For a change of pace, we headed out of the city today. Our first stop was Kongsberg, site of the Royal Mint (and the Royal Silver Mines). We visited the Norwegian Mining Museum- free on Tuesdays! – and saw their mineral collection, coin exhibit, and mining exhibit. As part of the mine exhibit we walked through a fake mine, including up and down rickety wooden ladders. It probably would be deemed unsafe in the US, but it was fun!
After a stop at the grocery store to grab ready-made salads (I am so glad for these, and so tired of sandwiches) we set off to search for picnic tables. We quickly found some as we left town, right beside a pretty lake. This entire area is pockmarked with lakes, large and small, surrounded by hills and mountains. I highly recommend visiting it.
As we drove along Tinnsjø (Lake Tinn), we stopped multiple times for pictures – of the lake, of the mountains, of the green trees. The scenery is movie-set perfect, with waterfalls rushing down from high above or trickling from patches of unmelted snow. And of course, as I’ve come to expect, the weather was gorgeous.
A turn away from the lake brought us to Rjukan, a long and skinny town stretched along the bottom of a narrow valley. The valley is so narrow and the mountains so tall that from October to March the sun doesn’t rise high enough for light to reach the town. So they got creative. On the northern mountainside they have a giant rotatable mirror that reflects sunlight into the town square during the winter.
Near the edge of town, a cable car runs up the mountain. Up top we had great views of the valley, the town, and the mountain on the other side of the valley. Andy managed to prop his camera on the gutters of the viewpoint building and take a group photo.
Next we drove up a steep road in search of the trail to see Rjukanfossen, a waterfall once billed as the tallest waterfall in the world (it wasn’t even close but it made for good tourist money in the 19th century). We found the trail, but not the waterfall. As Dad said, “They turned it off.” The water has been diverted to the local power plant. Still, the dry waterfall was pretty and it’s easy to imagine how impressive it is when flowing (if it still does).
From the dry waterfall, we retraced our path through town and turned up a side road to go over the mountain. The twisty road (sign: no long vehicles) took us sharply up the mountain, past the tree line. As the road flattened near the top we saw lakes, sheep, and snow. Being the mature family we are, we stopped to throw snowballs at each other.
On the other side of the mountain, we stopped to look at the church in Heddal, the largest stave church in Norway. It dates from the 13th century, and according to the sign is still in use today. From there we grabbed some fast food for dinner – another local one so I refuse feel guilty, plus I’m a little tired of elaborate meals at restaurants and cafes.
Our original plan after dinner was to visit Drøbak, but Mom was feeling a bit sick so we chose to head back to Oslo instead. Andy, Dad, and I took a walk to a nearby park, then stopped at a little playground on the way back to the apartment. There was a giant ring that looked like the outside of a small trampoline, but it was hard plastic. We discovered that it spun! So Andy and I took turns spinning on it, then Dad tried… and fell off. Fortunately, only his dignity was injured. Now all that’s left is packing. Tomorrow we have a long drive to Stockholm.
Some final thoughts on Oslo/Norway in general:
- There are a lot of tourists here! And not just on tour buses; I heard Spanish multiple times, and French and saw people in cars from Germany.
- Tunnels! Whenever possible they like to divert cars underground. There are tunnels more than 5km long!
- The Oslo Pass was totally worth it. We saw a ton of stuff in just a couple of days.
- Everyone here is either chronically dehydrated and/or carries water always, because there a few public drinking fountains, at least that we saw. This is actually true for all the countries we visited.
- I recommend visiting any of the three countries we saw this trip. Stockholm remains my favorite city, but Oslo is a close second.
- Getting out of the city for the day is a great thing.
I’m not sure if we’ll do anything more that’s post-worthy in the next day or two – but if so, you know I’ll be writing! In any case, I will do a wrap up post of some sort after the trip.
Thanks everyone for sticking with me! Here’s the family. The rest of the pictures are here.