Europe

EuroTrip 2007: Rome and Sorrento

I made it safely to Rome and braced myself to meet up with my mom and aunt. It’s hard for me to describe this experience without sounding like a total jerk, but if my relationship with my mother wasn’t the best under normal circumstances, it was only logical that it was going to be even worse in a stressful circumstance like foreign travel. My mother is not a good traveller – I think it makes her nervous, and being nervous makes her irritable, and even though I’d only been travelling myself for about a week at that point, I felt like quite a seasoned traveller compared to her, so my know-it-all attitude was bound to cause some friction. On top of this, I didn’t actually want to meet up with them at all – they booked a trip despite my objections and insisted I meet them, so I was angry at being told what to do on what was meant to be my backpacking holiday of a lifetime, and I didn’t make it any easier for myself by acting like a brat.

Needless to say, it wasn’t surprising that we got into an argument on our first evening in Rome. We’d just had dinner, which I had to pay for because they hadn’t yet figured out how to change over money, had a gelato (of course), and visited the Trevi Fountain, where some Italian guy started stroking my leg and going, “bella, bella,” in a really creepy manner, and were discussing the best way back to the hotel. Despite my general lack of directional skills, I was positive I knew how to get there in this case, but my mother kept telling me I was wrong, and insisted we go another way that was entirely uphill and took three times as long as the right way would have. When we finally got back and I unwisely (and let’s face it, probably gloatingly) pointed this out, she completely flipped out at me. I was not a happy camper.

The next day, we got up bright and early to head to the Vatican, where you can see me standing in front of a fountain with my aunt in the very crooked picture above. Having read about the dress code in great detail in my guidebook, I told my mother and aunt to make sure their shoulders and knees were covered, and did the same myself, even though I was sweltering in that half-cardigan. My aunt listened, my mother did not, and kept insisting that her mid-thigh length skirt was fine because she was wearing pantyhose underneath, and got angry at me when I tried to tell her it wasn’t. Well, guess what happened when we got up to the entrance of St. Peter’s, after waiting in a queue for about an hour? I got in, my aunt got in, and my mother…did not. Undaunted, she made repeated attempts to sneak past the Swiss Guard that I probably would have found hilarious if I’d been in a better mood, but eventually had to admit defeat and wait for us to come out. Did I ever get credit for being right? No, of course I did not. And since we’re clearly both stubborn people, you can probably see why we have difficulties!

Apart from this constant conflict, I actually quite enjoyed Rome. The food was fabulous, even eating in many Rick Steves-recommended places, and I liked all the ancient bits, which have proved much less exciting to me on subsequent visits. I should say that this trip was also the beginning of a terrible relationship between me and Rick Steves. My mother insisted on bringing one of his guidebooks and only staying in Rick Steves-recommended establishments, most of which were terrible and full of die-hard Rick Steves acolytes, or Steve-ites, as I began to call them, the sort of people with zip-off trousers and money belts, as recommended by Rick Steves. Fortunately, my mother, aunt, and I could all eventually agree on this matter after too many run-ins with horrible accommodation listed in his guidebooks, and at least we could bond over mocking the Steve-ites.

After this, we headed down to Sorrento via Naples, which was not a great journey. Naples was boiling hot and in the middle of a garbage strike, and the smell was horrific. We took a baking bus from the train station down to the docks to wait for a ferry, which couldn’t come fast enough. Whilst waiting, I had my first (and only) experience with Chinotto, which I selected because it was a flavour of Fanta I’d never had before. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the misfortune of trying this stuff, but if they made a soda out of Jagermeister and cough syrup and added more bitterness to it, Chinotto is what it would taste like. I don’t know how citrus can go so wrong, but I never want to taste it again! On arriving in Sorrento, we tried to stay in another Rick Steves special, but it was booked up, so we ended up in the most delightful B&B instead. Most importantly to me, it had a loft with an extra bed in it so I could have my own private sleeping area for once (since I was either staying in hostel dormitories or sharing a hotel room with my mom and aunt for the rest of the trip). The picture above of me in my loft is probably the happiest you’ll see me looking on this portion of the trip.

The next day, we headed to Pompeii on the Circumvesuviana (which I have been calling the Circumvenesuvia in my head for all these years until I Googled it for this post, since that’s how we were all referring to it), which was an experience in itself. I’ve never seen so many different beggars on one train. I was really excited about Pompeii on account of thinking I was going to get to see all these preserved bodies, but the experience definitely didn’t match the hype. It was one of the hottest places I’ve ever been in my life, and on looking back at the pictures, I don’t know how the hell I was able to wear jeans without melting. There’s no way you’d catch me dead in jeans these days in anything above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and even that’s pushing it!

Anyway, I was excited for bodies, but then I found out that they only have about three of them, all in glass cases in one area. The rest of Pompeii is basically just miles of buildings and roads that all look the same, with maybe an erotic mural every tenth house to break things up a bit, but mainly it was hot and horrible and boring, and quickly started to feel like a death march.

After seeing the above mural, which was the highlight, I couldn’t wait to leave, and we headed back to Sorrento where we had to move back to the Rick Steves special we’d tried to book the night before, since the nice B&B with the loft only had the room available for one night. It was better than a lot of other Rick Steves places, but nowhere near as nice as the first place, though it did overlook an orangery, and my aunt and mother wasted no time in making me stand on a chair to steal oranges off the tree overhanging our patio. I did at least find a crackin’ gelateria in town where I discovered the magic of wild strawberry gelato. Those tiny strawberries are just so damn delicious!

The next day was my aunt’s birthday, and even though she gets seasick, she wanted to go to Capri, which is of course an island only accessible by boat, so that’s what we did. Because of the seasickness thing, we weren’t allowed to visit the Blue Grotto, so we just spent the day climbing the giant hill that makes up the island and going in and out of churches. We did get to take a chairlift and a funicular at least (it was all of our first experience with a funicular, and we totally thought the name was Italian for something else, since we didn’t know what the thing was actually called. It is just a funicular though, and I have enjoyed them many times since!), and I got a lemon granita with fresh orange juice in it, which was pretty much the best thing ever in million degree temperatures.

The next day was my aunt’s last one in Italy before she flew back home and we spent it mainly in Sorrento. I was thrilled to get some time to myself in the morning when they went on a bus tour of the Amalfi Coast, so I wandered the town helping myself to free samples of limoncello (pretending I’d never had it before at each place) and buying an extra large gelato, and retreated back to the hotel to watch TV in peace. Since my aunt was leaving soon, I was on my best behaviour, and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner of zucchini and provolone pasta, which was apparently so good I specifically mentioned it in my journal (I was eating a lot of zucchini and eggplant, which is out of character for me, since I’m not a veg person, but Italians can cook both things well!), and more gelato. And then my aunt left in the morning, leaving just me and my mother together. As my aunt managed to act as a buffer between us, things were about to get even more fraught.

