Scandinavia (2021): From Thuringia to the North Cape and back

Oslo – Great museums and a terrible campsite

From Aalborg we went to Hirtshals, a quarter of an hour’s drive away, from where our ferry departed. Since the route was of course free of any traffic jams, which we had planned to be on the safe side, we were there almost 2 hours early. Compared to most other European countries, Norway has very strict rules regarding entry during the pandemic. The borders for tourists were completely closed for a long time and were only recently reopened. Our vaccination certificates were already checked at check-in at the ferry terminal and, in contrast to entering Denmark, even scanned. In the parking lot in the waiting area we stretched our feet a little or watched the numerous people who walked their dogs again before the crossing (and unfortunately not all of them cleared away the legacies…). Most of the time we were bored though because there wasn’t really anything to do. Finally, our ferry, which had the great name Super Speed ​​2 (the Super Speed ​​1 was right next to it) drove into the harbor and shortly afterwards we were able to board the ship. When we finally stood at the railing at the departure, we waved to Denmark that we would be back in a few weeks.

The ferry crossing took about 4 hours. There were a few shops on board, including a clothing store, where I bought a thick sweater in anticipation that it could get colder than planned in the far north. Kevin bought some nibbles from the grocery store and sat in a corner with electrical outlets while I stretched my legs by walking from deck to deck for most of the trip. When that got too monotonous for me, I joined him and we played a few rounds of Uno (most of which I won 😉 ). Towards the end it got exciting again, because suddenly there was an announcement that everyone should stay inside because the Norwegian anti-terrorist unit was supposed to have an exercise on the ferry. From the windows we could watch how a black helicopter circled our ferry and finally landed on it. By the time it was all over, we were almost there. We got down in the car and the ferry docked. Once again, our vaccination certificates were scanned upon entry. Anyone who did not have such a certificate had to switch to another lane and be quarantined for 14 days. But we were able to drive through and headed straight for Oslo, which was just under 2 hours drive from Larvik, where the port was.

In Oslo we didn’t really have a choice when it came to campsites. Strictly speaking, there was only one campsite, which was much more of a caravan park at Sjølyst harbour. Actually, we were greeted at the entrance by a rancid sign on which someone had smeared the information that the place was already full. However, we ignored the sign and drove onto it anyway, because, as I said, there was no alternative. As it turned out, the campsite was anything but full. Someone had probably, maybe even consciously, forgotten to put the sign away. We were greeted by a very unmotivated youth who probably had his holiday job here. He explained to us where we could park the car and that we should take a kind of parking ticket from the machine. Actually, there should also be Wifi, the password was on the parking ticket, but we just couldn’t find a network with our smartphones. When I went back to the youngster to ask, all he said was that the wifi was broken and he had no idea when it would be fixed. That was annoying, but we couldn’t change anything about it. After we had set ourselves up a bit, we went to the next supermarket, which luckily was very close by, and found that Norway was a good bit more expensive than Denmark. Back at the campsite we used the gas stove available in the car for the first time and I cooked tomato soup for us. Then came the next challenge: the sanitary facilities. These were two containers with toilets. Another container in which the showers were supposed to be was locked and we weren’t the only ones who stood questioningly in front of the locked doors and shook them again and again. Actually, the reception should still be manned at the time, but apparently the unmotivated youngster had simply decided to call it a day earlier today. Only later, thanks to the help of a Spaniard, who found the sanitary facilities just as sobering as we did, I found a second door in one of the containers behind which there was actually a working shower. The problem was: it was a single shower for the entire campsite, which also hadn’t been cleaned in a really long time… I just bent over it a little to at least wash my hair and when I was finally out in the fresh air again I decided never to enter that shower again. Put off by my stories, Kevin let the shower stay right here, which given the facts was probably the more hygienic choice. Since at least the weather was really good, we walked around the harbor area in the evening. Unfortunately, the port itself was a bit run down, but there were still a few nice corners, such as a large jetty from which you could look towards the evening sky. And so we ended the day with somewhat mixed feelings.

Norsk Folk Museum and Kon Tiki

As in Aalborg, I got up early in the morning in Oslo to get breakfast. Kevin especially found the Norwegian word for bread baker “Brødbakerne” quite amusing and repeated it over and over for the rest of the day. After breakfast we again hired bikes from a local supplier and drove to the Norsk Folkemuseum. It’s an open-air museum and it’s really great. Actually it’s almost a bit like many small museums in one place. We started with a special exhibition in one of the large buildings at the entrance to the life of Norway’s wealthy elite over the last few centuries.

