Oslo, Norway

Trip Start Jul 07, 2009
Trip End Jul 26, 2009

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Flag of Norway  , Oslo,
Thursday, July 23, 2009

To get to Oslo we travelled north along a very long fjord. The landscape is quite rugged, rocky and forested. As we got closer to Oslo there were some fishing villages but the area seems relatively sparsley populated. We arrived at 1:00 and were off on our tour at 1:30.

Our bus took us through downtown Oslo and then past the royal palace, the palace park and the palace farm. The palace is very small and modest compared to the palaces of other European royalty and the farm is a working farm with cows, sheep, horses. What is interesting about the palace park was that it had no fences, it is totally open to the public and appeared to be well used and enjoyed.

Our first stop was the Norwegian Folk Museum, a very large open air museum something like Heritage Park, with a lot of historic buildings. We got to see a school house with grass roof, a farmhouse and a stave church. The church was really interesting as it is a very tall pointed structure built from treated logs that are simply set on a concrete pad. It dates back to the 13th Century.

On to another museum, this one a Viking ship museum where we saw 3 viking ships that had been excavated. When an important Viking person died they were always buried with his/her ship along with a lot of articles to help them when they got to Valhalla (heaven), including the main servant or handmaiden. Apparently it was a great honor to go to Valhalla with your Viking king or queen.

Our tour then headed through Oslo and up into the forest to a lookout point where we got to see Oslo and Oslo harbour. Along the way we got to view some typical Norwegian dwellings and hear about Norwegian life. We also got to see the Holmennen ski jump that is being constructed - a huge structure.

Then it was on to Vigeland Sculpture park, a large park filled with granite and bronze statues created by Gustav Vigeland in the late 1800s and early 1900s.. They are statues of people of all ages in various positions and groupings and they are all nude. It is a beautiful park, filled with roses and large trees. The statues............well, the first 50 or so were interesting but after that.............not so much.

On our drive back to the ship we stopped at the new Oslo Opera house to have a look. It is very impressive, all made out of Italian marble. Very interesting, modern architecture.

Back at the ship, we just had time to run in to the Cruise terminal to do some power shopping before we had to get back on the ship in time for our 8 p.m. departure. I had just enough time to buy my Norwegian sweater (1690 Norwegian Krone which translates into about $300 Canadian) and one other little item.

It was a very short visit to this very large and interesting country. It is very apparent that Norway has been under others' control for most of its history - first Denmark and then Sweden and occupation by the Nazis in the second World War. Norway didn't get their independence until 1905. It is obvious that they were not treated well by their rulers. Norway does not look as prosperous as Sweden or Denmark. They don't have any beautiful historical buildings and their villages and homes are quite modest and unassuming.

Some interesting things I learned about Norway
- by law, 50% of the members of government are women
- outdoor activities are very important to their way of life. After dinner, the Norwegians will go outdoors to cross-country ski or hike in the forest or go sea kayaking.
- children all learn to cross-country ski and swim as part of the school curriculum
- Norwegians have a very high standard of living, a very strong social safety net. They do a good job of looking after their less fortunate
- Norwegian children have what is called a "civil confirmation" which is very similar to a religious confirmation. They take classes in humanitarianism - human rights, looking after the environment and so on. Then they have a ceremony and a big party.
- Norwegians, like the rest of Scandinavia are heavily taxed but they have free health care, free prescription drugs and post secondary education is heavily supported with grants, loans etc.

July 24

Oslo was our last port of call and we are now on our way back to England. We arrive very early tomorrow morning. We have to put our luggage outside our room to be collected and then we will pick it up in the morning before getting on a bus that will take us to Heathrow airport. We need to be ready to leave the ship by 8 a.m. It will be a long day but we will have lots to think about and reflect upon and remember as we head home.

Thanks for reading our blog. Check back in a couple of days and you will be able to see lots of pictures.

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