Category Archives: Norway

END OF NORWAY CRUISE

FREDAGSHOLET

Tuesday-Thursday, June 13-15

We looked forward to anchoring out for a few days before landing in our next port. The cruising guide we reference often (NORWEGIAN CRUISING GUIDE by Phyllis Nickel & John Harries) noted a well-protected anchorage in the Havler Archipelago on West Seloya Island that, translated, means “Friday Hole”.

A good breeze from the north enabled a peaceful sail back down the 40 or so miles of the Oslofjord, as we passed the historic islands of Kaholmen (Nordre and Sondre).

In April 1940 thanks to canon blasts sinking the German warship BLUCHER headed for Oslo, the Norwegian government (including the king) escaped from the Nazi’s clutches.

Usually a name such as “Friday Hole’ makes for a busy weekend destination, but only a few small power boats appeared during our several days there, with two sharing this quiet cove.

As part of the Ytre Havler National Park (primarily focused on marine life)

which extends to Sweden’s Kosterhavet National Park, our anchorage felt remote as we climbed the sand-colored rocks tufted with low vegetation and wildflowers. Time for our typical JUANONA portrait

and checking out to the windward side of the island.

A floating pontoon provided trash and recycling bins

as well as the perfect place for our yoga mat and the day’s stretches.

And, we made sure when  we did our yoga-ing we stayed hidden from others’ eyes by the large bins!

SKJAERHALDEN & FREDRIKSTAD

Thursday-Saturday, June 15-17

Two nights on the hook readied us for our last Norwegian destination of the summer on the island of Kirkeoy. The Skjaerhalden gjestehavn offered an easy docking (alongside vs. bow-in), showers, fuel, a few groceries and a chance to visit another historic town an easy bus-ride away.

Being one of the main towns within the Havler Park environs, this village definitely knew it had a good thing with the marina’s price being even higher than and offering less than KNS’s in Oslo; yet, the trip to Fredrikstad the next day made it worthwhile nonetheless.

Arriving in the city after a 30-minute ride with an eerie, but impressive, 2.3-mile under-sea tunnel passage

from Kirkoy island to the mainland, we walked from the bus stop to the river getting lost only once.

Fredrikstad’s old city sits at the mouth of Scandinavia’s longest river, the River Glomma. Crossing the canal with a bunch of cycling kids on the free ferry,

we entered Gamlebyen (the old city) through one of the King’s Gates.

A friendly woman in the tourist information office knew her town’s history backwards and forwards. We peppered her with questions, stopping only when we realized how much of her time we’d taken up.

Like most places around here, Frederikstad has a long history (FYI:  it’s where the Viking Ship TUNE we saw in Oslo was unearthed). The town’s formal origins begin with the founding in 1016 by King Olaf the Holy; by the 1800s it became one of Norway’s largest timber ports, an industry that remains viable today.

Fredrikstad’s economy boomed in 1663 after Norway lost the Bohuslan Province (the coast along which we’d soon we’d be sailing) to Sweden in the 1658 Treaty of Roskilde. Within that province Norway gave up the Bohus fortress, so King Frederik III (1609-70) approved plans to fortify Fredrikstad. This harbor town blossomed as military spending fed the local coffers with construction such as the guards quarters seen below.

One of the most interesting buildings, the Infantry Barracks, based its design on a calendar. Why, I don’t know, but if you counted the elements you’d find:  12 chimneys; 52 rooms; 365 windows; 24 panes of glass per window; and, 60 doors for the minutes in an hour.

The Barracks formed part of the King’s Square along with the Old Town Hall (constructed in1784, and now an art gallery and private residence).  In reading about the hall we discovered it served as a prison in 1797 for the lay preacher, Hans Nielsen Hauge, featured in one of Adolph Tidemand’s paintings we just saw in Oslo.

With a tree hovering over a wooden table we ate our picnic lunch… with Max finding an unwelcomed surprise in his lunch…

where I had managed to forget to pull a paper divider from the sliced cheese…

An impressive stone structure stood on one of the triangular projections of this moated island. As the town’s oldest building still remaining, the Stone Storehouse now features two reception rooms displaying art for sale.

A lazy walk along the ramparts brought us to the drawbridge, one that took 30 soldiers to raise at taps and lower at reveille.

Another entrance, the Rampart Gate from 1695, carried King Christian V’s (1645-99) monogram and motto “ Piety and Justice”.

Our town map listed 46 sites to visit, and we wandered by most in spite of the on-and-off drizzle.

A return trip to the mainand placed us next to a monument honoring a famous son of the area, Roald Amundsen. By now even I recognize the guy.

We also took a shot of what our Tourist Information told us had been the Gestapo Headquarters during WWII.

Her grandfather had served in the resistance, assisting refuges in crossing to neutral Sweden. When asked about his time during the war, she said he would become very quiet and tear up. No wonder from what one can gleam from the local history. Seeing this stone structure only made her relative’s experience all the more real.

Back in Skjaerhalden we noted another polar explorer about whom we read in the Oslo’s Fram Museum:  Henry Larsen.

This area bred them hardy as that makes two polar explorers’ birthplaces within a few kilometers of one another.

We also found a stuffed stuffed with boats squeezed in all along the pontoons and partying starting to pick up.

Saved by earplugs and the V-berth fan on high, we survived a raucus night of extremley loud, thudding bass notes from the power boat across the narrow pontoon (something not unusual for those celebrating the long summer days in this part of the world). Unfortunately for others close by, what we thought had stopped by 2:00 am started up again at 3:00… especially since many at the marina were participating in a recreational sprint triatholon beginning that morning.

With careful manuvering, we waved our thanks to those helping pivot JUANONA out of our tight spot and left thankful we weren’t one of the hundreds lining up for swimming, cycling and running.

We were off to our first cruise in Swedish waters!

OSLO: Grand Finale!

Tuesday-Tuesday, June 6-13

 

NORSKE FOLKEMUSEUM (Norwegian Folk Museum)

Our last day in Oslo we spent roaming the Norwegian Folk Museum located on the Bygdoynes Peninsula. Established in 1894 to preserve historic structures, the museum’s collection increased substantially under King Oscar II. Now numbering 161 (to be exact) structures from the 1500s to current times, this museum provides an easy stroll through history.

Within ten minutes from stepping off JUANONA we arrived at the entrance on a lovely summery day. Being a bit museumed-out we decided to hit just the highlights, then head back to Juanona to prep for leaving the next morning.

Armed with a pamphlet we opted to visit the oldest buildings with their roof meadows


and wooden interiors with simple decor.

The Stave Church sitting on top of a small knoll dominated the oldest sections of the museum; a third of its original framework dates back to the 1200s.

Paintings from the 1600s post-reformation decorate the altar and walls.

And, it was here where we first encountered two wonderful people whom we soon discovered hail from the Boston area. Of course, that ended with us asking them aboard JUANONA for drinks.

Our tour complete an hour later we exited and headed back to JUANONA.

 

BITS AND BOBS

Before I continue to our last evening in Oslo I wanted to mention some incidentals from our week there. They may provide a  fuller picture of our time touring, and living on a boat. In spite of planning a day’s excursion we never know what will pop up, which is how we enjoyed the “Dissimilar Festival”.

Staged in the main square next to the harbor and the Nobel Peace Center we watched as exuberant children and adults celebrated those who are different due to disabilities. I have to say you couldn’t help but join in when one of the performers started his act:

Pretty wonderful.

Next to the festival Max took on the challenge of trying his balance, which, of course, I wanted to document…

as well as his questionable culinary selection at an outdoor food vendor selling a dense white sponge composed of fish meat? slapped between two buns.

I declined his offer of a bite as I knew why he was offering…

On this day we also watched as the Norwegian rescue service, Redningsskelskapet (RS), shared information on safety at sea while thrilling little kids with rides in miniature RS boats.

Our days weren’t only spent touring but also with urgently needed necessities such as laundry. The effort to keep (and stay) clean requires finding a washing machine I can stuff to maximum capacity (and then some) – a search akin to hunting a rare, if not extinct, species.

At KNS, our marina, they offer free use of a washer and dryer, which is great; however, finding it empty of others’ salty attire meant constantly checking early morning and late afternoon/night. Finally, it happened on one of our last days and I zipped in, loaded the machine, tried the dryer (didn’t work too well) and then decorated JUANONA the usual way: above deck when the sun is out…

and below when the sprinkles start.