EuroTrip 2007: Venice

I caught the Eurostar to Paris with no problems, and after stashing my bag in a locker (I had bought a massive black backpack for the trip from the Army/Navy store in Twinsburg, Ohio, and it was almost as big as I was when extended to its full length!), headed out to enjoy a day in Paris as I had nothing more to do until my night train to Venice…or so I thought… Regular readers will know that I actively dislike Paris, but I didn’t have anything against the city at this point – in fact, I had a lovely day of wandering around and stuffing myself full of pain au chocolat, and I headed back to the train station with what I thought was over an hour to spare. This was to be my first experience with Interrailing and I had a lot to learn! I had my Eurail pass, so I assumed all I had to do was turn up and board the train. I didn’t realise that you had to reserve a spot on most services, particularly overnight ones, and an hour before the train departed was too late to do so. To add to this complication, I also didn’t realise I was at the wrong damn station until I noticed my train was nowhere to be found on the boards, so went to the ticket window to enquire, which took ages because everyone kept pushing in front of me until my mounting panic meant I started pushing and shoving right back, only to discover that I was at Gare du Nord and I needed to be at Gare de Lyon, all the way on the other side of Paris, as the ticket desk woman pointed out with a little too much obvious relish.

So I had to fight my way through rush hour traffic on the unnecessarily confusing Metro, and somehow made it there just in time to catch the train, though I still didn’t have a seat! In retrospect, I’m sure I could have just sat in a normal seat for a long uncomfortable night that would have at least gotten me where I wanted to go, but at the time, I thought I couldn’t board at all without a place in a couchette and since I didn’t have a room booked for the night anywhere, I was having visions of myself stuck on the streets of Paris all night (again, I’m quite sure I could have found a hostel room somewhere, but I was not at all a seasoned traveller at this point!). So I ran up to a guard and basically begged him in broken French to let me on the train – I think I was almost in tears. Fortunately, he took pity on me, and with the help of what I’m convinced was a 25 euro bribe (since I wasn’t issued with a ticket or receipt of any kind, he just pocketed the cash), he let me have an empty bunk in a couchette with what turned out to be a nice group of French teenagers who shared their champagne with me, which was very welcome as I needed a drink after that ordeal!

Having survived the first real trial of the trip (other than jet lag), I made it to Venice in one piece. However, I hadn’t booked a hostel, and Venice’s labyrinthine streets got the better of me as I spent a whopping three hours wandering with the aforementioned massive backpack in search of a room for the night. At the point of collapse, Domus Civica, one of the hostels recommended in my guidebook, appeared before me, which felt almost miraculous. This is perhaps a fitting description, because the place was a former convent that rented out rooms to travellers who didn’t mind the curfew and religious decor – I sort of did, but at least it was a clean and safe, albeit spartan place to spend the night, and I was not about to carry that backpack for a second longer. With that accomplished, it was time for gelato! I scoffed at paying 13 euros for a boat pass, so I found myself wandering again to the other side of the city for the famous gianduiotto de passeggio from La Gelati Nico – a block of ultra dense chocolate hazelnut gelato dropped into a cup of whipped cream. That was worth the walk!

Thus fortified, I did a bit of touristy stuff, then wandered into a mask shop, because as cheesy as it was, I really wanted a plague doctor mask for myself. And thus I unwittingly walked into my first experience with a creepy man on this trip (certainly not overall – I’ve already mentioned my former pervert boss). The mask maker took a keen interest in me as soon as I walked in, what with me being the only customer (and I guess young and therefore easy prey), and though I spoke no Italian and he very little English, we managed to communicate via our joint limited knowledge of French and a lot of pervy hand gestures on his part. Though my thigh tattoo was covered by a skirt, he somehow managed to catch a glimpse of the edge of it, and asked to see it. I obligingly (and foolishly) lifted up my skirt a bit, and he whipped out a camera and took a picture of my thigh, telling me he would make a mask of my tattoo! Then the following exchange happened:

Mask maker, making twisting gestures around his nipples, “Percé, percé, oui?”

Me, horrified, “Non!”

Him, “You come ma chambre dans moi, [gestures towards the plague mask I liked] for free, oui?”

Me, even more creeped out and edging desperately towards the door, “Non! Je n’aime pas ta chambre!”

Whilst this was happening, an old lady came in and started piling euro coin after euro coin on the counter, until it was overflowing. He looked at me and said, “for protection,” implying that he was in the Mafia. I was basically panicking at this point, but I grabbed a smaller, cheaper version of the plague doctor mask, and offered to pay for it in the hopes he would let me leave. Fortunately, some other customers came in just then, so I completed my transaction (and the mask was heavily discounted, presumably because I flashed him my thigh and let him photograph it. I shudder to think what he did with that photo), and I got the hell out of there immediately after and didn’t walk that way again for the rest of my stay. I’m still not sure why I actually bought something from him instead of just running out of the shop, but that mask still lives in my old room at my parents’ house as a memory of the unsettling experience I haven’t shared with many people until now.

After that, I was more than ready to hide myself away for the night, so I grabbed a couple of slices of pizza from an excellent by the slice place I found on my way back to the convent, and called it an early night. The next morning, I headed to the train station bright and early to catch a train to Rome, where I was reluctantly meeting my mother and aunt (I had learned my lesson from Paris, and reserved myself a seat immediately after arriving in Venice the day before). As I was sitting on the steps of the station eating a Nutella croissant (probably with chocolate smeared all over my face), an older man in his 60s or 70s approached me and said hi. He seemed harmless enough (in the eyes of young, guileless Midwestern Jessica who didn’t like being rude to strangers), so I returned his greeting. He was Canadian, and apparently living in Venice. However, a friendly chat soon turned into him asking me to stay with him for a while. “You and me could have some fun, girly,” he kept saying (even if he wasn’t old and gross, the “girly” would have been enough of a turn-off). Fortunately, I at least had the valid excuse this time of a train to catch, so I declined his offers of both a cappuccino and a sex romp, and went to wait on the platform instead. Having escaped the clutches of numerous horny old men in Venice, I boarded the train, where I was at least lucky enough to share a compartment with some nice Canadian girls my own age (no connection to the train station lech) who played cards with me and helped take my mind off the week ahead of me. Next time: exploring Italy with my mother and aunt. Was it as bad as I thought it would be?

