Scandinavia Day Eight: Museum of Natural History & the Munch Museum

We devoted much of today to touring some of the other top attractions in Oslo, namely the Museum of Natural History (University of Oslo) which included the Botanisk museum, Geologisk museum, and Zoologisk museum.  We spent much of the morning exploring at leisure the many exhibits on display here.  Located at Tøyen in the east of Oslo city centre, the garden is not only popular for recreation, but a scientific collection in itself.  It was the first time the munchkins had explored a natural history museum of this calibre so they had many questions … Are the animals real?  How did they do that?  What do they make the eyes with?

The Botanical Garden, founded in 1814, belongs to the Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo.  Through research, education, and conservation the garden seeks to increase public awareness of the importance of plant diversity and contains approximately 7500 species.  The greenhouses were built in 1868 and 1876;  the Palmehuset contains the Evolution Room, Mediterranean Room and Desert Room while the Victoriahuset was specially constructed for the giant waterlily of the Amazonas, and also contains many other tropical plants.  The munchkins and I were particularly intrigued by the Cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) … it was great to be able to show them where chocolate comes from … we were fascinated to learn that the flowers are borne directly on the trunk.

In the afternoon, we walked over to the Munch Museum.  Edvard Munch’s art is the most significant Norwegian contribution to the history of art, and he is the only Norwegian artist who has exercised a decisive influence on European art trends, above all as a pioneer of Expressionism in Germany and the Nordic countries.  When he died in January 1944, he had unconditionally bequeathed all his remaining works to the City of Oslo.  The Munch Museum opened in 1963 and was built to house this unique collection of approximately 1100 paintings, 4500 drawings and 18 000 prints. The selection is changed regularly but major works are always on display.

Inspired by a recent theft (and subsequent recovery) of Munch’s infamous Scream painting, we did a little letterboxing here … and were successful finding our first letterbox in Europe. We then made our way back to the city center where we enjoyed a delicious kebab dinner at Dennis Grill.

Oslo was once referred to as Tigerstaden (City of Tigers) by the author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson around 1870. This name has over the years achieved an almost official status, to the extent the 1000 year jubilee was celebrated by a row of tiger sculptures around the City Hall. The only one known to still stand is found in front of the railway station.

Thereafter, we had a few hours to spare before we departed by train to Trondheim.  We thereby did a little shopping.  In a magazine shop, we were scrutinized by the shopkeeper who I presume wasn’t fond of children.  She watched over them like an eagle and harped on them each time they leafed through a magazine of interest.  It was quite uncomfortable … I would’ve liked to just walk out … but I discovered a great children’s book here that chronicled much of our stay in Oslo, Karsten og Petra Hilser På Kongen.  I had to buy it!  As I write this now… I discover it is a series … I must find a retailer!

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.