There’s nothing like fresh clothes and bedding to make both the boat and us smell sweeter :)

But, back to the best part of traveling…

 

GRAND FINALE

At 6 PM Melanie and Anthony came aboard and all we can say is what a spectacular end to our time in this fair city.

She’s a professor at Massasoit Community College; he’s the president and artistic director of Boston’s Children’ Choir, and together they’re an amazing team of living life to the fullest while managing to save for future travels.

For five hours we talked and laughed and talked some more. Their adventures are truly inspiring. They’ve seen more countries at their age than most folks would get to in three lifetimes, and their adventures could easily fill a book – one I’d definitely enjoy reading.

Hopefully, they’ll be starting to share their discovery of places and travel tips via some posting on sites; and, when they do, we’ll be checking them out. Already we’re using one of their ideas for future planning.

Suddenly it was 11:30pm in spite of a sky usually related to a much earlier hour. Time to say our good-byes, not something I wanted to do.

As they ran to catch one of the last buses off the peninsula back to Oslo center, Max and I realized just how extremely fortunate we’ve been to have met them. And, not only Melanie and Anthony but the other young people who have inspired us this summer:  Thomas, Camilla and Michael with whom we shared a pontoon in Farsund (our first Norwegian port this spring)* ;

and, Snorre and Ingunn who invited us for dinner our first night in Oslo)**.

Our week in Oslo had come to a close. It began and ended with shared evenings, the most memorable of our time in Oslo, for sure, with hopes to continue our conversations in the future.

Cruising is amazing.

 

*       S/y Equinox on FaceBook

**     http://www.sy-spinnvill.com

OSLO: Even their outdoors is artistic…

Tuesday-Tuesday, June 6-13

 

HOLMENKOLLEN (Norway’s Ski Jump)

A 30-minute train ride took us to a station where we could visit Norway’s Olympic ski jump. It appeared part of the experience was hiking the steep road to reach this massive vertical slide, which we did under a cloudy and drizzly sky.

But, climb we did where we paid our entrance fee and circled through a history of Norway’s national past-time of playing on the snow.

As we wandered through on our way to view the top of the ski jump, I discovered that one pole, not two, was the norm until 1890. Besides balance and braking, some poles could be used for other purposes, such as finding reindeer fodder, for drinking, even for hunting bears.

I also learned how skiing morphed from a sport for the well-to-do (those who had free time) into a national activity beginning in 1883 with the founding of the Association for the Promotion of Skiing. Kristiania (Oslo) purchased the recreational area, Marka, where we now stood, in 1899 so all could enjoy nature and skiing. People would take to the slopes with their skis and a picnic of oranges and chocolate.

Fridtjof Nansen’s name popped up several times during our visit. First in the displays covering some polar explorations, which is where we saw the jury-rigged dinghy, “The Turtle Shell”, that he and Sverdup used on their self-rescue ordeal in the Arctic.

The other was his influence in getting King Haakon VII on skis,

which the King took up along with his wife Queen Maud

and their son, Hartvig, whose photo below makes me want to reach out and hug this little being.

It’s not surprising Nansen was able to get the king on skis because it was Nansen’s urging of the Danish prince Carl to become Norway’s King. Another interesting tidbit picked up at this exhibit.

Now we had reached the elevator for the ride to the top. My fear of heights kept me hugging the railings. All I could think of was I could NOT imagine EVER going down this on anything knowing I’d be launched into space at speeds of up to 92 Kilometers per hour (57 mph).

Makes my palms sweat just thinking about it.

In spite of rain a magnificent panaramo presented itself as we looked towards the city and its harbor.

Our visit ended with the perfect portrait opportunity in which my good-natured husband participated. Whereas he brought some nobleness to the occasion…

I quickly countered it.

I’ve never been accused of taking myself too seriously. Which has its plusses… at times :)

 

VIGELANDSPARKEN and MUSEET (Vigeland Park and Museum)

Since my 20s sculptures have captivated me. Not that I’m a student of this art form because I can probably name only four famous sculptors off the top of my head. All I know is when I see one, I just want to be near it. So, when I read about this Norwegian sculptor, a visit to his museum and park was at the top of my list.

Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) was born in Mandal, a small town on Norways southeast coast. Must have been something in that small town’s water for multiple artists came from here:   Adolph Tideland (1814-1876) and Gustave’s friend Amuldus Nielsen (1838-1932), both of whose work we saw at the National Gallery. And Gustav’s youngest brother, Emanuel (1875-1948)  became known for his paintings, specifically frescoes, along with stained glass and sculptures .

During his childhood Gustav could be found whittling away in his father’s (a master carpenter) workshop. It became evident he had skill, which resulted in his apprenticeship to a master woodcarver in Kristiania (now Oslo). His interest migrated to sculpting, but with his father’s death in 1886, Gustave returned home to work the family farm. But, he continued his artistic endeavors by making sketches for future sculpting.

Two years later  he returned to the capital with hopes of fulfilling his dream of creating sculptures. After a few years of trying to earn his living as a wood carver Gustav showed his sketches to a famous sculptor, Brynhulf Bergslien. This led to the young artist’s years of working under renowned sculptors and traveling abroad as his skill as a sculptor grew.

At one point he and Edvard Munch shared the same Berlin hotel address. In spite of mutual artistic respect they weren’t friends, but were instead rivals, with both creating work around life’s passages:  Vineland’s “Circle of Life”; Munch’s “Frieze of Life”.

During his studies he held two exhibits, one in 1894 and the last in 1899. Both cemented his fame as a sculptor. By 1921 Gustav acquired an unheard of contract with the capital:  all of his works, both past and future, would belong to the city, in exchange for an annual salary and free studio space (converting to a museum upon his death).

 

(Note the statue in the forefront, which you’ll see again in this post)

To showcase his work, a segment of Oslo’s Frogner Park would be used.

We found ourselves heading to Gustav’s museum and park on a gray day of sprinkling rain; but, seeing his work made up for any ruing of the lack of sunshine.

The museum felt empty of people, which allowed us to easily roam the cavernous rooms filled with his models and explanations of the sculpting process.

I learned he began with biblical scenes, such as Cain fleeing with his family after killing his brother Abel (1891).

By the turn of the century Vigeland had moved beyond portraying religious events to the intimacy of relationships. Clothes dropped off, removing any distractions from the pure, naked emotions emanating from his stone figures. (Nude figures also ensured a timelessness since no attire meant no specific point in history.)

I mean, can’t you just feel the mother’s love for her child?

Or the powerful surge of lust in this kiss?

Gazing at his work found me standing open-mouth at its purity. How could a person imbue such power in such simple forms?

In addition to the above work he was commissioned for portraits of famous Norwegians, such as the mathematician Niels Henrik Abel (1902) (he’s the guy standing on top)…

feminist and novelist Camilla Collett (1909)…

and, inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel…

 

Vigeland employed fellow craftsmen to assist him in creating his monolithic statues. Stone masons, smiths (for the iron armatures inside the stone sculptures), and plasterers contributed to Gustav’s immense body of work.

Bronze also was used, one of his most famous pieces being the “Angry Boy”. An explanation on waste molding (so-called due to the modeling being chiseled away to reveal the master copy) explains the process. Although, I still need to see it done to really grasp the steps…

In 1913 granite became Gustav’s material of choice as he began sculpting in stone. With more and more pieces being created, he moved from carving the stone himself to assigning the best stone masons to recreate his plaster master copies. Under his intense scrutiny it could take up to two years to complete some of his stone groupings.

In a large room plaster models of trees formed of humans transitioning from birth to death eerily filled the room surrounding the fountain…

Full scale sculptures and a small one show the final layout.

After perusing the museum we walked the short distance to Vigeland Park. There we found others who, like us, were drawn to the magnificent forms created by this artist’s imagination.

The Circle of Life is the park’s main theme. Beginning in 1924 Gustav modeled all 212 pieces in clay at full-size. The final pieces were then carved in stone and cast in bronze by professional craftsmen, some completed after Gustave’s death in 1943.

To convey the extent of his work on display at Vigeland Park could take several posts, so I’ll just mention some of the most-noted sculptures we saw, many of which the original plasters we had just seen in the museum.