 

Gothenburg: Museum of Gothenburg

As usual, I visited far too many places on this trip (and have been quite busy with work lately, not to mention moving house!) to have blogged about them all in a timely manner, and here I am writing about my visit to the Museum of Gothenburg two months after the fact (and the post probably won’t go up until three months after my visit), so forgive me if my recollections of the museum are a little hazy at this point. The weather was absolute shit on our last day in Gothenburg, as it had been for the other two days we were in Gothenburg as well (this made me take strongly against Gothenburg, even though it isn’t really Gothenburg’s fault, but our grim overpriced hotel didn’t help either. If it wasn’t for those free waffles, the whole thing would have been depressing), so we were looking for somewhere warm and dry to kill time until our flight that afternoon.

 

Fortunately, the Museum of Gothenburg was huge, and quite a steal (at Scandinavian standards) at only 60 SEK admission (around £6). I was also pleased that there were free lockers in which we could hang our dripping coats and umbrella, especially because our lousy hotel had no staff anywhere to be seen when we tried to check out, so we had to schlep our bags to the train station and pay for a locker there instead of leaving them at the hotel for free (it probably worked out better in the end that we didn’t have to go all the way back to the hotel, but still, crappy service), so I was all about free anything at that point. Like most of the museums we visited in Scandinavia, they were great about providing English translations for the permanent exhibitions, but not so much for the temporary stuff, which I guess is understandable. Why spend the money on translation if it’s only there for a few months? (And yes, the photo above is of our friend the Malm Whale, being moved to his current location.)

 

As is apparently obligatory anywhere Vikings lived, the museum started with a Gold Room containing both plunder and objects that were precious to people for more sentimental reasons, such as the collection of baby shoes donated by one family. This gallery encouraged you to download an app so you could listen to stories about the objects at each station, but there were also tablets mounted around the room where you could read English descriptions of the displays, so I just left it at that, and still had plenty to do.

 

This segued into “Urbanum”, which was meant to contain the stories of the people who make up the city, but as I said earlier, almost nothing here was in English, so we just looked at the pictures, and took the opportunity to write a postcard about our time in the city which I think pretty accurately sums up our experience.

 

Now, the museum is big, and the layout is pretty confusing. There were a lot of stairs all over the building that led to different areas, and some galleries were only accessible by one particular set of stairs, so we probably did a lot of unnecessary walking up and down, which makes Jessica cranky. Due to this confusing layout, we ended up starting in the permanent historical galleries in the 1600s, which I guess doesn’t really matter in the end, but I would have found it much more satisfying to do them in order. Nonetheless, the 1600s was pretty fun (apparently because they’re targeting it at 13-15 year olds) with a few interactive bits, such as a wheel you could spin to find your 17th century destiny. I was an officer (win!), so I got to enter through the high class door that led to galleries about amusements like the theatre, rather than the pleb entrance that led to stuff about workhouses and prison (though I obviously looked at both galleries eventually anyway).

 

The museum also had very comprehensive and interactive galleries about Gothenburg in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in what is probably a nice change of pace, you can watch me reacting to a gross poop, rather than pretending to poop myself (has anyone watched that Louis Theroux special about mothers on the edge where he goes to one of their houses and has to admire the kid’s turdage? (Less weird than it sounds when you actually watch it.) “That IS a big poo!” That was totally my Louis Theroux moment).

 

I have little to no enthusiasm for the Vikings, but when in Sweden… Of course the museum had a Viking gallery, and guess what? Another bloody preserved Viking ship! At least it was only the one, and the rest of the gallery was fairly interesting, with information about Viking gods, wisdom, and practices. Also there was a fun tree staircase you could climb up to get to the second level (or maybe you were meant to descend to go to the first? Pretty sure we went in backwards here too). There was also a prehistory gallery, but I am even less interested in that than the Vikings, so I walked through there pretty damn fast.

And got to the part I was excited about – the fashion gallery! Yay for old clothes! Honestly, this was probably the best gallery in the museum. There was a lot of text about the people who wore the clothes, how styles evolved, and even the factory system that made some of the clothing. And of course they had bits you could try on: hats, ties, and even high heels! Since I had bare feet, I did skip the shoes. Not worth risking a wart for. The clothes currently on display are from the 1880s-1930s, so even though it left out some of my favourite mid-century fashions, it was still a good clothes era. Lots of fab old-timey bathing suits!

 

The other gallery I was most keen to see, which I don’t even see listed on their website, was the one full of miniature dioramas! Because the children’s gallery was closed at the time of our visit, which I suspect you would normally be able to cut through from the fashion gallery, we had to go all the way back downstairs, through the museum, and up another set of staircases, then through the School Wall Charts gallery, before finally finding the miniatures. I think they were probably aimed more at children, given their proximity to the children’s gallery, but they are still totally charming for adults, and you were encouraged to find certain objects in each one. There were a lot of adorably derpy miniature dogs.

 

We did look at the school wall charts as well – apparently they’re a thing hipsters like to decorate their houses with in Sweden, and I can see why, though I’ll pass on all the arthropody ones (sadly, none were for sale in the gift shop, presumably because you have to track down the originals from some vintage shop at much time and expense, in true hipster fashion (I’m sort of a hipster, so it’s probably fine if I mock them)). I also encountered one of the most comfortable chairs I have ever had the pleasure of sitting in, and much appreciated after walking up and down all those stairs. I sort of assumed, being in Sweden, that it might come from IKEA, but sadly I haven’t been able to find anything like it (though I did get a less comfortable wing chair and footstool for my new house). It’s probably vintage, just like the posters.

 

On the whole, this was quite an enjoyable visit, and probably the best thing we did in Gothenburg (other than the free waffles and seeing the Malm Whale). I think the price is more than reasonable considering all you get, and I’m pretty sure I learned a lot about the city, though I can’t remember exactly what two months out from the visit (I know, I know, I should be faster at writing things up). I suspect the layout is slightly less confusing when all the galleries are actually open, but I think better signage would have been appreciated in the meantime. Other than that, no major complaints! 3.5/5.

Gothenburg, Sweden: The Volvo Museum

And so we come to the Volvo Museum. “Not just for petrolheads,” they said. “Something for everyone,” they said. They lied.

