In the Wake of the Vikings: Norway

Oslo ship museum 2by Mary Jo

As is my unfortunate custom, I hurled a manuscript into email for my editor and a few hours later left on a major vacation: in this case, a flight to Oslo where we would pick up a cruise ship in Bergen and then sail across the North Atlantic to Montreal. Which we’ve done, and it was a great way to recover from deadline panic. We saw many wonderful things, several blogs worth. I napped a lot. <G>

Dale of Norway TrollWe sailed on a terrific Viking Ocean cruise called In the Wake of the Vikings in a brand new ship called the Viking Sky. (The Mayhem Consultant and I independently picked this itinerary out of a fat Viking catalog. Image above is from the Oslo ship museum.)

The Sky a beautiful ship with wonderful, thoughtful design at every level and I could write a blog about it, but won't because this is not an ad for Viking. <G> But here is a gorgeous horsy piece of artwork from the ship, one of many.

We started in Norway.  After tours in Oslo, Viking horsesBergen, and into the mountains, I learned much, and soon realized that one can hear a lot about a country and have mental images  without actually knowing much about it. My thoughts on Norway were basically:

North! Cold! Vikings! Skiers! Gorgeous fjords and mountains! Gorgeous tall blond Norwegians! Constitutional monarchy of the bicycle riding royals variety!

All of which is true, but hardly the whole story. Half the country lies north of the Arctic Circle and only 4% of the land is arable. This and a very long coastline explains why Norway became one of the great maritime nations of history, ranging from historic Vikings onward. Those first Vikings had superior seamanship skills and ranged widely as traders, raiders, and explorers. Viking long ships traveled to the Mediterranean and even Central Asia, and established settlements in many places. The French province of Normandy, for example, is named for the Northmen who settled there.

NorwayMapThough English speaking people like me tend to use Nordic and Scandinavian as interchangeable, one guide told us firmly that "Scandinavia" is specifically three countries: Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and they speak a mutually intelligible language, though with some variations. "Nordic" countries are a broader classification and include Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. In that part of the world, "Norden" is used, meaning "the North."

Library drinking hornThe Norwegian royal family are indeed "bicycle riding royals," but though the kingdom is ancient, the current royal house is relatively recent. For long periods of time the country was controlled by Denmark or Sweden, and it didn't separate into an independent nation until its union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905.

Since the country no longer had a king, Prince Carl of Denmark, a younger son of KingHaakonVIIthe Danish king, was invited to take the throne. He wisely said he would, on the condition that the Norwegian people voted on whether they wanted him. They did, and it was a perfect beginning for a constitutional monarchy. He took the Norwegian name of Haakon VII and ruled for 52 years as a popular, non-political, and very effective ruler.

Haakon and his oldest son, Crown Prince Olaf, spent WWII living as a government in exile in London while the Crown Princess and younger children lived with President Roosevelt in the White House. (I did not know that!) The story of Haakon's resistance to Nazi demands and his moral authority is very inspiring.

I really liked the capital, Oslo; it's one of those cities that I look at and think, "I could live here." (It would help if I spoke Norwegian, of course. <G>) It's beautiful, civilized, and there is lots of water. It has been rated as the most livable large city in Europe. The metropolitan area has a population of about 1.7 million people–and this in a country where the overall population is only 5.2 million.

Oslo Ship Graves 2The subtext is that Norway is tough, challenging place to live, which explains the huge emigrations of the 19th century. Norwegians moved to many places around the world, but most of all to the American Midwest: we were told that over 800,000 people emigrated there over a period of 90 years, with Minnesota and Wisconsin being the most popular destinations.

One can see the appeal: the Norwegians were used to dealing with cold weather, and the Midwest offered vast tracts of mostly level farmland, very different from the mountains of Norway. There is a straight line from that vast emigration to Garrison Keillor's Norwegian bachelor farmers. <G>

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Oslo is Frogner Park, which includes Oslo Parkover 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, a Norwegian sculptor who was basically given free rein and a government income to create sculptures about the life and nature of humankind. The statues are mostly bronzes, and they are lovely and full of life.

Oslo park 2The second most popular tourist attraction is the Oslo Viking Ship Museum, which contains original long ships that had been used for burials. The ships had been in use before they were turned into grave, and three of the four of them are very well preserved. Stunning!  One hall included terrific graphic projections. 

