Top Oslo Sightseeing tips: Exploring the Fjord

Sightseeing Oslo Fjord in Spring #1A guided tour on the Fjord provides Oslo in a nut shell: From the Town Hall harbour you’ll pass Akershus Fortress and the New Opera House as well as Kon-Tiki Museum, the Polar ship Fram and the Maritime museum – not to forget a tour through a maze of picturesque islands with small summer houses. So if you want to explore the capital of Norway from a different angle, appreciate nature and want an alternative experience form the stressful, urban life: all this is to be experience from the boat just 10 minutes after departing Oslo city.
Two of our blog friends, Ginnie from Georgia, US and Astrid from the Netherlands, could not make it to the Oslo Blog Gathering in August 2010. So they came in April this year instead, to explore and have a taste of Oslo and Norway; our culture, history, traditions and habits. This post is from their first day of four, to explore the Oslo Fjord by boat:
Sightseeing Oslo Fjord in Spring #4
Departure from the Town Hall (in the background); Ready with camera: Astrid left – Ginnie right.

Before reaching the island, you’ll pass some landmarks, nice to see from the seaside (click pic to bigify & enjoy):
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Left: The Akershus Fortress – Right: The new Opera House.

The Oslo Fjord – a deep inlet of the Skagerrak:
Oslo occupies an arc of land at the northernmost end of the Oslo fjord. The fjord, which is nearly bisected by the Nesodden peninsula opposite Oslo, lies to the south; in all other directions Oslo is surrounded by green hills and mountains. There are 40 islands within the city limits, the largest being Malmøya and Hovedøya, and scores more around the Oslo fjord:
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Still some ice since its beginning of April – increasing the adventure!
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Below: Two of the many light houses in the Oslo Fjord
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The Museums on Bygdøy Island:
If you really want to explore Norway’s history, culture and traditions; Bygdøy is the place – easy to access 20 minutes from Oslo city centre by bus or boat (click links to read more about them in my earlier posts):
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, a large open air museum featuring typical buildings from various periods in our history. The Viking Ship Museum; in addition to two 1100 year old Viking-ships (apparently the best preserved in the world), it also contains various other Viking artefacts and a Viking burial chamber, complete with ancient skeletons. Closest to the fjord, we passed:
Sightseeing Oslo Fjord in Spring #21 Sightseeing Oslo Fjord in Spring #20
Norwegian Maritime Museum which houses a huge collection of ships and boats and records the impact of Norway’s seafarers on our own country and the world. The Kon-Tiki Museum which displays Tor Heyerdahl’s balsa raft Kon-Tiki and Ra II, as well as some other artefacts from Easter Island. The Fram Museum features the vessel Fram, the world’s first ice breaker and the last polar expedition ship made of wood, and presents a history of polar exploration (with a strong Norwegian focus!)

This is only the first day of four posts from our Blog Friends Astrid and Ginnie’s adventures – so stay tuned for more in the next one!

Equinox means spring is in the air in Norway

4 Seasons in Norway - Winter SolsticeVernal Equinox, when day and night are of equal length all over the world and the first day of spring in northern hemisphere, is another important milestone and significant change in our four seasons. In Oslo, Norway (60°North) our days are 6 hours longer than at winter solstice and get longer every day – to even another 6 hours more at summer solstice. In addition, the temperature change from -25C (-13F) in Dec/Jan to +25C (77F) in Jul/Aug. I guess you agree that 12 more hours of daylight and 50C (90F) degrees difference in temperature are significant and of course influence our history, culture, traditions and habits.
The light takes over the darkness; the sun grows ever stronger, and under its light the nature starts waking up from hibernation. In our neighbourhood we have to be a bit patient this year as we’ve had a good old fashioned winter (rather cold and a lot of snow). This panoramic photo, taken with my Nokia N8, is at sunset – then 6PM – a few days ago:
Equinox in Oslo Norway #

Talking about significant change: here are photo from the same spot taken in earlier years:
4 Seasons in Norway - Spring
Spring 2009 – 17th of May
4 Seasons in Norway - Fall 4 Seasons in Norway - Winter
Left: Fall 2009 – Right: Winter 2009

Fertility celebration and basis of when Easter comes:
This is a fertility festival time in name, soil fertility and our fruitful projects. In newer times, the official vernal equinox on the 21 of March is the basis of when Easter comes in different years: Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon after 21 March (leap year by March 20). It is associated with many pagan customs of the spring equinox, and was probably the period leading up to Easter as a fertility celebration. In Denmark at the time of around the spring equinox there were ritual battles between groups of riders. One was equipped with ice and snowballs the other with fire and glowing coal. Sword Dancing was also widespread in Europe, which has survived in the English Morris Dancers, who still dances for fertility at Vernal Equinox.

