Bygdøy museum heaven!

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August 20th 2016
Published: August 24th 2016
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After enduring two snorers and a very hot room (street noise if you leave the window open!) I'm glad to set off down towards the harbour area to get my ticket for the ferry to the Bygdøy peninsula home to about six museums! I realise the 24 hour Oslo Pass will save me loads of money and includes ferry and museum entry along with a load of other perks so get myself one of these instead. A boat has just left so I have a wander around the harbour while I wait for the next one. There seems to be some kind of event going on with marquees and two large decorative elephants, oh and a really ornate gypsy caravan.

Amongst all the tourist paraphernalia, tours, boat trips, food outlets, cruise ships etc there are three genuine fishing boats tied up, with fishermen sorting out the catch, gutting, weighing and packaging their fish and lobsters. I wonder what their fishing ancestors would make of the massive changes that must have happened since their day if they were suddenly dropped back in Oslo harbour today. It seems quite sad thinking about it. I guess my love of museums, particularly social history ones, is me yearning for the more simple life people used to lead. It might have been hard, and very limiting in many ways for some, particularly women, but it does shout real life and humanity in a way that is often forgotten in our age of consumption and greed.

Wait over, I get on board the small ferry and grab myself a seat in the open air. We pass a couple of old tall ships, now being used for day trips around the harbour. These grand old ladies of the sea would have been the largest vessels around in their day. Now they, and the buildings around them, are completely dwarfed by massive cruise liners moored up. They look completely ridiculous and out of proportion to everything around them. I know many people love cruises but I really don't get it, particularly on these massive boats. To me it would be like checking into a massive hotel but then finding I'm not allowed to leave - a prison ship no less, albeit a pretty luxurious one! I'd hate it.

The first drop off point is for the open air folk museum and the Viking ship museum. Fortunately not too many people get off here and most of those that do head straight to the Viking ships leaving the folk museum quieter. This is my first choice and I'm not disappointed. I find the Oslo Card not only lets me into the museums but let's me jump ticket queues too - bonus!

The open air folk museum is basically lots of old wooden houses from around the 17th century of various styles depending on what region of Norway they are from. Some rooms are set out with period items and there are people dressed in period costume to answer any questions you might have. I meet one guy with a long tapering instrument that's a sort of trumpet. He is blowing it in answer to the calls from another player far away on the other side of the site. He points me in the direction of some more musicians and folk dancers who are just about to start. It's wonderful and charming. There's a fiddle player and a young guy and girl in traditional Norwegian dress dancing to her music smiling away and obviously really enjoying themselves. The lad also plays a strange wooden 'flute' that has two holes at the top one of which is blown INTO not across like a modern day flute. The only way of changing the note is to put your finger over the end of the instrument or to blow harder. He gets a surprising number of notes out of it considering.

As I investigate the houses I notice that many of the smaller ones are balanced upon what look like wooden mushrooms, some of which are propped up with rocks. It turns out these are the grain and food stores and are raised to try to prevent vermin getting to the precious food supplies. The roofs are either turfed with grass or have wooden tiles that overlap, sometimes five deep! Some of the interiors and furniture have patterns on made with chalk. All the houses have a slightly smokey, burnt wood smell.

One of the houses has a legend attached to it involving the devil being found playing the fiddle in the cellar while a wedding celebration is going on overhead. It ends with some of the guests who had gotten into a fight being found dead. That naughty devil!

I also read about the very equitable way land was portioned out in small parcels so that no-one got more fertile land than anyone else.What a wonderful museum. Loved it. And bonus, there is a geoacche to find out in the car park.

Time to move on to the very crowded Viking museum. I'm glad of the Oslo Pass as the queue for tickets is huge and the price way too high. Once inside the high ceilinged building I am immediately blown away be the massive size of two virtually complete Viking ships, the Gakstrand and the Oseberg. I hadn't realised Viking ships were quite this big. One has two incredibly ornate wooden curls with carved patterns that decorate each end of the boat. I find out that the ships, once they became redundant, were used as burial chambers. Archaeologists found them buried in earthern mounds complete with bodies on highly decorative wooden sledges. The rest of the museum houses the sledges and other items found with the burials. The most interesting are five intricately carved wooden animal heads, four of which are on display. It isn't known what these were used for.

