Akerselva the vein of Oslo and industrial history of Norway

Akerselva is a beautiful river with 23 waterfalls running through Oslo’s most populated areas, ending in the Oslo Fjord after 8 km with a rich history of Norway’s cultural heritage and industrialization which started around 1850. The river is the “vein of the city” offering fishing, swimming, biking or walking to explore a rich animal and plant life in the most recreational part of the capital of Norway. It’s running from the lake Maridalsvannet, which is Oslo’s main supply of drinking water, to the city center and without a break: a couple of hours walk.
Walking along Aker River in Oslo #4 Walking along Aker River in Oslo #11
Almost every meter of the 8km from the mountains to the fjords offers exciting adventures. Along the river you can take small detours into side streets you’ve never seen before and experience the history of the utmost importance to the capital and country: it was on the banks of Akerselva that Norway became a modern country and where the industrial revolution took place- It was here that Norway got its first factories and industrial workers!
I had a nice walk there last week, arranged by the Norwegian Parkinson Association and you’re welcome to join us and see a small collection of the highlights where I also shot some photos with my mobile phone:

Emigration and the Industrial Revolution:
From 1850 to 1900 the population of Christiania increased from 30,000 to 130,000 – the same period as when about half of the populations out of totality 1,500,000 emigrated to the US. For the most part farmhands came from the countryside and moved into settlements along the Akerselva banks to live near the factories they were working in. These houses were often some distance from the river and of very poor quality. Living conditions were crowded and up to 13-14 people could live in a single cramped room with an even smaller kitchen.
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Today there is a new wave of migrants to the river, but it’s a totally different standard in the new houses. The picture to the left shows an example of a new residential complex on the left and an old factory on the right.

Myren’s machine maintenance and renovation factory:
Myhre’s factory became one of the leading and largest industrial companies in Norway with more than 1,000 employees in 1909 and also important for the rest of the industry along the river. Production started in this area in 1854 and their main production focused on industrial machinery – turbines and steam engines – and tools for rolling mills and sawmills, utilizing the river as source for power in the production.
The company was acquired by Kværner Brug (now a part of Aker Solution) in 1928 and the production naturally developed into supplying the pulp and paper industry. At one point, 85% of their production was exported.
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The premise of the old factory is preserved after the industrial production was terminated in 1988 and the area and its building were sold to what is now Myren’s Resorts and renovated into a small cluster for knowledge-based businesses in broadcasting, television production and advertising. The area also contains several apartment buildings

The Factory Girls at Beyer bridge:
Beyer bridge build in the 1700s and named after the owner, Anders Beyer, was a favorite gathering place after 10 to 12 work hours. In 1837, the old narrow wooden bridge was converted to ramps and restored as a pedestrian bridge in 1985, This bridge and the statue called “Factory Girls”, made by Ellen Jacobsen, show a merrier side of the flux at this industrial revolution period in Norway. It’s located in the old factory area and was described by the Norwegian writer Oskar Braaten as “factory girls’ bridge”. A group of sculpture in memory of the factory girls, conducted by Ellen Jacobsen, “shoulder to shoulder”, was set up on the bridge 1986:
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100 types of birds and 4 bats:
This continuous green corridor with water, grass, plants and trees that connect Oslomarka and the Oslo Fjord is also a paradise for animals. It is observed 100 different bird species at the river. Among them is our national bird: the Dipper, which people actually see quite often sitting on the pebbles in the middle of the falls. Even the Goldcrest, which is Norway’s smallest bird, is observed here.
Walking along Aker River in Oslo #6
Akerselva can even offer four types of bats to be seen flying between trees when dark. As you can see in the photo however, the most common wildlife is seagulls and ducks.

“The Hen-Lovisa’s house”:
The rivers highest waterfall is next to an idyllic little house which is a great place to stop on your walk along the river Akerselva. The name “Hønse-Lovisas hus” comes from a literary character. It was built in 1800 as a saw miller’s house.
Walking along Aker River in Oslo #16
Today it is a café and cultural meeting place, where the arts and crafts of today meet tradition and history of the past. They have handmade arts and crafts for sale and you can also get a cup of coffee and a delicious piece of cake or a little something for lunch.

A walk along the Akerselva, especially with such an excellent guide, is a good example of how you can combine an outdoor nature experience with learning about the local history. The area is easy to reach by public transportation, either Underground or Bus, and lies right in the heart of the compact city of Oslo. So don’t miss this trip the next time you visit the capital of Norway.

The Viking city Old Oslo Town in Norway

Old Oslo Town #11 by RennyBA, on FlickrThe old town of Oslo, the capital of Norway, where the Viking city was located contains the ruins of Oslo’s first cathedral: St. Hallvard’s as well as Clemen’s Church and St. Olav’s Monastery. In 1624, this medieval city was buried when the inhabitants had to move over to the new town Christiania, close to the Akershus Fortress. The medieval city was thus preserved for posterity and is therefore called the “Pompeii of the North“. My wife and I had a guided walk there a few weeks ago to get better acquainted with the city’s ruins and medieval heroes. It went from the church’s power region to the King’s domain: the Medieval Park (locally known as Ruins’ Park) and if you fancy a trip a thousand year back, you’re welcome to join us:

The St. Olav Monastery:
It was founded in 1239, when King Håkon gave the Dominicans a site just north of St. Halvard’s Church. It was already St. Olav’s Church, which had been built a few decades earlier. This would become the Abbey in the new facility, and it was rebuilt to fit the Dominicans specifications. The buildings were probably first constructed in wood and were eventually replaced by brick buildings.
Old Oslo Town #2
The Dominican Order had strict requirements for the design: ground floor and the interior were always the same in all the order’s monasteries as well as the abbey which was represented at the north wing of the facility. The problem was that there was room on the south side of St. Olav’s Church just a few feet over to St. Halvard’s Church, the city’s cathedral. The monastery had to be built north of the church and the Abby had to be in the south wing so in this way, the normal Dominicans concept was reversed here in Oslo.

St. Hallvard’s Cathedral:
Also know as Oslo Cathedral Church was the city’s earliest cathedral. It was built during the 1100s at the height of the Old Town market square and was used as a church until about 1655. Besides being the bishop’s seat and religious center of eastern Norway for about 500 years, the cathedral was the coronation church, royal wedding church, chapel royal, and one of Scandinavia’s most visited places for pilgrims.
Old Oslo Town #4
Hallvard cemetery is located mainly south of the cathedral. It was the honorary cemetery in Oslo and eastern Norway from around 1130 to 1639. Here the bishops, chiefs and other prominent men and women were buried. The most prominent were interred in the church along with the kings.

The Clemens Church:
This was one of the parish churches of old Oslo and lay south of the Bishop’s Palace and Halvard’s Church. It was a stone church with a tower and it was one of the very few churches we know with the double-nave floor plan. Along the middle axis of the choir there were three powerful roof supporting pillars.
Old Oslo Town #9
The church went out of use after the Reformation and was probably in ruins shortly after. It was uncovered in the excavation by Gerhard Fischer in 1921 and remained that way for years. In 1970-71 the archaeologist Ole Egil Eide was given the opportunity to dig further into the ground under the church, and found traces of burials older than the stone church, 81 in all. His interpretation is that there have been at least two churches, presumably stave churches, on the spot where the stone church was built around 1100. The oldest of the tombs are radiological dated to 980-1030, and are some of the oldest Christian burials found in Norway.

The Kings Residence:
The main ruins were the Kings Residence from about the year 1000 to the 1300s and then the Canon’s residence up until the reformation in the 1500s. The oldest finds on this site are part of a simple, circular fort consisting of a moat and one or more wooden buildings. There was a treasure found consisting of German and English coins which place the construction of this fort to somewhere between 1040 and 1060, during the rule of Harald Hardråde (Harald the hard ruler). Construction of the stone fort whose ruins you see in the photo at the bottom of this post, began in the 1200s during the rule of Haakon Haakonsson (Haakon the IV). The main entrance was in the north-west corner and featured a gate tower.
Old Oslo Town #12
The great hall in the south-east corner was almost as large as The Haakon’s Hall in Bergen. The Kings residence was a citadel, dwelling and meeting place for the king and his men when they were in Oslo. Akershus fortress took over this function already in the 1300s and gradually became the administrative center for this part of Norway. Large parts of the ruins from the Kings residence were removed in 1890 when the locomotive workshop was built on the site.

