What a day! By accident, we ended up spending every one of the last 12 hours on or near the water in Oslo (left). After a leisurely morning with rugbrød (rye bread) and sliced Norwegian cheese (right), we headed out to catch the hop-on hop-off bus out to Bygdøy (Museum Island). Bygdøy was originally an island hundreds of years ago, but is now attached on one side. It is home to 5 of Oslo’s museums, two of which we visited today.
Our first stop was the Kon-Tiki Museum. How could we come to Oslo and not see the original Kon-Tiki raft? In fact, we saw the raft and much much more in this ode to Thor Heyerdahl’s adventures (left upper). The first thing you see walking in the door is the famed raft (right upper and lower). It is much bigger than expected and yet also seems too small to have made it across an ocean. Heyerdahl really moved mountains to get this voyage together, in this and his other future adventures. The supporters including the US military – which donated much of the equipment – and Ecuador – who allowed him to cut down his own balsa trees from the mountains and build the raft in one of their military bases. As Heyerdahl and his 5 member team worked on their raft in Ecuador, numerous people came to talk them out of it, and expert sailors told them that the ropes holding the raft together would disintegrate within 16 days. Despite this, they persevered in their journey. Amazingly, the ropes held strong for all 101 days of the trip – likely due to the use of soft and buoyant balsa wood for the raft. In the bottom photo below, you can see that there are grooves in the balsa trunks. These were worn down by the ropes themselves as the logs shifted, and is likely why the ropes held strong.
We also saw a very nice section on Easter Island based on Heyerdahl’s work there. We learned that archeologists originally thought the pieces below on the left upper were bowls; in fact, they were the eye pieces for the moai statues. Additionally, Heyerdahl was the first person trusted by the Easter Islanders to see their family caves where their ancestors sculptures were hidden. He brought hundreds back to Norway, where they were put on display for the first time in 2014 (left lower). But he didn’t stop with the South Pacific. He also built reed boats based on paintings and carvings from Egypt’s Valley of Kings, and floated from Morocco to Barbados across the Atlantic Ocean. The first one – Ra I – broke 650 km from Barbados. The second – Ra II – made it easily in just 2 months, and is now on display (right).
Just next door is the Fram Museum (left first) – lauded “the best museum in Norway” by TripAdvisor. It is really nice, and celebrates Norwegian explorers who explored the Arctic and Antarctic. One of the most famous explorers is Roald Amundsen – the same guy our burger lunch was named for yesterday. He was the first explorer who made it to both the North Pole and South Pole, and was also the first person to sail the entire Northwest Passage. The two ships on display in the museum are in remarkable shape despite their multiple journeys through the polar ice shelves. The Gjøa (just two stories tall, second left) is his ship that sailed the Northwest Passage, and the Fram (an enormous 3-4 story reinforced wooden ship, right two) holds the wooden ship record for sailing both to the farthest northern latitude and to the farthest southern latitude. You can actually go inside the Fram, which is really neat. The doorways through are quite small in certain hallways, and the ceilings in some places are about 5 foot 8 inches, so quite snug.
From there, we had a hearty lunch next door at the Maritime Museum Cafe – fish stew with bread and ginger ale (left). It was perfect for this rainy day. I was also very impressed with the food allergy labelling at the cafe (right).
Taking a short 10 minutes ferry ride back to the pier on the main harbor, we walked back down the Harbor Walk and discovered our new favorite neighborhood in Oslo – the Tjuvholmen. It has two long rows of restaurants along both edges of the island, coffee shops, food trucks selling gelato and Belgian waffles, and small marinas attached to several of the residential towers. We were big fans of the modern architecture and the views overlooking the harbor. Two bedroom apartments in this area are selling in the 1-2 million USD range, according to real estate postings in an office window.
This is it for Part I of our Day 2 adventures, but there’s lots more to come in the next installation! In the meantime, here is a quote from Thor Heyerdahl: