Scandinavia! Day 15 – Kongsberg, Tinnsjø, and Rjukan

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.

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Scandinavia! Day 14 – More Oslo

To no one’s surprise, it was another beautiful day. Around ten, we left the apartment for a 15-minute, breezy, gorgeous walk to the Munch Museum. They are currently changing exhibits so only had a few pieces available to view, and The Scream wasn’t one of them. Oh, well.

A quick subway ride downtown brought us to the central station, and from there it was a brief stroll to the cathedral (or Domkirke). The interior is really interesting – painted ceiling, elaborate organ, 3D carved altarpiece. But, man, was it hot! The breeze when we came outside felt wonderful.

From the cathedral we headed down to Akershus Fortress, and the Norwegian Resistance Museum. The museum tells the story of the German occupation of Norway and the homegrown resistance, bolstered by the Allies, within the country. It’s a neat little museum, even when the hordes of school kids overtook us. I found it fascinating. They had exhibits of everything from a diary of imprisonment pricked out on toilet paper with a pin to hiding places of clandestine radios.

We decided to try local fast food for lunch, Max Hamburgers. It was typical fast food fare, but they had computer order screens you could use, which meant we were free to take our time ordering without holding up lines. The chain is actually Swedish, but we’ve seen them all along highways as we’ve driving around.

After lunch, we meandered up to the Royal Palace. None of us had any interest in taking the tour, so we walked around the palace, admired the park grounds from afar, then caught the subway back to our apartment. To save Mom’s feet, we had decided to drive to our next destination.

Our brief stop at the apartment lasted more than an hour, as every last one of us fell asleep! Eventually we woke up and just after 4:30 we set out for Holmenkollen Ski Mueum and the ski jump. As has happened with pretty much every museum we’ve visited, I found it much more interesting than I’d expected. I don’t know much about the history of skiing and it was really fascinating to see 1400-year-old skis.

An elevator took us to the top of the jump, where we had panoramic views of Oslo and the surrounding areas. Despite my fear of heights, only the elevator up made me nervous. The walls have windows and as we ascended all I could see was framework and blue skies. Up top, everything felt secure. Sadly, the zip line that goes the entire length of the jump is only open on weekends.

Upstairs in the museum, we watched a video about the Northern Lights and then played! They had skis and a snowboard for us to try out. And they had a ball pit! With a little slide! Of course, Dad, Andy, and I all had to play.

None of us had the energy to spend a long time figuring out dinner, so we headed to the grocery store and picked up spaghetti, sauce, and some sides. As much as we’ve eaten out these past two weeks, the nights we eat in are kind of relaxing. Andy has done most of the cooking – it’s nice that my brother is more domestic than I am! Tonight, he and Dad took charge.

Now all that’s left for the evening is to plan tomorrow. I’ve updated the main picture page, but here I am enjoying the Ski Museum.

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Scandinavia! Day 13 – Oslo

Does Scandinavia ever have bad weather? ‘Cause I’m not seeing it. Today was gorgeous.

After breakfast we purchased our Oslo Passes on our phones and headed into town. We got off the T-bane near the National Theater and walked toward City Hall. We knew we were in the right place by the tour buses and masses of people.

City Hall is decorated outside with carvings from Norse mythology and inside with a mural of Norway during the German occupation. The paintings are really something – they completely convey the story of the Resistance without one word of explanation.

After city hall, we planned to go to the National Gallery and appreciate some art, but the line was out the door! We’d managed to time our arrival with the unloading of several tour buses. After a quick consult we all agreed that we weren’t that interested and we opted for an early lunch instead.

Our guide book recommended trying to-go sandwiches from Deli de Luca, and there was one across the street so we decided, why not? After choosing our food and drinks we aimed for the waterfront for a picnic lunch. I eagerly unwrapped my sandwich and…found mold! Dad and I walked back to the deli and they happily exchanged my sandwich for a different kind.

The afternoon took us by ferry to the Bygdøy museums. We started with the Viking Ship Museum, with its three marvelously preserved, over 1000-year-old ships and various funeral items. Our next stop was the Norwegian Folk Museum, an open air museum where we saw an 800-year-old stave church, a 1950s farm, and an apartment building with furnished apartments spanning 130 years. We also stumbled upon some folk dancing. In one of the dances, two men stood in a line between two women, picked them up along their sides, and the entire line suin around like an amusement park ride!