Outside again we went to the actual open-air museum with numerous typical wooden houses. The special thing was how this place was filled with life: everywhere people, adults and children, walked around in traditional clothes or sat in the houses and knitted, did the laundry or carried out other everyday activities. You really had the feeling of going on a journey through time and really meeting the people from back then. Everyone was really very friendly and no one was in any way intrusive. For example, if you had a question, you simply went to a lady who was hanging up laundry in the garden and asked. In some places in the museum, certain activities such as a celebration were re-enacted and people danced traditional dances accompanied by musicians. What particularly impressed me was the openness of the people in Norway. Of course, not everything is perfect here either, but while the topic of racism is unfortunately sometimes more or less present in Denmark, one had the feeling in Norway that society is much more open-minded. You could tell by the fact that there were always signs in the park that informed you about certain offers such as guided tours or fairy tale hours for children. The interesting thing was that these offers were offered in 5 languages. On the one hand, of course, in Norwegian and English, that was clear, but on the other hand in Polish, in Urdu and in sign language. We were particularly surprised by Polish and Urdu. As luck would have it, in one of the buildings we met the lady who was leading the Polish tours. Her name was Magdalena and she moved to Norway from Poland a few years ago. She confirmed our suspicion that Norway is a very open-hearted country. With a density of just 14 inhabitants per km² (for comparison: in Germany it is 232 inhabitants per km²) there is room for everyone in Norway. Especially people from Poland seem to take advantage of this. They represent the largest group of immigrants, which is why it is worthwhile for the museum to offer its offers in Polish as well. In fact, we should keep meeting people from Poland on our journey through Norway. In contrast to Germany, where many Poles are exploited as seasonal workers in fields, in meat factories or in warehouses by large online retailers under inhumane conditions and receive little attention in society, Norwegians are very good at talking to Polish immigrants . They are considered to be particularly hard-working and reliable and working together works very well for both sides.

Finally we said goodbye to Magdalena and continued to explore the museum. So we passed countless other small wooden houses and in some places there were even sheep, pigs, chickens and cows. Smoke was rising from the chimney of one of the many huts and as we approached we saw that it was a bakery that Lefse was selling. We were informed that these were slightly sweetened flatbreads that were freshly baked over the fire there and that you could eat warm spread with salted butter. Of course we tried some right away. This was our first typical Norwegian meal. Of course, the lefse were delicious fresh out of the oven. In the meantime, a few hours had passed and just when we thought we had completely walked through the museum, we saw another area towards the end: There was a complete replica of a district from the last century. In addition to old shops, there were multi-storey residential buildings that were completely accessible and in which each apartment had a new feature. For example, one apartment was furnished entirely in 1980s style, while the apartment next to it was from the same period but showed how a typical Pakistani immigrant family lived in Oslo at the time. So we again spent some time to inspect the building apartment by apartment. When we finally visited this part of the museum completely, only one part was missing: A building with Christian art. However, since time had really advanced by now, we decided to skip this building, because the Norsk Folkemuseum should not be our only destination for today.

A few minutes walk from the Folkemuseum was another museum that I really wanted to visit, namely the Kon Tiki Museum. I devoured both the film and the book of this exciting story and didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to visit this museum. In 1947, Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl and a small crew of people sailed from Lima across the Pacific Ocean to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft, the Kon Tiki. He wanted to prove his thesis that Polynesia was settled from South America. He actually succeeded in this daring experiment and after 101 days at sea the crew arrived at their destination. In the Kon Tiki Museum you could examine the real Kon Tiki and review the entire story. In addition, there was a lot of information about Heyerdahl’s further research and subsequent projects. So he later started another expedition with a papyrus boat, the Ra II (unfortunately the Ra I sank). The Ra II was also in this museum. There was also another papyrus boat, the Tigris, which Heyerdahl set on fire in 1977 as a protest against the war off Djibouti. The Kon Tiki Museum is also definitely worth a visit: Anyone who knows the history of this raft will be happy to see the original and those who don’t know the story yet will learn something new about an incredible journey. A few days later we watched the film Kon-Tiki from 2012 on the laptop and via the university library.

We were already visibly tired after two excellent museums, but we didn’t want to miss out on cycling to Oslo city center again. In fact, that was a bit sobering. The city center wasn’t ugly by any means, but it wasn’t particularly bad either. As usual for a big city, there were people (and e-scooters) everywhere. We walked up to Akershus Fortress to get an overview of the harbor before heading deeper into the city centre. A small highlight here was a particularly large nerd shop that we explored together. Finally, our legs were so tired that we took the bus back to the campsite instead of cycling. We did some more shopping, I quickly conjured us up a one-pot pasta on the gas stove and we took a last walk across the sad harbor of Sjølyst.

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