 

I could already tell it was going to be an ordeal from the journey there. We had to take a tram from central Gothenburg practically to the end of the line, get off, and wait for half an hour at a horrible bus station for the bus out to the museum (I have never seen so many cigarette butts in my life, and there was a girl with a litter picker ostensibly working there, but she completely ignored every single one of the cigarette butts. I really didn’t understand). The only redeeming feature of the bus station was that it had a 7/11, which in Scandinavia function as purveyors of surprisingly tasty cinnamon rolls and all manner of Daim. I’ve yet to meet a Daim bar I didn’t like, and even the fairly gross sounding lemon variety was surprisingly delicious (the best are the Daim/cornflake clusters though. Highly recommended!). After finally boarding the bus, we were taken on a marvellous journey through a vast industrial wasteland (I swear it was full of fish processing plants. At least that’s what it smelled like) for another half an hour or so before at last reaching the museum, which is located inside a giant glass building that is Volvo headquarters. It is on the seafront, which is much less glamorous than it sounds, because the Gothenburg seafront just means being pelted with wind and rain whilst you run to shelter. Oh, and if you visit on a weekend, you have to book the bus in advance, which is why we were sure to visit on a weekday.

 

Admission to the museum is 100 SEK (about £8.50), and if you’re really keen, you can buy an annual pass for 250 SEK (I can’t imagine who would possibly want this. Even petrolheads would probably be satisfied after one visit). By this point, I’m sure you are asking yourself why I chose to visit this museum at all. Well, I sort of felt that I had to. It doesn’t get more Swedish than a Volvo Museum, the place was listed on Atlas Obscura, and really, when am I going to be in Gothenburg again (based on my experience, probably never)? Also Marcus wanted to see it, so there we were.

 

I will at least say this for them: they give you a lot for your money. I swear a model of every Volvo ever made was in here, and there definitely seemed like some duplicates. Unfortunately, as someone who has virtually no interest in Volvos (or any car, for that matter), this was way too many cars. I could appreciate the aesthetic qualities of some of the earlier models, but by the time we got to the ’60s (the cars are grouped roughly by decade), I was perfectly happy to give up. The most interesting parts for me were the signs talking about what each decade meant for Sweden, and the videos of old Volvo commercials, which were at least entertainingly dated (there was about a ten minute long one about some guy wooing a beautiful woman with an ugly-ass car. It was so long I missed the end, but I’m sure they probably got married because of the power of the Volvo).

 

One highlight, if you can call it that, was the car owned by Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, and driven until his death in 2018. You can see my expression of awe above. I would have so much rather just gone to an IKEA Museum, but apparently that’s in Almhult, which appears to be sort of in the middle of nowhere, so it was Volvo we were stuck with. I also, to give credit where credit’s due, liked the moustachioed mannequins, and the stuffed German Shepherds and black labs posing as police dogs in the back of the Volvo-made police cars.

 

Unfortunately, and contrary to what the brochure seemed to promise, this museum contained virtually nothing interactive – just room after room after room full of cars, but that didn’t stop parents from bringing their equally as bored as me looking children there. Unless you have the sort of child that REALLY loves cars, Volvos in particular (my brother was one of those weirdos, though I don’t think he particularly likes Volvos), I would strongly advise against this. I suppose there was a bell they could ring (super annoying) and a fire truck and bus they could climb in, but that was basically it.

 

The museum building does contain a shop (for all your Volvo-branded needs), and a small café, so I guess at least you won’t starve if you’re stuck here whilst waiting for a bus, because yep, they only come every half an hour. I made sure to time the end of our visit with the next scheduled bus, because it was seriously ridiculously cold and windy outside, and I did not want to have to sit in that sad little bus stop for any longer than necessary.

 

However, we had a little time to kill after finishing the museum, and since I didn’t want to go outside until we had to, we walked around the free introductory gallery, which seemed like a sort of afterthought, as it was filled with seating for events and kind of off to the side. I’m glad we did, because the best thing in the whole damn museum was here, better even than Ingvar Kamprad’s car: Roger Moore’s personal Volvo, which was used in The Saint. Because I have read Roger Moore’s autobiography (yes, I’m weird. I also have one of the sewing pattern catalogues where he modelled sweaters when just starting out), I knew that he deliberately purchased the same car himself as used in The Saint, both because he got a discount, and because he thought they could use it for shots where they needed an additional car. They did have a model of this same car in the museum, with a little metal version of The Saint logo, but this was his actual car! So definitely don’t miss this bit!

 

The bus didn’t come exactly on time, so we still did have some time sitting in the wind tunnel bus shelter, and then of course the scenic trip back to Gothenburg (not that our hotel was any better. Seriously the smallest hotel room I have ever stayed in. Literally only one of us could stand up at a time, and the other one would have to sit on the bed. The only good thing about it was that they had free make-your-own waffles for fika in the afternoons. I can forgive a lot for the sake of waffles). I suppose they did technically have something I was interested in, namely, Roger Moore’s car, but was it worth the trip out there, and the hour or two spent slogging around the rest of the museum? No. So I’m giving it 2/5, and warning you that if you’re not a “gearhead” “petrolhead” or “dieselhead” (all of which they used in their advertising, in the context of it not just being for those people), you will probably be much happier having skipped it and stayed in Gothenburg eating waffles instead (and I’m not even a big fan of Gothenburg, in case you didn’t get that impression already).

Apparently this is the hilariously named Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larson discussing Volvo. Woot.

 

Oslo and Gothenburg: A Tale of Two Natural History Museums

I’ve been to a lot of natural history museums over the years, which is odd, because they’re not necessarily the museums I gravitate to – if I have limited time in a city, I would much rather visit somewhere unique or quirky than go to the type of museum you could see anywhere. But sometimes I just end up there anyway, maybe because they have some type of rare dinosaur bones Marcus wants to see, or a really unusual (usually derpy) piece of taxidermy I can’t miss. This is basically what happened in both Oslo and Gothenburg. I’ll start with Oslo, even though it is the less interesting of the two.

Oslo’s Natural History Museum didn’t look all that enticing, but it was only a short walk away from the Munch Museum through a rather lovely botanical garden, we got in for free anyway with the Oslo Pass (otherwise 120 kr. Yikes, don’t pay that!), and they had a T-Rex (named Stan) that Marcus was keen to see. One of the museum buildings (the geology one) appears to be closed for construction, but we only really cared about the animal building anyway. Stan is in the first gallery when you walk in, just past a staircase lined with one of the most disgusting giant crabs I’ve ever seen (I’ll spare you a photo, but its legs were legit six feet long).

 

The rest of the museum was fairly standard natural history fare, but someone really went to a lot of effort with the tableaux, right down to carefully painting in white bird shit on all the rocks in the scenes featuring birds. There were also buttons you could press throughout to hear the calls of the birds on display, and in general this section felt quite modern compared to what you normally get in a natural history museum, marred only by all the bratty bratty children running amok and fighting each other right in the middle of the museum. I get that Scandinavians are laid-back parents, but c’mon, at least teach your children how to behave in a damn museum. This wasn’t even in a special kids’ section, it was the main gallery, with glass all around. If you’re just visiting Oslo, this museum is not worth a special trip unless you REALLY like natural history, and even then, definitely don’t go if you have to pay full price. 2.5/5.

