Scandinavia Day Nine: Nidaros Cathedral & Trøndelag Folke Museet

Trondheim … over 1000 years old and Norway’s first capital city.  Today, the city is the 3rd largest in Norway with over 170,000 inhabitants.  The name of the city at the mouth of the river Nid has changed several times.  The oldest known name is Nidaros, which means ‘town by the estuary’.  In the late Middle Ages it was called ‘the market town in Trondheimen’, later shortened to Trondheim, ‘home of Trønder’.  Under Danish rule, it was generally known as Staden or Byen (the city or town).  In January 1930 the Norwegian Parliament voted to change the name to Nidaros, but the residents did not agree.  After a compromise, Parliament decided in March of the same year that the city be called Trondheim.

We arrived in Trondheim shortly after 7 a.m. by train.  As we were relatively close to our hotel, the Radisson Blue, we opted to walk.  We checked in and soon thereafter came down for the breakfast buffet.  Refueled, we ventured out once more to explore the medieval charms of this ancient city. We stumbled upon the Kristiansten Fort (currently under renovation) … Gamle Bybro – the old bridge, first built on the site in 1681, the same time the for was under construction when a sentry & excise house stood at either end (the west side of the excise house still stands) … the Trampe Bike Lift (not presently in operation) – first lift in the world specifically for bikes.

We then journeyed to the Nidaros Cathedral and Norway’s national shrine.  It was started in the year 1070 and is built above the tomb of St. Olav.  In the same area is the Archbishop’s Palace, which was the Archbishop’s main seat from the middle of the 12th century.  The Nidaros Cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace are located side by side in the middle of the city center. The cathedral is the most important Gothic monument in Norway and was Northern Europe’s most important Christian pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Today, it is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world, and the second largest in Scandinavia. It houses several exhibitions:  Norway’s Crown Regalia and the Archbishop’s Palace Museum containing sculptures from Nidaros Cathedral, among other items.  We opted to observe only the exterior.

 We then boarded a bus to Sverresborg to see the Trøndelag Folke Museet.  The museum was a disappointment, however, due to it being the off season (no one was in costume and the staff we did see were undergoing ‘spring cleaning’ and we thereby had to step around ladders, buckets of mop water, etc.) but we did enjoy the small stave church.   A stave church is a medieval wooden church with a post and beam construction.  This church falls under this category but lacks the tall arches so familiar to most.

After the museum, we were all feeling a little down .. it was our first day of rain and we wanted to do something memorable but also wanted to relax.  We took the bus back into the city center and opted to get a quick bite at Burger King.  We then returned to the hotel to put our bags away and began to walk to the pier … I’d came across an advertisement in one of the circulars … and DH and I opted to surprise the munchkins.

All along the walk, the kids were asking questions to try and discern where we were going.  Even when we arrived at the exterior of the building, they didn’t know what it was.  It wasn’t until we stepped into the foyer that they figured it out.  “A pool!”  They were ecstatic!  Unlike the U.S., the hotels did not have a pool.  Unbeknownst to us, however, they didn’t rent towels and we’d neglected to bring towels from the hotel.  We thereby had to buy a towel … $20 for a small 2′ x 2′ … MeiLi and I graciously allowed the boys to use it and we walked around a little to air dry and then used a blow drier to finish the job.

The Pirbadet – is the largest indoor water park located on the seashore Trondheim.  most of the attractions are in one large room, meaning young and old alike can enjoy time together.  Our favorite activity was the well-being pool, situated beside a panoramic glass wall offering a spectacular view of the Trondheimsfjorden, where we enjoyed being massaged by the powerful bubble jets along the outer wall and relaxing on the bubble bench. MeiLi loved the youth pool with a lazy river, wide slide and jacuzzi.  An evening at the Pirbadet was just what we needed.

Scandinavia Day Seven: Viking Ships & Vigelandsparken

We got an early start and took a bus to Bygdøy a peninsula on the western side of Oslo where many of the most popular museums are located.  Armed with the 48-Hr Oslo Pass, we toured the most popular of museums in Oslo.

Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset) presents great Viking ship discoveries from Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune as well as other finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord. These ships were found in three large burial mounds where they had been buried to serve as vessels for their rich owners’ final journey to the realm of the dead, Valhalla.

The Osberg ship, built around 820 AD was used as a burial ship for a powerful woman and her maid-servant in 834 AD. The ship is constructed of oak timbers and is 21.5m long and 5m wide.  The ship was fully manned with a crew of 32 men, including the helmsman and the lookout.  In a burial chamber in the ship, the dead women were laid out in a ready-made bed.  Their ship also contained a fantastic collection of burial gifts for use in the life hereafter; e.g. three elaborate sledges, a wagon, five carved animal heads, five beds and the skeletons of 12 horses.

The Gokstad ship was built around 890 AD and was used as a burial ship for a chieftain around 900 AD.  The ship is about 23m long and about 5m wide; fully equipped with 32 shields on each side, painted alternately in gold and black.  In the burial chamber lay the body of a man in his 40s.

Grave robbers had long since plundered the grave; no weapons were found among the burial gifts, but the finds included a game board with game pieces, a harness fitting of iron, lead and gilded bronze, kitchen utensils, six beds, one tent, a sledge and three small boats.  Also buried in the grave were 12 horses, 6 dogs, and a peacock.

Kon-Tiki Museum

The Kon-Tiki Museum showcases the legendary expeditions of Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002).  Thor gained worldwide fame when he crossed the Pacific Ocean on the Kon-Tiki in 1947. He followed this up with spectacular expeditions on the reed boats Ra and Tigris.  His recreations of prehistoric voyages showed that early man had mastered sailing before the saddle and wheel were invented. His reputation as a scientist was consolidated through his archaeological excavations on the fabled, mysterious Easter Island.  Here, the munchkins and I were intrigued by the expedition journals of Thor and his wife, Liv.

Maritime & Fram Museums

We also explored the Norwegian Maritime Museum and the Fram Museum.  The Fram Museum houses the world’s most famous polar ship and about the men, like Roald Amundsen, who made these expeditions possible.

Norsk Folke Museum

Lastly, we explored the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History or Norsk Folkemuseum.  We had been most looking forward to this one as we have volunteered as living history interpreters in the past.  However, much like Skansen in Stockholm, there was only one due to the fact that it was off-season.  MeiLi became very disappointed in this .. many of the historic buildings were also closed .. and we became a little gloomy.  We thereby missed the stave church … but it likely would’ve been closed as well.  The nice thing about travel in the off-season, however, is we had the entire place to ourselves.  There were no lines … no one stepping in front of our cameras … no crowds whatsoever.

Rather than take the bus again, we boarded a small boat or water taxi and returned to mainland Oslo.  Craving fish & chips, we selected Amunsen Bryggeri & Spiseri … a local brewery and pub for dinner.  We did a little shopping … and then boarded the bus once again for Frogner Park.

Vigelandsparken

Frognerparken is a public park located in the borough of Frogner in Oslo, Norway. The park contains the world famous Vigeland Sculpture Park (Vigelandsparken) designed by Gustav Vigeland as well as various bridges, fountains and a well known picnic area, popular in the summer for sunbathing, games, and relaxation. The sculpture park was my favorite tourist attraction in Scandinavia.  I was previously unfamiliar with Vigeland’s work and I now count him among my all-time favorite.

We wandered about the park, taking many photographs and enjoying the incredible artistry of Vigeland’s work.  MeiLi also enjoyed playing an interactive iPhone game, Den Hemmelige Parken. We weren’t able to visit the museum in his honor, however, but vowed to return.

We thereby returned to our hotel and crashed … it had been a long day.