“Wheel of Life”, a symbol of eternity…

“Monolith”, easily seen from afar,

with 121 carved figures

and surrounded by 36 human groups of all ages…

The fountain …

One of his ironworks…

and, the bridge decorated with 58 statues, which you can just see.

Here we saw the “Angry Boy” in bronze. You can tell his popularity where folk held his hand for snapshots.

He stood on the bridge railing accompanied by other bronzes exhibiting wonder…

security…

joy…

and, some, demonic behavior such as these babies tormenting this man.

At the time of his death of a heart infection Gustav Vigeland had produced 12,000 drawings, 420 wood carvings and approximately 1600 sculptures.

And, I could spend a lot more time gazing at every single one of them.

 

BEYOND VIGELAND PARK…

But, we didn’t have to go to Gustave’s park to realize Oslo’s abundance of sculpture. From stepping off the passenger ferry our first day I knew I was in sculpture heaven.

Some playful (or used for play)…

Some capturing history…

Norwegian Polar Explorers

Those who served in Norway’s Merchant Navy and Royal Navy during WWII

The tragic 1990 fire aboard the Scandinavian Star

And, some just poetic in their grace, such as this man sipping from his bowl of water.

But, Gustav’s human emotions remain my favorite.

 

Next, the grand finale!

 

 

 

 

 

OSLO: More Artistic Expressions

Tuesday-Tuesday, June 6-13

IBSENMUSEET (Ibsen Museum)

We had visited Victor Hugo’s apartment in Paris several years ago, partly to escape the Christmas holiday visitors who thronged the more popular sites such as Notre Dame and the Louvre, and also due to Max’s fondness for that author. So, seeing a house museum for another world-renowned author we added it to our ‘must-see’ list.

The Museum’s entrance seems pretty nondescript, something easily missed if you weren’t hunting for it, like we were. Once inside, a small lobby with some souvenirs for sale begins the introduction to Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), along with a bubbly guide who offered to include us in a tour of the historical apartment above.

Ibsen rented this large apartment to lure his wife, Suzannah, back into his life. Ibsen had returned to Kristiania (the city’s name until 1905) in 1891 after living an ex-pat’s life for 27 years. By now he was a celebrated author of plays and novels and now had the means to live grandly; however Suzannah, who suffered from the cold and damp, refused to live in the first apartment he rented, so off she went ending up in Italy for her health.

In spite of having young female groupies, (evidently they use to stand outside for glimpses of the noted playwright in hopes of catching his eye and currying his favor for parts) some of whom became extremely close to Ibsen, (some say ‘too close’)–he missed his wife. Which is how he ended up living in one of the most exclusive apartments in the city.

At one time the contents of the home had been scattered among their heirs, beginning with their only child, Siguard Ibsen, and several museums.

In 1990 an effort to reconstruct the author’s home began thanks to an Ibsen fan (actor Knut Wiegert) and the Norsk Folkemuseum. Now other devotees as well as curious visitors can walk the same floorboards as this famous author.

Our guide delightfully and dramatically related details of Ibsen’s life as we peeked in at his famous study opening directly from the entrance hallway…

red drawing room (off his study) with a balcony…

blue drawing room….

dining room….

library with Suzannah’s chair where she sat nightly, and in which she died (saying she didn’t want to die lying down)…

her bedroom….

and his bedroom (at then end of this row of rooms) where he died after six years of multiple strokes beginning in 1900 left him not always ‘there’. His last words “To the Contrary!” were spoken upon hearing his nurse tell his visitor he was feeling better.

He described all of the above in a June 21st 1895 letter to Suzannah ending with “… As I say, I think you will be pleased.”.

There was also a bathtub, which he loved, a gift from his daughter-in-law.

And, in most of the rooms we saw one of these:  a beautifully wrought large heater.

We had first seen an Ibsen landmark in Grimstad where he served as a pharmacist’s apprentice in 1843. There he began to write poems and dramas while continuing his boyhood interest in drawing and painting. (Photo 1877)

Ibsen also entered into his first love affair with a female servant ten years his senior. The result was a child for whom Ibsen reluctantly paid child-support for 14 years but with whom he had no contact.

He tried for a university degree in 1850 but wasn’t accepted. A year later the Det Norske Theater in Bergen hired him as a stage director and playwright. (It was due to Ole Bull, a Norwegian musician known as a vionlin virtuoso, that Ibsen got the job in Bergen. By that time Ibsen was in dire financial straits due to late payments for child support.) It was here he met his wife, Suzannah Daae Thoresen, whom he married in 1858. Ibsen’s work in Bergen led to his becoming manager of Kristiania Norske Theater. (Photo probably 1863… in this one he looks like our bro-in-law, Craig.)

In 1862 the Kristiania Norske Theater folded. A travel grant afforded Ibsen a year in Italy, where he escaped the lack of recognition, a poor finanical situation, and a period of depression and alcoholism he experienced in Norway. Ibsen came to see Norway as a restrictive and staid environment compared to the freedom he felt in Italy.

During his time abroad Ibsen wrote two of his most famous works, “The Doll House” (1879) and “Peer Gynt”. (Photo 1870)

Edvard Grieg, another famous Norwegian musician, put the latter to music, which is probably how a lot of later generations came to know the title “Peer Gynt”.

Not being a theater major (or minor, for that matter) I learned why Ibsen has the title ‘father of modern drama’. During Ibsen’s early days the actors spoke their lines while standing in a semi-circle close to the footlights so they were seen, whispering asides to the audience when wanting to convey unspoken thoughts. Thanks to Ibsen, actors began to engage with one another and roam a set designed with realistic details.

Ibsen stayed abroad with his wife and son until returning as a successful playwright in 1891.

His personality, described as talkative and outgoing as a youth, morphed into an unapproachable figure, some say a ‘Sphinx’. With the safety net of wealth and fame, Ibsen cultivated this image saying “I’d rather ask; my job’s not explanations”. Yet, he had a liberal outlook in life and believed in progress. This view could have been a rebellion against religious dogma, after seeing his mother transformed from an open and warm parent into a strict Christian. He eventually had very little contact with his parents and siblings, some of whom also converted to puritanism.

Ibsen appeared to have a prickly relationship with his mother country; however, he reveled in their admiration of his success. Famous artists, such as Christian Krohg depicting him next to the parliament building (1895)…

Erik Werenskiold’s study of his hands (1895)…

Edvard Munch’s portrait of Ibsen at the Grand Cafe (1902) (with Ibsen’s sideburns he resembles the “Scream” a bit)…

and Gustave Vigeland who sketched and sculpted Ibsen’s likeness. He appears a bit of a curmudgeon…

And, they weren’t the only artists captivated by this man. John Lennon, too, admired the author. A small display explains how Yoko Ono introduced Lennon to Ibsen’s work including “A Doll’s House”, which John later borrowed as the title for one of the Beatles’ albums.

It turns another band had used that name prior to the Beatles’ release, so the album became simply the “White Album”.

Another interesting factoid discovered in this tucked-away museum of one of Norway’s most famous personages.

 

NOBELS FREDSSENTER (The Nobel Peace Center)

Our daily ferry trip across the harbor landed us close to the Nobel Peace Center, another site on our ‘must-see’ list. Having visited the Nobel Museum in Stockholm earlier this year with our friend Kathryn I was curious how this center would present its laureates.

The lobby offers a cafe (and free wifi…) and a gift shop filled with fair-trade items and books on the laureates and related topics (I love museum shops but, then again, I’m partial due to my mom’s work in a Museum shop).

A permanent exhibit called The Nobel Field displays all the peace prize recipients since 1901. You could spend a whole day simply wandering through the impressive stories of those advocating for peace.

To give you an exmple of how these mounted videos can mesmerize you, check out this one on the polar-explorer-turned-humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen (I apologize as my filming is a bit jittery):

Two other permanent exhibist are The Wall Papers, which cover even more details on the laureates, and The Nobel Chamber, an overview of Alfred Nobel’s life that we knew from our tour in Stockholm.

We also read some possible reasons why Oslo became the awarder of the Peace Prize, while all the other Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm:

Several temporary displays include ‘Detours’, a photographic essay on forced displacement throughout the world; and ’Hope Over Fear’ about 2016’s winner, Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos.

The awarding of the latter caused some controversy since the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionay Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) ultimately lost in a referendum vote October 2nd.