Today’s carnival parties are probably the remains of these parties. Another tradition we have in our family is the Easter bunny egg hunt in the forest. Again the rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility. Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of antiquity. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox. Here are a couple of photos from our hunt in earlier years:
Hunt Easter Bunny Eggs in Norwegian Woods #5 Family Easter Bunny Egg hunt in Norway #6
Click to read one of my post about this: “Family Easter Bunny Egg hunt in Norway

Do you see why and how the change of seasons and the coming of spring influence our culture and traditions? : -)

17th of May Constitution or National day in Norway

Norway’s Constitution was signed the 17th of May in 1814 by an elected National Assembly at Eidsvold outside of Oslo. 33 of the delegates were chosen from the army and the navy, 25 from the cities and 54 from the countryside. Because of the long distance, the northern part of Norway had no delegates. On the same day the Constitution was signed Christian Fredrik (from Denmark) was elected king of Norway. He reigned only a few months, and then the throne was handed over to the Swedish king, Karl Johan, the 10th of October 1814. For almost 100 years, until 1905 Norway was in a union with Sweden.

The day usually starts with a flag-raising ceremony at a nearby school, church or governmental building. Then, pupils join in the Children’s Parade, while adults watch and cheer from the side-walks. All the schoolchildren in the whole country march with the Norwegian flag in their hands and colourful banners, which represent their school or their class, in front. You may read more about the marching band at my wife DianeCA’s post.
17th of May Parade in Norway #1
Marching out from the school with the Principal in the lead (to the right) in his bunad.

Many countries celebrate their Constitution or Independence, but opposed to these – as you can see in the photo above – the Norwegian celebration has no reference to military power. Norway’s National Day is a day of flags, parades, speeches and bands playing the national anthem; “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” (Yes, we love this country). The concept is simple, a local celebration regardless of the weather, with classmates and neighbours showing their national pride in a peaceful and harmless way. You may hear the band play the national anthem and learn more about the school celebration from my post by clicking here.

My vid from a Happy parade in 2006 on a slightly rainy day:

I have now posted about the 17th of May for five years in a row, so we will use my earlier posts as a way of highlighting this year’s. So be sure to click on the links to learn more.

Norway’s National costumes – “Bunad”:
You will notice that many are wearing their regional costumes called Bunad. Each region of Norway has its own Bunad and those which use it wear the costume from the area their family roots come from. Last year we met a very nice Norwegian family dressed up in their proper Bunad, and I could not resist asking them if they would pose to illustrate how the family’s traditional clothes should be. This is a fine example of the traditional costume for both adults and children:
17th of May Norway Constitution Day #7
The Bunad is artfully hand embroidered and must be made from the correct wool material with the traditional pattern. Some areas allow you to choose variations of Bunad, but the rules are relatively strict in order to keep the tradition in tact. If you have Bunad then the 17th of May is the high time to use it. In addition it is used for weddings, baptismal, and very special occasions.

When the activities in the school-yards are finished, the festivities continue in the centre of town, where people from all over the area meet. Here there is a new parade with different organizations marching. All kinds of organizations are represented; the scouts, soccer teams, folk dance groups, religious organizations, and bands. This one in our local town is called the flower parade, and flowers are thrown out to the onlookers by the participants (click picks to bigify & enjoy):
17th of May Parade in Norway #6 17th of May Parade in Norway #5
Some of the locals have even decorated their classic car for the event, while others have decorated their scooter.
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You may see a review of this parade by clicking here!

Russ – The revelling Norwegian high school graduates:
The graduates have a special place in the 17th of May celebration. Throughout the month of May they celebrate the end of the high school years with numerous parties and funny tasks which they must do to get a knot in the tassel of their hats. One of the rules is that they have to wear their Russ uniform everyday without being allowed to wash it:
17th of May Russ in Norway

A modern addition to this celebration is the Russ Bus. Students get together and work hard for a year or two to save up money and pool it together into buying, decorating and equipping a bus for the Russ season:
17th of May Russ bus from Norway
The bus is literally a rolling party, with loud music, lights and Russ only allowed inside. Although this might seem like a party mentality, it is also a learning experience for those who join a bus (not all do!) because it requires saving, planning, working on a concept, working towards a goal and project management to get the concept “rolling”. You may read more in my article about the Russ by clicking here!