We took a scenic train ride over the mountains to Bergen, Norway's second largest city, and a major maritime city. It was one of the cities of the Hanseatic League, which was Dragon ship museum 1a group of Germanic trading guilds that worked together for defense and economic security. Their waterfront warehouse and trading area called Bryggen is a world heritage site because it looks essentially the same as it did in the Hanseatic era. Though the houses have been rebuilt over time, they have had the same colors and measurements as the original building.

A principal product of Bergen was stockfish, a general term for air dried fish, usually cod.  When dried properly, it could last for up to seven years and it was a principal source of food for Norwegians and sailors of all kinds.  (I suspect that a lot of re-hydration was needed to make it edible!)

Sigh. I can't possibly describe all the wonders of Norway in one blog–that's why so many links–but time is running out and my cats have not recovered from my absence and they are demanding extra cuddle time.  (All four of them are STARING at me!) Bryggen

So–have you ever been to Norway? Would you like to visit? I can highly recommend it!

Mary Jo, showing the Bryggen trading houses

 

 

105 thoughts on “In the Wake of the Vikings: Norway”

  1. I’ve been to Finland a bunch of times, and Sweden once, but never Norway. I MUST go – I share my name with one of Norway’s most famous people: three-time Olympic figure skating champion and movie star Sonja Henie. My whole life I’ve been asked if I was named after her. (No, I was not. It was a coincidence of my mother choosing her future daughter’s name when she was a small child, and her marrying someone with the appropriate surname!)
    It all looks so gorgeous, and I nearly got to Bergen for a stopover last year, but it didn’t work with the flight connections.

    Reply
  2. I’ve been to Finland a bunch of times, and Sweden once, but never Norway. I MUST go – I share my name with one of Norway’s most famous people: three-time Olympic figure skating champion and movie star Sonja Henie. My whole life I’ve been asked if I was named after her. (No, I was not. It was a coincidence of my mother choosing her future daughter’s name when she was a small child, and her marrying someone with the appropriate surname!)
    It all looks so gorgeous, and I nearly got to Bergen for a stopover last year, but it didn’t work with the flight connections.

    Reply
  3. I’ve been to Finland a bunch of times, and Sweden once, but never Norway. I MUST go – I share my name with one of Norway’s most famous people: three-time Olympic figure skating champion and movie star Sonja Henie. My whole life I’ve been asked if I was named after her. (No, I was not. It was a coincidence of my mother choosing her future daughter’s name when she was a small child, and her marrying someone with the appropriate surname!)
    It all looks so gorgeous, and I nearly got to Bergen for a stopover last year, but it didn’t work with the flight connections.

    Reply
  4. I’ve been to Finland a bunch of times, and Sweden once, but never Norway. I MUST go – I share my name with one of Norway’s most famous people: three-time Olympic figure skating champion and movie star Sonja Henie. My whole life I’ve been asked if I was named after her. (No, I was not. It was a coincidence of my mother choosing her future daughter’s name when she was a small child, and her marrying someone with the appropriate surname!)
    It all looks so gorgeous, and I nearly got to Bergen for a stopover last year, but it didn’t work with the flight connections.

    Reply
  5. I’ve been to Finland a bunch of times, and Sweden once, but never Norway. I MUST go – I share my name with one of Norway’s most famous people: three-time Olympic figure skating champion and movie star Sonja Henie. My whole life I’ve been asked if I was named after her. (No, I was not. It was a coincidence of my mother choosing her future daughter’s name when she was a small child, and her marrying someone with the appropriate surname!)
    It all looks so gorgeous, and I nearly got to Bergen for a stopover last year, but it didn’t work with the flight connections.

    Reply
  6. Oh, this was wonderful, Mary Jo!
    I’m with you about Norway being a place I could live, although I loved Bergen even more than Oslo. And that train trip from Oslo to Bergen!!! What awe-inspiring, wild beauty.
    I think one of my best friends is doing the very same Viking trip as we speak.
    Cheers & thanks for resurrecting the memories,
    Faith

    Reply
  7. Oh, this was wonderful, Mary Jo!
    I’m with you about Norway being a place I could live, although I loved Bergen even more than Oslo. And that train trip from Oslo to Bergen!!! What awe-inspiring, wild beauty.
    I think one of my best friends is doing the very same Viking trip as we speak.
    Cheers & thanks for resurrecting the memories,
    Faith

