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Vikings! top

The Viking Ships Museum holds three fantastically well-preserved Viking vessels. For more than 300 years, the Vikings traded and raided across Europe and the known world. Early Christian monks left vivid accounts of the terrifying attacks. These ships, excavated from the nearby Oslofjord, were used as ceremonial tombs for Viking nobles.

They were designed to carry the mighty warriors on their last great voyage: a journey to the kingdom of the dead.

Dating all the way to the 9th century, the ships were discovered in a bed of clay at the bottom of the fjord, which protected them from the ravages of time. In their prime, they were loaded with all the necessities a Viking might need in the afterlife. Excavators uncovered a great cache of objects, including wooden pails… leather boots… and fine gold jewelry.


More details on the museum are available through the University of Oslo.


The Fram Museum top

Fpr more more high-seas adventure, we’re on to the Fram museum. The legendary Fram schooner claims the remarkable achievement of traveling farther north and south than any other surface vessel. Appropriately, the name Fram means “forward”.

In 1893, Fridtjof Nansen and his fellow explorers steered the Fram to the great wilds of the north. They traveled as far as Russia’s New Siberian Islands and came within only a few degrees of the North Pole.

Then, in 1911, Roald Amundsen guided the Fram to the edge of Antarctica. He and his team took off on foot, becoming the first human beings to reach the South Pole.


Read about Amundsen's trip in "The Last Place on Earth" by Roland Huntford. This book is available at Amazon.com.

Read the article "The Polar Vessel Fram" written for the 100-year anniversary of the Fram's historic sailing.


The Kon Tiki Museum top

Our last stop on Bygdoy is dedicated to Norway’s great adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. In 1947, Heyderdahl and his crew sailed the famous Kon Tiki raft from Peru to Polynesia. The world watched in fascination as the group traveled nearly 5000 miles in the fragile balsa raft. Heyerdahl was trying to show that Polynesia’s first settlers might have originally come from South America.


Visit the museum's website at www.museumsnett.no/kon-tiki.


The Scream top

A must-see for art lovers is the National Gallery. In the 19th century, the golden age of Norwegian painting found artists such as J.C. Dahl creating romantic views of the countryside. The beautiful and deeply emotional images were often painted by Norwegian artists living outside the country, perhaps fuelled by a longing for the sights of home. Then, after decades of naturalism, painters began to express greater mood and imagination.

The exciting, almost violent style of Edvard Munch helped spark off the Expressionistic movement of the 20th century.

His early family life was plagued with illness and his mother died when he was only five. After studying art in Oslo, he lived for time in Paris and was greatly influenced by the French artists of the day. In his works, he relentlessly explored the themes of anxiety, fear and death.

His great masterpiece “The Scream” would become an international icon.


More information about the gallery and the artists can be found through the National Gallery website.

Visit www.norsegate.com for an on-line gallery of Munch's art. At this same website you can view on-line galleries from the Golden Age of Norwegian art.


It's a Bar Og Life... top

After quenching our cultural thirst, we’re ready to sample this city’s culinary delights. Just outside the city center I discovered the hip new Bar Og Restaurant. Norway’s booming economy is transforming the Oslo food scene, and a growing number of lively, stylish restaurants are springing up. Bar Og uses fresh, local ingredients, such as halibut and reindeer, prepared with a little modern panache.


The restaurant's website is www.barogrestaurant.no.

A quick review of the restaurant is available through www.Orbitz.com.


The Telemark Region top

If you’re longing for a glimpse of traditional Norway, you’ll find plenty of it in Telemark. It’s just a few hours south of Oslo, but feels like a trip through one of those romantic Norwegian paintings. Throughout this country’s history, celebrations and festivals marked the passage and pulse of time.


Visit the web to find out about the annual Telemark International Folk Festival.

For more information about Norwegian festivals, visit www.norway.org.

A fantastic guide to the different regions of Norway can be found at www.visitnorway.com.


Evju Bygdetun top

Evju Bygdetun, near the town of Sauherad, is an 18th century farm that now serves as a cultural center.

The soul of traditional Norwegian society is agricultural life, and Evju Bygdetun is still a working farm. Potatoes protected Norwegians from starvation for centuries.

“Lefse” is a traditional potato flatbread. You might think of Lefse as the Norwegian “tortilla”. The bread is usually spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar, then rolled up like a small burrito to eat.


You can find a lefse recipe at www.fromnorway.net.

Here are more Norwegian recipes.

During our visit to Evju Bygdetun, local residents were entertaining guests with a traditional Norwegian dinner. The celebration begins when the guests are welcomed inside and served wine and sweets. Many Norwegians still wear the national costume, called the “bunad” for special occasions and festivals. The heavy jackets, bright linen shirts and dresses have an almost royal appearance. On holidays or important family events, hosts serve Rømmegraut. This is a decadently delicious, but cholesterol-crazy pudding made with sour and sweet cream. After dinner, everyone works off those calories with music and dancing.


