Oslo day 2 (museum day)

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June 25th 2010
Published: June 29th 2010
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Today was quite crazy, as I saw nine museums in one day. Unfortunately, that meant I could not stay more than an hour and a half at any of them, and some I could have easily spent twice that time looking at various artifacts and talking with the staff. This was a busier day even than days in Rome, so this may be a long post.

The day opened with getting up at 7:30, much to the dismay of the other three guys sleeping in the room (I was in a four-bed hostel-type accommodation there- single rooms were too expensive). I hope they got back to sleep eventually, but I wanted to make the first boat of the day over to where the museums were, and the boat leaves at 8:30. After a hurried breakfast I went over to the dock that I had scouted out the night before so that I would know where the boat left from. I was one of just five people who took the first boat over. There were two museums here that I wanted to see, the Viking Ship Museum and the Norway Folk Museum.

First was the Viking Museum. Evidently the clay in this area seals things up really well, as archeologists were able to excavate three Viking ship graves which were in great condition, accompanied with a lot of valuable artifacts. Not valuable as in worth money (grave robbers had already made off with whatever was originally there), but precious for historians and museum workers who could learn more about how the Vikings buried their dead and what was available to them. I was amazed to learn about some of the textiles they found there. I have thought for a long time that earlier peoples were smarter and knew more than we give them credit for today, and in this case some textiles had designs that were influenced by Eastern Asian cultures, which means the trade networks were able to bring those ideas all the way to northern Europe at that time! There were also very ornately carved sleds, equipment for horses, and a lot of everyday things that are even more valuable because those kinds of things tend to wear out the fastest, and historians do not generally get many of them to study. There were also bones of three people that had been buried in the ships (all elite people from Viking society, and had to be properly buried with their ships and equipment). It was a very interesting museum.

Next, just a little ways down the road, was the Norwegian Folk Museum. This was the highlight museum of the day and one of the most interesting places I have been on this trip so far. A huge collection of 158 buildings have been moved here from all over Norway, representing most of the time periods of Norway, and were made the centerpieces of a living history effort. Most of the buildings are furnished inside. I saw about twenty staff members doing various things, and several children. A staff member told me that they run a summer program where children from area schools apply to work at the site for a week, going to school here, learning what the children would have learned, and adding to the historical authenticity of the place just by running around and playing. They had all kinds of demonstrations: farming, silver-crafting, pottery-making, weaving, dancing, log-cutting, and probably more that I did not see. I could have stayed there all day, but after 1 and ½ hours, I had to move on. (http://www.norskfolke.museum.no/en/)

After a short boat ride to the next museum peninsula, I saw three museums in quick succession: the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Norwegian Maritime Museum, and the Fram Museum. Kon-Tiki was first, and it surprised me with the professionalism of the place. They had the original raft on exhibit there, plus the Ra II and an Easter Island exhibit. Thor Heyerdahl was evidently much more of an explorer than I thought. Overall, it was a small museum, but definitely worth seeing. Next was the Fram Museum, which featured the ship, of course, but also had a lot on polar explorations. I did not spend much time here, but the ship was quite amazing, especially considering that it was entirely inside a building. Last was the Norwegian Maritime Museum, which was a disappointment. I had been hoping for a museum that went through all of Norway’s maritime history, kind of like the name of the museum suggests. Instead, I found almost all of the museum was ship models, which are fine, but the museum should be renamed the Norwegian Ship Model Museum or something if that is all that they want to have there. There was a really neat walk-in multi-story replica of an early passenger cruise ship there. I did not spend much time there either.
(Kon-Tiki: http://www.kon-tiki.no/e_aapning.php, Fram: http://www.fram.museum.no/en/, Maritime Museum: http://www.norsk-sjofartsmuseum.no/pub/index.php?subkat=en〈=2)

Having seen all the museums away from the city, I got back on the boat and got off at Oslo. By this point, it was about 2:00 PM and I still had four museums to go. The Nobel Peace Center is right next to the docks there, so I went there. I was not anticipating much, and whatever was there I figured I would disagree with. I was entirely correct on the second point, but I was wrong in that there was nothing there. The permanent exhibits in the museum are the most technologically advanced I have seen anywhere, and may ever see. Evidently no expense was spared in designing the exhibits. They evidently do an exhibit every year on the most recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, so the exhibit up when I was there was on Barack Hussein Obama, but I was mildly surprised to see that they included some of the criticisms about his selection for the award. Nevertheless, I did not spend much time there either. (Oslo Peace Center website is down right now)

The last stop was the Akershus Castle. This is more of a complex, as there is the castle, Norwegian Resistance Museum, and Armed Forces Museum all within the fortress complex. First was castle. I did not use the audioguide, figuring that it would slow me down, but I probably missed out on a lot of background to fabulously furnished rooms that had no text panels to explain things. However, when I got the chapel, I was rewarded for sticking around. I learned later that a marriage took place in the chapel after I left, but just as I got into the chapel, an organist and soloist walked in, set out their music, and began “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” while I delightedly sat in the back recording them with my camera. I still have to figure out how to get the recording off my camera. It was amazing to sit there in a chapel hundreds of years old hearing the acoustics of the room and the pipe organ there, even if it was rather small. When guests for the wedding started coming in, I slipped out and finished my tour of the castle. Then it was off to the Norwegian Resistance Museum, which was quite interesting. I had no idea of the scale of resistance to the invading Nazis, I knew that there probably was resistance of some sort, but had no idea that thousands of Norwegians were behind it. It was an interesting placed, but the exhibits were definitely dated and rather confusing. Last stop was the Armed Forces Museum, which I slipped into at about 4:30 PM. This was another disappointment, I was expecting an orderly explanation of Norway’s military involvements through the centuries, but all I got were exhibits of weapons with few explanations, little on wars, campaigns, or battles, and even less on the context of the actions within the time period. Somehow I never found the exhibits that talked about after World War II, maybe there weren’t any, but surely there were somewhere, I just couldn’t find them.
(Akershus Fortress: http://www.mil.no/felles/ak/start/ak/article.jhtml?sourceID=778100&source=ftd, Resistance Museum: http://www.mil.no/felles/nhm/start/eng/, Armed Forces Museum: http://www.fmu.mil.no/)

So after that, I was fairly tired. Just two more things remained to do before dinner, I went to the bus stop to make sure a bus would be running tomorrow for me to get back to the airport, and then I hiked over the the Oslo Cathedral, just to see what was there. A fabulous organ was there, but not a lot else compared with cathedrals that I have seen. (http://www.oslodomkirke.no/artikler/1183/oslo-cathedral/)

Next was dinner. I went to the area around my hotel, found a Burger King, and had dinner while listening to two street singers sing somewhat familiar songs such as “Ring of Fire.” For the two dinners I had here, I had McDonalds food one night and Burger King the other, it is unbelievable how expensive the food is here. I wanted to try whatever traditional Norwegian food is here, but after looking at the prices in a number of places, and being too tired to look anywhere else, I succumbed to hamburgers both nights. After planning my route and times tomorrow, I went back to the hotel and went to sleep.

The next day I spent coming back to Maastricht. Since I did not do any sightseeing then, I will not write about it, but I did get back.

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