On a fateful August morning in 79 AD Pompeii (LINK), a Roman town-city near modern Naples, was totally destroyed and buried under a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius (LINK) killing around 3,000 people as the rest of the population had already fled before the eruption. A flood of ash and protoplasmic heated air rained down on the town for approximately 6 hours completely burying the town and its inhabitants in up to twelve layers of ash and debris up to 82 feet (25 meters) deep.
We leave Copenhagen, Denmark on a cruise ship so we can see the Norwegian fjords in our vacation time frame. First port was Flam, Norway.
We scheduled an excursion on the Flam Railway to see the sights of the scenic Norway countryside.
The Flåm Railway has been named one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. The train runs 12.6 miles (20.2 kilometers) from the end of Aurlandsfjord, a tributary of the Sognefjord, up to the high mountains to Myrdal Station. Along the journey are some beautifully stunning scenery of Norway.
In about an hour you go from sea level in Flåm to the Myrdal mountain station at 2,844 feet (867 metres) above sea level. In Myrdal you can connect to trains running between Bergen and Oslo.
The Flåm Railway is one of the steepest standard-gauge railway lines in the world, with 80% of the journey at a gradient of 5.5%. Along the trains route you see small villages and hamlets, beautiful mountainsides, foaming waterfalls and pass through 20 tunnels. It’s longest tunnel is the 4,401 foot (1,341.5-meter) long Nåli Tunnel.
The first engineering surveys for the Flåm Line were performed in 1893 with the plans approved by Parliament in 1916. Construction started in 1924, with track laying starting in 1936 and the rail line finally opening for service in 1940. Of the 20 tunnels along the route only 2 used machines for digging, the rest were dug by hand.
After the trip we stop at the Flam Railway Museum to learn more of the history of the Flam Rail Line and how this rail line was constructed. The models, photos, illustrations, actual equipment and older train engines was a great way to understand how this rail line was built and used, the engineering and the hard labor that went into constructing this rail line.
After the museum it is time for walk around town, visit the tourist information center and a tourist souvenir shop next door with interesting nic-nacs. After our walk among the shelves, and a few laughs at some of the items for sale, we must stop at the local grocery store to pick up a few items to enjoy for snacking as they are not available on the ship. As it is getting close to the time for the ship to depart we head back to get ready for dinner with the 5 other couples at our assigned table.
Sitting down to dinner we all relate our days adventures and thoughts on Flam while enjoying the wonderful food and the scenery floating by outside the large windows of the Dining Room. We enjoyed the small town feel, the scenery on the Rail Journey and walking around town. This would be a town to stay in to enjoy for a couple of relaxing days exploring the local area with a vehicle or just hiking. Our table is one of the last to finish as we all are enjoying the company and conversation. I think we would all stay longer but there is another dinner service they must get ready for. As the others leave for their nightly adventures, it’s back up to Deck 10 for the evening walk enjoying the scenery as we sail away from Flam to our next destination Alesund, Norway.
After we finish exploring Akershus Fortress we take the T-Bane over to the Vigeland Museum. This museum was the workplace and home to Gustav Vigeland, a Norwegian artist who negotiated free rent on this space for the future rights to his work with the government. This building houses his sculptures, woodcarvings, models, drawings, sketches and photographs of the artist through his years of work. His interesting sculptures are very modern and surreal which made for an interesting and thought provoking visit.
Vigeland was born in 1869 to a family of craftsmen and also designed the Nobel Peace Prize Medal. Vigeland moved to his new studio in Frogner Borough during 1924. His studio was located in the vicinity of Frogner Park, which he had chosen as the definitive location for his fountain. Over the following twenty years, Vigeland was devoted to the project of an open exhibition of his works, which later turned into the Vigeland Sculpture Arrangement in Frogner Park.
