A Travellerspoint blog

Norway

An Industrial Day

The breakfast at the hotel was exactly the same as it was yesterday, which is ok because there is so much variety. Shortly afterwards, our guide met us in the hotel lobby. We had booked the guide through a private company, because we wanted a tour of areas that aren't usually on standard Olso tours. The first place we headed was the Kongsberg Silver Mines. The road there was a little over an hour, but it was all gorgeous. The area is covered in pine forest and it is hilly, making for great scenery. We passed only one city, and the rest of the way was just forested mountainland. We arrived at the SIlver MInes a few minutes before the mine train left. We saw the display center (English translations available) and learned a bit about the mining operations before we got on the train. One note- mines are like caves in that they will be cold, even if it's not cold outside. I was chilly, but ok in my jeans and long-sleeve shirt, but most people would probably be most comfortable in at least a sweatshirt. Even the guide was wearing a coat. The train took us through a mine shaft for several minutes with nothing really to see. I had expected little lights so that we could see a bit of the shaft on the way down, but it was pitch black outside the car. (Inside the car they had a little light so we weren't completely in darkness.) When the train stopped, we got off in an area that was used as bunkers in WW2. The government stored the archives, including the constitution, and a whole bunch of art here so that it wouldn't be destroyed in the war. Next, we went on a tour of the mines. The guide showed us them while explaining the history of the mines and what the lives of the miners would be like. The silver was originally discovered by two farmer's children who saw something shiny and brought it home. The father got arrested when trying to sell it because everybody thought he must have stolen it. He explained where it came from, and the king came to set up a mine. For a long time the mines financed the country. Miners were always needed, so they were given great benefits. Of course, there were hazards of the trade, such as black lung, stone lung, and pneumonia. However, they had free medical care. Also, they got pensions that were transferable to wives and jobs to kids. However, the wages got to be too high in the 1950s, and the price of silver dropped. It was no longer economical to pay people to mine, so they stopped the mining. We were able to see 2 different styles of mining- one where they cracked the rock with fire and makes sideways tunnels, and one where they blasted through the rock with dynamite and made vertical tunnels. We were also able to see the ladders and elevators they would have used to get down to work. The elevator was working and the guide demonstrated it. It reminded me of a Super Mario move, the way she had to jump back and forth in order to get up and down the "elevator." Above ground, we actually got so participate in some mining. The tour guides have a tunnel that they are demonstrating the method of cracking the rock with fire. The rock that came out is so brittle, you can break it with your bare hands. They also had a large rock that you could hammer away at and keep chunks of. Some of the chunks even contained tiny garnets.

On the drive to the next place, we saw all sorts of beautiful lakes, bucolic farms, verdant forests, and adorable villages. In one, we stopped to see the stave church. This is a traditional wooden church built in a style borrowed from the Russians.

Towards the end, we passed through an area with wooded gorges and an incredibly scenic lake. There were several waterfalls. Really, the scenery was just stunning and there's no way that pictures can capture the beauty. Finally, we reached Rjukan. They have a little bus that takes you from the parking lot to the building, but we hiked because there was no bus schedule, and the hike was very nice as well. The plant itself looks like an old castle or palace building more than a factory. Inside, they have displays and a video about the Norwegian resistance to Nazi Germany and also about some industrial topics. The story behind the importance of Rjukan is that in WW2, heavy water was one of the keys to atomic research. One of the only heavy water plants in the world was in Rjukan, Norway. So, the Germans increased the production of the plant in order to supply their researchers with the tools for atomic research. The allies carried out a failed attempt to sabotage the plant. Then, they carried out some more successful raids and air bomb attacks to shut down production. Finally, when the Germans were transporting what they had produced (since production was down from the other attacks), some people set bombs on the ferry that carried the heavy water barrels and sunk them. Of course, the plant at Rjukan was also very important to the local economy. It was originally a hydroelectric power plant. Some of the turbines and machinery is still in there and available to be seen and touched. Additionally, there was some information on the lives of factory and industrial workers, both historic and more modern. Completely unrelated to why we were there, but equally cool, in my opinion, on the way down the hill from the site, our guide saw some edible berries called rips that we got to taste, straight from the bush. They kind of tasted and looked like pomegranate seeds.

