Norway! What an amazing country. It’s bursting with an amazing history and a rich culture. My only complaint is that it’s also the most expensive country I’ve ever been to, which kept us from doing as much as possible; although, we still managed to do a fair amount in the one day we had to explore the city of Oslo.
During our short vacation, we stayed at the Anker Hotel. I would definitely recommend this place. Our room was clean, the staff was helpful and friendly, they included wifi and a continental breakfast in the cost of our room, and the breakfast had a lot of options and was delicious and filling. So filling, in fact, that despite all the walking we did we never felt like we needed to stop for lunch. Even my husband, who is almost constantly hungry. THAT is a good breakfast. Overall, it suited our needs very well.
To get the most out of our trip, we each bought a 24 hour Oslo Pass. They were around $35 per person, but over the course of the day it probably would have cost us triple that between museums and transportation. The pass gets you free or discounted entrance into tons of attractions, and it also acts as your bus/train/tram ticket. Super handy. There are also two smartphone apps I would recommend. The first being the Oslo Pass app, and the second being the Travel Oslo app. Travel Oslo has all of the best museums, attractions, restaurants and more, and even lets you know if and how your Oslo Pass will benefit you there. It made planning really easy.
Our first stop of the day was to the Munchmuseet, a museum dedicated to the life and works of 19th-century Symbolism painter, Edvard Munch. My main goal was to see his famous 1893 painting, The Scream. Unfortunately, the museum was in the middle of changing exhibits and the painting was not available for viewing. However, they still had one room with quite a few others including The Sun (1909). In addition to the beauty and complexity of his artwork, I was impressed by the sheer size of some of his canvases. Three of his paintings we saw were close to 20 feet tall, 50 fifty wide, and took years to complete. Definitely put it on your to-see list.
After the museum, we took a bus to the other side of the city and visited the Viking Ship museum and the Norsk Folk museum. The Viking Ship museum contains three different ships (Oseberg, Gokstad, and Tune) that were used in Norse funerals, as well as all the artifacts and treasures found on the Oseberg ship. The museum also has two balconies in each room where the ships rest so that you can see what the inside of each ship looks like. Some of the treasures include things like fine fabrics, such as woven silk; cooking pots and utensils; jewelry; decorative saddles and bridles for horses; and three large, hand-carved, ornamental sleds. The craftsmanship is truly incredible. Upstairs, above the gift shop, is a small display on what life may have been like for the man found on the Gokstad ship-what he may have done for a living, his daily life and diet, and what they were able to learn from his skeleton like how old he was and how he died. This museum was by far my favorite.
The Norsk Folk museum is a combination of a large, open-air museum and a traditional indoor museum. Unfortunately, the open-air portion was closed during our visit. I’m assuming it would be something along the lines of people in period dress with markets and shops and carpenters and blacksmiths to give visitors a real experience of living in Norway in the 16th-17th century. The indoor museum was still enlightening. One exhibit had an entire household of items from an aristocratic family living in the 1800’s. Another, handmade men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing from the 1500’s complete with vibrant embroidery and beading. There was also a wide array of woodwork such as painted trunks, doors, tables, chairs, armoires, toys, plateware, and religious relics. I would have loved to see what was included in the open-air museum as well, but it’s probably better suited for warmer weather anyway.
Because the open-air museum was closed, we had some spare time to squeeze in an extra museum and decided to go to the Museum of Cultural History. While the Viking Ship museum was my favorite, this was a close second. The cultural museum has an exhibit that spans over 10,000 years of Norwegian history, including the only complete Viking helmet ever found. My favorite exhibit, though, was actually the exhibit of Egyptian artifacts. The artifacts were a gift from King Oscar II of Sweden, who originally got them as a gift from the Egyptian State in 1893. The collection consists of several sarcophaguses, two of which (much to my amazement and disbelief) STILL contained their mummies! On these two, the lids were elevated several inches so you could just see the embalming on the bodies. They were so well preserved that they still had most of their skin and you could see the tendons still attached to the bones on their hands. I’m probably grossing some of you out but I was completely enthralled. Dallas practically had to peel me away from the glass casing. They also have exhibits exploring cultures from all over the world and a large collection of 12th century church portals and artwork.
Last on our to-see list was the Nobel Peace Center. During our visit they had two temporary exhibitions. The first one was called Targets. Put together by German photographer, Herlinde Koelbl, Targets is a series examining what the “enemy” looks like from the perspective of soldiers around the world. In addition to the photos, the exhibition also features quotes from interviews with different service members. The only way I know how to describe this series is emotionally jarring. My whole life revolves around my husband’s military career. It’s easy to be patriotic and think that we’re doing the right thing, trying to solve the world’s problems and keeping the “bad guys” out. But are we?
The second temp exhibition was called The Tunisian Method, which highlighted the efforts of four organizations that banded together to bring Tunisia back from the brink of civil war in 2013. The leaders of these organizations, calling themselves the National Dialogue Quartet, were so effective in restoring balance to their country that they won the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. America could probably stand to learn a lesson or two from their methods.
The last big exhibit of the museum was a dark room filled with blue LED lighting, and forming a sort of maze around the room were tablets. Each tablet displayed one winner of the Nobel Peace Prize from the first winner, Henry Dunant (founded the Red Cross), in 1901 all the way the last year’s winner, the NDQ. This room was my favorite. It restored my heart and faith in humanity to see just how many people put themselves aside to come up with a solution to a problem that would not only benefit their immediate community, but also radiate out and benefit the world. Each of these 114 winners left a true legacy.
This trip was almost the perfect quick, middle-of-the-week getaway. If I were going to change anything, I would go in the spring or summer when more things were available and I would plan for two days instead of one to really get the most out of Oslo and everything this city has to offer. Either way, I think this is a great place to add to your Europe bucket list! While you’re there, take a couple extra days to go farther north and try to catch the ever-elusive Aurora Borealis.
I’m still on the hunt for our next European getaway, so tell me about your favorite place in the comments!