 

So we’ll leave the Oslo Natural History Museum, and head to Gothenburg’s Naturhistoriska, which is pretty much the archetype of the old fashioned museum. Gothenburg was about fifteen degrees colder than Oslo, rainy, and unbelievably windy, so getting to Naturhistoriska was already a much less pleasant experience than getting to the museum in Oslo, plus we had to walk up a big-ass hill to actually reach the museum. However, I was the one that wanted to go see it, for a very special piece of taxidermy that I’ll get to in a minute, so I sucked it up. At least Gothenburg’s natural history museum is free, albeit with an air of must and neglect.

 

Nothing in here was in English, but I don’t think that really matters when you’re just looking at dead animals. And wow, what a lot of dead animals! I like taxidermy a lot more than most people (and definitely way more than most vegetarians do), but the sheer volume in here made even me feel slightly ill, especially when we got to the bird section, where there must have been thousands of dead birds. I mean, this stuff was clearly Victorian (or even older, since it was established in 1833), as you can probably tell from the absolutely terrible (delightful) quality of much of the taxidermy, but a hell of a lot of animals had to die to make it. Also, the cases don’t look like they’ve been updated since 1833, though they clearly must have been since the museum has only been in its present location since 1923.

 

And now we come to the whole reason I had to see this museum – the blue whale, or Malm Whale, to give it its proper name. This is clearly the star attraction, as there are signs pointing to it throughout the museum, and it has its own hall (the Whale Hall). The juvenile whale was beached outside Gothenburg in 1865, and some fisherman basically tortured the poor thing for two days until it finally died. The carcass was sold to August Malm, the curator at the museum, who decided to preserve it and display it. He even tried to take it on tour, but that was less successful, and it ended up back in the museum. It is the only preserved blue whale in the world (thankfully), and if that isn’t interesting enough, it was built with a seating area inside, which was originally just generally open to the public until a couple was caught having sex inside in the 1930s. It still apparently opens on special occasions such as Walpurgis Night or Christmas, when Santa sits inside, which really must be something to see. I felt awful for this poor whale, but I can’t deny that it is probably the coolest piece of taxidermy I’ve ever seen – the skin is held together with rivets for god’s sake – and as grisly as it is, I would jump at the chance to go inside.

 

As you might expect, Malm Whale was definitely the highlight, but there were a hell of a lot more dead animals to get through, of varying degrees of quality. I did enjoy the Nessie equivalent of Gothenburg, especially as I assume nothing had to die to create her. I had to skip the rather extensive arthropod section (I literally had to shield my eyes when I walked through. Coincidentally, I had just had a nightmare about giant lobsters the night before, and they actually had one in this museum. My crustacean phobia is no joke), and mammals and birds were both far too extensive, though there were certainly plenty of characterful specimens (how sassy is that monkey? Love him!).

      

This museum is definitely not for the faint-hearted (I feel like I say that a lot), but the Malm Whale manages to be both depressing and awesome, and for me made it worth the trip (I still 100% want to go inside if I get the chance). It is free, so this one is worth checking out I think, if, of course, you can take the sight of thousands of dead animals, many of them now endangered. I really would be hard-pressed to name a more old school museum than this, right down to the smells, and I definitely think there’s something to be said for the experience of walking through something this Victorian-feeling (though Victorians would definitely not have put up with the children turning cartwheels(!) through the museum, inches from a glass case. I mean, really?!) – until it got to the point of dead animal overload, I was really enjoying myself. 3.5/5.

Oslo: The Munch Museum (Munchmuseet)

After my positive experience at the British Museum’s Munch exhibition, where I realised that, yes, I am a fan of Munch, I was very keen to see the Munch Museum in Oslo. Unfortunately, the Munch Museum is currently in the process of moving to a new location, so only a small portion of the collection is open to the public. As you may have seen from previous posts, this seemed to be the case with a lot of the museums in Oslo, which are being moved/combined/etc, to create what looks like will be a more centralised museum district, so it was probably poor planning on our part, but to be honest, there were so many museums to see that it didn’t have a major impact on our trip, except in the case of the Munch Museum (and the Ibsen Museum, which was totally closed).

Even though the museum is currently only hosting one temporary exhibition called EXIT! (which runs until 8th September), with none of the permanent galleries open, it still costs 120 kr to get in (£12), though it was fortunately included with the Oslo Pass. I’m not going to lie, I was EXTREMELY annoyed by their airport style security, especially given how little was actually in the museum. As I learned at the exhibition, they have had problems with theft in the past, so I certainly understand not letting in large bags, but you basically couldn’t bring in anything of any significant size (only bags smaller than a sheet of A4). My purse was quite small (for me, since I tend to have big-ass purses), so I thought I was ok, and waited in the lengthy queue for security only to realise when I got to the front that you couldn’t bring in umbrellas or water either, both of which I had in my bag, so I had to get out of line, go downstairs to put my bag in the lockers, come back up, and wait in line all over again. So annoying, especially because the woman at the admissions desk told Marcus he would have to put his backpack in a locker, but didn’t mention anything about the other prohibited items. I thought the British Museum’s security was strict, but they don’t really care what you bring in as long as it’s not a suitcase or a weapon. This was just excessive – what do they think I’m going to do with my tiny travel umbrella?

 

Anyway, once we were finally granted access to the inner sanctum and started reading all the articles in the exhibition, the high security did make a little more sense, but it seems like they were trying to make up for their earlier laxity by being overzealous now. They’ve had a few paintings stolen over the years, including their copy of The Scream, which was eventually recovered, but not before it suffered water damage. The building originally had I guess sort of slatted walls, so anyone could just reach under and grab something. They tried to combat that by getting a guard dog, as seen above, but he bit a visitor who wasn’t trying to steal anything so that put an end to that, and I suppose they eventually settled on the current system, laborious though it is. Also they have a lot of guards in the gallery who keep an uncomfortably close eye on visitors.

 

We got stuck behind a large tour group, and obviously they all wanted a picture with The Scream, which was in the second room of the exhibition, so whilst we were waiting for our turn, we wandered around and looked at some of Munch’s other paintings. There was a lot of information about how the museum was started, but not so much about Munch himself, so it was good I got the background from the British Museum exhibition. The paintings also didn’t have a whole lot of information about them, just a small label to the side of each one, though everything was in English. I didn’t like how one whole wall of the gallery was taken up with souvenirs they sell in the shop – if you have a massive collection, why are you charging me £12 to look at souvenirs?!

