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The Traveling Photographer in Oslo, Norway, Part 1: Logistics and Museums

(Editor’s note: The Photofocus’ column “The Traveling Photographer” is adding an author. Marie Tartar joins her friend Susan Kanfer in writing installments of the popular column.)

In September, I spent 3 days with my husband (Photofocus author Steve Eilenberg) and friends in Oslo, Norway’s capital and the gateway to Norway’s photographic and cultural riches.  We were en route to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle, an archipelago north of Norway. This being our first time in Norway, laying over a few days let us recover from the journey, as well as start to exercise our photographic eyes and reflexes. We found a lot to like there, easily filling the 3 days, and could have happily spent more time exploring the surrounding area. We found Oslo easy to get around, with nice options to help keep costs down in this pricey part of the world. In this article, we’ll look at logistics and some of the museums the traveling photographer may want to check out.

Examples of traditional Norwegian architecture, such as this wooden stave church from around 1200, have been transported from all over Norway to the open air Folk Art Museum in Oslo.

Getting into town and around

From Oslo’s international airport, the train is a well-priced and efficient ride into town.  It was an easy ½ hour ride to National Theater Station.  At about $23/person, this is a cost-effective alternative to a cab (about $125).  Of course, this depends on being able to manage your own luggage.  We managed with a large rolling Eagle Creek duffle bag and a camera backpack each, supplemented by a tote bag for me and a Think Tank drone backpack (carried as a second piece of hand luggage) for Steve.

The National Theater area is a nice, centrally located location with many hotels, shops, and restaurants, from which most of the major attractions for visitors are easily accessed.

A nice offering of which we made liberal use was the Oslo Pass, which can be bought in 1, 2 or 3-day denominations.  This is good for all public transportation, including ferry and tram rides, and admissions to almost every museum in town.  It can be obtained at most hotels, many museums, and tourist information centers.  (https://www.visitoslo.com/en/activities-and-attractions/oslo-pass/)

Museums and more

With our Oslo Passes in hand, our first stop was the waterfront near City Hall (pier 3) to catch a ferry to Bygdøy (the terminal is clearly labeled Bygdøy Museums). The ferry operates between March and October. It seemed appropriate to take a boat to this cluster of museums on a peninsula, as most of these attractions highlight famous maritime vessels and nautical history. Leaving every 20-30 minutes, there are 2 stops. We disembarked at Dronningen, taking in the Norwegian Folk Museum and the Viking Ship Museum, and returned via Bygdøynes, after checking out the Kon-Tiki and Fram Museums. It is an easy walk between the museums and ferry stops.

 

Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum houses unusually well-preserved examples of these vessels in a purpose built building.

Our first stop was the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Folk Museum), which is an open-air architecture museum.  Examples of traditional houses from all over Norway and a stave church dating to 1200 have been transported here.

 

Since the best jetlag antidotes are exercise and fresh air, this was a good first stop.  For my photographic kit for the day, I outfitted my Fujifilm X-T2 with my wide-angle zoom lens, the Fujifilm XF 10-24 mm f/4 R OIS lens. Tucked away in my tote bag was my Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens, lightweight, with a longer focal length and fast enough to shoot inside and weather resistant in case the weather turned on us.

 

This wide-angle lens was perfect for the large sea-going vessels at our next stops, the Viking Ship Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum. The world’s best-preserved Viking ships are beautifully displayed in an attractive, purpose-built space.

The Oseberg is an elaborately carved and decorated Viking burial ship for 2 high-ranking women. Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum also displays the artifacts recovered from the site at which the ship was discovered.

Kon-Tiki Museum

The Kon-Tiki Museum highlights the explorations and exploits of famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002).  The balsa wood raft Kon-Tiki, on which he crossed the Pacific Ocean in 1947, is displayed here and the Academy Award-winning documentary from 1951 is continuously screened. Visiting Easter Island years ago, we learned about Thor Heyerdahl’s theories on how the island came to be populated.  He propounded the theory that Easter Island was first settled by South American Indians, going against the prevailing (then and now) theory that the islands were first settled by sea-voyaging Polynesians.

It was to prove that people could have reached Easter Island from South America using current-borne rafts that led Heyerdahl to build the Kon-Tiki and make the journey.  He did prove it was possible for such a journey to be made, sailing his non-steerable balsawood raft, with a crew of 5, from Peru to Raroia atoll in Polynesia, after 101 days on the sea.

Kon-Tiki Museum: Another of the traditional vessel designs Thor Heyerdahl used to test the feasibility of his theories of human exploration; this is the Ra II, the second of 2 papyrus reed boats he had built to test if ancient Egyptians could have crossed the Atlantic to reach the Americas.  Launching in 1969 from Morocco, he and his crew sailed 4000 miles on the first Ra before taking on water and having to be rescued; a second version, Ra II, incorporated a previously-omitted element of Egyptian boat-building design and successfully reached Barbados in 1970.

We spent a delightful day exploring the museums on Bygdøy, and there are many others in the city worth seeking out as well, including the National Gallery, where Edvard Munch’s famous The Scream is housed.  In Part 2 of this Oslo report, we’ll highlight artistic and cultural offerings with a tremendous visual appeal for traveling photographers, so pack up your wide angle lenses and stay tuned!

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