It doesn't take long before the crush of people gets too much and I make my escape. There's a bit of a walk to the next set of museums down by the shore and it's really hot and sunny so I grab myself a cold beer and sit people watching for a bit before going to find another geocache. I'm checking out this strange kind of light house made from ropes, nets, lobster pots and other fishing paraphernalia when a woman comes over and starts asking me loads of questions about it. I think people must assume that if you're on your own you can't possibly be a tourist and are therefore obviously a guide! I was tempted to spin her a tale but resisted and admitted I had no more idea than she did.

And so to the next museum, the Fram Expedition Boat. The building it's housed in is a huge Toblerone shape and as you enter the dark space you realise this is actually the entire ship used for polar exploration with the famous Norwegian Roald Amundsen! All around the walls are little alcoves with displays of items taken on the expeditions along with videos and information. One shows the way the boat was made with triple layers of wood in places to strengthen the hull against the crushing effect of ice. When the trip was first proposed most experts thought it suicidal but Amundsen wasn't deterred and enough other intrepid explorers were willing to risk their lives in the effort to be first to cross the north west passage. You can go onto the deck of the ship and yes, I was one of the annoying people dinging the ship's bell! You can also explore inside the hull where you get to see the tiny living quarters, the fur suits used to attempt to keep warm and lots of equipment, guns, snow shoes and skis and a whole array of dentistry tools. There are other essentials such as a piano and a gramophone player! You can go even further down into the bowels of the ship where the engines are, but it was getting so hot I suddenly felt I had to get out and get some fresh air before I keeled over (get what I did there?).

Next! Over to the Norwegian Maritime Museum. I'm not sure if I'd got a bit of museum fatigue or am still too hot from the stuffy, claustrophobic Fram ship but I don't spend too long here. There are an awful lot of model boats on display which don't really interest me. I do however love seeing some of the old photos and finding out about people's lives. Generally captains of the early 1900s left their families behind for months or even years at a time as they went on their voyages but sometimes they took wives and children along. The wives didn't have a lot to do, there being no official job for them on board, so they tended to do a lot of looking after children and doing a bit of art and craft work, some of which was on display. This might seem boring but if you compare their lives to most of their contemporaries they were really quite adventurous even if they didn't get much of a social life while away at sea.

I almost don't inside the Kon Tiki museum as I'm pretty tired, but figure, hey I may never come back here so may regret it if I don't. I'm so glad I make the effort. What an incredible story of human endeavour, optimism, passion and belief. There are two boats on display, the papyrus reed boat Ra constructed in Egypt in front of the pyramids (for maximum publicity) used to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the balsa wood Kon Tiki raft built in Peru and used to sail to the Polynesian islands. The intrepid explorer and historian willing to attempt to prove theories that it would have been possible for ancient peoples to have made these epic crossings was the famous Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. Similar to Amundsen, Thor Heyerdahl's belief that the trip was possible was not supported by contemporary experts, but again he was able to find intrepid explorers to help him disprove the doubters. There were so many fascinating snippets from the write up of the expeditions. At one point one of the crew tripped and fell over board. With the raft unable to turn quickly he was certainly doomed to drown at sea but for the actions of a quick thinking member of the crew who tied himself to a piece of rope, grabbed a life vest and jumped in after his friend. Luckily they managed to catch hold of each other and were hauled back on board. Disaster had been averted, but it did highlight what a dangerous mission this was.

And so after a wonderful day of museum heaven I board the ferry back to Oslo harbour. Here I find a very loud music event in full swing. So that's what all the preparations were for. I listen for a bit but it's not my kind of thing and I decide to have a look inside the Nobel Peace museum I'd spotted on my morning's wanderings. Bad move! This too was taken over by loud bands making me feel anything but peaceful. I decided to head back to the hostel instead, picking up some food on the way, ouch it really IS expensive in Norway!

And so I settle down to catch up on some internet stuff and eventually try to get to sleep, hard enough with the snorers but this is where the Mancunian guy enters the story again. Three o'clock in the morning he stumbles loudly into the room crashing into things, switches the main light on and begins moaning and groaning and hiccuping loudly. Eventually he turns off the light but opens the window wide letting in all the street noise! He's obviously completely drunk and luckily falls asleep rather than vomiting all over the dorm. Obviously he adds to the snoring so I don't get much sleep. Not one of my best hostel experiences. To top it all we are 'treated' to full frontal nudity, legs akimbo the next morning as we get up! Jeez the Brits abroad can be such an embarrassment! I quickly check out and head over to the bus station ready for the next part of my trip to Flåm.

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