I overslept. This midnight sun is hard to adjust to. I hurriedly packed up to make my check-out time (missed that too, but they were nice and didn’t charge me), and got another cab over to the Thon Hotel Stefan a few blocks away. It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s very nice. It even has a hair dryer and a clothes iron, both of which I intend to use in the morning.
I grabbed a quick scone and iced tea on my way to the National Gallery art museum. I haven’t had a scone and tea since leaving home, and can I just say it was really good? Mind you, the tea had a lot of sugar and the scone was whole wheat, so it wasn’t like home, but it was still a treat. At the gallery, I saw Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” along with another work of his that I liked much better: Madonna. See http://iojulia.ilcannocchiale.it/mediamanager/sys.user/64015/madonna_di_munch.jpg for a good online image of it. Regular folks are not allowed to photograph in the museum. Munch’s work is the star of the gallery, but they had some other nice Norwegian artists’ work there, and a few other works, even some El Greco, of all things.
From there, I walked on to try to get to the harbor and catch a boat to the Viking Ship Museum, but fortunately, I ran into a Tourist Information center before I got too far. I bought my train ticket to Bergen after a mix up on the web site saying there was a problem with the train (turns out some part of the line is down due to a storm and we have to take a bus part of the way – more hauling of luggage). The train route is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the world.
The folks at TI told me how to get to the museum in time to actually see it before it closed, and sold me a $12, 24-hour transit pass for the city. Five minutes later, I hopped on a bus, and got to the Viking ship museum twenty minutes before closing. What a place. It’s not very big, but those ships were excavated from the 900s, originally used first as boats and then as burial vessels. The Vikings believed in an afterlife, and it required tools, food, and your stuff, so they buried people with plenty of each. Centuries later, some of these burial mounds were unearthed and incredible treasures were inside. Now those are in the ship museum. I wish they’d had more flat surfaces on which to place my camera; if so, I could show you the details.
After being ushered out, I got back on the bus, took the metro up one stop, got onto another bus, and rode up above town into the suburbs. After a stiff climb uphill, I was at the Holmenkollen Ski Museum. Yes, a ski museum. Now, I know some of you are thinking “that sounds seriously dull, Jennifer”. I forgive you. I am disappointed, but I forgive you. You have to remember that I learned to ski when I was very small, and I love it. I’ll grant you that the museum could have made things more interesting with some creative work, but I still think it was just fine. Did you know that skiing has been around since prehistoric times, and that ancient Norse mythology had a ski god and goddess (Ull and Skade, respectively)? They have found carvings showing skiing that date back over 4000 years. Some of the skis were covered in fur on the bottom, and they were made differently depending on intended use and climate. They had an exhibit on the ski division of the Norwegian Army in the 1700s, showing the standard issue rifle with a very wicked looking two-foot-long bayonet, and the uneven pair of skis issued. One was three meters long and the other was 1.5 meters with a fur-covered bottom. The long one was for gliding and the short one for pushing. The one ski pole you would get as an army man was nearly your height and was quite thick – more of a rudder or a brake than today’s traditional pole set. I will spare you the description of the ski wax exhibit, but I will tell you that people used to use cheese for the job, among other things.
This place, Holmenkollen, is hosting a huge ski event in 2011, and they are completely rebuilding their (giant) ski jump. Yes, there is a ski jump here. See how cool this is? Come on – get excited about this. The jump starts above the ski museum, goes right over it, then a long way down is a large amphitheater for the crowds. If it had been open, I would have climbed up and taken a picture of the way down, but sadly it was not due to construction.
I took a long walk back to the bus stop, and then I succumbed to the temptations of American food. It took me seven long weeks to give in, but tonight’s dinner was a burger, fries and cola at TGI Friday’s (they are big here – I have no idea why). It would have been $15 at home, but here it’s $30. My waiter Antonio was from California, though, so I didn’t mind the price as much as I might have. We had a nice talk about Norway, how he met his Norwegian wife and the benefits of socialism in Norway. His college is basically free, which is great, and even waiters make the minimum wage of approximately $25 per hour. The tax rate is 35% though. It was nice to feel at home for a short time.
Tomorrow I meet my grandfather’s Norwegian family. I am looking forward to it. My great-grandmother, our relative in common, came over to the US at age 15, on a boat, by herself. She came on the excuse of helping her US-based sister with a new baby, but I am told that she never had any intention of going back. Sounds like independent travelers run in my family.