After the morning wandering and exploring Beamish we drove approximately 30 miles to visit Chesters Fort (LINK) a part of Hadrian’s Wall (LINK). Driving along beautiful countryside we had to have the car disinfected for Foot and Mouth. Arriving at the fort we visited the museum to learn the history of the wall and fort, then walked through disinfecting mats for our short walk to the fort.
Back in 2001 it was decided to visit England, Scotland and Wales and to delve into the history, architecture and culture of the country. What we discovered was an excellent way to do this, Living Outdoor Museums. This was the first Living Open-Air museum that I had ever visited and it started a search for additional ones during all future travels in the USA and Europe. Visiting one gives you the experience and a real sense of the past as you discover what life was like. Within the different buildings there usually are actors in period dress demonstrating the daily life of the time being depicted, while answering questions you might have and explaining what it was like living in those times.
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.
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.
After our 2-3 hour exploration of the Viking Ships we board the bus for the short trip to the Norsk Folkemueum (link) just down the road.
Arriving at the museum we gain access using the Oslo Pass (link) again without an admission fee. Founded in 1894 the Outdoor museum is Norway’s largest Cultural History museum that includes 160 buildings from around the country and 230,000 artifacts from the 1500’s to the present. The grounds include architecture and artifacts from towns, country farms and estates and all social classes. It is interesting to see the folk art, costumes, toys, exhibits, artifacts and life from the areas these buildings were brought from. They have costumed actors in some of the buildings providing insights into the daily life and crafts during the time period of that building, the actors are so happy to discuss how life was during that time period with any guest entering. The Stave Church is one of 5 medieval buildings from the 1200’s and is very impressive both inside and out. It was deconstructed and moved to the museum when the congregation needed a larger church. Our bodies need refueling so we stop in for a very good quick lunch of sandwiches, desert and drinks in the museum café and head back out to continue our exploration of the grounds. (Text continues below gallery)
After a full day of walking at 5 PM we jump back on the bus, transfer to the T-Bane and arrive at our apartment for dinner and then off to the store to pick a few snacks for tomorrows adventures.
During all the vacations Jodi (a graphic artist) and I (architect) take you will notice a pattern, we love history, art, architecture and the culture of the country we visit. Both our families have members that have immigrated to the USA from Europe since the early 1600’s and we have visited places that just feel comfortable to us, only later to find out that our forefathers came from that area 100’s or 1,000’s of years ago.
Going to museums, art galleries, walking the streets and alleys of a destination, eating where locals dine and talking with people are the best ways to understand the similarities and differences of our countries. Never ask where to go to eat always ask where they would go to eat. It is pleasant to learn by seeing and actively participating in the ways of other cultures. We have met very wonderful and colorful individuals in our travels and would not change the way we travel for anything. We have discussed governments with the owner of a Laundromat outside of Amsterdam while we did laundry, and discussed local sites to visit during breakfast with the family of a B&B in Southern France, during all these encounters we have had wonderful conversations with so many people. Getting on the ground, staying and eating with locals rather than other tourists is amazing (better and inexpensive). Going to a café or restaurant and not being able to read a menu can bring unexpected delights, very seldom not so much, but that is the adventure. We have never been treated with disrespect and it seems a majority are willing to do their best to converse and help us with our travels.
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