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

Norway Military Tattoo 2012 in Oslo

Norway Military Tattoo 2012 #1Norwegian Military Tattoo, the biggest indoor event in Norway, draws multinational crowds of military music fans each year. This year marked its 10th anniversary with nearly 1,000 participants and 20 000 spectators turned out for the rousing band and precision drill performances.
The set in Oslo Spektrum Arena was a recreation of Akershus Fortress and the show was filled with spectacular entertainment. It is a colourful family-show featuring the leading military bands of the world as well as acrobatics, singing, dancing, drill and a competition between the military academies. Features on stage this year include e.g. the US Air Force Honor Guard’s Drill Team’s weapon manoeuvres show, an Irish dance show from The Emerald Isle Irish Dance Team, the Top Secret Drum Corps from Switzerland and not to forget Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense Traditional Band:
Norway Military Tattoo 2012 #7
Every year when we watch it on TV, I always say: we have to go next time and this year we made it thanks to my wife’s good planning as she bought tickets just before it was sold out. As much as I would like to, it’s almost impossible to describe, recreate or set the scene in words. However, since you know I love to share magic moments like this with you, I used my mobile phone, trying to capture the atmosphere. So out of 55 min film and 50 photos, I’ve made a movie to give you a taste. Before you click to enjoy, let me just share what I think was a special highlight this year:

Some heroes do not die even if they sleep in
Shooting Max Manus motion picture in Norway #3This was the comment of the Chief of the National Guard, Kristin Lund, on the passing away of Norway’s Second World War hero Gunnar “Kjakan” Sønsteby. The Military Tattoo this year had a very special performance in remembrance of this great Norwegian citizen who passed away only days before. Kjakan is known for his central participation in the Norwegian resistance fighters during the Second World War, but his service did not end there. He dedicated the rest of his lift to using the experiences from the war to be an important mediator in the aftermath, and as a living story teller to keep the history alive for future generations in order to stop anything like this from happening again. Sønsteby was important for the new generations after the war. The numerous lectures he gave in retrospect, has been important for shaping the values of the younger generation. Those of us who were born after the war have been told, based on his experience, how important it is to preserve democracy and respect it. He meant a lot to us as a nation.
The photo above is one I shot when the movie “Max Manus” was made some years ago in Oslo. It’s all about the resistance movements from the Second World War. Click to read my post from it: Max Manus with War and Peace in Oslo Norway

And then, as promised; here is the movie from this year’s tattoo – enjoy!

Norway news in review and look back at 2011

From the elation of the Oslo World Ski Championships to the tragedy of the Terrorist Attacks, 2011 was an dramatic year in Norway including celebrations of the explorer Amundsen’s South Pole expedition and a popular Nobel Peace Prize for woman. Of course there was a lot more happening last year, but I’ve decided to focus on that and chronologically, let’s start with the World Ski Championships and other sports achievements in 2011:
Oslo Holmenkollen Ski Jump preparing for OSL2011 #9
For two weeks in February the nation was in what Norwegians call a “lykkerus” (literally, a state of intoxicating happiness). Norwegian skiers, both men and women, brought home a phenomenal number of gold medals at the Holmenkollen sports arena, on the home turf in Oslo. Day after day there were new victories in cross-country skiing, ski jumping, relays and other events that really solidified Oslo’s claim to be the winter sports capital of the world. It didn’t take long before calls started rising for Oslo to bid for another Winter Olympics – about time since the last was in 1952. To refresh your memories, you are welcome to read my posts about the event: World Ski Championships Oslo2011 at Holmenkollen in Norway Cultural celebration at Oslo2011 World Ski Championships and Petter Northug and Marit Bjorgen in Oslo2011 WSC

Other sport achievements in 2011:
It was been another successful year in Norwegian sport – here are a few highlights:
The Women’s Handball team defeated France 32-24 just under one week before Christmas to gain the world title. It was Norway’s first World Cup win since 1999, making it a hat-trick with the European Championships last year, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Swimmer Alexander Dale Oen beat seven others at the recent European Championships in Szczecin, Poland, winning a gold medal in the 100-metre breaststroke. He is now tipped as a favourite for next year’s London Olympics.
Thor Hushovd did not win the Tour de France this year like in 2010 but he and Edvald Boassen Hagen did Norway proud, winning a series of difficult stages across France and piling the pressure on those ranked higher. At one stage, three Norwegian competitors dominated the podium.

Norway shocked after youths slaughtered and bombing in Oslo
King Harald sent his condolences to the victims and their families, and urged unity once again in his New Years Speech for the 79 youths killed at Utøya, and the 8 killed in the bombing of the capital buildings. At a press conference on the morning after the killings Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called the attack a “national tragedy” and the worst atrocity in Norway since World War II. Stoltenberg further vowed that the attack would not hurt Norwegian democracy, and said the proper answer to the violence was “more democracy, more openness, but not naivety”. You are welcome to read my first post about this tragedy here!
In Stoltenberg’s speech at the memorial service on 24 July 2011, he opened what would be Norways reaction to the atrocity: “No one has said it better than the AUF girl who was interviewed by CNN: “If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.
Photo: Morten Stokstad
Photo of Oslo City Hall square – borrowed from Morten Stokstad
I have a feeling that what was amazing the world the most after this tragedy, was the way Norwegian dealt with and handled the whole thing. Instead of showing anger and talking about revenge, we showed solidarity, love, and care for our fellow man. You are welcome to read all about it in my post: With torches and roses Oslo Norway shows its solidarity

Nobel Peace Prize from Norway to women rights activists
Nobel Peace Prize from Norway to women rights activistsKarman of Yemen, Leymah Gbowee and Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Photo: John McConnico/AP)The Norwegian Nobel Committee moved away from highly controversial choices to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to three women in Liberia and Yemen who the committee believes have played important roles in creating peace, reconciliation and democracy.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen were awarded the prize in three equal parts for what the committee called their “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights for full participation in peace-building work.”
I really liked the Nobel Committee’s reason: “For their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society”. Here is the link to my post about this.

