Thursday, 5 January 2012

Oslo - Land of the Vikings

Onto Oslo, the land of the Vikings and Lori's first heritage stop.  In the Copenhagen posting I mentioned that I wanted Lori to do the secondment to give the kids a worldly experience at an impressionable age.  Another reason was for us to visit our heritage mother lands.  For Lori that is Norway and Finland, for me it is Finland, Germany and Croatia.  So here we are at Lori's first stop.

Day 6 Dec 26 - We arrived in the morning on the cruise ship as you can see below.  One bummer was there was a carry over of closed museums from Christmas (which I knew before hand) so the planned day trips went a little smoother here than in Copenhagen.

Panoramic shot of the troop as we make our way up the Oslo Fjord.  Weather was a little brisk on the boat ride in but temps ended up being mid 40's again with a shots of snow in shadowed spots. 

I found these mini villages on the ride into Oslo neat but can't explain why.

There were a handful of inhabited islands on the cruise into the harbour.

Almost to Oslo.  The City Hall in the background.

After de-shipping (hope that is a word) we trudged to the Central Station to pick up our Oslo Passes.  Bzzt - wrong answer Chuck.  All the tourist booths are closed so we trudged to the hotel.

Oslo Domkirke (Cathedral), you can read about it at  Not a lot of cathedrals here like at Copenhagen.

Statue of Christian IV, King of Denmark in the 1600's.  Not sure if he is scolding his kids or busting a groove.

Home sweet home for two days.  Hotel Bristol (, our second 5 star hotel according to Trip Advisor.  More pics below but this hotel was posh at a minimum.  Plus they sold Oslo passes so we were set.

Looking down Karl Johan's Gate at the Royal Palace in the distance.  Karl's Gate is the main shopping street but with only two days here we didn't do much shopping.

Next stop was Akerhus Festning (Fortress) which you can read about at

The Fortress itself was open but the castle, church and resistance museums were all closed.  Bummer about the resistance museum but one of the cons of vacationing during holiday season.

View from fortress wall overlooking Oslo bay. 

Execution site used by Nazi's when they occupied the fortress.  A monument now.

Lori was having "one of those mornings" so I took a picture of us to cheer her up.  We won't get into the cause of her frustration.  I can't believe she doesn't dig the burns BTW.

Showing the height of the wall above the road.

A panoramic shot from the wall.  Oslo on the right, fortress on the left, fjord straight ahead.

Radhus (City Hall).  We didn't tour any city hall insides but I would have liked to if we had more time.  The outsides were all impressive and the insides were supposed to be as impressive.

The fortress had guards patrolling the grounds.  I kept catching him looking at us out of the corner of his eye, must have been our American accents.

Some of the buildings inside the walls, I think this is the castle main house and armoury.

I thought England had the smallest cars.  I actually saw two people get out of one of these cars later in the day but didn't have my camera ready.

There was also a National Monument to the German Occupation outside the fortress grounds but when we went to the area we found a couple of monuments without plaques.  I think this is it.  The fortress is in the background. 

Another navigational success but cafe failure as it was closed.

In case Ben Foster asks his mom what trams look like in Oslo.

After the fortress was a cafe snack where Lori used the cafes "weefee" to post a FB pic of the kids as we took a break.  Feet and legs have been asking for a break for a while now so we stopped.

After that we trekked up to Vigeland Sculpture Park at Frognerparken (Frogner Park).  I say trekked because the transportation maps were so bad here I ended up getting off the tram halfway to our destination.  (Copenhagen spoiled us with their extremely accurate maps that showed all of the stops and had accurate streets properly labelled.  Oslo's maps showed inaccurate street directions, a fraction of the actual stops, and only labelled major roads.)  To make it worse we walked for a ways trying to find the park so we weren't close to the tram stop any more.  Swallowing my man pride I asked a couple of locals where we were on the map.  (I did feel a little justification as the girl said she didn't like that map because it was so poor.)  Turns out we were a 20 minute walk away, uphill most of the way, so off go.  She said it was a pretty walk but she lied to us. 

A view of Frognerparken ( with the Sculpture Park in the distance.  You can check out some more pictures of the sculptures at

Bridge leading to the Sculpture Park.  Here we experienced ice for the first time. Slow walking for the adults, play time for the kids.

One of the sculptures on the bridge doing the touchdown dance.  Lori observed that the models had realistic body shapes, none of them were extremely fit like most of the nude sculptures we have seen so far.

