Oslo, Norway

April 19, 2012
Our Day Walking Visit to Oslo, Norway

All I knew about Oslo before visiting there was that it is the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, and that Norwegians love trolls. Oh, and maybe that it was cold in the winter. But typical of these visits, a lot of myths were dispelled when I actually saw the place.

First of all, it’s quite pretty. Oslo sits at the northern-most end of a long inlet or fjord, all nestled at the base of a crescent-shaped ridge of low hills to its north. Our ship docked along the eastern shore of Pipervika harbour, right beside Arkershus Fortress, a walled castle/monastery kind of place, about a half mile from downtown Oslo.

Docked Beside Arkershus Fortress

Our ship docked right across the road from Arkershus Fortress, a short walk southeast of the city

This was our first port-of-call, so we had to disembark as instructed by the cruise director over the PA. Disembarking from a cruise ship requires you to have your boarding/cabin card scanned just as you cross the gangway. The same happens when you return. Plus security scanning for contraband. And you must be back by a certain time, usually half-an-our before the ship sails. They will usually hold the ship for only so long for late-returning passengers. Beyond that time, they’ll leave and you’re on your own.

Passengers getting their boarding/cabin cards scanned as they disembark for the day

While most ports and local sights are interesting and scenic, most terminal docks are anything but. They are functional asphalt, concrete and metal piers with lots of ropes and cables lying about. They are also fenced in. For security reasons, passengers usually have to show their boarding/cabin card once again just to leave the dock area.

Nancy and the boys getting ready to show their boarding/cabin cards in order to leave the dock area

Naturally, the first place we chose to visit was Arkershus Fortress, being as it was right across the road. It was clearly an armed fortress or castle at one time, no doubt for defence of the city, but has now been converted to part museum, part historic site, part military school. We took a lot of photos there, but I’ll only show a few.

Robert enters Arkershus Fortress, while excursion buses wait by our ship across the road

There were few level paths, and most like this one, were paved with large uneven stones

Every water-side European city seems to have its cannons to fight off attacks from other cities or nations

Even places built for war and defence can often have their own restful beauty

This is a view of the city as seen from the northern-most wall of the fortress

Here's another view of the harbour looking further southward from that same place in the fortress

After visiting Arkenshus Fortress, we walked the short distance to downtown. The lowest portion of the inner harbour is a pedestrian mall with lots of fountains, shops, stalls and vendors stands. But it was early in the morning, and a damp one at that, so a lot of this activity wasn’t up and running yet.

Like most European cities, Oslo has its mix of old and new architecture and lots of public spaces

Despite the damp morning gloom, these flowers added colour and life to an otherwise dreary day

The pedestrian mall is right by the water, so this is the view

You can see in this photo how close our ship was to the pedestrian mall

Nancy and Robert walked over to see if the Nobel Peace Centre was open, but it wasn't

Each city has memorials and artwork that mean something to the locals, but that perplex non-residents

This piece we did understand... a tribute to Norway's whale-hunting past

We walked over a series of canals spanned by arching pedestrian bridges, to the far side of the harbour

By about this time everyone was ready for a short rest and a quick snack

From the pedestrian mall we then walked further into town. Visiting foreign places can often be an eye-opener. For my oldest, it was the realization that, as far away as he was from his own country, he was still surrounded by stores and businesses he recognized like The Gap, Apple Computers, Sony, MacDonalds and Starbucks. It surprised him, and I think even disappointed him a bit.

No matter where you go in the world, you see too many of the same stores and businesses

No trip to any capital city, especially one with a monarchy (King Harald V and Queen Sonja), would be complete without a visit to the Royal Palace. The grounds of this magnificent estate sit a couple of blocks up from the harbour, at the western end of a beautiful tree-lined boulevard.

Just as we approached the grounds of the Royal Palace the sun came out and brought the warmth

There's something about opulent living and hosting quarters like these that draws people to them

We timed it perfectly to witness the changing of the guard, which turned out to be a rather subdued affair

I realize that I have included four photos of the Royal Palace, but that's because it's so beautiful

Leaving the Royal Palace, we followed the tree-lined public boulevard downtown. Life was getting underway by now, and there was lots of colour and activity.

Stopping by the public fountain (behind us) for a brief but well-deserved rest for our feet

This is not the kind of sight I expected to find in the far northern city of Oslo, Norway

Now this is more like what I expected to find... gotta expect to see trolls in Norway

With the sun now out, we decided to stop back at the Arkershus Fortress for some sunnier photos

Nancy always seems to have trouble on stoney paths that slope downhill... good thing she has Robert

We all agreed it was finally time to call it a day, and to head back to the ship for dinner

Getting back onboard is easy as long as you have your boarding/cabin card with you

Cruises are kind of a two-barreled vacation. First, you get to visit new and interesting ports of call every day or two. Plus you are staying in a five-star, floating hotel where the service, the food, and the facilities are excellent. It’s always nice to know that after a tiring day on your feet (or seat, if you’re bus-bound), your day will always end with some guaranteed pampering. And I must add that on each of the Holland America cruises we’ve taken, the food and food service was first-class.

We typically choose the any-time seating plan when we cruise so that we can eat in the regular restaurants like the Horizon Court or the Lido Lounge at any time. Or, if we’re in the mood for a fancy, full-service meal, we just have to make a reservation early that day.

Unfortunately on this trip I broke a molar on our second day out, and had to suffer through every meal with some mouth discomfort. But I waited until I got home to my own dentist before I had it looked at.

Once back onboard we headed straight to the Horizon Court for a delicious buffet dinner

At about this point in the cruise I like to find myself a quiet spot (like the stern) to relax with a good book

One discovery Nancy and I made on a previous cruise was to visit the Crows Nest Lounge during departures because of the panoramic view afforded by all those windows (plus a glass or two of wine is also nice). Our departure from Oslo was a scenic one because of the narrow channel the ship had to navigate.

Sitting in the Crows Nest Lounge afforded us a wonderful view of Oslofjord as we sailed away

Norwegians are proud of one particular WWII event that we got to share the evening of our departure. There is a narrow channel in the fjord where an island crowds the passage. On the night of April 8, 1940 the German heavy battlecruiser Blücher sailed up the fjord toward Olso with invasion in mind. But, using vintage guns and World War I torpedos, the local Norwegian military fired on the Blücher from the island, causing a major fire to cripple the vessel, eventually sinking it. There was major loss of life as the Germans refused to abandon and give up their mighty ship to such a weak force. The ghost of its sunken hull can still be seen beneath the waters. I guess the message is clear – don’t mess with the Norwegians!

The island from where the Norwegians sunk a German battlecruiser (the concrete bunkers are still there)

This pretty much concludes our day in Oslo. Overnight we sailed to the picturesque city of Aarhus, Denmark which promised its own unusual sights.

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2 Responses to Oslo, Norway

  1. Pam says:

    This is an area that is totally foreign to me. But…..I think it should be on my bucket list. Did you ever see what the population was of Oslo? I really look forward to my morning blog on you trip, they’re great! Love them.

    • wordswithbrad says:

      Thanks, Pam. Glad you’re enjoying them. We’re having fun as well, reliving our family travels as I put these blog pages together.

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