Evju Bygdetun contact information is available at www.evjutunet.com.


Trolls! top

According to legend, it’s among the hills and caves of the Norwegian countryside that you’ll find the trolls. These mysterious creatures appear only after dusk and are thought to have supernatural powers.


They do funny things and they do bad things, they can make things happen with the nature, so you better be friends with them.

Norway’s beloved artist, Theodor Kittelsen, captured the spirit of the trolls in his imaginative works. In this picture, a troll wanders down Karl Johansgate in downtown Oslo. The great playwright Henrik Ibsen also found inspiration in troll folklore for his play Peer Gynt, and he asked Edvard Grieg to compose this music for it.


More information about Theodor Kittelsen is available through the University of Tromsø.

Visit www.norsegate.com for an on-line gallery of Kittelsen's art.


Henrik Ibsen top

Arguably Norway’s most celebrated son, Ibsen spent much of his early life in this house, near the town of Skien. Ibsen was one of the most influential dramatists in modern theater.

He became famous the world around for such classics as A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler. His realistic plays challenged the sterile and repressive social conventions of the day. And in his later works, he delved deeply into dramatic symbolism.

Ibsen was born the son of a local shopkeeper and began his career as a pharmicist’s apprentice. He planned to be a doctor, but after failing courses in Greek and math, he turned his energies toward writing. Ibsen spent nearly 30 years living and working abroad, but in 1891 he returned to Norway. While his early works received a cool reception from his countrymen, by the end of his life, he was considered a hero.


Learn more about the life and works of Henrik Ibsen at www.ibsen.net.


Norway In a Nutshell top

If your schedule is tight like ours, the easiest way to get the full fjord impact is with the “Norway in a Nutshell” trip. This is an organized series of train, boat and bus connections between Oslo and Bergen. They’re all coordinated to give you the greatest scenic bang for your tourist buck.

We’re taking the train from Oslo as it heads out across a vast mountain plateau to the west. We gradually reach an elevation of 4000 feet, and take in the views afforded by the highest railway in Northern Europe.

In Myrdal, we change trains and climb aboard the famous Flamsbana, or Flam railway. This twelve-mile thrill-a-minute run will take your breath away. Though it may feel like you’re taking your life in your hands, you’ll be comforted to know the train has five separate breaking systems. We climb steep cliffs and pass through 20 tunnels. And the conductor always makes time for a photo stop at the most impressive waterfall.

The train drops us in the little town of Flam. Now for my favorite part: a two-hour boat cruise. This branch of the Songnefjord is the narrowest in Norway and the scenery is nothing short of spectacular.


Learn more about the Norway In A Nutshell tour at the official website.

For excellent tourist information (in a nutshell) regarding the towns of Gudvangen, Undredal, Flam, and other fjord towns, visit www.norge.dk. This link opens a pdf file.


The Fretheim Hotel top

To sample how this fresh cheese enhances the local cuisine, you can stop by the restaurant in Flam’s Fretheim Hotel. While the hotel’s pedigree dates back nearly a hundred and fifty years, the new restaurant serves up some deliciously modern dishes using impeccably fresh local ingredients. One of my guilty pleasures is this cheesecake topped with a sauce made of caramel and that brown cheese from Undredal.


Find out more about the hotel and its restaurant at www.fretheim-hotel.no.


Bergen top

For a bird’s eye view of Bergen, ride the quaint funicular railway that climbs up the side of Mount Floyen. If you’re lucky enough to have fine weather, you’ll get a spectacular view - of the seven hills that surround Bergen, and the sprawling strand of islands that shelter it from the ocean.

Bergen holds a special place in the hearts of Norwegians. In the middle ages this was Norway’s most important town and home to royalty.

Loaded with history, the atmospheric port has an easy-going nautical air. In the 14th century it became a member of the Hanseatic League, the powerful group of German port cities that monopolized trade in Scandinavia.


If you plan to travel to Bergen, be sure to check out The Official Bergen Internet Site.


Edvard Grieg top

The streets of Bergen echo with the music of Edvard Grieg, Norway’s world famous composer. Grieg lived on the outskirts of the city in this lakeside home called Troldhaugen, or “Hill of the Trolls”. Working through the end of the 19th century, Grieg composed some of the most popular works in the standard orchestral repertoire, including that wonderful Peer Gynt. He was born in Bergen, the son of a salt-fish merchant. Much beloved in his home country, he was known for his modesty. He once wrote, “I make no pretensions of being in the class with Bach, Mozart and Beethoven”.

His works, which came to symbolize the romantic ideal of Norway, helped spur the Norwegian movement for independence from Sweden.


To learn more about the life and works of Edvard Grieg, visit the Troldhaugen website.


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For more information about Norwegian festivals, visit www.norway.org.

A fantastic guide to the different regions of Norway can be found at www.visitnorway.com.

Learn more about the Norway In A Nutshell tour at the official website.