First off, it takes more than a full day to
go from Amsterdam to Oslo. You leave Amsterdam after
sundown, navigate the canals and locks to get back to open ocean, then
spend a full day at sea. The next morning you will get to
Oslofjord and head up to Oslo. What this means is that you have a
full day on the ship with no obligations. You will have to
contend with 2,000 other people, but if you plan carefully, you can
avoid crowds and have a quiet time. If you like crowds, there is
plenty to do with them, as well.
Lying in a deck chair reading can be very relaxing.
Of course, your choice of reading material can influence whether those
passing by will be equally relaxed...
One of the main activities onboard a ship is eating. There are
buffets open 24/7, and sit-down restaurants that will serve you some
amazingly good food. This is where you have to dress up. For
those of you who have never seen me in a tie, BEHOLD!
In this picture, I am sitting in one of the bars, having finished a
great meal in one of the fine restaurants. The reason I'm holding
up my hands is due to the fact that it is 10:00 PM. Look out the
window. Does this look like 10PM to you? Well, it is when you are
2/3 of the way from the equator to the North Pole. The sky did
not get fully dark until after 11, and the sun began to rise just after
4AM. That's what high-lattitude summers are like. Of
course, the winters are rather dark...
Here is a view from just outside on the promenade, about 10:30.
And one more view of me, in my "Party Duds", enjoying a shot of Irish
Whiskey. (The bars on ships tend to be well-stocked, and you can charge
it to the room!)
And one more view of the sun, as it sinks toward the horizon.
The next morning, the ship has entered Oslofjord. At the head of
the fjord, as the name implies, is the city of Oslo. Before you
get there, however, you will be treated to some truly wonderful views.
The shores of the fjord are dotted with houses and villages. It
looks like a place where we could live quite nicely. 1 in 5
people in Oslo own a boat, to travel around this beautiful area.
However, they can generally use it for less than 6 months out of the
Sheila really liked the view.
...And, as usual, I attempt to feed the wildlife.
The chef would probably be unhappy with the fact that I took a danish
specifically for the purpose of luring seagulls to me, but I really
During World War II, Germany attempted to invade Norway. A
cruiser sailed up Oslofjord, only to discover that the norwegians had
big guns hidden on the hillsides.
The oilslick you see on the water is from that cruiser. The fuel tanks
continue to leak, 60 years after it sank. Eventually Germany did
invade and take over Norway, but stiff resistance was the order of the
day, both before and after the invasion.
I contemplate the fate of German Cruisers.
There are villages everywhere. Here, a small island in the fjord
has become home to many people.
Here is a water bus, hopping from island to island.
Another village. Yet another nice-looking place, in a seemingly
endless chain of nice-looking places along the fjord.
Once we got close to the city of Oslo, the ship slowed enough that the
seagulls could successfully fight the slipstream and get in close
enough to snatch goodies directly from my hand.
Eventually one brave bird managed to land and demand that I feed
Gulls can be intimidating. All you have to do is watch "The Birds" to
understand this. They may not be as intimidating as birds of
As you approach the dock, the first thing you notice is the imposing
castle sitting on the shore.
This is still the main military base in the area, continually in use
for longer than the United States has existed.
We were excited to see that the navy was there to greet us.
However, there was something wrong. It took us a moment to figure
out what it was.
We sail all the way to Norway, and are greeted by the Japanese
navy! That was a bit interesting.
Their cruisers left shortly after we arrived.
Then, into the city to see the sights. With only one day in port,
it is impossible to see everything. The cruise line arranges
shore excursions, which are generally a good wa of getting a feel for
the city. We chose the explorers tour, as we are interested in
the history of exploration. Norway has had a huge role in the
exploration of this planet, and has three very good museums dedicated
On our way to the museums we passed the Norwegian Nobel
And a stave shurch.
Although this is an early christian church, it is covered with symbols
from the old norwegian religion, including symbols for the various gods
such as Odin, Thor, Freya, etc. It seems that the pragmatic
Vikings were not sure if the new religion would take, and were ready
with a backup.
The first museum we visited was the Viking museum, which holds the
remains of three viking longboats.
The longboats used by the Vikings were amazing ships. They were
stable in rough seas, rather fast, and were powered by both sail and
Surprising to us, we learned that the Vikings did not generally spend
days at a time in these boats. They were keen to island-hop,
getting off the boats as often as possible to cook and sleep.
There are many islands in the North Atlantic, so thier job was made
This particular ship is over 1200 years old. was used as a
funeral barge after its life on the waves, and was buried near
Oslofjord with two women and their grave goods on board.
The detail on this ship is astounding.
When it was discovered in the late 1800's, the archaeologists had to
disassemble it into its individual pieces for conservation before it
could be reassembled as seen here. More than 90% of what you see
is original material.
Ever wonder what ship people don't say "left" and "right"? Well,
this is the reason:
It is a steering board for the ship. pushing on the handle will
move the board and cause the ship to turn. So what does this have
to do with left and right? In the original language, this was a
Starbord. It is always on the right side of the ship, so that is
the Starboard side. And port? Well, if you park with your
starbord against the dock, you will break your board, so you had to put
the other side, the port side, against the port.
So, Port and Starboard are viking inventions!
However, Vikings were merely the first explorers from this great land,
not the last.