Woman pulling her hair out, she must have been married. 

Jim Foster pic - Lori and I saw this fire truck and said that's the Jim Foster pic.  (To long of a story for the blog but Jim and Tammy will get it.)  Sorry Jim, this is only fire truck we saw on the trip.  It was out because someone had fallen on the skating rink walking path.

Close up of another thirsty fountain.

The detail work was impressive.

The troop in front of the entwined people pole.

One of the few family shots from our trip.  My Red Wings hat is so sweet it probably makes Dana sick, right Dana?

The Sculpture Park was neat.  An interesting tidbit on the park was that all of the sculptures were life sized except to the sculptures on the steps (like in our family pic).  Those sculptures were bigger than life sized and I am not sure why.  We skipped the Vigeland Museum and cafe and instead opted to check out the Royal Palace.  Thankfully they have bus stops outside the park.  None of the buses went where we wanted to go naturally but we bus hopped our way there.

The Slottet (Royal Palace) with Karl XIV Johann keeping watch.  We saw a lot of Karl's this and Karl's that here which became a running joke with our Karl.  He was everywhere.

I like both palace pictures and couldn't decide which one to include on the blog so they both win.

Nascar ain't got nothin' on these buildings.

Back to the room for a break before supper.

Tile floor and walls in the bathroom.

Stairway in the hotel.  I am starting to like 5 star hotels.  I thought I took a picture of the stairway with the life size sculpture in it but I guess I didn't.

Kevin Coleman pic - Ringnes, my second favourite beer on the trip.  #1 beer of Norway and I can see why.  (Carlsberg is #1 beer of Denmark but I didn't have one because Carlsberg is all over here like Bud in the U.S.)  At this point I am wishing Scandinavia imported more beer to England.  This also marked the beer decline of the trip.  Sweden and Finland both had beer better than England but worse than Norway.  Denmark earned the top beer spot.

Supper was at Egon, a restaurant chain with a cool logo.  We all had pizza buffet as a cost savings meal and it only cost us 619 NOK (103 USD).  Yes we compared prices on a few places along the street and this was the cheapest.  The buffet was spartan also, they rotated three types of bland pizzas and the accompanying salad bar was salad and dressing.  At least we left full. 

The start of bad things to come.  We decided to check out local candy bars.  From bottom right moving clockwise; similar to Kit Kat, similar to Rolo but with chocolate truffle middle, chocolate with caramel middle, white chocolate, and fruity candy.  We all had different favourites and they were all good.   

Day 6 Dec 27 - Everything is open so we ate a delicious breakfast before we left.

Traditional Norwegian breakfast.  Clockwise from waffle; Traditional Norwegian waffle, Brunost (sweet brown cheese), Jarlsberg cheese, and polse (sausage type snack meat).  Drinks left to right are health shot (blended veggie drink), OJ and coffee.  Kal loved the health shot and the smoothies they served at breakfast.  The Norwegian waffle may have been my favourite food on the trip - slightly sweet, thin and chewy consistency but not rubbery.  The waffle was a unanimous hit.  The coffee in Norway was rich and deeply bitter.  Neither child liked it.  They also didn't decaf anywhere we went here, Lori quit asking after the third reindeer in the headlights look.

The cafe and lounge area of the hotel.

After breakfast we went to an island called Bygdoy for six museums.  An aggressive day planned by the tour guide, especially since museums don't open til 10 in the winter. 

Vikingskiphuset (The Viking Ship Museum).  You can read about it at or you can view the museum website at

Hint for all websites - if the wording is in Norwegian click on the Norwegian flag which will toggle the site to English.

A very cool museum which was on my must do list.  It was very neat reading about the 800 - 1000 AD Vikings and their treasures.  A lot of the museum literature and collectibles said 800 - 1000 AD on them because that is the "Viking Age".  I recommend checking out the websites for those interested in the pictures. 

Me and Thor in front of the Oseberg Ship.  How can you not wear your Thor T-shirt to the Viking Ship museum? 

Panoramic view of Oseberg Ship.  The ship is thought to be a royal sailing pleasure ship which became a queen's burial tomb.

Same ship.  I won't summarise every placard but I will share a few items.  Do you notice the lack of benches for the rowers?  Typically the rowing vikings sat on their war chests while they rowed and slept on the open deck when not rowing.  This museum was very cool to study.

The Gokstad Ship.  Another burial ship, this time for an important chieftain.  