On another foodie note, we had dinner at a fast-food bakery place at the mall across from the hotel. I thought I was getting a Greek-style spinach and feta "calzone," but instead it ended up being more like a spicy saag paneer hot pocket. Very delicious!

Pastoral scene between Oslo and Kongsberg

Pastoral scene between Oslo and Kongsberg


Silver Mine Train

Silver Mine Train


Stave Church

Stave Church


Scenery by Rjukan

Scenery by Rjukan


Bridge to plant

Bridge to plant


Vermork Are

Vermork Are


Inside Industrial museum

Inside Industrial museum

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Oslo Grand Tour

Breakfast at the hotel is absolutely amazing! They have brunost, brie, blue, and other cheeses, pickled cucumbers, pickled beets, and pickled herring, veggies, fruits, breads, eggs, hot meats, cold cuts, cereal, waffles, jam, and so much more. I was completely stuffed by the end. Fortunately, our first item on the agenda was a sitting tour. We went down to the docks for a boat ride. There was a long line to get tickets, but since we had pre-booked the boat tour as part of the "Grand Tour," we didn't have to wait in it. I asked where the line for people who had already paid was, and they lady just took my paper and processed me in front of everybody else. Really, that just meant printing a receipt, as they don't use pretty paper tickets here, just slips of register paper. Upon reaching the boat, we asked the guy loading us what side was better. He said the left, but then we weren't sure what side was actually left. Ultimately, I ended up walking back and forth between the right and left to get the best of both, although he was correct about the left being generally better. I don't know exactly what I was expecting , but the boat ride was not what I expected. I guess my only knowledge of the Norwegian fjords comes from the Norway ride at Epcot, Disney. I saw no waterfalls, no tall rocks, and no scary trolls. Basically, it was just a nice, gentle boat ride around the bay, which I guess thy call the fjord here. We learned a little from the pre-recorded voice. For example, this was another city, like everywhere in Denmark, that burned and was rebuilt. It was rebuilt, like everywhere in Denmark, by Christian the 4th, as Norway was part of Denmark for a long time. The coolest fact was that we learned was that all of the tiny little houses by the shore were actually bathing houses. Back in the time when they were built, it was seen as "improper" to show your bikini or body, so people built their own little houses where they could change and jump into the water without being seen, but they could talk through the walls to their neigbors. Overall, it was a nice little boat ride with pretty scenery, but I don't think it was really worth it unless you have a lot of time here and nothing much else to do.

After the boat ride, our "Grand Tour" continued on a bus. I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with the bus company. Firstly, the windows were very clean and good to take pictures out of. Secondly, they were very efficient- they had several different tours using the same bus, and the guide was excellent at remembering who was on what tour and got on/off at what stop.The guide was also very efficient. Before we got to a sight, she'd start explaining what we were seeing and the logistics, so that when we got there, we could quickly get off the bus and go tour around. Our first stop was the Viking Ship Museum. This large building contained several large Viking ships that were discovered buried, almost as coffins for rich people. The ships themselves are very cool, but the museum also contains the bodies and artifacts found with the ships, and does a pretty decent job of explaining what archaeologists know about the people who were buried in the ships. The guide explained to us that one of the boats was a decorative lake boat, but the other 3 were ocean-worthy ships of the kind that Leif Erikson would have gone to North America in. I could see the wooden construction, and I have to admit that I don't understand why they wouldn't have leaked. Obviously I'm missing something.It was a cool museum, but she gave us 35 minutes there, and there wasn't 35 minutes of stuff to see. This would have been a good place to buy lunch. The next stop was the polar ship Fram museum. Inside a huge building, they have the actual polar ship that was used on 3 expeditions and set some world records (at the time). The ship was designed to house 12 men for some thing on the sale of 5 years at a time, so it had all sorts of neat and unexpected features. First, the ceilings were much taller than on other ships I've been on. Second, it was designed for entertainment, so it had a piano and salon-type area. Thirdly, it was designed for health and safety, so it had steam sauna baths on board. Also, since there was a lot of science happening on the voyages, there were plenty of scientific instruments. You can actually climb on the ship itself and walk around it. From this, you can get a pretty decent idea of how the adventurers lived. If you take the underground passageway, it brings you to the other side of the museum which contains a different exploring ship as well as displays on some of the aircraft and other methods used by the Fram explorers. Unfortunately, we didn't have quite enough time at this museum for my tastes. On the way out of the area, we passed the royal farms and a royal residence. I wouldn't have really known it unless the guide had old me, though. Next, we climbed the opera house. Yes, I did say climbed. The opera house is supposed to look like an iceberg, so it has a slanted roof that is climbable. While I don't get see the iceberg (other than that it's white), it was still fun to climb. The view of the city from the top was pretty. The last stop on the tour was the Munch Museum, and art museum of just Munch's works. The tour in English was not super-interesting. I liked when she walked about the robbery (the Scream was stolen at one point, which is why there is massive security at the museum.) I found it slightly interesting that Munch painted the same stuff over and over, renaming it, and I of course was excited that he was often inspired by Ibsen, but beyond that, I didn't really care for the tour. It was a bit pretentious and maybe over my head (look at the way the lines here curve to capture the sound.) Also, I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of his art. There was an optical illusion I thought was interesting, and one other painting that I thought was cool, but I wasn't impressed in the slightest with the other stuff. All in all, it wasn't that great of a museum, in my opinion.