 

We finally got our obligatory Scream photo (as you can see at the start), and wandered off into the final large gallery, which contained guidebooks from all of the museum’s exhibitions over the years. These would have probably been interesting if we could have looked through them, but the covers didn’t particularly do anything for me (accidental Scream pose below, but really that’s just one of my standard museuming poses).

 

There was a small room in the back that contained some of Munch’s woodblock prints (so great), and another room with a few of his murals in, and those were cool, but that was it (I even went looking for more, but aside from a film room downstairs, that really was it). The shop and cafe area was nearly the size of the exhibition, so it’s clear where their priorities currently lie!

 

Even though there were a few great pieces on display here, if this was my introduction to Munch outside The Scream, I don’t think this would have won me over the way the British Museum’s exhibition did. I get that they can’t have a full display whilst they’re in the process of moving, and I am glad I got to see something, but I don’t think they should be charging 120 kr for this, and I think they should make it clearer before you pay admission that this is all you get to see, because the main page of their website certainly didn’t make me realise that this was all that was on display. I’m still totally a Munch fan, but I am not a fan of this museum in its current state (and I know I keep saying that, but seriously why would all your major museums be under construction at the same time?! Get it together, Oslo). 2/5.

 

Oslo: Nobel Peace Center

 

After my fairly terrible experience with the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo wasn’t exactly high on my list. But it was right by the port where we kept walking in the evenings to get soft eis (also where they’re building a new museum complex, as you can probably see from the construction all around), it was open until 6, and we got in for free with our Oslo Pass (120 kr otherwise), so I just went with it.

 

As far as I can tell, the Peace Center seems to be home to a number of temporary exhibitions. The one in the ground floor at the time of our visit was “Klimalab,” which runs until January 2020, and is all about climate change. As you can probably see, it looked quite engaging and interactive, at least compared to the things at the Nobel Museum, and my hopes were high.

 

Even though some of the activities were definitely more orientated towards children (as was the content of the exhibit as a whole), I did enjoy walking through the giant bower bird nest pretending to be a bower bird (I do like blue things. Woo me with all the blue things. Also waffles), tasting the microgreens (spicy), and taking a pledge from the wall to reduce my food waste (there were also pledges to reduce emissions, among other things, but I probably already blew that by flying to Norway (also probably TMI, but my personal emissions are pretty high. I’m a gassy lady. I can’t help it.)). I can’t say it offered me any new insight into climate change, but it was fun.

  

The exhibition upstairs was much more serious in nature, and was called “The Body as a Battlefield”. It runs until November and is based on the work of Nobel Peace Laureates Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, who both work to combat sexual violence (Murad is herself a survivor of sexual violence, after being kidnapped by ISIS). Even though you were allowed to take pictures here, I didn’t feel it was quite appropriate, for obvious reasons. This was a very difficult exhibition to look at, but certainly an important one, though I’m sure it would be triggering for some people. In addition to talking about the work of Mukwege (who is a Congolese surgeon who reconstructs the bodies of women who have suffered horrific sexual abuse) and Murad, it also had stories from people who have been subjected to all kinds of sexual atrocities, which is why it was such hard reading at times. It was definitely worth seeing, horrible as it is to think that this sort of thing still happens every day all over the world.

 

After that intense exhibition, we somewhat gratefully headed into the permanent gallery featuring every Nobel Peace Prize winner since the prize was first awarded in 1901. The camera doesn’t quite capture it, but it was a very cool looking room, with loads of small lights and a tablet for each winner that you could scroll through to learn more about them. There were plenty of people I’d never heard of, but also famous names, like a few US presidents (though thankfully, still no Trump).

 

The final gallery contained a cute video explaining how the Nobel Peace Prize works. I’d never understood why the Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, but all the others are in Stockholm. Apparently this is simply because Alfred Nobel specified this in his will. All the other prizes are awarded by Swedish institutions, but Nobel specifically wanted the Peace Prize to be awarded by the Norwegian national assembly – no one really knows why, as Norway and Sweden shared a government at the time of his death, but it may have been because Norway had a reputation as a more peaceful country, and an arbiter of disputes. Also, the medal itself was designed by Gustav Vigeland, who you may remember from the Vigeland Sculpture Park, so it may well be the coolest looking medal of the Nobel Prizes (if the baby fighter sculpture is anything to go by). Apparently there is also going to be an interactive storybook about Nobel in the museum at some point, but it wasn’t working yet at the time of our visit.

  

Whilst this wasn’t amazing or anything, and I definitely would have been annoyed if I’d paid 120 kr to get in, it was undoubtedly better than the one in Stockholm. At least the exhibitions were about important issues, and there were interactive parts that held my interest better than anything in Stockholm’s equivalent. It also helped that it was about 100x less crowded, probably because you had to pay to get in (you normally have to pay for the one in Stockholm too, but we went on an evening when it was free). And the shop had a lot of fair tradey stuff in it, if that’s your bag (and Nobel-themed t-shirts too, though my interest in those is limited). Not worth 120 kr, but if you’ve got an Oslo Pass anyway, it’s worth dropping in to see some of the temporary exhibitions, particularly the one on sexual violence. 2.5/5.

 

 

Oslo: Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Museum of Oslo

Located inside Oslo’s Frogner Park, Vigeland Sculpture Park contains over 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, ranging from the mundane (father and child playing) to the truly bizarre (man fending off attacking babies, my personal favourite piece, as seen above). It is free to visit, and is located a short tram ride away from the centre of Oslo. It is also apparently open 24/7, but I dunno if I’d want to go there at night. Some of those babies were creepy enough in broad daylight.

 

There is actually a Vigeland Museum near the sculpture park where you can learn more about Vigeland’s life, and though I was certainly intrigued after seeing the sculptures, we ultimately decided to give it a miss in favour of some other museums. There isn’t really any information about the sculptures within the park itself, but after doing virtually no research about Vigeland and his life, I think I can still reasonably conclude just from looking at the sculpture park that he was fascinated by the human form, particularly the male human form. There are a lot of penises (penii?) on show.

 

I guess there isn’t really much to do here other than walk around and look at all the sculptures, but because they are so hella weird, it is well worth the effort. It is apparently Oslo’s top tourist attraction, and it was fairly busy even in the morning, so it might be wise to get here early if you want to be able to take photos without having to dodge all the people trying to imitate the people in the sculptures (which they do admittedly invite, as you can see I’m guilty of doing it too). 4/5.