The Oslo Blog Gathering:
You may wonder what this has to do with our Blog Gathering (OsloBG) in 2010, but as the matter of fact, the grand finale was held in these Medieval surroundings. So for you who participated and all who followed us during these three days of exploring Oslo and Norway: our culture, traditions and habits – here is the photo of Kings Residence more than a thousand years back:
OsloBG at Medieval Park #1 OsloBG at Medieval Park #2

Blogger tourist in Milan enjoy Italian cuisine from Lombardy region

Al Matarel in Milan #5In Milan at the Lombardy region of Italy the cuisine varies considerably throughout following the contours of the land: Geographically speaking, Lombardy’s northern half is Alpine – including the Swiss border – while its southern half makes up part of the Po River Basin which runs through the Lombardy capital of Milan. When we then add: home to one-sixth of Italy’s total population, the region of Lombardy is truly a study in contrasts on many levels.
Culinary influences are bound to be just as diverse as Lombardy’s population base owing to the wildly varied terrain, internal distinctions in cooking styles and long history of influence by nearby and/or conquering nations .With such a heritage, cooking traditions are ingrained and recipes unlikely to have been changed for centuries in the important handing down of kitchen legacies.

My wife and I had some time for exploring the local attractions while attending the CEPIS Council Meeting in Milan two weeks ago. The top of the cream was when the host’s AICA President in Milan, Roberto Berlini, invited us to a local restaurant with the regions specialties on the menu. It was returning the favor after we did the same when we had him as a guest in Oslo two years ago and I gladly take you along on this culinary adventure:
Al Matarel in Milan #1

A Lombardy gourmet adventure:
When entering the restaurant, Roberto – knowing the owner and staff – told them what we were hoping for: The local specialities and here you are:
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Left – starter: Salame Melanese & Right – Torta di mele with gelatto
Al Matarel in Milan #5
Main course: Osso Bucco with Risotto Milanese

Trattoria Al Matarel:
Al Matarel in Milan #11Resistance to altering recipes and techniques that have filled the Lombardy tables with good country food for a large span of recorded history can be seen as a sort of “foodie pride” which began its cultivation long before pop culture’s re-embrace of and return to simple cooking, homemade and wholesome.
Our dinner was exactly that kind of experience: It looked, smelled and last but not least tasted Italian – and after talking about Lombardy both with Roberto and the staff, we were certain this cuisine was from the region too! I mean, we’ve tasted both salami and beef before, but never like this – not to mention risotto: the Italian way – in Lombardy – is the best!

This is my last of three posts from our stay in Milan – a cultural, historical as well as culinary adventure. Don’t miss the other two:
-> Blogger tourist in Milan in Lombardian region of Italy
-> Blogger tourist in Italy at Navigli in Milan

Blogger tourist in Milan in Lombardian region of Italy

Milan is the capital of Lombardia and best known as an economic and financial center. It’s the richest and most populous region of Italy and also the second largest in the country. Founded by the population of the Insubri in the 6th century BC, its original name was Medhelan, which means centre of perfection, then changed into Mediolanum and finally Milano. To me it’s a city full of charm, where the ancient and the modern perfectly coexist as you may say it also has a fair share of cultural and architectural attractions like Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Scala, Sforzesco Castle and many more.
I was in Milan last weekend when attending CEPIS Council Meeting and having my wife along, we had some time for exploring some of these attractions too. As always I love to share and suggest – to set the mood – that we start with Duomo di Milano, the magnificent Gothic Cathedral:
Milan Piazza Duomo

The Piazza del Duomo:
In 1859, when the cathedral was close to completion after a construction period of almost 500 years, the city of Milan decided it was time to create a large square at the foot of the cathedral. It launched a competition for the design which attracted 176 participants. The Italian architect Giuseppe Mengoni was selected as the winner.
Milan Piazza Duomo A
He designed a wide open square flanked by grand buildings to offset the dominance of the enormous Duomo. At the same time he also designed a monumental glass-covered arcade (top right pic in the collage) to connect the new square with the just completed Piazza della Scala: the square in front of Milan’s most famous theatre; the Teatro alla Scala.

Castello Sforzesco:
The Sforzesco Castle is one of Milan’s most important monuments. It long served as a symbol of power for local and foreign rulers. At the start of the early 20th century the castle was saved from demolition and now houses a number of civic museums.
Milan Castello Sforzesco A
In 1358 Galeazzo Il Visconti, the first duke of Milan, ordered the construction of a fortress. Completed in 1368, it had a basic layout with four walls, each 180 meters long (591 ft) and a square tower at each corner. His successors Gian Galeazzo and Filippo Maria expanded the fortress and converted it into a palatial residence. After Filippo Maria Visconti died without leaving an heir in 1447; the Milanese people proclaimed the Ambrosian Republic and razed the castle – seen as a symbol of the Visconti – to the ground.