Not knowing the background of how FARC began (as a Robin-Hood gang of 48 who survived an attack in 1964 by the government on a communist-controlled commune) and evolved (into a corrupt and violet guerrila force of 20,000 using cocaine and kidnapping to fuel their resistance), the exhibit explained how Santos, a former Minister of Defense in charge of obliterating FARC, has used his six years as president to negotiate an end to Columbia’s civil war.

A month after citizens voted ‘no’ to that negotiated peace agreement the national assembly of 30 representatives approved a new agreement with FARC. And, if one guerilla movement isn’t enough, the Columbian government is also meeting wtih the National Liberation Army (ELN), a rival to FARC.

For those interested in an excellent recounting of Columbia’s journey through those years, please refer to the “Hope Over Fear” brochure pages below. I learned a lot. Just wish I could include the photos by Mads Nissen accompanying the text written by Dorrit Saietz.

 

The Nobel Peace Committee framed the 2016 award to Santos as a work-in-progress – the real work has only just begun.

Now, onto a more frivolous excursion :)

 

DEN NORSKE OPERA & BALLETT (The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet)

What a sight! Constructed 2000-08 this stunning landscape of sloping white marble houses the largest music and stage institution in Norway. Like Bilboa’s Guggenheim Museum and Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, whose exteriors serve as parks for all to enjoy, the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet truly is a building for the public. As both a perfomance house and a respite from the city, you can stretch your legs, sunbathe or simply take in the harbor view.

We climbed the incline to gaze over the water,

and spotted the floating glass & steel iceberg sculpture “She Lies” that twirls in the wind.

Taking a selfie as we peered through the huge plate glass

into the cathedral-ceiling lobby.

Once inside we strolled around the airy ground floor, even checked our email on their free wifi.

What was even more wonderful was a surprise Max had in store… tickets to a guided tour of the this impressive hall followed by a live performance! Which is how we found ourselves a few days later eagerly listening to another engaging guide as he shepherded a small group of us up to the first and second floor and backstage where we peeked at dancers practicing their moves, saw one of the reasons they stay so fit, and learned how the props are painstakingly planned and built. With three stages of various sizes, the hall can host simultaneous productions with the largest unveiled behind a magnificent curtain design…

and seating 1369.

With an hour to go before the ballet started (“Don Quioxte”) we ate our bag lunch on benches provided. For a building offering rather lofty cultural events (ballet and opera, among others) they have managed to create a welcoming atmosphere, one that makes you feel as if you’ve been invited to a neighbor’s backyard BBQ. Something I didn’t expect from such a stunning sheath of marble, its interior dressed with beautiful Scandinavian wood.

Lunch finished, we headed to our ‘seats’, which were standing room since the difference in price was ten-fold. We found ourselves next to six other standees, one being a Norwegian who’s been living in England for over 20 years but returns annually for a visit (and, yes, Anne, I did start the conversation… :) ).

The show began and we fell under its spell as lithe and dramatic ballerinas and male dancers leaped and swirled their way across the stage. Both Max and I enjoy musicals, and this ballet didn’t disappoint. In spite of no dialogue the expressive body language of the dancers easily conveyed the story. At the end of the ballet the director announced the audience had just seen the last performance ever of what many Norwegians consider the best Don Quixote, and we watched as the lead character took his last bow as the theater erupted with a standing ovation.

After three acts, two intermissions, and a large glass of wine each we exited this performance center happily sated on, for us, a unique experience in a world-class city.

Soon, the great outdoors…

 

OSLO: Wall Art

Tuesday-Tuesday, June 6-13

NASJONALGALLERIET (National Gallery)

I never thought I’d be an art-museum hound but I’m definitely becoming one. With Oslo offering so many tantalizing sites we had to pick and choose where we went, which is how we ended up in front of the imposing 1882-built Nasjonalgalleriet on a Thursday.

We joined a horde streaming through the front door and showed the ticketers our Oslo Pass only to discover Thursday is a free day.

With our audio guides we climbed to the 1st floor (what we’d call 2nd floor) and began our walk through 20+ rooms of art history. As we entered each gallery a brief description introduced us to the time period. We skipped some of the earlier rooms so we could concentrate on the 19th and 20th century artists.

But, I did make one exception when I noticed they had some Russian icons, one of Saint Nicholas of Zaraysk, the patron saint of travellers, children, and sailors. The audio guide indicated it exemplifies the style of the Novgorod School. Immediately my connection antenna shot up. This Russian town became the east-meets-west trading zone back in the 11th century . Dutch, German, and Scandinavian merchants congregated at this crossroads where they bartered and sold goods from their countries with those travelling up from the Silk Road.

This icon was painted by an artist from the 14th/15th century  using “…clear and pure colours, narrative elements [20 scenes depict St. Nick’s life], expressive lines, and contrasting monchromatic fields.” Sounds good to me. I just liked the historical association.

This museum had a sampling of other artists, such as El Greco’s (1541-1614) St. Peter, Jan van der Heyden’s (1637-1712) The Old Church in Delft, Francisco de Goya’s (1746-1828) Portrait of a Picador, and notable works by Picasso and Modiglani; but, as mentioned above, I skimmed through those rooms.

Having been fortunate to visit Bergen’s Kunstmuseum (KODE) last summer, we had acquainted ourselves with some of Norway’s artists. These were whose works I eagerly anticipated; and, I wasn’t disappointed.

So, let me take you on a brief tour and see if you, too, have a favorite among these artists.

1810-1840  Romantic Landscape Painting

The rise of the middle class steered artists away from the bible and historical themes towards nature. Partly this yearning for the balm of nature arose due to industrialization, which makes sense to me.

One of Norway’s premier artists of this time is John Christian Dahl (1788-1857). Called the “father of Norwegian Landscape Painting” he spent his childhood in Bergen but settled in Dresden, making a name for himself and acquiring international fame; the first Norwegian artist to do so.

After staring at the rainbow, if you look closely you’ll notice this typical landscape “View from Stalheim” includes vignettes of those living and working amidst these mountains.

Later, in another room I saw a number of his studies he did for his final pieces:

1830-1879 Norwegian Landscape Painting after Dahl

Well, you know you’ve made it big when a period of art history is termed “after” you. These guys followed in Dahl’s brush strokes (sorry, couldn’t resist). They obviously learned a lot.

Thomas Fearnley (1802-1847)  “Old Birch Tree at Sognefjord”

Peder Balke (1804-1887)  “Stetind in Fog”

Amaldus Nielsen (1838-1932)  (In Madal we saw a bust of his by his fellow Mandalite, the famous sculptor Gustave Vigeland)  “Farmhouse at Balestrand”

1848-1879  Norwegian Scenes Painted in Germany

With no Academy of Fine Arts in their country, many Norwegians travelled to Dusseldorf to study at this time. Munich, too, offered an opportunity to study old masterpieces. Here I recognized an artist whose home town we visited earlier in our cruise:

Adolph Tidemand  (1814-1876) with Hans Gude (1825-1903)  “Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord” feels like a fairytale to me. And, it’s a familiar one considering its the frontispiece of our guide book.

Tidemand’s “Low Church Devotion” portrays Hans Nielsen Hauge preaching when it was outlawed for a lay minister to do so.

Eillif Peterssen (1852-1928)  Here, too, I noticed a portrait whose blend of a historical scene (“Christian II signing the Death Warrant of nobleman Torben Oxe” in 1517) and artistic skill drew me in.

I mean, look how his wife, Queen Isabella, begs him not to sign. Interestingly, since Oxe was accused of murdering the king’s mistress (and was later beheaded). Isabella must have sensed the danger of the king doing so, as the curator noted this act indirectly ended Christian II’s rule.

1880-1910  Realism and Outdoor Painting in Nordic Art

During this time Norwegian artists travelled to that art capital of the world, Paris, for lessons from the outdoor painters (thanks to my artists friends I know that’s called “en plain air”). Realism and the struggles of everyday life framed their work.

Erik Werenskiod (1855-1938)  who painted country life like “Peasant Burial” and the two young girls featured at the beginning of this post.

Christian Krohg (1852-1925)  “Albertine to see the Police Surgeon” speaks to the double standard of Kristiania’s authorities regarding prostitution and the mandatory medical exam. The artist/novelist’s book “Albertine (1886) was banned but this painting attracted thousands of viewers when on exhibit one year later. He reminds me of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens who addressed contemporary social issues through fiction.