Because there isn’t a lot to really say about the sculptures without learning more about Vigeland himself (I’ve got a lot of Oslo posts to churn out, so that’s not going to happen right now), other than that they are pleasingly odd (I do hope the woman above is hugging a pangolin rather than some sort of crustacean, but it was hard to tell. I would happily hug a pangolin, but would run screaming in extreme terror from any kind of giant crustacean. I have nightmares about that sort of thing), I am going to talk about the Museum of Oslo as well, as it is also located in Frogner Park (it’s a big park).

 

Admission to the Museum of Oslo is 90 kr (£9), but it was included in the Oslo Pass. I don’t think I would have paid to see it otherwise, since it was fairly small compared to other city museums I’ve been to, but we were pretty much the only visitors, which was nice after the noise of the park (the cafe was fairly busy though, probably because it was such an attractive building).

Almost everything in the ground floor level of the museum was translated into English, but almost nothing upstairs was – it’s like the translator ran out of steam halfway through. My favourite part of the museum was downstairs anyway, and was the display on Oslo in the 1970s. Why the 1970s? I don’t know, but it had that great toilet poster shown above (sadly not available in the gift shop), and a selection of wigs for dressing up (clothing too, but that was all child sized). They were also playing disco music, so you could boogie down in front of the projector screen with the other dancers (I forced Marcus to do the hustle with me against his will, but I don’t really know how to do the hustle, so we basically just bumped butts).

 

The rest of the downstairs section of the museum contained the history of Oslo (or Christiania as it was called until 1925) from roughly the Viking age to the early 20th century, with a skeleton and a few mildly interactive bits, including a hopscotch grid drawn out on the floor. The upstairs part looked a bit more fun, but unfortunately almost nothing here was in English. As far as I can tell, this contained the history of Oslo (properly Oslo) from the 20th century onward, with information about each of its districts, and quotes from people who lived in each one.

The upstairs also had a whole room full of creepy puppets that I think were from some children’s TV show, and you know I love a creepy puppet. I wish I could have actually learned something about them, but this section was only in Norwegian.

The final gallery of the museum contained a few mock-ups of kitchens through the ages, and then a temporary exhibition on pets, which again, had nothing in English, though I did enjoy the comfy stools scattered throughout, coated in very soft faux (I hope) fur. Overall, the museum was pleasant enough, and I enjoyed trying on the wigs (my head did itch afterwards, but no sign of lice yet, so I think it’s fine), but the lack of English in some of the galleries meant I didn’t get as much out of it as I perhaps could have. I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way for this one – I suspect the Vigeland Museum might be the better bet if you’re in the Sculpture Park anyway, but as I haven’t been, I can’t say for sure. 2.5/5.

Oslo: The Viking Ship Museum and the Historical Museum

The other museum on Museum Peninsula (properly called Bygdøy) that was keeping me from my much-needed dinner was the Viking Ship Museum (actually, there are even more museums on the peninsula, including the Maritime Museum, but three ship museums was probably enough for one day). To be honest, I wasn’t that bothered about seeing the Viking Ship Museum, having already seen Vikingeskibsmuseet in Roskilde, and not being super interested in the Vikings at the best of times, and certainly not when I was tired, hangry, and pissed off about missing lefse, but Marcus wanted to see it, and I thought we might as well go when we were already on Museum Peninsula rather than having to make a special trip back.

 

Admission to the museum is 100 kr (or free with the Oslo Pass), and includes a ticket to the Historical Museum that is valid for 48 hours (confusingly, both the Viking Ship Museum and the Historical Museum are run by the Cultural History Museum, which is apparently not the same thing as the Norwegian Cultural History Museum, aka the Folkemuseum). Like almost every museum in Oslo, the Viking Ship Museum will eventually be moving to a new site, but that isn’t happening until 2025, and the museum is still fully open at its current site. It looks like the new museum will try to give a comprehensive history of the Viking Age, whilst the current museum is pretty much just about the ships. And despite the singular in the name, it is ships plural – three of them.

 

I was so past being done at this point that I basically walked around all the ships, and then sat down whilst Marcus took photos (as seen above). Other than the ships, the museum had some Viking artefacts in it, and it looked nicely laid out and labelled in English, albeit not terribly interactive. Although the ships here are in a much better state of preservation than the ones in Roskilde, Roskilde’s Vikingeskibsmuseet was definitely more fun, what with the dressing up and ship rides on offer. Since I only gave Roskilde 2.5/5, the Viking Ship Museum will have to be 2/5.

  

We also went (on a different day, thankfully!) to the Historical Museum, which is (you guessed it!) currently undergoing renovations (as you might be able to tell from the false façade stuck on the front), so only a small portion is currently open to the public. This included a temporary exhibition called “Collapse: Human Beings in an Unpredictable World,” a gallery on the Sami, and another on the Vikings, called VIKINGR.  From its name, I assumed “Collapse” would be mainly about climate change and ecological collapse, and there was some of that, but it seemed more like a general ethnographic exhibit, with a lot of artefacts from Oceania.

 

The Sami gallery was interesting, but fairly similar to what we’d seen at the Folkemuseum. At least everything here had an English translation, unlike the other ethnographic gallery about the native peoples of the Americas. However, I could see this sort of thing any time at the British Museum, so I wasn’t all that put out by not being able to read it.

 

Finally, there was VIKINGR, which was clearly redone relatively recently, and had a rather spartan feel, with loads of plain glass cases stuck in the middle of a somewhat bare room. The Cultural History Museum is known for having the only intact Viking helmet in the world, as seen above, which I guess is cool, but it’s just a helmet much like other helmets I’ve seen. The rest of the exhibition mainly consisted of swords and jewellery, with a skull or two thrown in. Eventually, this collection will be moved over to the new Viking Age Museum along with the Viking ships, which is perhaps why they didn’t appear to have spent much money doing up the space it’s in now.

 

In conjunction with VIKINGR, there was a small display of contemporary art inspired by the Vikings, primarily using the theme of migration (not so much the raping and pillaging). This was probably the most enjoyable part of the museum for me – I really liked all those silhouetted heads (sil-you-ette, as Bert the chimney sweep would say), which you were encouraged to move back and forth by their wooden dowels. There was also a collage, and the mysterious upside-down “Visas and Green Cards” neon sign (there was definitely more of an explanation on the label, but I can’t remember what it was).