World Wide Exhibition of 2015:
Milan Piazza MercantiDue to its strong international and economic nature, Milan will be hosting the Expo 2015, a very important international event taking place every some years in the most important world capitals.
It’s already visible in the city (see tower in the left pic) and I told you the city is where the ancient and the modern perfectly coexist. A typical example is Piazza Mercanti, a picturesque square, just a stone’s throw away from the Duomo. During the Middle Age, this was the commercial and governmental center of Milan. Today it is not as hectic anymore though the intimate pedestrian square does seem to throw you back to the Middle Ages thanks to its historic architecture. I don’t have a photo of the Piazza, but Via Mercanti might give you an idea:
Milan Via Mercanti

Navigli – Milan’s Venice:
I’ll end this little taste of what Milan has to offer with another Must Visit in Milan. You see, situated in a favorable area in north Italy, in the past Milan has been a city of waters, thanks to its numerous canals called Navigli, the majority of which is now covered. But if you walk along the banks of the few still open, in the area of Porta Ticinese, you will have the feeling of a little Venice. We had a guided tour there, full of impressions and photos – so much so I’ve made a whole post of it – to be seen here: Blogger tourist in Italy at Navigli in Milan.

So this is my second post from our stay in Milan, but stay tuned – there is one more to go as we had a gourmet adventure in a local restaurant with the Lombardian regional specialties!

Blogger tourist in Italy at Navigli in Milan

Navigli in Milan #1Milan in the Lombardian region of Italy was once a city of waters and in the past just as rich of canals as Venice. The majority of these canals are drained or covered today, while a few are left untouched and visible – mainly in the area of Porta Ticinese, where the two great Navigli start: the Great Naviglio and the Naviglio Pavese.
In its heyday, the canals formed a 150km long network that connected the city with the rivers and lakes in the region. The canals were used for irrigation; they provided the city with water and were ideal to transport people and goods to and from remote areas as far as the Alps and even the sea, reached via the river Po. The marble used for the construction of the Duomo was transported via these waterways from the Lago Maggiore near the Alps to the centre of the city.
I was there while attending CEPIS Council Meeting and our host AICA invited us to a walk and boat trip on this historical ground. I gladly take you along and let’s start with a collage to set the mood:
Navigli in Milan #A
Two long streets run along the Navigli and walking along the banks of the Navigli is certainly worth it, the visitor has the feeling of walking down the streets of Venice.

A bit of history:
Construction of the oldest canal – the Ticinello – started in 1179, quickly succeeded by a number of other canals. A series of locks were built to overcome the differences in elevation which at the time posed a serious technical challenge. It is said that Ludovico di Moro, Duke of Milan at the end of the 15th century requested the help of Leonardo da Vinci to design an innovative system of locks.
Thanks to this network of canals, Milan had one of the country’s largest inland ports, despite the absence of a main river. The canals were so much part of the urban fabric that some areas of the city resembled Venetian neighbourhoods. With the growing importance of road transportation, traffic on the canals dwindled quickly and many were filled in during late 19th and early 20th century until the activity came to a complete standstill in 1979.

Naviglio Grande:
The most interesting of the few remaining canals is where we were: the Naviglio Grande. Here you’ll find iron pedestrian bridges, a small church – the Santa Maria delle Grazie al Naviglio – and the picturesque Vicolo dei Lavandai. Here women washed their family’s clothes with water from the canal. Many women also took in laundry as a business while there husband worked mostly as sailors or fisherman and together they supported their families. The mostly pedestrian-friendly streets along the canal were once tow-paths, from which horses and oxen towed the barges. Again a collage to sum up:
Navigli in Milan #B

A boat trip along the canal:
While on the boat trip, I took the chance of filming with my mobile phone and if pictures say more than a thousand words, what do you think of this : -)

My wife and I had a four days stay in Milan when I took the advantage of combining business with pleasure. This town has of course much more to offer and we have more to share. So stay tuned for a historical roundtrip as well as a gourmet adventure in a local restaurant with the Lombardian regional specialties!