Saturday, November 23, 2013

Viking Ships

The following morning Jason woke me at 8am. I had floated in and out of sleep as screams and loud music had pulled me in and out of consciousness all night long. In my bleary brain, it couldn't possibly be time to wake up. I was absolutely positive that he had it must be 4:00 in the morning. I made him re-check the time. To my dismay, it was in fact time to wake up and we all pulled our exhausted bodies out of bed. We were rewarded by a decadent spread of Norwegian breakfast foods...cocoa-sprinkled salmon, smoked mackerel, caramelized Norwegian brown cheese, pancakes, breads, fruits, nuts, smoothies and bottomless cups of tea and coffee. Many cups of tea later, with bellies full, we were ready to roll. We hopped on a bus headed for the Viking Ship Museum, home to three Viking ships recovered from burial mounds around Norway. Traditionally Vikings buried people of importance in huge mounds large enough to contain their ships and all of the things they'll need for the after life. The ships in the museum, and all of their belongings, were packed in clay which preserved them amazingly well. I have to say, this was one of the most amazing museums we have ever been to. Upon entering the hall we were greeted by the double-dragon-headed Oseburg ship dating from 834 AD. She is 65 feet long, 15 feet wide and her elegantly curved bow and stern were intricately carved with swirling dragon heads. With a relatively low free-board she was designed for coastal cruising as a pleasure craft. The next room contained the impressive, beefy, ocean-going Gokstad ship dating from 890 AD. The Vikings had made some dramatic improvements over the years, and measuring 76 feet long and 17 feet wide, this ship was fully seaworthy, ready to cross any ocean. Let the Viking age and pillaging begin! The next room held treasures found within the burial mounds...elaborately carved sleighs, wagons and beds, Viking tent posts, cooking utensils, etc. All weaponry and valuables had been looted long ago.

Next we visited the Folk Museum, home to over 150 historic buildings that have been transplanted from around Norway. We saw how Norwegians from all walks of life lived throughout history. We saw Oslo suburbs at the turn of the century, where children started smoking at age 5. We learned that Oslo did not have widespread indoor toilets until after 1952 and saw firsthand a double-decker outhouse, something I had never imagined existed. I would have always chosen the top floor. We saw log buildings from remote farmsteads that drove home how dark my ancestors existence must have been surrounded by dark wood with tiny windows in a place that hardly sees daylight for a large portion of the year. We saw a pagoda-like 1600's era stave church which was even darker inside than the tiny cabins. We saw a traditional Sami winter dwelling and learned more about the reindeer-herding people of the north. We saw how lefsa was traditionally prepared over a fire. We eagerly slathered our portion with butter and gobbled the warm goody down in the chilly air outside as the sun began to set at 3:30. After a quick rest in the hotel, we ate dinner at a quaint little cafe where Isaac ordered moose stew....a perfect ending to a chilly day.

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