This is Thor Heyerdahl's museum. He was an archaeologist.
If you notice, off to the right is a replica of a statue from Easter
Island. While studying the enormous heads on the island, he was
struck by an interesting question. Do these enormous heads have
enormous bodies? He and his team excavated a few and discovered
that yes, in fact, they do have bodies. This was one of
Heyerdahl's major discoveries. However, it was not his
greatest. Many polynesian artifacts bore a striking resemblance
to similar artifacts from South America. Was it possible that
people from South America had traveled to Polynesia? Heyerdahl
thought that it was possible. The currents are favorable for such
a trip, and even a large raft should be enough to make it.
In 1947, to test his hypothesis, he and a crew of 5 men left Callao,
Peru and sailed west.
They sailed in this:
This is the Kon-Tiki. It's about 40 feet long, 25 or so feet wide
and made of Balsa wood.
Me with a big chunk of balsa.
After 101 days and more than 5,000 miles at sea they reached Raroia,
This is the cabin for all six men:
And we got to his museum in the ship in the background:
Here, Sheila enjoys the clear, clean, fresh air that is very common in
Back inside Heyerdahl's museum, you find another craft. Ra II.
Again, Heyerdahl attempted an ocean crossing. This time from
Africa to South America. The ship was made of papyrus reeds, just
as many boats are still made in North Africa and South America to this
day. Heyerdahl used pictures taken from Ancient Egyptian tombs as
the model for this large version. The first ship, Ra, set
sail, but had to be abandoned when it was just one week from
Barbados. Heyerdahl had neglected to add the support rope from
the stern to the mast. This would be the fatal error, as this
caused weakness that led to structural failure of the ship. In Ra
II, he made sure the support rope was included. This one minor
change (noted in the ancient tomb carvings, but initially ignored by
Heyerdahl) insured that Ra II successfully made it from Morocco to
Barbados, as distance of 4,000 miles in just 57 days.
By any definition, Heyerdahl can be classified as an adventurer.
Interestingly, he was once asked about smoking, and he said "I would
never take a risk as great as that of smoking."
On the other side of the parking lot from the Heyerdahl museum is this
charming, and rather large A-frame building. As the name on the
front states, this is the Fram museum. This is not a museum about
a person, but a museum about a ship. The Fram.
The Fram was the brainchild of Fridjof Nansen, who wished to prove his
hypothesis about north polar currents. In order to go that far
north and spend a lot of time, he had to have a ship built for the
express purpose of withstanding the enormous forces that ice floes can
generate against a ship's hull. The Fram was this ship. It
was launched in 1892, and the first polar expedition took place from
1893 to 1896. The ship sailed into the pack ice, reaching the
85th parallel. On March 14th, 1895, Nansen and an assistant left
the ship and headed north, making it to the 86th parallel. When
they did not return, it was assumed they had been killed and the ship
eventually moved on. Unknown to the crew of the Fram, Nansen had
missed them, and, not knowing exactly where they were headed, decided
to head south to get back home. Two men, just a few hundred
miles from the North Pole, decided to try to make it back to Norway,
without a boat.
Fram continued its mission, and Nansen continued his travels.
Eventually both groups made it back to Norway. Surprisingly, they
both arrived home exactly one week apart.
Here I am, on the deck of the Fram:
Sheila stands at the ship's wheel.
And the kitchen:
Dishes from the Fram
After Traveling to the North Pole, the Fram Headed south, to carry
Roald Amundsen to his history-making trek to the South Pole.
So, Fram is the ship that went to both the north and south poles, or at
least as close as a ship can go. Of course, others have done the
same, and there are artifacts from many expeditions in the Fram museum
from these others. My personal favorite are dishes from the
Nautilus, a nuclear sub that crossed the north pole, beneath the pack ice.
Before we finally left, I struck a slightly blurry pose with Mr. Nansen
at the bow of the Fram.
So, the proud exploratory heritage of Norway can be found in these
three museums. I recommend you visit them.
After the tour, we went back into town and walked back to the
ship. One thing to remember about ships and docks. Cruise
ships are filled with tourists who have money. Docks, and the
pathways leading to them tend to be filled with shops designed to
separate tourists from their money, generally by offering local
trinkets. Some of these trinkets are locally made, but are just
as often made in China...
However, we did manage to pick up one thing that was definitely of
Yeah, it's food. What kind you may ask?
Yes, it's Bits O' Blitzen!
Reindeer meat, fresh from the reindeer farm. In convenient-to-use
We will let you know how it tastes later on in this adventure...
BACK ON THE SHIP AND ON TO DENMARK!
While we had the reindeer salami in the fridge, cooling and
waiting for the opportune moment to enjoy, we went up to the pool area
for a more north american kind of food.
While traveling, we try to eat as much like a native as possible.
Nobody is native to a ship, so we eat whatever. Our late
afternoon snack consisted of hot dog, fries and a coke. It was
quick, convenient, and fun. However, later on that night we
branched out once again. For dinner, one of the choices available a the
buffet was new to us, so we had to try it.
If you are having trouble figuring out the animal, I will give you this
Yes! Frog legs!!!!!
and our opinion of them?
Actually, the old saw is true: "Tastes like chicken".
Next stop: Copenhagen,