Norwegian Road Trip 2017: Getting Historical in Oslo

While in Oslo, we decided to take advantage of the Oslo Pass deal. Since we had three days, we went with the 72-hour option, which costs about €76. As I said in the previous Oslo post, we didn’t have a huge agenda while in town, but thought that this would give us enough free and discounted admissions to decide things fairly spontaneously… a good choice given the unpredictable weather! Additionally, we were staying outside of the city center, but this gave us full access to the public transportation system and I do so love riding a tram. Want to see what we got up to? Click on!

With our first day out, we decided to go to the two museums that we knew we wanted to hit for sure… the Vikingskipshuset, or Viking Ship Museum, and the Norsk Folkemuseum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Conveniently, they’re located right near each other, out on the Bygdøy peninsula. The shuttle ship over to the peninsula is also covered on the Oslo Pass, and it’s a great opportunity to see Oslo from the water.

Our first stop was the Norsk Folkemuseum. I was particularly interested in visiting this one, as it is quite similar to Old World Wisconsin, where I used to work. Since the European open-air museums were the inspiration for OWW, I was eager to see how it compared. And?

It was pretty similar, as far as how it was done, i.e., small villages set up together to represent different groups, or different time periods. Some of the buildings were staffed with what we called “interpreters,” people in historical dress who could tell you more about the people who may have lived or worked there. But there were some differences.

For one, the Norsk Folkemuseum had a fairly large building right at the entrance with an extensive indoor collection of artifacts and information. Considering it’s open all year ’round, that’s useful come January! I didn’t take too many pictures inside, but I did spend a fair amount of time admiring the vast collection of all things Rosemål, like these bowls and furniture.

We eventually made our way outside into the sunshine, and began to explore the maze of buildings. The first area we were in was somewhat more modern, showing mid-20th century shops, and even a gas station, naturally photographed for me by BV.

This was another main difference to OWW, as if I recall correctly, our most recent building dated from around 1900. Don’t quote me on that though… I haven’t worked there in nine years so I might be off by a few years.

We also found our first “interpreters,” in fact, a whole family of them.

Extra credit for history class next year, perhaps?

This house had a particularly charming interior; I loved the soft blues and greens, as well as all the antique kitchenware!

Very modern here, note the electric bulb!

Every building in this area was wonderfully colorful, from the houses to the pharmacy to the general store. Just lovely.

If you were in the mood for shopping, there was also a chance to do that. Our first clue was the large amount of people popping in and out of a few buildings. Not quite our museum gift shop (though there was one of those too, no worries!), but instead a few small shops of artisans and craftspeople selling their wares. That included a jeweler selling delicate items in gold and silver, plus a gorgeous array of Sølje, as well as this potter, spinning away in her studio.

I was also particularly taken by a shop absolutely dripping in woven goods, plus all the yarn you could possibly imagine. All the fascinating textiles in every place we visited were one of my favorite parts of our trip. And I’ve spent a weird amount of time in the last year thinking about this color wheel.

I love it. I would put it on my wall too. Also, that rug, or whatever it ends up being.

Back outside, we started to go back in time.  This was looking a bit more familiar to my museum days!


Seeing many more people wandering around that house with the smoke, we figured there must be something there to see. Behold, girls making Lefse!

But y so thick?

*Did you hear that?*

If you just heard a gasp, that was probably my mother in Wisconsin being scandalized at how thick that Lefse is.

Hi Mom, I assure you, that is Lefse that they were making. Actual Norwegians, in Norway. Apparently toilet paper thinness is not a current standard? *shrugs*

We didn’t sample, as the line was quite long if you wanted to buy but we figured we’d survive on the wood smoke smell in lieu of food. Instead, we soldiered on, and after a few more twists and turns we found our friendly local stave church!

It looks so wee!

Structurally speaking, it was pretty similar to the one we had seen a few weeks prior while in Vik. But the stroller outside and the museum atmosphere couldn’t quite compare to the other. A building surrounded by crumbling headstones and overlooking the fjord has a *touch* more atmosphere. I’m happy we got to see one in its natural habitat, basically.

