Oslo, Norway, February 2009

View along Karl Johan's Gate Norwegian Parliament
(1) View along Karl Johan's Gate (2) Norwegian Parliament
View along Karl Johan's Gate Royal Palace
(3) View along Karl Johan's Gate (4) Royal Palace

Early in 2009, I spent five weeks working in Oslo, capital city of Norway. At this time of year Oslo is usually covered in a blanket of snow, the daylight hours are fairly short, and the weather is generally gloomy, although there was one day of bright sunshine.

In the city center, the main street is Karl Johan's Gate, which runs from the main railway station in the east to the royal palace in the west. The eastern half of Karl Johan's Gate runs uphill past offices, shops and pubs (picture 1). After cresting the hill, the western half runs past the Norwegian parliament (picture 2) and up towards the palace with a long, narrow park on the left and a long line of cafe's on the right (picture 3). The palace itself is situated in another park on top of a hill (picture 4).

Ice-skating in front of the parliament National Theatre
(5) Ice-skating in front of the parliament (6) National Theatre
Snow storm in the city centre Looking out from Oslo S
(7) Snow storm in the city centre (8) Looking out from Oslo S

In good weather, the park that runs between the parliament and the palace seemed to be a popular place. At one end of the park loud music emanated from an outdoor ice-skating (picture 5), while the National Theatre sits on one side of the park (picture 6) and the city's trams thundered along both sides of the park at regular intervals. There were also a large number of statues of Norway's historical figures scattered through the area.

In poorer weather, the park wasn't nearly so busy (picture 7) and most of the people who were about seemed to be heading for the warmth of the main railway station, known as Oslo S (picture 8), and its attached shopping centre.

Oslo Opera House Docks near the Opera House
(9) Oslo Opera House (10) Docks near the Opera House
View along the Oslofjord The Radhus
(11) View along the Oslofjord (12) The Radhus

A short walk to the southeast of Oslo S stands the new Oslo Opera House (picture 9). It's an impressive building, but no competition for the Sydney Opera House. The Opera House stands on the edge of a small harbour, where a lone ship was docked opposite (picture 10).

Further to the west, on the other side of an old defensive fortress, is a larger harbour, where there were good views south along the waters of the Oslofjord (picture 11). Beside this harbour stands the Radhus, Oslo's large town hall (picture 12), where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented each year.

The Fram Museum The Fram
(13) The Fram Museum (14) The Fram
The Fram The Fram
(15) The Fram (16) The Fram

Southwest of Oslo's centre, on a peninsula called Bygdoy, I visited a cluster of museums on one of the gloomier weekends. The first of these is the Fram Museum, a large A-frame building (picture 13) that houses the Fram, a wooden ship in which several Norwegian explorers made Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, including Amundsen's trip to the South Pole in 1911. When you first walk into the museum, the large bulk of the ship is above you (picture 14) and you have to climb up several viewing galleries to get a better view of the ship (picture 15). Eventually reaching the highest gallery you can get onto the deck of the ship (picture 16) and can even wander about below deck to see the cramped cabins where the crew lived for months at a time.

Maritime Museum Ra II, Kon-Tiki Museum
(17) Maritime Museum (18) Ra II, Kon-Tiki Museum
Viking Ship Museum Viking Ship Museum
(19) Viking Ship Museum (20) Viking Ship Museum

Next door to the Fram Museum, the Maritime Museum exhibits hundreds of model boats and ships, covering Norway's seafaring history from the Vikings to the present day (picture 17), while the nearby Kon-Tiki Museum tells the story of Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, who sailed the balsa wood raft Kon-Tiki from South America to Polynesia in 1947 and another raft, Ra II, made from papyrus reeds (picture 18) across the Atlantic ocean in 1970.

The fourth and most impressive of the museums is the Vikingskiphuset (Viking Ship Museum), which displays the remains of three 9th-century viking longships, two of them almost complete (pictures 19 and 20). These ships were used to bury important vikings and were preserved in clay burial mounds for around a thousand years before being excavated early in the 20th-century.

The Akerselva flows under an old mill 19th-century factory beside the Akerselva
(21) The Akerselva flows under an old mill (22) 19th-century factory beside the Akerselva

On another weekend, I took a walk along the Akerselva, a small river that flows from the north of Oslo towards the centre. In the 19th century, the river powered mills and various other industrial buildings (picture 21 and 22) and the river still flows beneath several of the old buildings.