Yet, Krohg also captured domestic scenes, such as this with the mother falling into an exhausted sleep after her child has fallen into one of contentment…

Anders Zorn (1860-1920)  His painting, “In the Skerries”, takes us outside with a young woman enjoying an (obviously) warm summer day.

1880-1910  Interiors and Portraits in Nordic Art

Moving from outdoors to indoors, Nordic artists painted scenes of ordinary people with family and friends serving as models.

Harriet Backer (1845-1932)  I always notice female artists, Backer being one of them in this museum. In her “Blue Interior” I can see myself sitting opposite this relaxed woman as she tends to her mending.

Halfdan Egedius (1877-1899)  On the other hand, looking at “Portrait of Mari Closen” I do not think I’d be keeping this woman company…

Harald Sohlberg‘s  (1869-1935) “Winter in the Mountains” captures his experience of skiing in the Norwegian mountains 1899. He said it best when he likened it to “…being beneath the lofty vaults of a cathedral, only a thousand times stronger.” If you look in the upper right you’ll see how he memorialized this experience with a cross.

Speaking of female artists, the National Gallery recently acquired a self-portrait by Leis Schjelderup (1956-1933), one the museum describes as ‘a precious gem’. They now own four of her paintings.

A Pioneer in Early Modernism:  Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

No matter your age or level of art appreciation, most people know this guy. I’ll let the intro to his room provide the background on him and his art:

Why I said his name is so well-known (If the area hadn’t been so congested you’d see me doing the same)…

“The Sick Child”…

and his “Madonna” portrait. A bit different from the ones I’ve seen in churches.

1900-1920  Norwegian Impressionism and Expressionism

How could an artist not be influenced by Edvard Munch? And, by the contemporary French art scene, especially after studying there?

Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928)  The KODE Museum in Bergen had a special exhibit on his life and work. Background information enriches the viewing, especially when points of connection tie an artist to others:  in this case, Erik Werenskiod; Harriet Backer; and, John Constable.

Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863-1958) (Danish artist)  “After the Tempest”, which is on a frame he created.

My last room featured an artist known for his storybook illustrations, Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914). I had learned he was from Kragero, where we had walked the Munch walk. Years ago I began collecting children’s book because of the art work. I definitely would have wanted one of Kittelsen’s. Call me sentimental, romantic, stuck-in-fairytale dust, but these are enchanting.

With sighs of contentment we exited this fabulous gallery, one not too big, not too small but just right. And, definitely worth a repeat visit.

 

RADHUSET (CITY HALL)

Pairing a National Gallery with a city hall may seem odd until you step inside Oslo’s.

Recommended by fellow cruisers, Dick and Ginger, as well as others, we visited what at first sight seems like a red brick factory.

However, as we approached the entrance my outlook starting changing. The creation of this structure created controversy due to its location (a slum district in 1913), but the mayor persisted and a 1918 competition resulted in two architects designing a medieval-style building with a tower. By 1930 modifications altered the plans to create a modernistic appearance. WWII interrupted the construction, which was completed in 1950 revealing a big, dark brown monolith.

Like the architectural design, a contest was held for the interior decoration. The winning artists began work in the late 1930s into 1942/43 until the Nazis’ occupation halted the work, sending some of the artists to labor camps. The work finished after the war, and what an amazing place to walk into.

Room after room presents Norway’s history in colorful murals, tapestries, and paintings. As you enter each room you’re provided with details on the decor, from paintings to construction materials to furniture to curtains.

How can you not be enthralled by the glorious art adorning the walls when you walk into this…

The Radhushallen (the grand function room)?

The mural by Henrik Sorensen, reputedly the largest in Europe, covers the back wall while complimentary ones dress the others. A glorious setting for awarding the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is done in this room.

Other rooms offer similar desserts all blending into a wonderland of modernistic design …

The Hardrade Room is named after King Hardrade (1015-1066). One tapestry depicts a historical event:  the Battle of Stamford where he lost to the English King Harold II, who was subsequently beaten less than three weeks later at the Battle of Hastings by William the Conquerer, who, by the way, was descended from Rollo, the Viking who sacked Paris (885-6) and is sometimes called the 1st Duke of Normandy.

Opposite, the second tapestry places the king in Oslo amidst builders and courtiers symbolizing the city’s founding. To commemorate this date, the Radhuset opened in 1950, Oslo’s 900th anniversary.

The Munch Room honors Norway’s most famous painter with his painting, The Tree of Life (1910), which may have been painted when he was living in Kragero.

Press conferences, small reception lunches and dinners are held here as well as civil marriage ceremonies one Saturday a month.

The Banqueting Hall is noted as ‘the grandest of all the function rooms’ with four Norwegian monarchs:  King Harald V (1937), Queen Sonja (1937),

King Olav V (1903-1991), and King Haakon VII (1872-1957) who became Norway’s first Norwegian king post-dissolution of the union with Sweden in 1905. But, what really dominates the room entirely covers the north-facing wall: the painting by Willi Midelfart of a summer scene. As Max noted, what other country would refreshingly mix royal portaits with nude sunbathers?

The Krohg Room (East Gallery) is used for city council meetings and political events, the room is drenched in colors painted by the artist Per Krogh’s (son of Christian Krogh).

Each segment of his murals symbolize an aspect of Norwegian culture, such as the bees (bottom left) embodying the interelationship between the city (the hive) and the countryside (rosebush).

While on another he paints scense of everyday life in Norway.

 

The Storstein Room (West Gallery) features “Human Rights” by Aage Storstein traces the evolution of Norway’s path to its constitution. Due to the richness of the story I’ve included the description we read unpon entering so you, too, can be enveloped in this tale.

 

Our last room turned into a hallway with glass cases holding various gifts from foreign nations and historical items, one being a 1427 medal of Oslo’s city seal featuring Saint Hallvard (1020-1044).

The design displays the elements of his story. A son of a weathy landholder, Hallvard tired to rescue a pregnant woman (the one lying in front of him); but, both of them were killed; Hallvard by three arrows (held in his left hand), when caught by the pursuing group of thugs. Realizing they’d murdered a high-born son, the thugs threw him into the wate weighted down with a millstone (held in his other hand); but, both he and the millstone floated to the surface (right…) and, voila, a Saint was born.

The tale is also depicted on manhole covers. (With municipalities decorating utilitarian items such as these, it’s no wonder our friend Ellen is collecting their images.)

 

May 15th, two days before Norway’s Constitution day, is his memorial day, often called “Oslo Day”. The seal was designed in 1924 when the city’s name reverted from Christiania/Kristiania, named after the Danish-Norwegian King Christian IV, to its original name, Oslo. Being independent (as of 1905) Norwegians wanted to honor their country’s history.

“Oslo stands unanimous and constant” surrounds Saint Hallvard, which, I have to say, is a refreshing statement considering the current state of affairs in the USA of partisanship and uncertainty.

What a great city in which to live.

Stay tuned for a glimpse of another Norwegian icon…

OSLO: Warmer Waters

KON-TIKI MUSEUM

Who hasn’t heard of Thor Hyderdahl and his voyage on the KON-TIKI? Well, I’m showing my age as we have run into younger generations who look at us quizzically, their expressions saying ‘Thor who?’

Regardless of whether or not his name is familiar, his museum provides another fascinating tale of sea exploration.

The Kon-Tiki Museum is located next door to the Fram and also features two original vessels. But, while the Fram covers polar expeditions by many explorers, the Kon-Tiki Museum features one captain, Thor Hyderdahl, another adventurous Norwegian.

Hyderdahl and four other men set out on a balsa raft named after a South American chief, Con-Tiki Virachocha (Kon-Tiki is also a sun god).

 

The goal? To prove Polynesia had been populated by South American natives. Hyderdahl came to this decision while living with his wife Liv on the Pacific Island Fatu Hiva (northeast of Tahiti) in 1937-38 studying the local flora and fauna.

Several factors supported his belief:  an elder Polynesian said his ancestor Tiki came from a large land beyond the sea; the current flows from the east; there were similar stone statues in both Polynesia and in South America; and, further research revealed a myth of the pre-Incan chief Con-Tiki’s escape from Peru on a balsa raft after losing a battle.

