Monday, September 02, 2013

Norse saga. Part IV – Norway Horsey

Wednesday 14 August

Twilight moon through some rigging.
We had an early departure from our subterranean Stockholm hotel, whose corridors looked exactly like those on the ferry. We didn’t have time for breakfast, but as that wasn’t included in the room rate it wasn’t a loss. The train to Oslo was not a sleek bullet train, but it seemed to travel fast enough through some very pretty fields, forests, and lakeland scenery.

Unfortunately, some yoof sitting exactly opposite us could have been the star of all Swedish translations of Tom Stoppard’s Talking Heads plays. This motormouth didn’t let up for six hours. If it wasn’t his mates (who couldn’t get a word in edgeways) it was his telephone victims. Even the next carriage, full of screaming brats, was inaudible: drowned out by Monologue Man.

The hotel turned out to be rather further from the railway station than originally planned, and then owing to map-reading challenges, wasn’t actually so far after all. We checked in, dropped our bags, changed, and then headed out for an afternoon snack and to be amused by the buskers, who included a double-bass player, and someone playing Bach’s Toccata in D-Minor on a piano accordion. The Living Statues don’t seem to get the idea at all, especially the ‘statue’ bit.

Oslo Fortress is free to get in, which was just as well because the various exhibitions where admission is payable were shut this late in the afternoon. The setting sun offered excellent light for interesting photographs.

Main entrance to Oslo fortress. There's a bridge over a dry moat and a wooden drawbridge.
Looks like someone's only blown the bloody doors off.
Inside Oslo fortress.
Oslo fortress: sea view.
And down on the quayside, the Mazda MX-5 Owners Club was having an informal meeting, so we chatted to the owners. Beloved Wife thinks she knows what her next car might be.

The light blue Miata/MX5 looks like it does the occasional track day. The dark blue one is more desirable because it has a retractable hard top that doesn't use up any space in the boot.
A lot of people were strolling on the sea front, and there was some kind of stage set up. It turned out that the Olso Philharmonic was about to perform Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to an open-air audience, so instead of immediately heading for food, we hung around and listened. Additional soloists included Olaf Ericsson on the Harley-Davidson, and some yapping from Bark.

After sunset, which occurs just after 9pm in Oslo, the temperature dropped markedly. Immediately following the concert, we headed off to the nearest plausible restaurant. Chinese green tea, Hot and Sour soup, and Pork and Chilli were all extremely welcome, as was the 30m walk from the restaurant to the hotel.

Thursday 15 August

The hotel breakfast is comprehensive and excellent. At last, bacon! And fried eggs too. Then to the sea front for a ferry across the bay.

Ferry 91 is a bus for the purposes of public transport tickets. I headed off to obtain day passes from a machine on the quayside, only to be thwarted by the demand for payment. The machine didn’t take cash, would only accept a card with an embedded chip, and then wanted nothing to do with the six-digit PIN supplied by my Local Global bank. It’s four digits in Norway, or it’s no way.

I got day passes for cash from a manned booth, and got aboard the ferry mere nanoseconds before cast-off, and nobody checked the tickets anyway. We’re supposed to activate the 24-hour tickets by wafting them in front of a card reader on board, but no such device was in evidence.

After disembarking (‘debarking’ is what you do to tree trunks) our first destination was the Norsk Folkemuseum, a large partially wooded area of reassembled historical buildings from Norway’s past. The stave church has been dendrochronologically dated to 1212, complete with dragons in some conflation of Christianity and Nordic myth, and was refurbished in the nineteenth. 

Gol stave church, resited in this museum.
Stave church interior.
Some of the buildings were populated by Living History people in costume. A nineteenth-century schoolroom demonstrated those infamous Victorian values: one of the punters’ children was visibly disturbed when he saw a naughty schoolboy being given a simulated caning. They don’t do that in Scandinavia any more: it’s the law.
Schoolroom. The lesson was in Norwegian, but the map seems to indicate the lesson was about Palestine.
Other delights included the bread-making, and a 1950 farm with real, live animals. Well, a pig. While the girls on a school field trip went to find the animals, the boys all climbed aboard an ancient tractor.

I was assured by a re-enacting farmer that this lady will never find her way on to a dinner plate. She's got a lovely porcinality, and is ideally suited for a petting zoo.
My great uncle had one of these, and when I was that young I too used to climb all over it.
We didn’t bother with the horse and buggy ride. The horse was, I had explained to me because I know about 0.0001% of what there is to know about horses, a Norwegian Fjord Horse. Small, strong, low maintenance, good temperament, and a very old breed. The animal’s mane had been clipped to show off a distinctive and completely natural dark stripe. Here, at last, is the reference to the Norway horsey mentioned in the blog post title!

The stripe is emphasised by roaching(US)/hogging(UK) the mane.
We chatted briefly to some costumed musicians and I tried to play a ram’s-horn recorder, a musical instrument that probably suits me far too well. I couldn’t get Bach’s Bourée out of it (too many black notes) but was more successful with the Horses’ Bransle. Then the re-enactors stepped outside for some traditional music and dancing.
Traditional Scandinavian dancing.
Fiddling about.
It was a short walk from the Folk Museum to the Vikingskiphuset. In this apparently converted church are three Viking longships, funeral artifacts, and the mortal remains of three Vikings. These were all originally unearthed from burial mounds in the 1920s, unless you count the grave robbers in the ninth century who had it away with the gold and jewels and scattered the human remains over a wide area.

The Oseberg ship.
Exquisite carving work on the prow.
Further to matters maritime, the walk from the Viking Ship museum to the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki museum looked like a long one, so we returned to the ferry and caught No 91 for a very short boat ride. Kon-Tiki and the Maritime museums all shut at 1800, and it was now 1710, so we chose Kon-Tiki and spent fifty minutes checking out the photo galleries and both Kon-Tiki (1947: balsa wood raft that travelled from South America to Polynesia) and Ra II (1970: papyrus boat that sailed from Morocco to Barbados).

Ra II.
And there was stuff about Easter Island too. Did you know that the famous stern stone-faced moai are actually from the waist up and not just head and shoulders? For unknown reasons, most of the carved body details are buried. Heyerdahl’s team took a shipload of plaster with them specifically to make a cast of a full-length statue, and this full-size copy is in the museum. The moai are, in fact, huge.

Naturally, because all the museums shut at spot on 1800, the queue for the 1830 ferry back to Oslo centre was immense and the ferry left full with a large queue remaining.

It was sunny, and there was a bit of a breeze, so the rag-and-stick brigade was all out in force. One racing yacht was presumably practising as back and forth it sailed. Downwind with the spinnaker deployed, then tacking upwind, and repeat. The amusement of standing in a queue watching the boats would have been much reduced had the weather been wet.

Tacking upwind.
Running before the wind.
The next ferry was due at 1900, but the local public transport actually sent a special extra at 1845 to remove us, and most of the queue, back to Oslo city centre.

So back to the hotel for a short break, then we headed out for a most excellent steak dinner at the Nyborg Steakhouse right near that main railway station. Not cheap, but nothing is in Norway. Then back to the hotel, picking our way between the hen parties and professional beggars on their mobile phones, to a well-earned tryptophan coma.


1 comment:

David White said...

I've just stumbled upon your blog and found the posts very hilariously entertaining, especially this one. Very lovely pictures and description.
I'll definitely be back. Kudos! :)


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