Yesterday was probably my favourite day in Oslo. I got to feed my fantasy world with a trip to see the viking way of life.
The sky was open and looked promising. Henrik and I ate breakfast then packed our lunch for our outing. By the time we left the apartment, there were scattered clouds stuck in the sky.
“You won’t need your raincoat,” Henrik assured me, as I tried to stuff my new treasured jacket into my backpack. “It won’t rain until 6.”
Relieved at a lighter load, we set off with a spring in our step to visit the viking museums.
Cycling through Oslo
The museum was 6.8km from the apartment, on a peninsula wests of the city centre called Bygdøy (pronounced ‘big day’). Given the fantastic weather, we decided to cycle. I felt relieved that I wouldn’t need to be neurotically navigating the busy streets, but rather follow peacefully behind Henrik.
The route was beautiful! The docks are definitely a scenic place to visit. Apparently on warm days people flock to the harbour, which is lined with restaurants overlooking the ships and boats as well as the sea. We even passed the Fearnley Museum , whose architecture was modelled after the shape of the sails anchored in the bay to fit in with the landscape.
As we drew closer to Bygdøy, thicker clouds were rolling in from the ocean. We slipped along the path contouring the docks and I drank in all the beauty of this world. As we entered the peninsula area, buildings were replaced by grass, trees and Royal Cows.
“You must see in spring, when the cows are let out after being inside for winter, everyone comes here to watch them jump around,” Henrik laughed.
We mushed on.
The Viking Life
Our first stop was the Norsk Folk Museum. As we entered the museum a light drizzle greeted us. The cashier advised us to go watch the folk dancing which was to begin in ten minutes, so we made straight for the venue.
Unfortunately it was all rained out on the outdoor stage, so we took it inside instead. About fifteen tourists were huddled in a beautiful wooden cabin, waiting eagerly to see what lay in store. Two ladies and a gentleman welcomed us, and commenced with traditional song and dance, naturally leading with a drinking song.
It was all very fun to watch and cheerful. It reminded me of a Lord of the Rings scene where Merry and Pippin sing and dance in the Green Dragon:
After the performance, we wandered around the traditional norse village. Actors were placed in different houses and venues to educate us on the old ways of life. We fell in love with the wooden cabins, marvelling at the construction and the wood. At a cabin we past by a delicious scent seduced us to enter. Two women were baking a decadent flatbread called lefse, which we eagerly ate with butter.
We also took a look at an old church, which was staggering in its height and architecture. Dark spires rose high into the sky. The detail carved into the wood was admirable, and the murals on the walls were raging with colour. It was awesome.
To the Long Ships
The next bit of the trip was quite exciting. We were off to the Viking Ship Museum a quick five minute walk away. The rain was coming down harder now, but I enjoyed it; it felt refreshing. And I was resigned to my fate.
This place is a must see as well! The size of the long boats were staggering. It is no wonder the Vikings made it all the way to Canada across the Atlantic aboard one of these. This museum housed three large ships, all at different stages of their life, as well as the remnants of treasures and oddities that were buried with the vikings upon their death.
Even though we couldn’t touch any of these ancient vessels, just standing in their presence was humbling. We wondered at how the viking crew managed to stay fed on their journeys or survive months at see in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. It must have been a true test of strength, character and sanity.
Henrik also mentioned that when the vikings took prisoners of war, they were tied to the mast of the ship. Norway is renowned for a particular psychedelic mushroom, and this would be fed to the prisoners, who were then unleashed when ever the ship docked to fight as raving mad men! What a tactic.
As our day to a close I felt glad that I had managed to visit the relics of stories that had inspired so much passion and fantasy in my childhood (and teenage) years. I will treasure this trip to Viking Land dearly, and hope to return in the not too distant future.