That was enough to launch Hyderdahl on his quest, resulting in a new field of study: maritime experimental archeology. Others, however, completely disagreed with this Norwegian’s theory. This opposition only served to spur a determined Hyderdahl even more. This trait continued to serve him well his entire life, one of constantly questioning long-held beliefs.

Gathering a crew of five, including the WWII hero, Knut Magne Haugland (who had participated in the famous sabotage raid on the heavy water plant in Rijukan 1943), Hyderdahl proceeded to construct a vessel last built centuries ago.

Organizational skills, contacts, and charm, along with determination, helped Thor in his preparations. The U.S. Navy donated much of the required equipment (from sleeping bags to suntan lotion), and the Peruvian president gave him access to the country’s naval base for building the raft.

On April 28, 1947 Kon-Tiki left Peru…

and landed 4,300 miles away on an atoll near Tahiti 101 days later (just one day past Thor’s estimated travel time). Although it was a crash landing over a reef and through powerful waves, all survived including the equipment. Considering the team, with the exception of Haugland, lacked experience of being at sea, it’s a miracle they managed to survive. What’s even more surprising, to me, is Hyderdahl supposedly couldn’t swim.

Unbeknownst to them their regular radio broadcasts had captured the world’s imagination, and their filming of the voyage garnered an Oscar in 1951 for Best Documentary.

Although the voyage was a success, the question of who settled Polynesia remains inconclusive, especially with a 1990s DNA study of the inhabitants showing more of an eastern Asian influence than South American. What KON-TIKI’s voyage did prove is the possibility of cross-migration between South America and the Pacific.

Support for the theory of cultural exchange comes from other DNA studies:  Chile’s pre-Columbian chickens whave Asiatic origins; and the sweet potato from both areas originates in South America. Furthermore, the Polynesian word for sweet potato, ‘kumara’, comes from Quechua, a language spoken by the people of the Andes in South America.

As the museum states, “the sea did not represent a barrier [to ancient men]. It was a means of transportation.”

In reading a bit online Hyderdahl’s theory has been disputed.

In the 1970s several voyages using ancient navigation and landfinding (rising and setting of the sun and stars, wave-riding or discerning the direction of the swells, knowing flight patterns of birds and cloud formations) demonstrated the more likely scenario of the Polynesians landing on South America, not the other way around.

But, Hyderdahl’s voyage is still a wonderful adventure.

The KON-TIKI voyage began Thor Hyderdahl’s journey to discovering more about man and his travels. His curiosity also seemed destined to proving cultural relationships others dismissed as nuts.

Which is why he ventured to the Galapagos Islands in 1953. Those who challenged Hyderdahl insisted islands closer to South America should also show evidence of early human habitation; yet, no one had found such artifacts on the Galapagos Islands. The gauntlet thrown by the establishment led Hyderdahl to unearth almost 2,000 pieces proving human visits going back to prehistoric times.

The verdict is still out, since an explanation can be made that the artifacts came from European travelers, possibly pirates who had left behind Peruvian pottery. Testing is currently being performed to date the pottery to see if, indeed, pieces were left by Ecuadorian fishermen before European visitors.

Another island in this part of the world fascinated Hyderdahl:  Easter Island and its moai, the giant standing stone monoliths.

In 1955-56 during his studies of the moai he became the first outsider to be given access to old family caves. These secret ancestral caches held thousands of small stone sculptures.

Thor was also given permission to take samples for study, alerting his contacts back in Norway with the following telegram. 

Only recently (April 2014) have these stone sculptures been made available for public viewing.

Fast forward to the late 1960s and Hyderdahl is on another maritime adventure:  to explore the likelihood of a papyrus vessel from the times of the Pharaohs crossing the Atlantic. Again, South America figures into his speculation due to reed boats used on Lake Titicaca, whose shores border Peru and Bolivia. Like the Egyptians, these people employed similar pyramid designs, worshipped the sun, and mummified their dead.

On May 25, 1969 he and an international crew of six left Morocco on RA, a papyrus boat constructed by those still using such vessels on Africa’s Lake Chad.

In addition to testing his theory of an ancient Egyptian-South American exchange, Hyderdahl wanted examine the ability of men from diverse cultures co-habitating on an isolating journey. For this reason, the United Nations, an organization devoted to creating unity among nations, allowed him to hoist their flag on RA.

This time lack of a test voyage resulted in failure. The RA began coming apart within two weeks. After 50 days at sea and still 650 nautical miles from Barbados they called for help and were rescued.

Undaunted, in less than a year Hyderdahl and a new international crew were back at sea, on RA II, constructed in Morocco by Ayamara Indians brought in from Lake Titicaca. They reached Barbados 57 days later on July 12, 1970 covering over 6,000 km at sea.

Although completing such a trip contributed to further understanding of ancient human’s travels across seas, a more important discovery happened thanks to personal hygiene.

While on the first RA voyage the crew noticed small clumps of oil floating around their craft. Soon, they couldn’t even dip their toothbrushes in the water without getting tar in the bristles. Hyderdahl alerted the UN who got involved as well as the U.S. Congress. In 1972 oil tankers were banned from discharging oil in the open sea.

This determined Norwegian pursued his curiosity throughout his life. Easter Island and its mysteries continued to attract his attention. In 1986 he with the locals and Pavel Pavel, a Czech engineer, managed to recreate the ‘walk of a statue’ described in an oral tradition.

But, beyond his dedication to the study of archaeology and ancient humans, Thor passionately worked to protect the environment for present and future generations.

 

I had entered both the Fram and the Kon-Tiki Museums believing my respect for the people featured would be based on their polar and tropical explorations.

I left with even greater admiration for less-publicized feats, such as Nansen’s work with refugees and Hyderdahl’s concern for the environment, two issues even more dire today.

 

VIKING MUSEUM

From vessels built of balsa and reeds to those of oak and pine. Our next maritime museum covered the Viking era (late 700s to mid-1000 C.E.).

Four ships, all uncovered from burial grounds (which is what protected three of them from complete disintegration) found within the southeast area of Norway, are housed in a building resembling an old monastery.

When you enter, a wall map charts the expanse of the Vikings’ travels. We’d seen one of these before, but the scope of their voyages still stuns us. I mean, from the east coast of North America to the eastern shores of the Black Sea? In open boats, no less.

Excavated between 1852 and 1904 we saw three ships and just some iron nails of the fourth.

Ship 1:  The OSEBERG

This elegant vessel was built 820 C.E. in southwestern Norway of oak with mast, oars (15 holes on each side, for 30 rowers) and decks of pine. Iron rivets hold the siding together. This ship could reach up to ten knots (11 mph) under sail. It may not seem particularly fast but it would overtake JUANONA with our normal five to seven knots of speed.

With the elaborate carvings decorating the hull, even the part below the waterline, archeologists surmise the OSEBERG would have been for local voyages used by the aristocracy of that age. Look at the craftsmanship. Unbelievable.

After 12 years the ship was retired and used for the burial of two women, obviously of noble status. Their ages were between 70 and 80 for one and just over 50 for the other.  The older woman suffered a serious childhood illness and in old age had advanced cancer as well as osteoporosis and a knee injury. The younger had good teeth and had recently broken her collarbone prior to her death. As if that isn’t specific enough from skeletons over 1,000 years old, they said she picked her teeth with a metal toothpick…!

In spite of grave robbers looting jewelry and weapons, the composition of the moist soil with a covering of clay and turf preserved numerous treasures–treasures more valuable than gold considering the information they provide about how these folk lived.

The women were placed on a bed with linens in a burial chamber behind the mast. Composed of wool and linen, tapestry scenes on the various fragments depict battle scenes and processions. Unlike the large blocks of cloth hanging in castles and manor homes in more modern times, Viking tapestries were more like vertical banners, possibly used for special occasions.

Pieces of silk embroideries (imported from Central Asia and the eastern Mediterranean) and fine woolen fabric were also found, with some representing foreign influence, such as the use of floral patterns.

Five delicately carved animal heads with 20″ long handles were located aboard, supposedly created by five different craftsmen. Four are on display, with the fifth badly damaged from age. There’s no consensus on how they were used, maybe mounted on walls to serve as protection or just ornamentation? Even without that knowledge the intricacies of each is something to marvel.

