The Vikingskipshuset, or Viking Ship Museum, lies on the Bygdøy Peninsula to the west of Oslo City Centre.
It is one of the most popular tourist destinations – beware the coach tours! What can be a relatively peaceful museum trip at one moment can turn to a throng of chaos the next. The viking ships on display have not floated on water for thousands of years, but are almost launched into a sea of people whenever a coach tour turns up. Luckily these tours seem not to last too long. All of a sudden the human tide turns and the museum halls are empty again (at least until the next coach tour turns up).
Look! This is what the Viking Ship Museum looks like before the coaches arrive:
In this next picture the coaches have just pulled up and the tourists are beginning to pile in. The sea of heads in the background shows how busy it is about to become. I didn’t take any pictures after this – you couldn’t see anything through the crowds.
The Viking Ship Museum displays three ships, excavated from burial mounds and dating back to between 820 and 910 AD. Before they were put to rest as burial ships they had been at sea for several years. Although two of the ships are impressively complete, the third (the Tune ship) had been severely damaged over the years.
As well as the three ships, the museum houses the partial skeletons of two of their interred guests and many artifacts which were found with them. Some of the artifacts I admired the most were the animal head posts.
These heads were found (with a fourth) in one corner of the burial chamber of the Oseberg ship. They were bound together with rope. One of the heads had a piece of rope in its mouth, as if it were a rein. They were fastened to a pole, half a meter long. A tapestry also found in the boat illustrated a procession of people carrying things looking like these heads aloft. Nobody really knows what these heads were used for. Indeed, there is a huge amount about the Vikings that is unknown. I found this quite surprising. Absolutely everyone has heard of the Vikings, yet when you get down to it not a huge amount is known about them.
As for the other artifacts, all three of the ships had been looted in Viking times, so it is speculated that this is why no jewellery or weapons were found. There was still an impressive haul to be found. Of all the artifacts, two things in particular caught my attention. They were a strange thing to grab my attention, but there you go. I think it was because they were in such good condition, and also because they were so personal. Here they are: a pair of boots, over 1,000 years old. Somebody wore these, and we will never know who that person was.
Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
We didn’t set out to find a ghost ship in Oslo. We just happened upon it; you could say it sort of materialised before us (although it didn’t – it was there all the time).
Day 2 of our Norway trip was to be spent on the Bygdøy Peninsula where several of Oslo’s most popular museums are found. The peninsula lies about 2½ miles to the west of the City Centre. One of the best ways to get to it is via ferry from the Rådhusbrygge (the quay beside the town hall). The Rådhus itself is an impressive building. Built in 1950, it is here that the Nobel Peace Prize is presented every year (the Nobel Peace Prize is the only one of the Nobel Prizes to be presented outside of Stockholm).
The S/V Legend was built in 1915 in Scheveningen in the Netherlands and was designed as a fishing and trading vessel. Within two years of her launch, in the middle of the First World War, she was reported missing in the English Channel. That was the last anyone heard of her for eight years, but in 1925 she was discovered abandoned – in the Congo of all places. Further, of all the people who could have found her, the man who did was a fisherman from Scheveningen!
The fisherman brought her home to the Netherlands. There she had engines installed and resumed her job as a trading vessel. During World War Two she was running arms for the Dutch resistance, but then, in 1944, she suddenly disappeared again.
Just like her first disappearance, the S/V Legend was lost for several years, but then she was discovered in Newfoundland in 1947. There was no trace of the crew, nor any indication of what she had been doing for the past three years. She was returned to the Netherlands for a second time and resumed life as a trading vessel. In 1955 she was sold to Norway and eventually retired from service in 1995. She has now been converted back to a sailing ship; her owners are hoping to return her to a life of adventure on the open seas.
Be careful if you sign up for that adventure though, and spare a thought for the two missing crews. As for us, we decided not to risk it and took the regular ferry across to the Bygdøy Peninsula!
Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
After the Monolith Plateau and Circle of Life comes the final part of the Vigelandsparken. There is a sundial with images of the zodiac and a little further on a final sculpture, the Wheel of Life. Poor old Ben looked quite tired by this point, although it must be remembered he started the day some 700 miles away.
The Wheel of Life is designed like a wreath and formed of four people and a child, holding on to each other as they float around in a circle. They carry with them the overall theme of the park: the eternal journey of life, from the cradle to the grave.
At the time of taking this picture I hadn’t realised that its focal point was a rather shapely looking backside. Still, it’s too late now – the photo has been taken; it is what it is. I suppose the shot does at least remind you that as you journey through life, from cradle to grave, you ought to try to see some sights along the way.
But the sight I liked was looking back to the Monolith Plateau:
Vigelandsparken (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
The Monolith Plateau is the most popular part of Vigelandsparken; deservedly so in my opinion. It lies above the other parts of the park and once we had arrived we found it hard to pull ourselves away. The monolith itself is a raised central granite column 17.3 metres high. It took three stone carvers 14 years to complete. It is surrounded by 36 separately carved platforms, known collectively as the Circle of Life.
The Monolith itself contains 121 figures, snaking and swirling up the column, stretching up towards the heavens. Many of Vigeland’s sculptures represent the everlasting circle of life, where new life grows from death. The Monolith offers a different perspective. The figures here are reaching out for death; embracing it; almost striving for it.