Kalle standing over the Tune Ship.  Another burial ship, this time for a chieftain.  In the background is a burial chamber, two small boats and two boards found on the Gokstad.

A wagon from the Oseberg.

Sled from Oseberg.

Sled from Oseberg.

Sled from Oseberg.  This queen must have been loaded.  I tried capturing the carving detail but this wing of the museum had poor lighting which forced me to use a flash.

Viking treasure chest.

The HL-sentret or Holocaust Museum (  Disappointing museum but they did have English speaking hand held wands that told you about the exhibits. 

A staggering number of boots and shirts.

This room listed every Norwegian known to have died in death camps.  All four walls were full.

A Jim Seppanen pic - the bark caught my eye on the tree.

Next stop was The Maritime Museum.  It's website is or you can check it out on Wiki at  Pretty neat museum, best part was the 25 minute video which showed coastal Norway from helicopter and ship.  Beautiful coastal town pictures.

Steering wheel from an 1864 steam frigate.  The placard says four men may be needed to keep the 3,500 ton frigate on a steady course. 

Small collection of coastal village fishing ships dating from 1800 to 1920.

Anchor from circa 1860.

The 2200 year old Dugout Boat.

Part of the Fram crew.

The Frammuseet, or Fram Museum (, maybe the best museum set up I have ever been in. 

This was awesome and easily the best museum so far.  Not only did it have the actual ship in the museum you could walk inside it.  Add three levels of expedition artifacts, pictures and information placards surrounding the ship and you have hours of enriching excitement.  I could have stayed here half of the day there was so much to see and read.  It helped that the crew did a lot of documenting since they were on a scientific exploration.

Kalle in front of The Fram.

Antarctic route.

Probably the most famous picture of the Fram.  The ship was specifically built for the ice.  The boards were shaped with greater curve and attached tighter than normal so that when the ice froze around the ship it would squeeze the ship upwards.  This way the ship rested on the ice instead of being encapsulated by the ice.  

On deck.  The walk below deck was neat but not great for pictorial representation.  A lot of bare areas since the ship items were on the walls in displays.

Informational placard example.  The planning that went into the expedition was incredible and fascinating to read.

Looking at the bow.

Artifact exhibit.

Next was the Kon-Tiki Museum ( ).  Some fruit builds a bamboo raft and crossed the Pacific on it in 1947.  Then in 1969 he stays in the sun to long and decides to build a paper boat and sails the Atlantic.  Mildly interesting but a real let down after the Viking Ship and Fram Museums.  The website is probably more interesting than the museum was.  Impressive achievements but unimpressive museum.

The Kon-Tiki.

The 30 second explanation.

The Ra.

Side view of The Ra.

One more museum on Bygdoy then some stretch goals to finish the day.  Not sure how many project planning or engineer readers I have but when I set up the trip I planned out each day and added stretch goals for each city in case we had extra time.  My mistake was telling Lori that I had included stretch goals.  Her feet and legs are starting to hurt now (more on that when we get to Stockholm) so she wasn't excited about doing extra walking to check out some stretch goal sites.  I figured we may never get to these places again so lets see as much as we can.  The kids didn't get a vote.

Norwegian open faced sandwiches at the Folk Museum cafe.  I ended up Americanising my burger with vegetables on bread by cutting the bread in two to make a sandwich.  The sandwiches are heavy on vegetables and kinda dry but tasted okay.  I actually find the vegetables to be refreshing since they are always fresh and crispy.

Last Bygdoy museum of the day was the Norwegian Folk Museum ( which is an open air museum.  We arrived when the shops closed but we could still walk around the buildings which make up the museum.  As with the fountains I think this would look much better in summertime.

An old school two story with slanted roof.

The bigger on top than bottom style house was very popular in 1800's Norway.

Circa 1800 house.  I loved the wall painting and carving.

The stove says 1803.

This house is from 1650 which is the oldest in the museum.  I captured Karl in mid goof off mode. 

A 1950's era farm.

Building from 1714.

1800 suburban house.

Kalle in the courtyard on our way out of the museum.

Stretch goal time.  Now is when I get in trouble, next trip I may have to hide the itinerary.

First stop is Nobel Peace Museum (  Normally not on my itinerary but everything is closed now and this wasn't so in we went. 

Our President.  They had this neat little room where about 50 winners were on individual small screens supported by this pedestals.  The cool part was the room was dark and everything in the room was neon.  Other presidents on the screens were Wilson, Carter, Clinton and TR. 