    Reply
  8. Oh, this was wonderful, Mary Jo!
    I’m with you about Norway being a place I could live, although I loved Bergen even more than Oslo. And that train trip from Oslo to Bergen!!! What awe-inspiring, wild beauty.
    I think one of my best friends is doing the very same Viking trip as we speak.
    Cheers & thanks for resurrecting the memories,
    Faith

    Reply
  9. Oh, this was wonderful, Mary Jo!
    I’m with you about Norway being a place I could live, although I loved Bergen even more than Oslo. And that train trip from Oslo to Bergen!!! What awe-inspiring, wild beauty.
    I think one of my best friends is doing the very same Viking trip as we speak.
    Cheers & thanks for resurrecting the memories,
    Faith

    Reply
  10. Oh, this was wonderful, Mary Jo!
    I’m with you about Norway being a place I could live, although I loved Bergen even more than Oslo. And that train trip from Oslo to Bergen!!! What awe-inspiring, wild beauty.
    I think one of my best friends is doing the very same Viking trip as we speak.
    Cheers & thanks for resurrecting the memories,
    Faith

    Reply
  11. Mary Jo –
    Sounds like a fabulous trip! I’m ready for more blogs and pics. BTW – did you and the mayhem expert go any train rides? I’ve seen some fab train trips through Norway on PBS. Just askin’…Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  12. Mary Jo –
    Sounds like a fabulous trip! I’m ready for more blogs and pics. BTW – did you and the mayhem expert go any train rides? I’ve seen some fab train trips through Norway on PBS. Just askin’…Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  13. Mary Jo –
    Sounds like a fabulous trip! I’m ready for more blogs and pics. BTW – did you and the mayhem expert go any train rides? I’ve seen some fab train trips through Norway on PBS. Just askin’…Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  14. Mary Jo –
    Sounds like a fabulous trip! I’m ready for more blogs and pics. BTW – did you and the mayhem expert go any train rides? I’ve seen some fab train trips through Norway on PBS. Just askin’…Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  15. Mary Jo –
    Sounds like a fabulous trip! I’m ready for more blogs and pics. BTW – did you and the mayhem expert go any train rides? I’ve seen some fab train trips through Norway on PBS. Just askin’…Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  16. I love this! I am actually following in YOUR wake on the Viking Sea. Currently, we are in Qaqortoq, Greenland. It’s a wonderful experience.

    Reply
  17. I love this! I am actually following in YOUR wake on the Viking Sea. Currently, we are in Qaqortoq, Greenland. It’s a wonderful experience.

    Reply
  18. I love this! I am actually following in YOUR wake on the Viking Sea. Currently, we are in Qaqortoq, Greenland. It’s a wonderful experience.

    Reply
  19. I love this! I am actually following in YOUR wake on the Viking Sea. Currently, we are in Qaqortoq, Greenland. It’s a wonderful experience.

    Reply
  20. I love this! I am actually following in YOUR wake on the Viking Sea. Currently, we are in Qaqortoq, Greenland. It’s a wonderful experience.

    Reply
  21. We just got back from a trip through Scandinavia (plus Finland, Estonia) last month. I loved Norway. My favorite thing in Oslo was seeing the Kon-Tiki raft because Thor Heyerdahl’s book about his voyage was the first non-fiction book I ever did a book report on in elementary school. The journey to Bergen via the fjords in Flam and Gudvangen is absolutely amazing.
    Sonya — when you go to Oslo, there’s a statue of Sonja Henie in Frogner park a little ways up the path to the right of the main entrance to the Vigeland statues area.

    Reply
  22. We just got back from a trip through Scandinavia (plus Finland, Estonia) last month. I loved Norway. My favorite thing in Oslo was seeing the Kon-Tiki raft because Thor Heyerdahl’s book about his voyage was the first non-fiction book I ever did a book report on in elementary school. The journey to Bergen via the fjords in Flam and Gudvangen is absolutely amazing.
    Sonya — when you go to Oslo, there’s a statue of Sonja Henie in Frogner park a little ways up the path to the right of the main entrance to the Vigeland statues area.

