Our cruise aboard the Viking Jupiter arrived in the port of Oslo where we had a beautiful view of the Oslo Opera House which sits at the water’s edge. The unusual architecture allows visitors to walk up the sloping walls to the rooftop for spectacular views and provides places for people to congregate or simply sit and relax.
The port was very convenient to the downtown area of this capital city. At the heart of the downtown, once a Viking settlement, is the Akershus Fortress, which was build in the late 13th century. The fortress, which is free to enter, has been used as a royal palace, a jail, and is still used as a military facility. The Akershus Fortress is the site of two museums, the Norwegian Resistance Museum and the Armed Forces Museum. Oslo is also home to The National Museum which houses The Scream by Edvard Munch and a new Munch Museum. (Again, one day was not enough to visit all these.)
We enjoyed wandering around the city, but we also enjoyed the afternoon’s guided excursion that took us to the Holmenkollen, the Ski Museum and Ski Jump. The area has been the site of ski jumping competition since 1892, but the current jump was completed for the World Championships of 2011 and is the largest steel ski jump in the world. (It scared me to even think about going down this humongous incline.)
Our next stop was at Frognerparken, or Frogner Park, the largest park in Oslo and home to Vigeland Park. Vigeland Park is the largest sculpture garden created by one single person in the entire world. It is the creation of Gustav Vigeland who worked every day from 1928 to 1943. (He did not do all the work himself. He had 3 additional stone carvers who helped, but they all followed his plans.) All 212 bronze and granite statues deal with the cycle of life, although life is not necessarily shown in the traditional way. The Monolith, the 55-foot column and surrounding sculptures, are the focal point of the park. The Bridge, The Monolith, and The Wheel of Life are all amazing works that left us spellbound. Frognerparken features the largest collection of roses in Norway, with 14,000 plants of 150 different rose species. Frognerparken also provides a great break for kids with the biggest playground in Norway.
And then, all too soon, we headed back to the Viking Jupiter to continue our cruise. We left several places unseen--the Fram Museum, the National Museum, and the Munch Museum are three of the top ones.
Stravanger was our next Norwegian stop with lots to explore. Two of the sites most commonly seen by tourists are the Lysefjord and the Gamla Stavanger (Old Town). Thankfully, we had time to do both. We boarded the FjordFart for a trip to Lyselfjord. (“Fart” means “travel” in Norwegian, but it gave us all a chuckle.)
Lyselfjord is also known as the “Fjord of Light” because when the sun comes out after a rain, light reflects on the sides of the mountains. This beautiful fjord was supposedly the inspiration of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” We sailed up Lyselfjord amid gorgeous scenery, towering rocks, glistening waterfalls, and scampering mountain goats. We paused for pictures of Pulpit Rock, an outcropping of rock that hangs over the fjord. Visitors can hike to Pulpit Rock on a newly improved trail. This rock, that stands almost 2,000 feet above the water, is approximately 82 feet x 82 feet. We were told that there are events held on the outcropping, but I’m not certain that I would want to attend something on a small platform that high above anything. The cruise up and down Lyselfjord gave many opportunities for beautiful photos and the chance to sample Norwegian waffles at a stop along the way.
Upon our return to town, we had time to explore the Gamla Stavanger. As we wandered along cobblestone streets, we admired the wooden buildings that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The market-lined streets held flower baskets and views of the busy harbor.
Our next stop was through the Eidfjord to the small town of Eidfjorden. We had opted for an excursion to the Viking village of Njardarheimr in Gudvangen and were so glad we did. We drove through gorgeous countryside with picturesque houses and beautiful waterfalls, such as Tvinnefossen Waterfall, before stopping at the Stalheim Hotel for a quick break where we could enjoy a spectacular overview of the Nærøy (Nari) Valley below. Our next stop was Njardarheimr which is located on the Nærøyfjord. (The Nærøyfjord is an arm of the Sognefjord which is the longest and deepest fjord in Norway.) Here we were greeted by a Viking who introduced us to the recreation of a typical Viking village. The people living here are not actors; instead, they are real Vikings who have adopted the lifestyle of their ancestors.
Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and interesting as we walked through and into various buildings and homes from the time period that Vikings had strongholds in the area, between 793 AD and 1066 AD. Our guide explained many facets of Norwegian life. One idea that I had never considered: as in many cultures, the first-born son inherited the lands. Unlike many places, however, the younger sons couldn’t simply go to a nearby area to farm, because that would have been straight up a cliff. Instead, they took to the seas to discover—and, in many cases, pillage—new lands. They were aided in their explorations by a fantastic piece of technology, long boats. If properly made they were light enough that they could be carried from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and to the Mediterranean Sea.
During our visit, we also had the opportunity to try our hand at axe throwing—we did not do well. Vikings actually used axes more than swords because they were less expensive and easier to make. We also were treated to a typical Norwegian Viking meal which was very good. The meal changes according to the season, but bread, sausage, and cabbage salad were part of our menu.
We returned to the ship down the Stalheimskleiva Road which is one of Northern Europe’s steepest roads and, in addition, it has 13 hairpin curves.
We made a brief stop at the Skjervsfossen Waterfalls where a few of us were fortunate enough to also see the gorgeous view of the waterfalls from the restroom. Who would expect a one-stall restroom to have a picture window with a gorgeous view? We again crossed the Hardanger Bridge, which stretches across the Hardangerfjord, and then returned in time to walk around Eidfjord.
Knitted Tree Covers in Eidfjord
One of the most intriguing things we saw were trees with creatively knitted covers over their trunks. We later learned that these patterns are made by the residents from leftover yarns. (For more information on the project created by Inger Lena Gaasemy, click here.)
And then, back through the fjord on our way to our next stop…Bergen, Norway!
I'd love for you to subscribe to my blog. Just click here!
For more of our Scandinavian cruise adventures...