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Two People, Fourteen Months, One huge world!

Norway

NORWAY | Wednesday, 23 December 2015 | Views [742] | Comments [2]

"Let's go to somewhere to experience a genuinely cold Christmas!"

When sitting in New Zealand this suggestion would get short shrift but when in England surrounded by budget airlines it becomes a possibility very rapidly. We had a hunt through some German locations as well as some of the more picturesque Swiss and Austrian alternatives before discovering our $50 air tickets to Oslo.

As soon as we had booked we received advice from any who had been previously that Norway is one of the most expensive places on the planet so we were grateful that we had only commited to three nights. They had not reckoned on the Oslo Pass! (more of that later).

Winter Christmas 

Winter as it should be

Arriving at what should have been early evening to find pitch darkness then standing on a station platform in biting coldness gave a hint that we had found what we were looking for but our visit to the nearby Christmas market confirmed it all. Before long we found ourselves sitting on a reindeer skin covered log beside a brightly burning brazier, each of us covered with blankets and sipping gluwein while chatting to strangers and admiring the plethora of twinkling Christmas lights. Surely this could not get any more traditional "cold Christmas"? Oh yes it could! The moose head mounted on the wall then started to sing Christmas carols in a deep and melodic voice. Bingo! Freeze the moment!

Our hotel was a completely different concept than any we had stayed at to date. An automated check-in service with key dispenser and then styling straight out of an Ikea designer's dream. When it is -9 degrees outside during the day a warm hotel is a must. Citibox ticked that box and the icing on the cake was the underfloor heating in the bathroom!

Amazing Hoar Frost

Hoar frost

The next morning we headed out clutching our Oslopasses in our non-sweaty hands. We each had thermal underwear, multiple layers of merino, wind proofs, hoodies, beanies, gloves etc., even so the cold cut through all of those layers in very impressive fashion. Any exposed skin took a pounding but at least it was not raining or windy. The Oslopass enabled us to take as many forms of transport and visit as many attractions as possible within forty eight hours and we of course took up this challenge in spades. First up was a bus trip to the museum peninsular. In the summer this would be a ferry across the Fjord which would have been delightful, however at the time of our visit too much of the landing area was frozen over to allow this service to continue. We came around the corner to see a beautiful high stave church surrounded by frost laden trees. The hoar frost was so strong that the branches were a little weighed down by it and the fields appeared to be covered with snow - the overall effect was enchanting. Realising that the stave church must form a part of the folk museum we leapt up and jumped off the bus. The folk museum is largely an outdoor collection of wooden buildings which have been re-sited from all around Norway. These houses often have sod roofs, a practice that has been followed for the past few hundred years (and probably for millennia before that!). Not everything is outside though and there is a recreation of early Oslo town in which you can visit an apartment block in which each appartment has been decked out to represent a different time period.

Stave Church 

Stave Church

We walked from here to the next museum on our list - the Viking Ship museum. I fully expected to see some fragments of keel timbers and the odd pot. Imagine my suprise when I walked in to see two almost perfectly preserved boats in all their glory, together with a third in the poor condition I had expected to see. To be honest, with a weekend's work it looked as if the first two could put to sea once again. These boats had each been used as part of the burial ritual for some prominent Viking personages, they had been loaded with treasure and utilitarian items so as to accompany these people into the afterlife with all that would be needed for a full and happy eternity. The whole ensemble is then buried in wet clay which has had the effect of providing an oxygen free environment and preventing decay. Long ago the treasure had been looted but the "boring" stuff had remained so we get the chance to view 1000 year old clothing, shoes, pots, weapons and tapestries as well as highly decorative sledges etc. Fascinating!

Viking Boots 

Viking Boots

Which of us forty somethings did not follow the adventures of Thor Heyerdall as he piloted Kon Tiki, Ra and Ra Two across the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean respectively? OK maybe you didn't and, come to think of it maybe I didn't either as I discovered the Kon Tiki trip had taken place in the forties! I had seen the documentaries however and was spellbound at the audacity of a man who forms a theory, does some research and then backs himself to achieve it - at great risk to life and limb! One of the fellas on the trip just happened to meet Thor in South America and thought that it would be a great jape so asked to come with. Thor liked the cut of his jib and so it was all go. All in all there was only one person on the voyage with any sailing experience at all! Well, if this all sounds appealing to you the good news is that Kon Tiki and Ra Two are both intact and fully preserved in their own museum which also has great detail of the adventures and how they came about. Kon Tiki is a balsa wood raft and each of the Ra craft were reed boats such as sailed on the Nile.

Continuing the maritime theme the third and last museum of the day was wholly dedicated to the wooden ship Fram which was specifically built to withstand being trapped in pack ice for several years. The plan was to sail north, get trapped and then test the theory that the pack ice is circling the globe on sea currents. This plan came off and the theory proved and so, when Roald Amundsen needed a boat for his south pole expedition the Fram was the natural choice. Again perfectly preserved this boat is available for exploration throughout and the domed room in which it is set is used as a giant projection screen which was the closest I have come yet to experiencing the Northern Lights.

Everything is stylish! 

Everything is stylish!

Our other full day was spent first of all exploring the Vigeland sculpture installation in Frogner Park. Gustav Vigeland was so prolific in sculpting different variations of the unclothed human body that he needed somewhere to display them all. Enter the City of Oslo council who found some space in a park and a new attraction was born. Overnight it had been snowing and so we found ourselves making tracks and even indulging in a wee snowball fight! The Nobel peace prize museum was an interesting diversion with a mix of political correct statements and incredible stories of selfless dedication.

We wandered down to the port side and up into the castle where there was a really interesting resistance museum. Without trying to be too trite this museum's strongest message seems to be to reinforce how hard it is to resist a determined and heartless enemy when every act of resistance results in excessive reprisals against whole villages. One thing that I learned from this museum was that the Nazis were so convinced that the allied invasion was to come via Norway that they packed that country with troops.

Boulder Cushions 

Boulder seats

The Norwegian resistance were held back until such time as the Normandy invasions commenced when all communications, roads, rail etc. were hit in a bid to prevent redeployment of the reserve troops. Finally we visited the opera house right on the waterfront. This is a triumph of modern architecture and we were fortunate enough to arrive just as a foyer performance was starting. Young people in national costume singing Nordic carols to an appreciative audience all tucking into Norwegian christmas treats. We were able to loiter long enough to see the whole performance and also to sample the delicious treats later on when the staff were clearing up. We watched the sunset from the roof of the building and then enjoyed reindeer pizza to finish off our delightful mini-break to Christmas land.

Tags: frost, northern lights, short break, winter christmas

 

Comments

1

Our best white Christmas was in Interlaken but Oslo sounds like fun too.

  Frances Feb 29, 2016 10:33 AM

2

Love the picture of the hoar frost..

  Frances May 3, 2016 8:03 AM

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