Helen Rose Diary.
We had wanted to visit the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway and were on a cruise in the Baltic some years ago which included a stop in Oslo. Unfortunately, this was the week of the Breivik killings in Oslo in 2011 and the port was closed. Last year we travelled on a cruise from Rosyth in Scotland for a week which included Oslo. We had a day in Oslo and visited the Viking Ship Museum, the Thor Heyderdal Kontiki Museum and the Polar Ship Fram. All fascinating and showing Norway as a sea faring nation.
In Scotland, we have had close links with the Vikings as I have previously written on the Shetland Islands. In fact, even as far south as Largs on the West Coast of Scotland not far from Glasgow, there is an annual festival. http://www.largsvikingfestival.com/. Largs is a popular holiday destination and is famed for a battle in 1263 when the Norse King Haakon, attempting to land from a fleet of longships, was repulsed by the army of Alexander 111. Returning to Norway, King Haakon took ill and died in Kirkwall. His death lead directly to the Treaty of Perth when the Norse ceded the Westen Isles and Isle of Man to Scotland.
The Gokstad ship was built in about 850, at the height of the Viking period. There was a need for ships that could serve many purposes and the Gokstad ship could have been used for voyages of exploration, trade and Viking raids. The ship could be both sailed and rowed. There are 16 oar holes on each side of the ship. With oarsmen, steersman and lookout, that would have meant a crew of 34. There is no sign of thwarts. The oarsmen probably sat on chests, which could also have held personal equipment. About the year 900AD, a rich and powerful man died, and the Gokstad ship was used for his burial. A burial chamber was built at the stern of the ship. The ship is well preserved along with various other Viking ships.
Leaving Oslo, we sailed west to a delightful small town of Brevik with pretty houses and well-tended gardens. Everything looks so perfect. The kirk had a miniature sailing ship hanging from the ceiling. All churches in Norway have this as a good luck symbol to seafarers. On the steps of the kirk we met the elder who had a Scotty dog, the mascot of Scotland but this was a Norwegian born and bred Scotty! Near the pier there was a little museum recreating how life was a hundred years ago in the town. I was particularly impressed by the sweetie shop.
Our next stop was at Haugesund, known as a herring town and dates back to the Vikings. In fact, Harald Hårfagre, the Viking, united Norway as a kingdom. There was a concert at the kirk with a soprano Lisa Daehlin and pianist Richard Pearson Thomas from New York City. Lisa was of Norwegian descent and sang songs her Norwegian grandmother had taught as a child in the US. It was a lovely afternoon in very congenial surroundings.
The last port of call was Jondal in Eidjfiord which was a dramatic fiord. The fiords around Oslo are gentler with lower hills. Eidjfiord is the start of more dramatic landscape with higher mountains which continue northwards. This was my fifth cruise to Norway and I have enjoyed spectacular scenery from Bergen to Northcape and over to Spitzbergen. This trip was less spectacular scenery but more than made up for in the cultural aspects. We were not disappointed in the Viking Ship Museum and impressed by the preservation and restoration on the ships. It was a Norwegian line ship so the food was excellent especially the seafood.
Coming attractions; Kirkby Stephens, Madeira, Pitlochry, Jersey and the Isle of May.