Stretching away from the Monolith, the Circle of Life comprises 12 separate arms, each consisting of three platforms. Each arm is concerned with a different phase of life. There is birth…
The Monolith Plateau (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
After crossing the Bridge with all of its sculptures, the Vigelandsparken leads through an ornate, formally planted garden and then up a set of steps. These steps lead to the Fountain. Although this piece was originally designed by Vigeland to be placed in front of the Norwegian Parliament building, the press and public were not supportive of the idea. In the meantime, the initial design started to expand to the point where the Parliament site would have been too small in any event. The Fountain is now one of the centre pieces of Vigelandsparken. Its sculptures and reliefs depict the eternal circle of life growing out of death.
The Fountain is surrounded by sculptures of trees. Intertwined in their branches are people, from young children to adults. Some of the figures in the trees look quite comfortable. Others look trapped within the branches; they seem to be struggling to break free. Still others are on the outside of their trees and appear to be fighting to get back inside the safety of the branches.
Perhaps it is the other way round, though. Maybe the people who look trapped are actually trying to climb back into the trees they have outgrown. Maybe the people hugging the branches from the outside are not trying to get back in – perhaps they have just climbed out and are about to let go.
I quite liked this little chap, newly born into protective branches which are now beginning to part to set him free into the world.
Around the edge of the fountain are bronze reliefs, depicting the eternal circle of life. The fountain took so long to complete that Vigeland made 112 of them, although only 60 were used. One depicts two children hugging a skeleton, perhaps to be taken as an embrace of death. Many of the reliefs show figures swirling around as if they are underwater. I quite liked this, because the surface of the water from the fountain lies just above them.
Out of death grows life.
The Fountain (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
Norway! What a country! We flew into Oslo’s Gardermoen International Airport. We got the quick, clean FlyToget train into the city. From there we walked over to our hotel in a blistering 30 degree heat, wondering if we were in the right country. We dumped our bags, walked back to the station and got a T-bane straight over to Vigelandsparken.
Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) is Norway’s most famous sculptor. Born to a farming family in the south of the country, he apprenticed in Norway, before training further in Copenhagen, Paris and Italy. The Vigelandsparken in Frognerparken lies to the northwest of the City Centre. It contains a massive display of his work – 212 pieces in total along an 850 metre axis. Its central theme is the circle of life.
Immediately upon walking through the park gates, a monolith in the distance beckons you, but there is a lot to see on the way. The first section of the display is the Bridge, lined on both sides with bronze sculptures. The figures are of men, women and children of all ages.
“Hey kids, your turn!” we yelled, but they were nowhere to be seen. They had stormed off in embarrassment, disowning us. The Vigelandsparken is one of the top tourist attractions in the entire country, after all. There are a lot of people to witness the excruciatingly painful antics of your parents and our kids wanted none of it.
“Oh come on, Ben,” I said, “try this one”.
Of course, there was no way Ben was going to try any of the poses, and particularly not this one. This was Sinnataggen (the Little Hot-Head or the Angry Boy), supposedly modelled on a child Vigeland had seen in London. It is one of the most popular sculptures in the park and there were a lot of people admiring it. In fact we struggled to get close. We went off instead to admire some of the others. The depth of feeling in some of those faces was beautiful.
The Bridge (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
Although walking the coast of Britain is our primary objective, we also have a side mission – to go to the top of every one of the World Federation of Great Towers. There are 45 of them. If we really are going to get to the top of all of them (which I’m sure we won’t) we will have to travel to every continent in the world and visit places we would never normally go to. That, of course, is the main reason for doing it in the first place.
We have been up the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. It was accommodating enough to stand right on our Coastal Path. We have gone half way up the Eiffel Tower (meaning we’ve got to go back to do it properly). We have been up Berlin’s Fernsehturm.
But there was one tower which was much closer to home which we had not yet been up – The Shard in London. Completed in 2012 and standing at 310 metres (1,016 feet) The Shard is (at the time of publication, at least) the tallest building in Western Europe. You need a wide-angle lens to get it to fit in a photo. It dwarfs all other buildings.
The Shard is so tall that you have to get two lifts up. The first stops half way up the tower. You have to get out and cross over to another one in order to get to the very top. I’m sure this is a gimmick – a deliberate travelling disadvantage. “It’s so tall you have to get two lifts up!” is what they want you to say. And of course it works, because that’s exactly what I did say at the beginning of this paragraph.
But what we really came for were the views. Were they any good? We’d been on the London Eye on a couple of occasions and enjoyed the views from that. Oh look! There’s the Eye – down there!
And look! There’s the Walkie Talkie! This is something on an infamous building in the UK. Whether or not its infamy is known outside of the UK I don’t know, but this building has literally melted cars!
In 2013 poor old Martin Lindsay parked his Jaguar in the City of London. Two hours later he arrived to find that parts of it had melted. Was it vandals? No! It was the sun reflecting of the glass exterior of the Walkie Talkie! The developers had to pay Martin Lindsay for the cost of the repairs.
The glass exterior curves inwards and downwards, channeling the sunlight into a heat ray that every schoolboy with a magnifying glass can only dream about. Do you see the black sheet over the building in the picture? That’s a permanently fitted sunshade to stop anymore damage to the nice shiny cars of the people of London!
Most of London’s iconic buildings could be seen from The Shard. We saw the Tower of London…
There is one feature I like to see on any tall tower. It is the cherry on top, so to speak. It has to have an open-air deck. If you are going to go up a tower you want to feel the chill air and cold breeze at the top. I was pleased to see that The Shard has one.
Four Great Towers of the World Federation down (well OK, three-and-a-half)! Only 41 to go (well OK, forty-one-and-a-half)! Next stop Žižkov Tower I hope!
The Shard (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):