On our way out, we passed by a Sami exhibit, which got bonus points for more bright weaving and a dog!

This was really a most enjoyable day, and it really was the majority of a day. We didn’t see everything, and I sorely regret somehow missing the Oslo Apartment exhibit, which my friend E had heartily recommended. Next time! 😉

Leaving the folk museum behind, we headed even further back in time.

The Viking Ship Museum is just a few steps away, much smaller, but no less impressive. The building itself is pretty cool, built like a cross to hold the three preserved Viking ships and assorted large artifacts in the fourth arm. There are also staircases at the corners of the center atrium, so people can get a view of the ships (okay, pictures of the ships) from above.

However, there isn’t much fanfare. You walk in the door and are immediately faced with a huge, and yet tiny, Viking ship.

Huge, because they are large boats, and tiny, because it’s a bit insane to think of how many people, supplies, and everything else they got in these things and then CROSSED OCEANS.

I didn’t take too many pictures inside here… you can find plenty online and I always feel a bit guilty posting tons of pictures inside of museums for some reason, but the collection is pretty impressive. The ships were all used as burial ships, and were filled with all sorts of treasures, which have been painstakingly restored and displayed here. I mean… look at this thing which I did deem photo-worthy.

Every artifact is carved, decorated, and fascinating to look at. There are textiles, weapons, coins, and everything else you could possibly want in the afterlife, as long as you were a Viking. No smartphones at that time, and presumably no wifi wherever you’re going anyway.

After our long stroll to the city the following day, we wanted to check out the Akershus Fortress. We had walked by while on our long walk with ECS a few days beforehand, and BV was keen to see the interior. Plus, you get a great view of the harbor!

On the way up to the fortress, we saw a sign for the Norges Hjemmefrontmuseumwhich is Norway’s Resistance Museum. Since our card covered that too, we thought we might as well check it out.

While you don’t hear much about the Norwegian front in WWII (at least, not if you watch the U.S. History Channel, which is pretty much all “USA! USA! USA!” all the time), it turns out that a lot happened there. Hitler was fairly obsessed with gaining control of all of Norway, and unsurprisingly, most Norwegians objected fairly strongly to that.

The museum is really well done, and we spent much much longer in there than either of us thought we would. There was a lot of information to read, and we wound our way through the exhibit in chronological order from 1940 until the end of the way. It was pretty dark inside, but a few things merited photographs. I especially liked this display of an undercover station with telegraph and typewriter, with skis on the way because, Norway.

There was also a fair amount of cool spy sort of stuff, like this exhibit of hidden radios. Don’t trust the birdhouse!

Like I said, not too many pictures, but you’ll have to trust me that it’s worth a stop if you happen to be in Oslo.

Then it was onto the Akershus festning, or Akershus Fortress itself. In fairly typical fortress fashion, it’s housed a whole pile of people over an extremely long period of time. In other words, it didn’t really knock my socks off too much. It was pretty impressive from the outside, and of course, it had excellent views from every window…

But the interiors were a mish-mash of eras. To be expected, I guess, since the fortress has been occupied for over 700 years. My favorite parts were the little glimpses of its history that we got though. For example, this was a ‘room between rooms’ or perhaps storage, I don’t recall exactly. Ignore the random chairs, and check out those wall paintings!

I also dig the drum chandelier.

There were a fair few dramatic halls, but I prefer a dramatic hallway, like this one.

The views from those windows were, of course, also excellent. But I’ll show you a grand hall too.

Unfortunately neither of us got a picture of this room, which was pretty incredible, without that window being super-bright. It was a gorgeous window.

If you’ve got the Oslo card, it’s good to see but it wasn’t my favorite fortress to date. The other museums we went to were all worth visiting for sure, and as always, I wish we had had more time. My next choices would’ve been the National Gallery or Munch Museum… so maybe my next visit will be in winter. It’s always good to have a plan!

Have you been to Oslo? Did we really miss out by not getting to the sculpture parks? Let me know in the comments! 


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