A wooden cart built before 800 C.E. was also found in the grave. Two horses would have pulled the cart, and it could even be dismantled for easy transporting. Motifs of cats could represent Froya, Goddess of fertility, whose cart is drawn by cats, and a man being attacked by snakes may depict the tale of Gunnar in the snake pit. [These women lived about 170 years before King Olaf I (Olaf Tryggvason) instilled Christianity as the country’s religion.]

Two sleighs were also found, but were not on display. Again, richly carved and also pulled by horses.

The grave contained housewares (such as weaving looms, buckets, chests), agricultural tools (such as pitchfork, animal tether) and animals, the latter being a barn-full:  2 cows; 6 dogs; and, get this–15 horses. Now that’s a burial.

 

Ship 2:  The GOKSTAD

This ship was built in 890 C.E., during the Vikings’ heyday and is the largest of the four excavated. It’s also the best preserved.

Like the OSEBERG, it was constructed of oak with pine deck, removable for stowing supplies and cargo. Unlike the OSEBERG, the GOKSTAD could sail the high seas with its sturdier mast and keel, and higher sides. It was faster, too, with a sleeker build, oar-holes for 32 men and a larger sail. Its speed could reach 12 knots vs. the 10 of the daintier OSEBERG.

Buried in the ship was another wealthy individual, this one a man in his 40s, about 6′ tall, who had died in battle, most likely from a knife to the thigh (he also had a cut in the calf bone). He, too, was laid on a bed of linen in a burial chamber most likely decorated with tapestries.

Like the women’s burial site, his had similar artifacts (beds, sleighs, harnesses, etc.) as well as animal sacrifices:  8 dogs; 2 hawks; 12 horses; and, surprisingly, 2 peacocks.

What’s really cool are the shields found (remnants). They were painted and hung on the side of the ship. The shields would have been used on leaving or entering a harbor as a means to impress people.  I know if I was on land tending my sheep and noticed a ship pulling in a fast and steady speed with 30+ brawny guys at the oars and brightly colored shields glistening in the sun, I’d be impressed. Actually, I’d be running.

Ship 3:  The TUNE

This ship constructed in 910 C.E. was the first to be excavated. It’s smaller than the OSEBERG and GOKSTAD, but still a powerful vessel made for ocean-going voyages.

The design points to possibly a transport ship for light-weight goods (glass? fur? even slaves or warriors) since there wasn’t a lot of room for cargo. There could have been 24 rowers and a good-size sail providing necessary speed to get where one wanted to go quickly.

A man of wealth was buried here (I think anyone buried in a ship would be pretty well-off…) along with remains of his weaponry (sword hilt, spearheads, shield boss, and chain mail), parts of a ski and saddle, a die, some beads, cloth fragments along and unidentified wooden pieces.

Because the TUNE was found in 1867 before modern archaeology, most of the contents and the ship were damaged and/or lost due to, as the museum carefully states, ‘heavy-handed excavation’…

And, to give you an idea of just how much work it takes to unearth and then reconstruct one of these treasures, this is what was found:

and this is how it looks on display:

 

As I mentioned earlier, the fourth ship (the BORRE) just had some nails, so I’ll spare you a photo of those.

With our visit of the Viking Ship Museum at a close, we had completed our maritime tour of Oslo’s fabulous trilogy of Norwegian ships and those who sailed them, all conveniently located on Bygdoy, the peninsula where JUANONA was docked.

Three museums, multiple vessels, and dreams of lands beyond.

More Oslo’ing ahead

OSLO: Polar Ice

Tuesday-Tuesday, June 6-13

MUSEUM:  FRAM

Where there are ships, there is Max. And, most times I don’t mind tagging along, this being one of those times.

The Frammuseet features polar explorations, primarily those on trips aboard the FRAM and the GJOA, two ships serving as part of the exhibits. The museum focuses on the men (who were Norwegian, by the way) who successfully reached both the North and South poles as well as traversed the famous Northwest Passage; but, other polar explorers, such as Robert Falcon Scott, are also given their due as are the Inuits who provided knowledge of their lands. And, all are presented in rich detail along with photographs and artifacts.

The museum also makes it extremely easy to peruse the information:  English is the primary language of the displays with Norwegian as the secondary one.

To simplify the three hours of information I absorbed, below are the stories of polar explorers and two maps to help visualize the area they travelled.

Warning:  this posting is long because the human stories fascinate me.

 

Elvind Astrup (1871-95)

Astrup accompanied the American Robert E. Peary on two Greenland expeditions. The first one (1891-92) ended with the two of them making a furthest north in Greenland. The second trip (1893-94) Astrup started off with Peary but was unable to continue due to falling ill. Astrup and his friend, the Inuit Kolotengva, did end up mapping the north side of Melville Bay, which is noted as the ‘only important result’ of that expedition.

With the above achievements, Astrup became a polar hero in Norway. His research on using skis and dogs to pull sledges proved invaluable to the future of polar exploration.

He began planning his own polar expedition upon returning from his second stint with Peary; however, ill health thought to be rheumatic pains forced him to cancel the plans. Tragically he committed suicide at the end of 1895, age just 24.

To this day no confirmed explanation has surfaced for why he took his own life. What is certain is Norway lost a young man’s whose contributions to polar exploration helped set the framework for others’ success.

 

Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) 

This Norwegian hero earned his polar stripes by crossing Greenland in 1888-89. That trek only whetted his appetite for more cold-weather exploration; now he wanted to prove the theory that the North Pole lies over an ocean, and that a current carries the ice from one side to the other.

To accomplish this he had a ship constructed to withstand being frozen in ice. What made this possible was the ship’s design: a smooth-sided, rounded hull (so the ice couldn’t grip it but rather would pinch it up);

thicker and more closely-spaced wooden beams with steel reinforcing strips at the bow;

a rudder and propeller that could be lifted up into a protective well in the stern; and, a ship of short overall length for maneuverability in the ice.

They also had a windmill aboard. It recharged the batteries for the electric lights in the cabins.

The name of this ship was the FRAM – known as the ruggedest vessel ever made.

In 1896 Nansen left with a crew of 12 men. His planning was meticulous–a well-balanced diet ensured scurvy or weight loss was avoided; and, books (600 volumes), a semi-automatic organ (and other instruments), card games, daily-writing and discussions bolstered the men’s mental state during the long winters aboard FRAM.

The Fram did not drift as close to the North Pole as Nansen had hoped. Thus, he set out with Hjalmar Johansen and three dog sledges in an attempt to get there over the ice.

Leaving March 14, 1985 they got as far as 86º 14’ N (226 miles from the North Pole) before turning back; however, their return navigation didn’t go as planned due to stopped watches. They got as far as 86º 14′ N where they shacked up in a tiny stone and dirt hut. Fortunately for them, their 11-month ordeal ended when – by pure happenstance – they met up with another explorer, Frederick Jackson, an Englishman based at Cape Flora for his own three-year exploration. On Jackson’s ship they returned to Norway, where the FRAM arrived just a week later. Talk about luck.

As if stuck in a hut wasn’t the worst thing to have happened to them… while stopping to set up camp on an ice floe they almost lost their two kayaks with all of their equipment. Nansen stripped off some of his clothes and his watch, jumped into the water and finally managed to grab hold of the kayak. Needless to say he lived to tell about it.

One of the extremely valuable experiences Nansen obtained came from an earlier (1888) expedition after he became the first to cross Greenland. He and five companions had missed the last ship of the year when they reached the west coast. This resulted in them living among the Inuit and learning how the locals adapted to such an inhospitable climate.

From his time with the Inuuit Nansen later became one of their champions when most Europeans dismissed them as inferior people. He documented his life with the Inuits in “Eskimo Life” (published 1891) Nansen was one of the first, but certainly not the last polar explorer who benefited mightifly from the intelligence and generosity of the Inuit; and, the museum’s displays document the Europeans’ reliance of on the locals without whom many of these expeditions would probably have failed miserably.

I had known Nansen was a polar explorer. What I didn’t realize is just how amazing this man was in other ways. His humanitarianism impressed me as much, if not more than his scientific achievements:

The Nansen Passport enabled almost half a million refugees to avoid deportation.

The world could use more men like him.

 

 

Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)

Amundsen’s dream of becoming a polar explorer started with his reading of John Franklin’s tragic failed attempt to sail the Northwest Passage (1845-48) (the route today that commercial ships are beginning to use as a shorter–40% to be exact–path between the Pacific and the Atlantic, thanks to climate change).