So I do hope understand the special feeling I have when I am able to share this tradition with you. It is the most Norwegian of the Norwegian, and I am proud to be able to introduce it to family and friends through out the Blogsphere. If you have been inspired by this post, and would like to see some bunad and learn our history on your own, remember we still are taking bookings for the Oslo Blog Gathering in August. Join us and you can march down Karl Johan street yourself!

Golden sky beach beauty in Scandinavia

The pure natural beauty of nature in the significant four seasons and seasonal lighting fascinates me. Early or late sunset in winter vs. summer time in Scandinavia adds another dimension. Looking out of the window last night at 9PM gave a great reminder. My wife and I are at our vacation home and Sweden and inspired by the special sky we hurried to the local beach for a photo hunt. We’ll gladly take you along and hope you find it worth while:
Golden sky beach beauty in Scandinavia #1

Going crazy with my new Cannon Power Shot G11, let me share some of the shots from today (click to bigify & enjoy!):
Golden sky beach beauty in Scandinavia #6 Golden sky beach beauty in Scandinavia #2
Golden sky beach beauty in Scandinavia:
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This is our favourite photo hunting beach in our “home away from home” in Mariestad. My regular readers know I love to play in posts with photos from the same spot in different seasons. Let’s start with one from tonight’s golden sky:
Golden sky beach beauty in Scandinavia #3

Then the difference from spring (now) to fall, then winter and at last a hot day for tanning: Amazing to observe this is the same place, don’t you agree?
Fall at Lake Vänern in Sweden #2 Winter at Lake Vänern in Sweden #1
Left: Fall gives golden beauty too! Right: Winter with nice fresh and crisp air!

Ekudden Beach #8
Summer time – even topless tanning.

The days are growing longer here in Scandinavia, with the sun not going down until almost 9:30 in the evening. Soon it will be summer and the nights will be lighter than any other time of the year. I do hope you will soon be experiencing this with us at the Oslo Blog Gathering 2010. If you haven’t done so already check out the program and join the team!!

Spring flowers in gardens and beaches of Norway

Blogging about Norway, our significant four seasons, culture and traditions now calls for a post about spring. After a relatively cold and snowy winter, nature is slowly waking up from hibernation and both nature and people get livelier. Of course the return of the sun helps as well: From 6 hour’s daylight in mid December to 15 hours now in Oslo helps to bring out the spring feeling and we get light more day by day: 18 hour’s in mid June.

We’ve had the loveliest sunny weather this weekend and to give you the proof of the pudding, my wife and I had a photo hunt in our garden and on our favourite spring beach. Let’s start with our garden and some examples of spring flowers in the south east part of Norway:
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Let’s take a closer look at some typical from our area in southern Norway (click to bigify and enjoy):
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Left: daffodils – Right: Crocus
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Left: Scillia in front – Right: Primrose
Other typical garden flowers in Norway are tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, snow drops, and Lily of the valley.

Wild flowers at the Spring Beach:
Like I said we were on a photo hunt and went to our favourite beach where we know we’ll meet real spring and nature just out of hibernation:
Norway wild spring flowers #1

I hope you are able to spot the ground almost totally covered by Anemone hepatica (common names: Kidneywort, liverwort, pennywort, Common Hepatica – in Norwegian: Blåveis). Let’s take a closer look:
Norway wild spring flowers #3

Some weeks later, this is the white flower bed that will meet us when we again visit this lovely beach just 25 minutes by public transportation out of Oslo city:
Norway wild spring flowers #5
Anemone nemorosa also in the family Ranunculaceae. Common names: wood anemone, windflower, thimbleweed and smell fox or in Norway: Hvitveis. (Photo shot with my Nokia two years ago).

There are others who are happy for the spring flowers too – guess you’re familiar with the story about the birds and the bees? ;-) This little guy was so fat the flower almost couldn’t hold him:
Norway wild spring flowers #4

Not only the birds and the bees are happy for spring, warmer and sunny weather (around 15C – 60F). In this delightful, crisp, fresh air, people start thinking of beach life and tanning too of course (click to bigify and enjoy):
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A bit early for bikinis yet, but if you dress right, still enjoyable.
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So by this I declare spring seasons have started in Oslo, the south east of Norway. I hope you got some spring spirit from this too. To get even more of the spirit, you might like to check my wife DianeCA’s post too. It would be interesting to read if some of these spring flowers are to be found in you’re part of the world too!