, plus if you were only having coffee and a cake and not lunch you were discouraged from sitting inside. The Grand Café was the famous haunt of Erik Ibsen. The café is part of the Grand Hotel which is where the Nobel Peace Prize winners stay; it is a very grand establishment. We then went to see the new Opera House which was opened in 2008, it has a white marble exterior sloping into the fjord at Bjørvika, and you can wander around it and onto the sloping roof which gives great views of the city and waterfront. There were people who disregarded signs which clearly stated you could not ride a bicycle, skateboard or rollerblades on the roof and there several people on bikes. Obviously even here there are people who don’t think the rules apply to them. It was unfortunate we just missed the English language tour of the interior of the building and we couldn’t avail ourselves of the next one as we were leaving in the afternoon.
We had lunch did a last minute wander around the shops maybe we might find something worth buying, but alas no. We went back to our hotel to collect our bags and we just had to cross the road to the bus stop for the airport bus. We were now on our way home.
Overall we really liked our trip to Scandinavia; Copenhagen was a great city very compact and easy to get around. We also enjoyed Malmö and Lund and wished we had stayed in the Skåne area for longer to explore other places. Bergen was picturesque and had much to see. The Hurtigruten trip along the coast of Norway, around the fjords was a standout and Oslo was also enjoyable.  We never noticed any beggars or really down and out people in Copenhagen; we saw some in Sweden but noticed more in Oslo. We guessed many could be coming over the border from Russia and central Asia. Another note Denmark is the cheapest of the three countries progressively becoming more expensive with Norway being on top of the list. As a guide a pasta, a glass of house wine and a coffee in an ordinary restaurant costs the equivalent of around $AUS110, whereas in Melbourne it would be between $AUS55-60. That said I’m not quibbling, I know Scandinavia is an expensive destination, you just go with the flow and enjoy.