Right across the street from the museum is Frogner Park with the Vigeland Outdoor Sculpture Area. We first stop at a corner 7-11 and pickup hot dogs, chips and drinks for a lunch in the park as not much else was open during the holiday. We join the thousands of other people enjoying the sunny holiday in the park while eating our picnic lunch. Frogner Park is the largest park in Oslo occupying a former manor house grounds of 80 acres. The park includes the Manor House and Vigeland Sculptural Exhibition area which houses 212 of his bronze and granite sculptures. There is no way we would be able to walk the entire park so we concentrate on the area between the museum, the Monolith Plateau, the Fountain and the Bridge which showcases Vigeland’s sculptures. What an enjoyable time exploring these sculptures and the park grounds. We cross the bridge, head to the T-Bane stop at the Main Gate on Kirkeveien and head back to our apartment after a glorious afternoon of walking. This was the most crowded we saw the T-Bane during our time here and we had to wait for 2 trolleys before we were able board. Everyone was outside enjoying the weather and visiting with family and friends.
Such a wonderful day, Vigeland sculptures belong in a park. They are larger than life and make your mind explore the meaning behind them. A park for an afternoon stroll and picnic lunch in the beautiful sunshine.
The Kon Tiki, a balsa wood pre-Columbian ship design that sailed in 1947 from Peru to Polynesia is a 30 foot by 15 foot raft of nine balsa wood logs designed and built to prove that sea travel could have been possible by the South American population and they could have populated the South Pacific. After covering 4,300 nautical miles in 101 days, an average speed of 42.5 miles per day they reached Polynesia.
The Ra II was built of reeds based on ancient Egyptian design and sailed from North Africa to the Caribbean. On May 17, 1970, Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl and crew set out from Morocco across the Atlantic Ocean, Heyerdahl thought that Mediterranean civilizations sailed to the America’s and exchanged cultures with the people of Central and South America. The crossing of 4,000 miles of ocean to Barbados took 57 days.
What interesting people the Norwegians are, they love the outdoors, travel and exploration. When I hear my distant relatives probably have Viking blood it is no wonder my family loves to explore and travel to see new and interesting destinations.
Leaving the apartment early we jump on the T-Bane for the harbor to catch the ferry to Bygdoy for our Norwegian maritime history lesson for the day. After a delightful ride we exit the ferry right at our destination, 3 separate Norwegian Maritime Museums.
First up is the Fram Museum, which tells the story of a Norwegian Polar Expedition taken between 1893 and 1896. The ship, the Fram, was commissioned by explorer Fridtjf Nansen and built in 1891 by Colin Archer to reach the north pole by using the shifting ice flows. The museum was built in 1936 to house the ship and explain the 5-year polar exploration of the 12 brave men. The 36’x128’ double ended ship was built with a shallow draft, a 24”-28” thick hull, 3 masts, and a rounded hull to ride up on the ice flow. It was also supplied with a wind generator to supply electricity to power the experiments and men’s needs. It was amazing these men survived the trip frozen in the ice flow for so long with no means of resupply. The map attached shows the extent of their voyage.
The expedition never reached the pole due to the shifting ice current and Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen decided to head out by dog sledges to reach the pole. That proved unsuccessful due to the ice flows and the 2 made their way south to Franz Josef Land where they made camp for the winter.
The Fram meanwhile continued west then made a southerly course swing on the ice flow to emerge into open waters and make it’s way back to Oslo. Nansen and Johansen were picked up by a British explorer who took them back to civilization at the same time the Fram emerged from the ice.
It was very interesting to walk the decks, inside and outside, and see how these men lived and survived during that voyage. These were brave men who risked their lives for adventure and discovery with no means of support, communication or rescue. The exploration was not a failure as the crew brought back a lot of information previously not known. Here are some photos of the ship and museum.
We are staying in the Schous Plass area of Oslo and head to the Schous Plass T-Bane stop to catch the trolley to the downtown area where we’ll need a transfer to a bus to Bygdoy for our visit to the Vikingskipshuset and the Norsk Folkemuseum, our adventures for today’s Norwegian history lesson. Continue reading