Monday, September 24, 2007

Oslo and the Viking games that will never be (part 4a of 5)

Norway is without any doubt, the most expensive country on the face of this planet. I knew that I would be financially hard up for this leg of my journey because Norway has notoriously high taxes but I was not prepared for the reality of paying the equivalent of $AU7.00 for a 300ml bottle of Coke! Plus as I was spending a great big chunk of tour time in Norway being frugal was the only way I was going to survive. Photo - Wellsey in the cook tent next to the girl's cabin.

We spent all of Saturday driving and arrived at our campsite in Oslo, Norway around dinner time. After Team Tent got to work putting the cook tent up and Canadian Dave purchased a wheelbarrow of dry wood, we settled down for the evening in front of the fire with some soup and pork chops for dinner. Andy, our tour manager, had been organising us into Viking Clans for a special Viking Games Tournament he had been talking about since Copenhagen. He even managed to locate a bag of goodies - helmets with horns, swords, axes and the odd looking blonde plaited wig. Sarah, a high school drama teacher, was in absolute heaven and declared that she would remain in Viking character for the evening. Unfortunately for the Viking Games, there was a dog show also scheduled at the same campsite that we were staying at, and the grounds were already full of dogs, their trainers and the officials. So the games were postponed...

That’s okay though, we found ways to entertain ourselves, usually at the bottom of a bottle. It was certainly amusing to watch people declaring themselves camp fire experts and then set about building only a flicker of flame. Kept you entertained for hours! Especially when Andy decided the best way to break a log in half was to get Canadian Dave to grab the other end and then they both ran at a tree trunk to smash their log against it so that it would snap in two. Probably could have worked, except that they had mistaken a metal flag pole for their “tree trunk” and only discovered their drunken mistake when the flag pole made a huge “ding” sound when the log collided with it and they left a massive black mark and dent in the base of it. Don’t think the caretaker and his wife were too impressed! Photo - Vikki and Barbara sitting next to the fire at our Oslo campsite wearing their viking helmets.

The next morning we got our first real glimpse of Oslo city. Unlike the sea side feel of Stockholm and the random nature of Copenhagen, Oslo actually feels like a city with structure, age and romantic tendencies. A prime example of this is the royal palace, where Yes, I did see another changing of the guard ceremony. The palace in Stockholm is right on the water, accessible by sea and land. It is surrounded by the city and can easily be mistaken for just another museum. The palace in Copenhagen is located on the fringe of the city centre, surrounded by the infrastructure of the economy and the embassies of its neighbours. Both palaces in Denmark and Sweden are functional, hiding their opulence and grandeur behind large and imposing stone buildings. The palace in Oslo is situated in a slight incline, nestled in what Jane Austen’s Catherine de Berg (Pride and Prejudice) would call “a pretty-ish kind of woods”, looking down the main street of the city. It gives you the impression of implied wealth rather than flaunting it in your face. The changing the guard ceremony feels the same way too. Instead of the grandeur we saw in Stockholm, it was rather simple, straight forward and classic.

I’m not a fan of galleries and museums but I am glad that didn’t pass up with opportunity to see “The Scream” at the National Gallery. There were lots of other artworks in there but really, art is art to me and nothing jumped out and grabbed me as fabulous. I’d much rather go and see the beautiful stained glass windows of cathedrals or the sparkling jewels in the treasury vaults.

The end of my day in Oslo was spent at the Kon-tiki Museum, which wasn’t a really a museum, more like a journey of discovery. It was all about Thor Heyerdahl and his expeditions as he tried to prove that the Egyptians could have sailed across the oceans to South Amercia to begin colonisation there. He did this by attempting to sail the same route in a papyrus boat, just as the ancient Egyptians would have. Heyerdahl also used the opportunity to do a social experiment and crewed the boat with people from different continents, backgrounds and races. He wanted to see if people with nothing in common could live and work harmoniously together. It took him three tries to cross the Atlantic Ocean but eventually he succeeded. Thor Heyerdahl also researched primitive colonies. He even took his new wife on her honeymoon to live for a year on a semi-deserted island with a tribe of pygmy people. They eventually had to leave because the tribe had discovered a substance like alcohol and were becoming violent whilst under the influence! Reading about his journeys is very inspiring and makes you think about what you plan to contribute to the world.

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