Oslo, Norway: Fabulous Opera House, Viking Museum and the Nobel Prize Center
O.K. You've seen the Sydney Opera House, you've visited the Met and you've even toured the opera house in Manaus on the Amazon River in Brazil. But, did any of them allow you to walk on the roof?
Not only are you encouraged to walk on the roof, it is almost mandatory if you want to get the full perspective of this fabulous building. I even saw one couple enjoying a picnic up there. And, it is nothing to be feared. The slopes are gradual, the views are tremendous and it is a perfect place to get an overview of the city. You can easily see the famous Holmenkollen ski jump, Norway's most visited attraction, from the rooftop. Don't fail to take a tour of the interior. The massive oak walls are impressive and the performance venues are ideal. I hope to plan my next visit to coincide with an opera. The first opera performance on the main stage (there are three) will be Don Carlo, a co-production of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera of New York.
The Opera House rests at the edge of the Oslo Fjord so, as long as you're right there, go ahead and take a cruise around the harbor. You'll be able to see City Hall, the Nobel Peace Center alongside the harbor and the Akershus Fortress with a 700 year old castle that is the perfect spot to begin your walking tour of Oslo.
Of Ferries and MuseumsWhen you take your harbor tour you may just want to get off on the peninsula of Bygdoy and catch a ferry back to the starting point. On the peninsula you'll find several outstanding museums that are a vital part of your visit to Norway. Take them in any order, but to me the Kon-tiki raft used by Thor Heyerdahl was the most exciting. A later trip across vast oceans on the papyrus raft RA II also got my attention. I remember reading about these adventures as a young boy and I imagine that Heyerdahl's travels did much to fuel my desire to travel and see the world.
The nearby Viking Ship Museum offers a close-up look at the best preserved Viking ships. When you see the size of these vessels you will marvel that they were found in burial mounds on farms in eastern Norway. They were constructed around 820 to 900 AD. In addition to the ships there are Norwegian antiquities, including coins, clothing and the only surviving wagon from the Viking Age.
The neighboring Frammuseet displays the Polar ship Fram, described as the world's strongest ship and the one that has sailed furthest to the North and to the South. You can walk on and through the original ship and view the many artifacts on display from the polar expeditions.
Nobel Peace CenterNow catch the ferry back to the Oslo waterfront and stop in at the Nobel Peace Center. The center is a marvel of modern technology. Opened in 2005 it houses an interactive journey though the life of Alfred Nobel using RFID technology and a computer vision system, far too complex for me to explain, but highly rewarding for those who visit the center.
Upstairs, the Nobel Field displays honor the Peace Prize winners with a system that reacts to your approach and reveals the winner's story and philosophy.
Equally impressive are the individual "rooms" you enter to see and hear the stories of some of the one billion people around the world who live in urban slums. You will hear their stories and become, for the moment, a part of that reality. This exhibit, "The Places We Live," is part of the ongoing and ever changing program of the Nobel Peace Center to help us understand some problems of the world that, if resolved, would further efforts to bring peace to the world.
A former college professor, Robert Painter is author of one of the highest ranked Southwestern Art and Travel books on Amazon.com. He has traveled extensively throughout Indian country attending virtually every major American Indian art show in the Western U.S. and visiting Native American communities throughout the country. Robert has recently completed cruises on the Crown Odyssey, the Silver Cloud, the Silver Shadow, the Norwegian Dream, Seven Seas Navigator and the Windjammer S/V Mandalay. He has traveled to Italy, Greece, Barbados, Russia, Denmark and more countries than we have room to list.