After the open air museum we took a 20 minute walk to the Kon-Tiki Museum, which explores Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 trip from Peru to Polynesia as well as his later adventures. It was much more interesting than I had anticipated and we spent a good amount of time there. Outside, we had a quick ice cream and then caught the ferry back to City Hall.

We wandered the streets for a bit, admiring Parliament and the cathedral, before finding our way to the opera house. You can walk up the building – it’s built with ramps and stairs to the roof, so of course Dad, Andy, and I had to go check out the view (okay, but not great). After getting back to ground level, we started off in search of dinner.

Mom was a bit tired of walking at this point, so we grabbed the T-bane back to the National Theater and stopped at the first restaurant we came to – Hard Rock Cafe! (I admit, this was my suggestion, a holdover from my trips with Jennie, Sarah, and June.) Dinner was tasty, and we got to talk to the couple at the next table. They had a sweet little dog, and the lady, Claudia, told us that we should come visit her – they live an hour and a half outside the city – when we wanted to see part of Norway that wasn’t Oslo. Maybe we’ll take her up on it!

Since it’s light here until forever (it’s 10:30 now and dusky out), we decided we weren’t done for the day after dinner. Instead, we caught the T-bane out and explored Vigeland Park, a sculpture park. The lowering sun made the walk into the park difficult as we had to shade our eyes to see anything, including the sculptures, but it lit everything beautifully for the return walk. Andy and I also entertained ourselves by imitating a couple of exercisers in the park and attempting to jump up several stairs at once. The woman we saw could jump four at a time, all the way up the staircase. Andy managed three and I two, and Mom made sure to video in case we fell down and hurt ourselves. I’m going to say that Andy could do more than I could just because he’s taller, not because he’s in better shape (he is).

Now we’re back in the apartment and ready for another day of exploring Oslo tomorrow! Here’s the stave church for you. Other pictures here.

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Scandinavia! Day 12 – On to Oslo

We had to get up EARLY this morning in order to make our ferry to Gothenburg (Göteborg). We were in the car line by 7, but it took at least half an hour to actually get onto the ferry. The ferry is large – not cruise ship huge, but a pretty decent size, with two decks for lounging, eating, and shopping and then two more above that for standing outside. The first thing Andy and I did after we got on was explore.

They had some of the topmost decks closed as they were painting them (bright blue!), but we were able to take in the sights, and the cold. As we first got underway we could see a small island with a lighthouse at some distance, but then it was just open water and ships. As we drew closer to Sweden, rocky islands grew in number – quite picturesque! The sun was shining, the wind was biting, and all in all it was really enjoyable. We traveled a little ways up a river to our destination, going under a bridge at one point!

We drove off the ferry past a couple of empty cars – some people hadn’t listened to announcements, and there were lines of cars behind them that had to be angled past the empty ones. In Gothenburg, we tracked down a grocery store so I could look for Weetabix (I was almost out! Ach!), then set off to take roads that meandered along the coast or through countryside on our way to Oslo, periodically rejoining the main highway.

I wish I could tell you about the scenery, but the truth is that I fell asleep. Whenever I jolted awake, I saw pretty, rocky islands or green fields, but I was out for most of the ride. The early morning must have been hard on Dad, too, since he had to stop several times to rest and refresh himself before continuing the drive. It wasn’t as long as some of our others, but it seemed to be more difficult, somehow.

When we arrived at our apartment in Oslo, after a nice elderly man helped guide Dad into the parking spot, we found that there were no keys. We’d been told to check at the 7/11, but there were no keys for us there, either, so Dad made a phone call. After a while, a neighbor came down with the keys and we all got in – much to the relief of our bladders! The apartment is very small – two rooms and a bathroom, and the kitchen is straight out of an IKEA catalogue and bright red.

We decided that we didn’t feel like a night out, so Andy and Mom looked up a nearby grocery store and we headed there to find some dinner tonight and a few things to add to breakfast for the morning. And my first stop was cereal where I found… Weetabix! Woohoo! (This is my favorite cereal EVER. It’s nothing special, but I love it.) Mom, Dad, and Andy chose frozen pizza while I opted for Indian. The big plans for the night are to eat dinner and look over our options for tomorrow.

Here’s a view from the ferry. I’ll be working on updating the picture page tonight.

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