 

I would not have paid to see this museum in its current, much downgraded state (the building is clearly huge and gorgeous, but only a fraction of it is currently being utilised due to the renovations), but it was free with the Oslo Pass and included with the Viking Ship Museum ticket, and it helped us to escape a torrential downpour (and had lockers to put our bags in, since we were headed to the bus station immediately after. Yes, bus. The train lines to Gothenburg were all down, so we had the fun of a four hour bus ride there instead. Not ideal for someone who gets motion sickness as badly as I do, since all I could do was stare out the window trying not to puke. In retrospect, we probably should have researched this trip better). 1.5/5 in its current state. By the way, please don’t think this is the end of Oslo – I’m skipping around a bit because both these museums had a Viking theme, so it made sense to combine them – there’s still lots more to come!

Oslo: Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)

I was already kind of museumed out for the day after leaving the Kon-Tiki Museum, even though I enjoyed that and the Fram Museum (especially the Fram Museum), so too bad for me there was more on Museum Peninsula (properly called Bygdøy) to see that we wouldn’t have time for any other day (well, we probably could have squeezed it in, I just couldn’t be bothered to go back to Bygdøy). One of these things was Norsk Folkemuseum, an open air museum. You could definitely walk from the maritime museum area to this part of the peninsula (and they both have their own ports, if you take the boat over from the centre of town), but at this point in the day, the bus felt like the only sensible option. Of course, the bus took us promptly to a bus depot where we had to change buses and head back in the other direction, but it was still better than walking.

  

The Folkemuseum costs 160 kr (about £16), but like everything else in Oslo, is free with the Oslo Pass. A word of warning: if you think you might like to partake of any of the food for sale inside, either bring cash or buy tickets in the shop when you arrive. One of the reasons I wanted to go here is because they make lefse (pancakes made with a potato dough) in the traditional manner, over an open fire, and I very much wanted to eat some (lefse are super hard to find anywhere else in Oslo, because I suspect they’re the kind of thing people just make at home. I had one when visiting the Norway section of EPCOT as a kid, and it has always stuck with me. (The Norway village in general was the best part of the little international zone. I loved that ride with the trolls, which I suspect they’ve gotten rid of at some point in the last 20+ years.) I’ve made them myself a couple times, and they’re pretty good, but I wanted to try an authentic Norwegian one whilst I was here). Unfortunately for me, we realised when we got inside that they only took cash payments or tickets, and since Norway is pretty much a cashless society everywhere else, we had never bothered to withdraw any and hadn’t seen any signs about the lefse when we came in. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have gone back to the shop and bought a ticket, but it was really far away, and I was exhausted, so I didn’t get the lefse (which looked delicious). Don’t be like me, is what I’m saying.

 

(I told you there’d be more photos of me pretending to poop. Bonus of Marcus pretending to poop as well.) Other than the fact that Skansen did accept card payments for food (and had ice cream stands out front), the Folkemuseum felt very much like Skansen, Stockholm’s open air museum (Skansen is the world’s first open air museum, so I suppose everything else is an imitation). It was big, full of traditional Scandi buildings, many of which weren’t actually open to the public (you could look, you just couldn’t go inside), including a Sami village, and had a museum inside in addition to the open air stuff. However, unlike Skansen, it had very few animals (or at least, very few animals that we could find. We could definitely smell animal poop, but we only found some rabbits and chickens. Not really on the same level as moose and bears), and limited food options inside the park (actually none whatsoever unless you had cash or pre-paid tickets, which made for a very cranky Jessica, as you can probably tell from my face in front of the stave church at the start of the post).

 

Even though I was rapidly losing the will to live at this point in the day, we headed straight for the museum in the main square. This was a big museum. I totally skipped the section on religious art (even though I quite like Scandinavian religious art, because it is dark and creepy and has lots of demons in it) which still left folk costumes, traditional art, and weaponry. Only some of the labels had been translated into English, so it wasn’t too much to read, but even this was more than I was willing to skim over at this point, so I basically just walked around and looked at things. I did like the section on Nordic jumpers, but why are they all so expensive to buy?! I am not paying £300 for a jumper.

 

Back outside, we walked through a village of craftspeople, where you could actually buy the wares (but I didn’t go inside most of the buildings, because I was tired and assumed the wares would be expensive) and finally those chickens, ducks, and a barn full of rabbits, which were the only animals in sight. Apparently the animals are only outside at certain times, and most of the barns are kept closed off the rest of the time. There are also various activities you can take part in at certain times of day (animal handling, folk dancing, etc), but because we visited so late in the afternoon, most of those had finished (except the lefse making, but you know what happened there).

Because I was clearly being a pill, we decided to skip a lot of stuff and just head straight for the old stave church, built around 1200, which was meant to be the highlight. It was indeed pretty cool, as you can probably see, and just about worth the effort (including a hill climb) of getting there. A woman was just finishing a tour in English as we came in, so we got to hear a few interesting bits about certain details in the church as well, like some runes carved into one of the walls (a holdover from Viking times). She also recommended that we go see the apartment building that had rooms decorated to look like they would have in different periods in history, which we had somehow managed to pass on our first circle of the Folkemuseum, and even though I was totally exhausted, I thought we should probably go see it, since it’s not like I’ll be coming back again (I would go back to Oslo, but not to the Folkemuseum, unless it was just to get lefse).

 

Unfortunately, it was underwhelming. I probably would have liked it well enough if I’d been in a better mood, but it was a lot of steps and almost all the rooms were behind glass with very few things labelled. I did like the references to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in the 1880s room, as it was meant to be based on Nora’s home, but it was basically just your standard Victorian parlour (I would have also liked to visit the Ibsen Museum, but it was closed for renovations during our visit).

I was SO READY TO LEAVE after this, but I did make an exception for the small Sami Museum. My absolute favourite Eurovision song this year was Norway’s, which featured a Sami guy doing kulning in the middle of it, which is a sort of traditional herding call that sounds a bit like yodelling and mimics the sounds of the animals being herded, so I was totally interested to learn more about the Sami. Aren’t their traditional costumes fabulous?

After that though, I had really, really had enough, so we beat a hasty retreat, though sadly we still had one more museum ahead of us before we could go get dinner (the food options on Museum Peninsula are not great. Pretty much just gross looking museum cafes. Lots of hotdogs). Much like Skansen, I think I probably would have had a better time if I’d been less tired and had some food inside me (I really must stop going to open air museums at the end of the day), though I would have been annoyed by the lack of warning that I couldn’t buy lefse without a ticket regardless. Also there needed to be more animals, or at least the ones they have shouldn’t have been hidden away – it was a nice day outside! I’ll still score it slightly higher than Skansen though, because more of the buildings were open, and the museums were better. 2.5/5 for the Folkemuseum.