Travel Archives - Page 4 of 5 - Eva Varga

May 14, 2011
Early in the morning, we boarded the  Hurtigruten  for the final 2 days of a larger 12 day cruise.  The weather wasn’t cooperative and throughout most of the day, it was raining lightly and the skies were gloomy.  The kids and I thereby spent much of our time on the observation deck working on our journals.  
We enjoyed two ports of call while aboard the Hurtigruten ….
Kristiansund … where at the end of the 17th century, Dutch sailors brought the knowledge of clipfish production and for a number of years the city was the largest exporter of clipfish in Norway, exporting goods mainly to the Mediterranean countries.

Molde … where the Nobel prize winner Bjornstjerne Bjornson attended school and Henrik Ibsen vacationed.  While we walked about, we observed another couple attempting to geocache … we followed behind them in hopes that we might also be able to find the cache (sans clues … MeiLi is really good at find the hidden niches) but turns out they weren’t successful either.  

There were other stops along the way to Bergen, but most were so short that passengers were not allowed off the ship to site see.  The Hurtigruten also serves as a sort of water taxi along the Western seaboard and delivers cargo and mail along its routes.

Interestingly, we must have been the youngest people aboard the Hurtigruten.  Upon departing from Molde, we decided to relax in one of two hot tubs aboard the ship.  When the other passengers observed us, they were dismayed and remarked, “We’ve been on the ship for 11 days and didn’t even realize there was a hot tub on board.”  Seemingly, there was soon a small parade of passengers coming down to gauk at us.  

May 13, 2011

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.

May 12, 2011

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!

May 11, 20112

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.


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.


May 10, 2011

We awoke at a leisurely pace this morning.  We had reservations on the afternoon train to Oslo, so our morning was relatively open.  We discussed our options over frøkost and all agreed we wanted to return to Gamla stan (The Old Town) to explore the ancient part of the city more thoroughly.  This time, however, we opted to use city transportation rather than to walk.

A street performer who caught our attention as the kids recently learned to play a simple song in this same way.  They each put a few kroner in his case to show their appreciation of his musical skills.  

Until 1980, this old part of Stockholm was officially Staden mellan broarna (The Town between the Bridges). Gamla stan consists primarily of the island Stadsholmen.  The town dates back to the 13th century, and consists of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets, and archaic architecture. As I mentioned previously, North German architecture has had a strong influence in the Old Town’s construction and iconic buildings surround the square Stortorget
A medieval waste pipe, called a trumba.
 Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, less than a metre wide, is the narrowest alley in the city.

After a delightful lunch at a quaint little Italian restaurant, we made our way back to the hotel to get our things and proceed on by taxi to the train station.  We boarded promptly and enjoyed the scenic tour through the Swedish countryside en route to Norway.  We arrived late in the evening so immediately found a taxi and proceeded to our hotel, checking in shortly before midnight.  While this would normally feel a little unnerving so late, the northern latitude afforded us plenty of light and discounting how we felt phyically (it had been a long day, after all) it felt like it was only 7 or 8 in the evening.  

May 9, 2011

We again enjoyed a delightful buffet for frøkost.  Upon asking for assistance of the receptionist, we proceeded to 7-11 (which are as common as Starbucks) where we purchased tickets for public transportation.  Though we were versed on the New York subway – navigating one in a foreign language added to the difficulty and we had a few moments of stress.

Fortunately, the people were very helpful and everyone speaks English.  With the help of a policeman, we made our way out of T-Centralen subway station to a local tram or trolley.  We made it in short time to our destination – Djurgården, though one stop farther than necessary so we backed tracked on foot.

We spent the morning at the Vasa Museum, a glamorous but unseaworthy warship – top-heavy with an extra cannon deck, she sank 20 minutes into her maiden voyage when a breeze caught her sails and blew her over.  After over 300 years at the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor, she rose again from the deep with the help of marine archaeologists.

We were all impressed with the Vasa – particularly in the 500 wooden statues draping the ship and once painted in bright colors.  We wandered through the various exhibits, took a guided tour in English, watched a video (focused on efforts to raise her) and thereafter the kids took part in a couple of crafts fro Barne – painting with a feather and ink (Buddy) and metal stamping (MeiLi).

After the Vasa, we walked back to where we’d originally gotten off the tram for lunch.  We selected a charming, open-air café where we enjoyed a salad and sandwiches.  Just as we were finishing, MeiLi realized that she had forgotten her purse at the Vasa … a habit that is quickly becoming an undesirable holiday tradition (she’s done it twice before).

Upon recovering MeiLi’s purse, we walked across the street to Skansen. Founded in 1891, it is Europe’s original open-air, living history museum.  The park encompasses more than 150 historic buildings (homes, churches, shops and schoolhouses) transplanted from all corners of Sweden.  Another part of the park is a zoo – with an emphasis on Scandinavian animals.

While observing the bears, we almost lost Buddy – giving us quite the scare!  He’d gone one way and us the other … we didn’t realize it until we’d walked some distance.  As he’d been walking in the opposite direction, it took us a good 5-10 minutes to find him.  He was in tears, of course, and as a result made a more concerned effort to hold my hand when it was busy and crowded.

My favorite part of Skansen was the living history.  Unfortunately, as it is still early in the season, many of the buildings were not open and there were few interpreters dressed in period attire.  I was most intrigued, however, by the Oktorp farmhouse.  I’d hoped to interact some with the interpreter (one of only two I saw today) but Buddy twice touched the artifacts and I thereby no longer felt comfortable.

The Sami camp was also fascinating. When we first arrived, there was a crowd of people surrounding the tent or tepee.  No one was really talking but several were laughing uncomfortably after they had peaked inside.  They would then jab one another and encourage their family member or friend to go in as well.  Finally they departed and it was our turn.  When I peaked in, I discovered the reason for their discomfort.  There was an interpreter dressed in Sami clothing inside the tent with a nice warm fire.

We were invited into the house and unlike the previous crowd, took him up on his kind offer.  We sat upon reindeer hides atop thin sticks that had been piled upon the ground for bedding.  It was surprisingly comfortable.  I very much enjoyed our brief visit.  As nomadic people, the Sami followed the reindeer herds.  They’d build multiple tent like structures throughout the reindeer’s range and live in them temporarily.  He informed us that it takes about 1-2 weeks to build one but that it will last for many years.  Today, Sami people live in modern housing and use the tent only on occasion when tagging reindeer.

I asked DH to take a photo of us – meaning I wanted him to take a picture of the kids and I inside the tent with the ‘Sami man’ as we came to refer to him.  DH took a few pictures and I assumed that all was well.  It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized the Sami man was not in the photos, with the exception of his lower legs.  I was very bummed.  As a former interpreter … I loved the dialogue we had exchanged.  Unfortunately, my memory will have to suffice.