Lori is starting to get nauseous now, possibly connected to the decor?

The final straw.  She left to get our belongs once we stumbled upon Professor Gore.  I was laughing.  I bet Dana and Kevin are jealous about now.

Next was Radhus (City Hall).  Looked good in person but to dark for pictures.  And Lori is not happy about my stretch goal.  She keeps going but her feet are really starting to hurt, you'll find out why in Stockholm.

Next was The Nasjonalmuseet, or National Gallery ( which houses one of The Scream paintings.  The other The Scream is in the Munch Museum which we didn't have time for visit.  No pictures of the painting though as no pictures are allowed.  We made it just in time.  They were closing but I talked my way into the museum.  Lori and the kids were denied entrance but they were allowed in when I said they were with me.  Whew - that was close but we did get to see the painting.  Very cool. 

The Scream!  It is 5 PM as we exit the museum.

Next up is the Ice Bar at the Ice Hotel (  Location, location, location.  Our hotel and The National Gallery are on the same street a block apart.  The Ice Bar is in between on the other side of the street.  Very convenient and also helps with the planning.  The temperature is minus 5 C (23 F) inside the bar.

The troop about to enter.

This was very cool, in more ways then one.  You paid admission which bought you one drink.  More of an experience once type of place but worth doing. 

Kids are allowed in before a certain time which was great.  Everyone really enjoyed it as none of us have been in an ice room before.  The menu has a few drinks that can be made without alcohol. 

They had a booth and stand up bar in the back.  Overall the room was about 50 feet by 30 feet. 

A Lemmy (Motorhead lead singer) quote captured in ice.  Definitely not someone I would expect to be quoted but what do I know.  They also had quotes from Kurt Cobain and Charlie Chaplin on the walls.

After resting for a few minutes at the room we walked a couple of blocks to the Grand Cafe which is the restaurant at the famous Grand Hotel.  It is advertised as the most famous cafe in Scandinavia and was the meeting place of the elite in its day.  It was frequented by the likes of the playwright Henrik Ibsen (A Doll's House), painter Edvard Munch (The Scream), and literary figure Bjornstjerne Bjornson (wrote their national anthem).   

Swanky place, a little to swanky for my Thor T-shirt but they took our money.

Kalle had a foot long hot dog kids meal with two hot dogs, Karl had a hamburger kids meal, Lori had monk fish and I had duck breast.  Food was very good but I left my camera in my coat which was down in the coat check and I didn't feel like going to get it so no pictures.  They had Lutefisk but Lori didn't let me try it as she has seen in prepared on a show and it kind of grossed her out.  This was definitely our splurge meal - 921 NOK plus 100 NOK coat check charge (that burned me) for a total meal cost of 170 USD.  Have I mentioned how expensive Scandinavia is?

After the meal we went back to the room to relax since we had an early train to catch.  Plus we were wiped out.  Feet are constantly complaining and the beds/couches are calling us.  Six days and two cities down, five days and two cities left.

Teenager KJ - waffles and Viking Ship Museum good, everything else blah.

Ever optimistic KK - smoothies at breakfast were great, good things included The Scream, The Fram Ship, Ice Bar, Nobel Peace Museum, and Jarlsberg cheese at breakfast. 

Lori - Holocaust Museum was good, food reminded her of home which was great.

Jay - Breakfast was good again (especially waffles), goods things included The Scream, Viking Ship Museum, Ice Hotel, and video at Maritime Museum.  The Fram Museum was great.

Next up is Stockholm so stay tuned.

Thanks for listening,


  1. What a slave driver. When does the mutiny kick in?

    Ice bar looked cool -- glad you got to try that.

    $17 coat check? Yikes. I knew it would be expensive there, but . . .

  2. Awesome fire truck pic - we laughed when we read that and are proud of you for taking the pic (as we would have too!) Perhaps someday you'll get to take our pic in front of another firetruck we randomly spot and chase down in some strange city :-) And thanks for the Ben train pic! Again, the whole experience looks amazing...and now I'm intrigued about the cause of the Lori's feet issues.

  3. I had the Ringnes beer when I went to the Norway Pavillion at EPCOT. It was pretty good.


  4. @Steve - mutiny was starting to brew here and crested in Stockholm but I survived. The coat check experience actually affected a restaurant decision in Stockholm. Live and learn.

    @Tammy - I figured you would get a kick out of remembering our SF detour.

    @Kevin - the beer was refreshing on this trip. It really validated for me how disappointing the UK beer has been.