Roald Amundsen Norway first to reach the South Pole
Bust of Roald AmundsenWhen the ship Fram left Norway on Aug. 9, 1910, it carried, according to Amundsen himself, “nineteen men, ninety-seven dogs, four pigs, six carrier pigeons, and one canary.” The ship was nearly 20 years old and the expedition leader, Amundsen, was 38. He was already a formidable polar explorer, but this voyage to Antarctica and the South Pole made him one of the greatest explorers in history.
Amundsen actually started preparing for an expedition to the North Pole, but when Frederick A. Cook and Robert E. Peary claimed to have reached the Pole, in 1908 and 1909, respectively, Amundsen secretly changed his plans. In Madeira he revealed that the expedition to the North Pole would go by way of the South Pole. The race was on with Robert F. Scott to see which of them would be the first man on the southernmost point on earth. Feel free to read my post about this anniversary!

Roald Amundsen Norway first to reach the South Pole

Bust of Roald AmundsenThe Polar Explorer, Discoverer, Researcher and Pioneer Amundsen from Norway became the first person to reach the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911. Hosting a blog about Norway; our history, culture, traditions and habits, it would have been a disgrace not to mention it today – 100 years later. This year actually call for double celebration significance for Norway coincides: its 150 years since the birth of Fridtjof Nansen too! These two men played important roles as nation-builders and polar heroes and of course equally important were their contributions to science and literature, as well as Nansen’s humanitarian endeavours and his role as a diplomat and politician.

Planning for the North – going to the South Pole:
Amundsen started preparing for an expedition to the North Pole, but when both Frederick A. Cook and Robert E. Peary claimed to have reached the Pole, in 1908 and 1909, respectively, Amundsen secretly changed his plans. In Madeira he revealed that the expedition to the North Pole would go by way of the South Pole. The race was on with Robert F. Scott to see which of them would be the first man on the southernmost point on earth. Five weeks before Scott, who died on the return journey, Amundsen reached the South Pole 14 December 1911:
Roald Amundsen from Norway first to reach the South Pole
Norwegian flag planted on the South Pole (Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute)

The first to sail through the Northwest Passage:
In the summer of 1903 Amundsen sailed from Oslo with the ship Gjøa. The aim of the expedition was to find the Northwest Passage, for which the English had been searching for 400 years. Amundsen had a scientific goal: he wanted to measure the earth’s magnetic field and determine its exact location.
Winter Olympics Inukshuk from Canada in Norway #7
The ship Gjøa in front of Fram Museum

The expedition had a 23-month stopover in Gjøa Haven on King William Island. While there, Amundsen studied how the Inuit lived and gathered a prodigious amount of ethnographic material. In the spring of 1905, Gjøa sailed onward and emerged at the other end of the Northwest Passage in August 1906.

Norway marks Amundsen’s south pole feat 100 years on:
Today dozens of scientists and explorers joined the Norwegian prime minister to mark 100 years since Roald Amundsen led the first expedition to the South Pole. At the pole, PM Jens Stoltenberg paid tribute to “one of the most outstanding achievements of mankind” and highlighted the importance of this cold continent in our efforts to understand the warming of the globe! He also said Amundsen’s polar expeditions “helped to form our new national identity”. You see, Amundsen’s arrival at the pole on 14 December 1911 came only six years after Norway had declared independence after a long union with Sweden. So there is a lot of reasons to celebrate this year and especially today you know : -)

Nobel Peace Prize from Norway to women rights activists

The Peace prize 2011 awarded by the Nobel Committee in Norway was to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. This important yearly event is of course to be mentioned here since my blog is about Norway: our history, culture and traditions and also since I often talk about how Social Media empowering people. This time we’re talking about empowering women – to get a better world – and I gladly support that. This year I really liked the Nobel Committee’s reason: “For their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society”. Let’s hope it will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.

Karman of Yemen, Leymah Gbowee and Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Photo: John McConnico/AP)

To recognize women rights activistsa:
Karman – at 32, the first Arab woman and the youngest peace laureate ever – is a journalist and member of the Islamic party Islah. She also heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains. The prize is also recognized the Arab Spring movement championed by often anonymous activists from Tunisia to Syria.
Sirleaf is widely credited with helping her country emerge from an especially brutal civil war. She was elected president of Liberia in 2005 and won re-election in October this year.
Gbowee challenging Liberia’s warlords, long campaigned for the rights of women and against rape. In 2003, she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia to demand swift disarmament of fighters, who continued to prey on women, despite a peace deal that should have ended the 14-year civil war.