Figurative fjord

Known for skiing and its museums, Oslo leaves a mark on Brig A N Suryanarayanan

Holmenkollen ski jump

A slow drive in the tour bus starting at 10.30 am through Oslo, the capital of Norway shows us their talent in architecture with buildings and bridges of many peculiar shapes and sizes. One can also admire the Harbour, Oslo Central Station, Oslo Cathedral, National Theatre, University area, Royal Palace etc. There is eye-catching greenery despite all the concrete and glass structures, with street music playing in a park in the city centre.

The first stop was Holmenkollen, famous for all types of skiing: cross country, alpine, or the jumping type. The view from the subway, while climbing up the hill, and later of the harbour from the top, is enchanting; one mustn’t miss seeing it. Holmenkollen Ski Festival, nicknamed ‘the second national day’ of Norway, is a famous winter sports event. The 1952 Winter Olympics was conducted here and world championships followed. The modern design (while retaining the old profile) was selected after a tough architecture competition for 2011 World Championship. It is interesting to hear that from the pioneering jumps of 20 metres in 1892, today 140 metres or more are done by some skiers. Ski Training Institute and Museum are located here. 

Next, the bus took us to Vigeland Sculpture Park, also called Frogner Park, which displays the art of the most prolific Norwegian sculptor with 212 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron done over 19 years (yes, you read that right!) from 1924. A guided walking tour took us first to the highest point ­— Monolith, 42 feet high with 121 human figures in erotic poses rising to the sky — and then, to a bronze fountain adorned with 60 individual bronze reliefs. As we moved towards the exit, we went over a 100-m-long bridge with 58 statues that were demonstration models for curious visitors while the Monolith was getting ready. The bridge has a statue of an Angry Boy which is the most photographed!

The next stop was Bygdøy Peninsula which has five museums. Time allotted (90 minutes) and the cost of the tour permits you to see only the Viking Ships Museum and one more: Fram or Kon Tiki. I went to Kon Tiki first.

Oslo Cathedral
Oslo Cathedral

 

Kon-Tiki Museum

This houses three original sea-going vessels — The Kon-Tiki, Ra and Ra-II — used by Norwegian explorer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl. Testing his theory that in the past people had made long sea voyages by rafts, he made such journeys himself in primitive craft, sailing across the Pacific successfully from Peru to Polynesia in balsa-wood Kon Tiki craft in 1947, covering 7,964 nautical kilometres in 101 days. 

Heyerdahl later tried similar achievements with reed boats Ra (which failed), Ra II and Tigris, to champion his deep commitment for both, environment and world peace. He did archaeological excavations on the Galapagos Islands, Easter Island and in Túcume. Besides the crafts, Kon-Tiki Museum exhibits a 30-metre cave tour, an underwater exhibit with a 10-metre model of a whale shark, and objects from his world-famous expeditions. He founded the museum as a way of chronicling his pioneering exploits to inspire future generations of adventurers.

Oslo Cathedral
Viking battleship in the museum at Oslo.

 

Viking Ship Museum

Located in one huge hall, this museum exhibits three boats (still in their original timber) of Norway’s Vikings of 9th century used for pillaging and plundering across Europe. Discovered between 1867 and 1903, they are named after the places they were found in: Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune. A look at the prow of the Gokstad Boat to imagine fearsome warriors with weapons ready to pounce on you is enough to put fear into you; (think Pirates of the Carribean!). Elaborate dragon carvings and a snake’s head on the Oseberg make you wonder if it had served a ceremonial purpose. The Tune ship, the smallest of the three craft but the first to be discovered, was badly damaged during excavation when modern archaeology had not matured enough. Keeping their possessions such as beds, sledges, textiles, tools and household utensils (you can see the items on display) with them for the afterlife, Viking chieftains were buried in their ships under mounds of clay and thus stayed undisturbed for 1,000 years till excavated. A few scenes of old Viking stories are seen carved on a wooden horse cart.

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