    Reply
  23. We just got back from a trip through Scandinavia (plus Finland, Estonia) last month. I loved Norway. My favorite thing in Oslo was seeing the Kon-Tiki raft because Thor Heyerdahl’s book about his voyage was the first non-fiction book I ever did a book report on in elementary school. The journey to Bergen via the fjords in Flam and Gudvangen is absolutely amazing.
    Sonya — when you go to Oslo, there’s a statue of Sonja Henie in Frogner park a little ways up the path to the right of the main entrance to the Vigeland statues area.

    Reply
  24. We just got back from a trip through Scandinavia (plus Finland, Estonia) last month. I loved Norway. My favorite thing in Oslo was seeing the Kon-Tiki raft because Thor Heyerdahl’s book about his voyage was the first non-fiction book I ever did a book report on in elementary school. The journey to Bergen via the fjords in Flam and Gudvangen is absolutely amazing.
    Sonya — when you go to Oslo, there’s a statue of Sonja Henie in Frogner park a little ways up the path to the right of the main entrance to the Vigeland statues area.

    Reply
  25. We just got back from a trip through Scandinavia (plus Finland, Estonia) last month. I loved Norway. My favorite thing in Oslo was seeing the Kon-Tiki raft because Thor Heyerdahl’s book about his voyage was the first non-fiction book I ever did a book report on in elementary school. The journey to Bergen via the fjords in Flam and Gudvangen is absolutely amazing.
    Sonya — when you go to Oslo, there’s a statue of Sonja Henie in Frogner park a little ways up the path to the right of the main entrance to the Vigeland statues area.

    Reply
  26. My sister and her husband went to Norway. Their trip is as close ans I have gotten. (I did know about the mutual compatibility of the three Scandinavian languages, because we Knew a young Swedish citizen who educated somewhat in the Scandinavian culture). And my younger granddaughter was a nanny in Oslo for a while.
    Another place I’m probably not going to visit in my remaining years. But it does indeed intrigue me.

    Reply
  27. My sister and her husband went to Norway. Their trip is as close ans I have gotten. (I did know about the mutual compatibility of the three Scandinavian languages, because we Knew a young Swedish citizen who educated somewhat in the Scandinavian culture). And my younger granddaughter was a nanny in Oslo for a while.
    Another place I’m probably not going to visit in my remaining years. But it does indeed intrigue me.

    Reply
  28. My sister and her husband went to Norway. Their trip is as close ans I have gotten. (I did know about the mutual compatibility of the three Scandinavian languages, because we Knew a young Swedish citizen who educated somewhat in the Scandinavian culture). And my younger granddaughter was a nanny in Oslo for a while.
    Another place I’m probably not going to visit in my remaining years. But it does indeed intrigue me.

    Reply
  29. My sister and her husband went to Norway. Their trip is as close ans I have gotten. (I did know about the mutual compatibility of the three Scandinavian languages, because we Knew a young Swedish citizen who educated somewhat in the Scandinavian culture). And my younger granddaughter was a nanny in Oslo for a while.
    Another place I’m probably not going to visit in my remaining years. But it does indeed intrigue me.

    Reply
  30. My sister and her husband went to Norway. Their trip is as close ans I have gotten. (I did know about the mutual compatibility of the three Scandinavian languages, because we Knew a young Swedish citizen who educated somewhat in the Scandinavian culture). And my younger granddaughter was a nanny in Oslo for a while.
    Another place I’m probably not going to visit in my remaining years. But it does indeed intrigue me.

    Reply
  31. Fantastic! Did you do the home visit? I loved that. I hope you got into the Shetlands–we were weathered out, unfortunately, but that’s the risk of cruising the North Atlantic. It’s a FABULOUS itinerary!

    Reply
  32. Fantastic! Did you do the home visit? I loved that. I hope you got into the Shetlands–we were weathered out, unfortunately, but that’s the risk of cruising the North Atlantic. It’s a FABULOUS itinerary!

    Reply
  33. Fantastic! Did you do the home visit? I loved that. I hope you got into the Shetlands–we were weathered out, unfortunately, but that’s the risk of cruising the North Atlantic. It’s a FABULOUS itinerary!

    Reply
  34. Fantastic! Did you do the home visit? I loved that. I hope you got into the Shetlands–we were weathered out, unfortunately, but that’s the risk of cruising the North Atlantic. It’s a FABULOUS itinerary!