The tour dropped us off at city hall, and we split from there. My parents went to get a drink and to sit, while I went to see the Ibsen Museum. The Ibsen Museum is really only for die-hard Ibsen fans. There are 2 parts with different admission prices- the exhibitions, and Ibsen's rooms. The exhibition area has some artifacts from his life, but it's really not too much better than just reading a book on him. I didn't go into the rooms because I didn't pay for it and didn't really have time as I had to meet my parents shortly. Maybe those were better. From there, we met and headed out to Vigeland Sculpture Park. The basic story is that an artist decided that he was going to make a deal with the city. They pay him for the rest of his life, and he gives them all of the works he makes. Sweet deal! As a result, the city has this huge park containing thousands of his works. All of his works are naked people in various positions, so I think it would be a hilarious prank to make clothes for all of the statues and sneak in one night and dress them. You'd need a team of people though, this guy made hundreds of naked people statues, and some of them have multiple naked people. I think the most famous of the minor statues is the angry baby. There were crowds of people around him (and not the other statues) and his hand is a different color, probably from being touched so often. The other famous statues is the big pillar in the center. It's basically a big stack of naked bodies. I don't know why the other statues aren't as famous, as some of them are just as weird. I saw a carving of a lady riding a bear backwards, some people getting eaten by a fish, and a big pile of babies. Also, in my opinion, they should have placed the statues making the Y with their hands, the M with their hands, the C and the A near each other instead of spreading them out. After the park, we headed back to the hotel by tram/train. The train controllers came onto our train and checked tickets. We, of course, had tickets, but there were some kids who were trying to cheat the system. Moral is: have a ticket, because you never know. We got pizza for dinner and made a stop at the grocery store in the basement of the mall across the street to pick up lunch for tomorrow. Also, I found my glitter icing! Tomorrow's lunch won't be incredibly healthy, but c'mon, when you see (different brand) nutella in a squeeze tube, you just have to get it. Mmmm, nutella...

Lighthouse

Lighthouse


old fort

old fort


little bath houses

little bath houses


from Oslo "fjord" cruise

from Oslo "fjord" cruise


Viking Ship Museum

Viking Ship Museum


Viking Ship Museum

Viking Ship Museum


Inside the Fram

Inside the Fram


People on the opera house

People on the opera house


Ibsen

Ibsen


Vigeland Park

Vigeland Park


Vigeland Park

Vigeland Park


Vigeland Park

Vigeland Park

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

SCUBA Oslo

I awoke on the DFDS Seaways boat from Copenhagen to Oslo excited about the beautiful view I'd see. Unfortunately, it was raining, cloudy and foggy, so the views weren't as fabulous as they'd otherwise be. My personal recommendation, based on our experience is to either 1) sleep in, take your time packing and with breakfast, and then relaxedly get off the boat last, 2) don't have luggage so you can take the stairs comfortably to the disembarkation area, or 3) get up early and get your luggage into the elevators way early. 15 minutes before disembarkation, the elevators were full and weren't moving at all. We had luggage, but we managed to drag it down 4 flights of stairs in order to get into crowd early. I say crowd as there was no line, just a mass of people crammed into the little room by the door. We were some of the first people off the boat, which was nice as we didn't have to wait for cabs. There were a whole bunch waiting for us. I got the luggage to my parents' cab and then went and got my own to Akkers Brygge, where I went to catch the ferry. The cab ride was relatively short, but it was one of the most expensive I've ever taken- over $30.