This Norwegian created a lot of ‘firsts’, beginning with traversing the Northwest Passage from east to west (1903-06) on the ship GJOA.

During this feat he also became the first to prove Nansen’s premise that the North magnetic pole floats around, unlike the South’s permanent fixed position.

He undertook this expedition after years of prepping for polar trekking, and his preparations were prodigious. He accompanied Adrien de Gerlach on BELGICA to Antartica in the late 1890s. During that expedition he learned as much as he could from scientists, and the Arctic veteran Dr. Frederick Cook. Amundsen then studied under Georg von Neumeyer, the leading authority on magnetic research (Neumeyer asked Amndsen to bury his photo as close to the magnetic north pole as possible). Lastly, Amundsen approached Nansen who enthusiastically endorsed Amundsen’s goal.

Like Nansen, Amundsen absorbed a lot of valuable lessons from the Inuits during his two years in the ice.

And, like Nansen, Amundsen and his crew of six came to respect and admire the Inuits and their culture. From them they learned how to build igloos, wear loose fur clothing for warmth, and optimize the use of dog sledges.

Yet, Amundsen’s name might sound more familiar because of his next foray into polar ice. He and the Englishman Robert Falcon Scott ended up in a race to the South Pole, with Scott losing more than the race.

Initially Amundsen’s goal was at the opposite end:  being the first to reach the North Pole. Again, he sought and received Nansen’s approval (with the stipulation that science be a focus) since he planned to use the strategy of drifting across the Arctic Ocean. Preparations began with support from King Haakon and Queen Maud (both good friends of Nansen by the way). And, man, can you say ‘wasp-waist’?!

In spring 1909 his plans drastically changed after hearing that two explorers had claimed the North Pole:  Frederick A. Cook and Robert E. Peary. Instead of going north, he’d head south to claim the last big prize: the South Pole. He kept his plans secret; yet, Amundsen’s preparations puzzled folks familiar with polar explorations:  why was Amundsen taking material to reconstruct a large (two-room) and sturdy wooden cabin to set on drift ice? And why was he taking so many dogs (97) when he could get them later on during his journey to the Arctic?

In Madeira, Amundsen revealed his goal of reaching the South Pole to his crew. He also sent telegrams to the King and to Captain Scott on TERRA NOVA.

Like Amundsen, Scott had also wintered in Antarctica, from 1901-04 with Edward Wilson and Ernest Shackleton (both worth reading about) during his DISCOVERY expedition.

The race was on…

I became immersed in the fascinating depiction of the logistics of preparing for trekking to the South Pole once the ship had reached that continent. Photographs document the crew’s work on ensuring sledges ran smoothly… food boxes packed economically with fare such as biscuits, powdered milk and pemican… crates attached to the sledges with zinc-coated leather straps so the dogs couldn’t bite through them… even a ‘slightly warmer snow room’  had been set up so the Singer Sewing Machine wouldn’t freeze up.

 

Crew members were recognized with the cook, Adolf Lindstrom, remembered fondly for his good humor and excellent food. I wouldn’t mind having some of what he’s holding aboard JUANONA. (Max edit: does Lynnie realize he is serving seal liver)

Amundsen’s dog sledging versus Scott’s reliance on unproven motorized sledges and ponies and just a few dogs proved the deciding factor in being ‘first’. On December 14, 1911 five men reached the South Pole:


Aware they may run into difficulties on the return journey, and also aware Scott may be arriving and in need of some items, Amundsen and his team left a tent, sextant, hypsometer case (measures altitude/height), mittens, footwear, and a letter addressed to King Haakon, asking that Scott deliver it for him.

On January 16, 1912 Scott and his companions saw a dark spot in the distance – a flag – and the disappointing realization set in that the Norwegians had beaten them to the South Pole. Three days later on January 19th they arrived at the South Pole and then started the harrowing 800-mile trek back to their base camp, gradually running out of food and fuel, only to die in their tents within 11 miles of a storage depot. Their bodies were found by a search party the following spring, and a memorial igloo built over their tents: 

Amundsen’s next polar expedition entailed heading back to the North Pole. He wanted to follow Nansen’s idea of drifting over the Arctic Ocean while attempting to get nearer or actually crossing over the pole. With the FRAM being a bit beat, Amundsen had MAUD built and set off in 1918.

They never achieved that specific goal but the amount of scientific knowledge gained during the seven years of being in the Arctic was invaluable. In addition to scientific measurements the first reconnaissance aircraft was used taking off from the deck of a ship. With the use of planes Amundsen documented that there was no land between Svalbard (Spitzbergen) and the North Pole.

In spite of crashes and mishaps, Amunsen remained convinced of the value of planes for Arctic exploration. With funding from the American Lincoln Ellsworth, who sponsored the first air flights in turn for a place on board, Amundsen continued experimenting with types of aircraft. His next flight involved an airship (dirigible) constructed by the Italian Umberto Nobile (As a side note, the Italian representative for this flight was Italy’s Minister of Aviation, Benito Mussolini).

The test of an airship’s reliability for polar travel would be a transpolar flight, leaving from Svalbard, flying over the pole, and landing in Alaska. As some noted, the flight just to get the airship, now called NORGE, from Italy to Svalbard proved its worth. But, it’s not as spectacular as making it across the top (or bottom, depending on your hemisphere) of the world.

The Trans-Polar Flight was a success. Umberto Nobile, who had disagreed with Amundsen during the flight, decided to use a new airship named ITALIA for his own expedition. He and his crew of 16 flew to the North Pole but ran into difficulty on the return. They crashed on the drift ice northeast of Svalbard May 25, 1928.

Amundsen joined the international search operation to locate and rescue survivors.  After leaving Tromso (in northern Norway) on June 18 the plane carrying Amundsen and five others sent their last radio message three hours out. Unlike other miraculous survivals in the polar extremes Nobile and some of his crew survived the ITALIA crash, but Nobile’s would-be rescuers, Amundsen and his fellow passengers, were tragically lost and declared dead.

Nansen paid tribute to this great Norwegian, memoralizing Amundsen with the words

“And so, when his work was completed, he returned to the Arctic wilderness, where his vocation lay. He found an unknown grave under the icy world’s pure sky, with the wing beats of eternity sounding through space. Bur from the great white silence his name will glow in the shine of the Northern lights for Norway’s youth through the centuries. It is men with courage, with determination, with power like his, who give us faith in our people, give confidence in the future. – The world is still young that fosters such sons.”

 

Otto Sverdrup (1854-1930)

Two years after Amundsen’s successful Northwest Passage, this Norwegian captained the FRAM for her second trip to the Arctic (he also happened to captain the FRAM on her inaugural voyage with Nansen). The sole purpose was the gathering of scientific knowledge and gather they did. Between 1898 and 1902 a team of 16 men  documented flora and fauna, made meterology observations, and mapped between 150,000 and 200,000 km2 of Arctic land west of Greenland (ice forced Sverdup to change his original plan of exploring northwest Greenland).

Today those islands are known as Sverdrup’s Islands, although the Inuit may call them something else.

 

Henry Larsen (1899-1963)

An untouted ‘first’ for a Norwegian and his adopted country, Canada, is Henry Larsen’s west-to-east navigation of the Northwest Passage. When working for a Norwegian Shipping company, Fed. Olsen, Larsen met Nansen in 1923. The younger guy got the polar bug and changed jobs, ending up in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) patrolling the Arctic on the RCMP’s ship ST. ROCH. During his service, he captained the ship from west to east leaving September 1940 and reaching Halifax, Nova Scotia two years later. His nickname among the Inuit was “Henry with the big ship”.

There’s obviously an affinity between that big ice and the Norwegians!

Carl Anton Larsen (1860-1924)

One other polar explorer is highlighted in the FRAM:  Carl Anton Larsen. But, unlike his fellow Norwegian polar-ites, Larsen focused on one element of the icy waters:  whales. Beginning in 1892 Larsen searched for whales to supply the growing demand for baleen. Over the next 30 years he led expeditions that included gathering geographic and scientific information as well as hunting for whales.

Today you can still find whale meat on menus in Norway.

 

Okay, enough of the cold, let’s head to where the weather is warm…