    Reply
  35. Fantastic! Did you do the home visit? I loved that. I hope you got into the Shetlands–we were weathered out, unfortunately, but that’s the risk of cruising the North Atlantic. It’s a FABULOUS itinerary!

    Reply
  36. Faith, Bergen is fascinating, but too gray wet for me–over 200 days a year of rain. No, thank you! But a beautiful city for sure. Is your traveling friend Bryn Williams, who left a comment below?

    Reply
  37. Faith, Bergen is fascinating, but too gray wet for me–over 200 days a year of rain. No, thank you! But a beautiful city for sure. Is your traveling friend Bryn Williams, who left a comment below?

    Reply
  38. Faith, Bergen is fascinating, but too gray wet for me–over 200 days a year of rain. No, thank you! But a beautiful city for sure. Is your traveling friend Bryn Williams, who left a comment below?

    Reply
  39. Faith, Bergen is fascinating, but too gray wet for me–over 200 days a year of rain. No, thank you! But a beautiful city for sure. Is your traveling friend Bryn Williams, who left a comment below?

    Reply
  40. Faith, Bergen is fascinating, but too gray wet for me–over 200 days a year of rain. No, thank you! But a beautiful city for sure. Is your traveling friend Bryn Williams, who left a comment below?

    Reply
  41. I visited Norway way too long ago, with my parents and younger sisters. I loved Oslo, and the Viking Ship Museum; in fact I remember one day in Oslo we visited five or six different museums, my favorite was the Norwegian Resistance Museum. Absolutely fascinating. And the scenery is spectacular. We rented a car, and drove across from Oslo to Bergen. I also remember visiting Drammen, and going up (and down) the corkscrew tunnel there. Very happy memories. I would return in a heartbeat.

    Reply
  42. I visited Norway way too long ago, with my parents and younger sisters. I loved Oslo, and the Viking Ship Museum; in fact I remember one day in Oslo we visited five or six different museums, my favorite was the Norwegian Resistance Museum. Absolutely fascinating. And the scenery is spectacular. We rented a car, and drove across from Oslo to Bergen. I also remember visiting Drammen, and going up (and down) the corkscrew tunnel there. Very happy memories. I would return in a heartbeat.

    Reply
  43. I visited Norway way too long ago, with my parents and younger sisters. I loved Oslo, and the Viking Ship Museum; in fact I remember one day in Oslo we visited five or six different museums, my favorite was the Norwegian Resistance Museum. Absolutely fascinating. And the scenery is spectacular. We rented a car, and drove across from Oslo to Bergen. I also remember visiting Drammen, and going up (and down) the corkscrew tunnel there. Very happy memories. I would return in a heartbeat.

    Reply
  44. I visited Norway way too long ago, with my parents and younger sisters. I loved Oslo, and the Viking Ship Museum; in fact I remember one day in Oslo we visited five or six different museums, my favorite was the Norwegian Resistance Museum. Absolutely fascinating. And the scenery is spectacular. We rented a car, and drove across from Oslo to Bergen. I also remember visiting Drammen, and going up (and down) the corkscrew tunnel there. Very happy memories. I would return in a heartbeat.

    Reply
  45. I visited Norway way too long ago, with my parents and younger sisters. I loved Oslo, and the Viking Ship Museum; in fact I remember one day in Oslo we visited five or six different museums, my favorite was the Norwegian Resistance Museum. Absolutely fascinating. And the scenery is spectacular. We rented a car, and drove across from Oslo to Bergen. I also remember visiting Drammen, and going up (and down) the corkscrew tunnel there. Very happy memories. I would return in a heartbeat.

    Reply
  46. Yes! I visited the Resistance Museum also, and I loved it! Also I remember visiting my first self-service gas station in Oslo, back in the 1970’s!

    Reply
  47. Yes! I visited the Resistance Museum also, and I loved it! Also I remember visiting my first self-service gas station in Oslo, back in the 1970’s!

    Reply
  48. Yes! I visited the Resistance Museum also, and I loved it! Also I remember visiting my first self-service gas station in Oslo, back in the 1970’s!

    Reply
  49. Yes! I visited the Resistance Museum also, and I loved it! Also I remember visiting my first self-service gas station in Oslo, back in the 1970’s!

    Reply
  50. Yes! I visited the Resistance Museum also, and I loved it! Also I remember visiting my first self-service gas station in Oslo, back in the 1970’s!

    Reply

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