At Akkers Brygge, they have all sorts of boats and ferries to take people locally around the bay. The 601 to Nesoddtangen was pretty huge, complete with multiple levels, a snack bar, and a big bathroom. It was also empty, with plenty of room to spread out. One of the bonuses of the ferry ticket is that you don't have to buy a separate bus ticket when you get across- it's included in the price. Another bonus is that they are super well-organized. The buses arrive at the ferry terminal right before the ferry does. They wait, and then after everybody is unloaded from the ferry, the buses leave. This is very convenient and the timing ensures very short waits. The only negative thing I can say about the system is that the bus driver told me the wrong stop to get off at. To be fair though, I know no Norwegian and he at least knew enough English to tell me what to do. Maybe because it was Sunday, they area is pretty desolate and empty. Fortunately, I found a lady who was able to call a friend and point me towards where I wanted to be. It was about 3k away, and it was a gorgeous hike. If I hadn't been in a rush to get to my SCUBA class, I probably would have wandered down some of the side roads, taken longer to do the hike, and taken a lot more pictures. The area was wooded and had lots of adorable little houses. Plus, the view of the bay was stunning. I'm not really upset about the hike at all.

Eventually, I got to ProDykk Oslo, the SCUBA center. It is down a hill at an industrial marina area. The guy running the class was really nice about me being late- so late he had already completed the classroom portion with the other 3 people in the class. Luckily, I had them ship me the book ahead of the class, just in case I was a little late, and I had studied it. He asked me the review questions to make sure I knew what I needed to know, and we went to get geared up. The first dive was strictly doing skills on the platform, and we only used half a tank of air, but a tank there is 300, where elsewhere it is usually 200. We did the second dive very shortly afterwards, using the same tank because one of the guys in the class had to go home early. This dive, we got to see a bit of a shipwreck. The shipwreck reminded me of a Star Wars cruiser. The diving here is completely different from the Caribbean or other tropical place I've dove. First, the fish are all small and boring colors. The only sea animals I recognized by name were starfish. Everything else I'd just call a generic "fish." Second, there aren't large coral reefs. Instead, there are little organisms living on the rocks, and even these are very muted colors. Even the water itself isn't particularly blue. Its kind of a brown-gray-green sludgey color. Next, we had very crappy visibility in some places, although apparently as it's colder the visibility improves. For divers who had only been in tropical waters, I recommend at least once trying an area like this. Maybe it's not as exciting scenery, but it's neat in its own novel way. Plus, it's interesting to learn dry suit. Of course, the technique to using a dry suit is also very different than the technique required to use a wetsuit and BCD. Trying to get my buoyancy right, I felt like a beginner again. There were definitely times when I fell too much or was beginning to float away. On the third dive, the one guy had gone home, and we had gotten new tanks. It was just the 3 of us, no instructor under water (although he was watching from nearby). I did end up floating away towards the end of the dive when we were ascending and I couldn't release enough air fast enough. Of course, the visibility was bad, so I immediately lost my partners and we ended up meeting at the surface. It was ok though. By the time that happened, we had already navigated to a different shipwreck, seen it, and were headed back. There wasn't much more to see, and we hadn't been so deep that missing the safety stop was a big problem.

At the end of the dive, I was exhausted, as I typically am after a day of diving. I took the bus back to the ferry back to Oslo. I got on the public trolley/train thing to central station and walked to the hotel to meet up with my parents. They had spent the day doing the hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Oslo. While they found it to be ok, it was a little bit of a challenge as they apparently don't have signs for where the bus stops, you just have to know. Also, it stopped running relatively early. Apparently a lot of things are closed on Sunday, but we ended up headed towards a neighborhood with lots of Indian, Thai, Pakistani and other Asian restaurants, so we had quite a few choices for dinner. My parents indulged me- instead of having expensive Norwegian food, they let me pick and Indian place, because I really miss having Indian food. I enjoyed the food at Punjab Tandoor, but I have to admit that there were surprisingly few vegetarian choices for an Indian restaurant.

in dry suits

in dry suits


nice view

nice view


interesting statue in Oslo

interesting statue in Oslo

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

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