Scandinavia 2019 Travel Blog – June 22

By Kim Andersen

So, there we were, 10 to 9, first in line. Still a busy city hall (a constant flow of weddings going on this Saturday morning) Oslo City Hall only offered “15-minute-guided-tours,” that is, the guide stationary in the great hall pointing right and left explaining for 15 minutes and then out we go. Now, it was a very good 15 minutes by a professional guide of Oslo City Hall but so sad to have to miss all the great rooms above. We didn’t go out, though. We found out that we might get a real guided tour in English later that afternoon but that didn’t suit our plans for the day. Then, sink me!, chatting with the guide in Danish, he in Norwegian, I told him I have done these tours before with students, he suddenly said: “Well, why don’t you just take your students there yourself and go through the rooms?” I was floored. They let me go though the halls and the city parliament of Oslo City Hall with 18 students, unobserved, uncontrolled, Norway’s culturally holiest of holy (next to the Viking ships at Bygdøy), the pride of the nation, its magnificent fresco paintings detailing Norwegian nature and history (see link above) and not least the young nation’s heroics during WWII, the City Hall opened in 1950 heralding new and better times!!?! I couldn’t believe it. Well, it was the kind of thing we didn’t need to hear twice and up we went before someone superior would decide it was a mistake. I did my best from memory interpreting the rooms emphasizing the historical and cultural importance of this magnificent city hall. The Munch Room was closed to the public as happy couples were exchanging their vows in front of his “Life.” We spent 50 minutes from one hall to the next talking WWII, immigration, and Scandinavian welfare states in the heart of themselves. What a morning!

Next item on the day’s plan was taking the boat-taxi to Bygdøy to first the Viking Ships and then the Norwegian Folk Museum. The Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune ships unearthed a good 100 years ago are stunning remnants of a different life in the 9th and 10th centuries, the first two so splendidly restored that it’s as if they would float if their supports were removed. As suggested yesterday, I think, such method is a more forceful link to the past than prudently leaving the past untouched but displayed.

The open air Folk Museum always offers a pleasant walk through architectural gems from across Norway. In particular the Gol stave church is a mind boggling display of log-building competence from the 1200s. Any of those builders back then could go straight into a present day log cabin crew. The Sami museum is another of my favorites. So fascinating with this indigenous culture, so talented and rugged at the top of Scandinavia. Traditional reindeer herders but very much their own contemporary people in conjunction with those other nations who claim their land.

The Bygdøy ferry boat brought us back to the City Hall pier in the late afternoon after a long day on our feet.

Students standing in front of the bow of a Viking ship.
Claire, Olivia and Katelin in front of the Oseberg Ship.
Group of students holding the WSU Cougar flag, sitting on the porch of a large wooden building.
At the Norwegian Folk Museum