Outstanding Oslo.

A good time but not a long time in the Tiger City.

Our trip to Oslo actually started at the Copenhagen Zoo. Our ferry didn’t leave until the late afternoon and we weren’t about to waste a rare semi-sunny day, so we left our bags with the hotel’s concierge and off we went. The zoo is in the process of upgrading many of its enclosures to replicate natural habitats and provide multiple vantages for patrons, so we peered through an underwater window at the hippos swimming, ate dust at ground level watching the elephants playing soccer, and perched at tree height to catch the giraffes munching on leaves. It was a fun farewell to a city we thoroughly enjoyed.

Our wistful departure was somewhat mitigated by the fact that the ferry to Oslo was completely amazing. We had booked a Commodore-class room, which gave us access to a spacious lounge just outside our room where we met a French woman, her Norwegian husband, and their trilingual son (because with one French and one Norwegian parent, the easiest shared family language is English, spoken with an Irish lilt as both of them learned their English in Dublin). We had a surprisingly intellectual conversation in two of the three languages while our kids played various electronic games on side-by-side devices.

After a delicious buffet dinner featuring copious amounts of fresh seafood we let the gentle motion of the ship rock us to sleep, slept deeply, and then headed straight to the breakfast buffet to fuel up for a day of sightseeing. The strategy was to hit the ground running after disembarking at 9:30, except that the little runny nose Sam had developed at the zoo turned out to be a full-blown cold. The hotel let us check in early and Sam napped for nearly four hours while Patrick explored Oslo and I took advantage of the opportunity to finish writing an article. It all worked out great, because Sam felt tons better the next day and meanwhile Patrick got to hike unencumbered all the way up to the top of the Holmenkollen ski jump for a view of the city and visit the Resistance Museum for a lesson about the German occupation of Norway, neither of which Sam and I felt too disappointed to have missed.

It’s a good thing that Sam perked up, because the highlight of Oslo was definitely the Norwegian Science and Technology Museum, and not only because of Game On, the special exhibit featuring 100 video games with their corresponding consoles, from Commodore 64 and Atari to Oculus Rift. Patrick introduced Sam to all of the games he remembered from the arcades of his youth while I played Tetris, and we all rocked out to Rock Band. The rest of the museum was very interesting too, especially the hands-on section for kids, and there was plenty to keep us occupied all day.

We had another epic day out at the Norse Folk Museum, founded in 1894 as a project to preserve and display examples of traditional architecture from all over Norway. The emphasis was definitely on the architecture rather than interaction or engagement, though we enjoyed seeing the buildings, including an extraordinary stave church built in 1200. On our way back to the ferry stop we popped in at the Fram Museum, which was the unexpected high point of the day. The museum building was constructed around the Fram, a ship built for polar exploration, and we were able to explore the explorer. We especially liked the ceiling, which lit up from time to time with a starry sky and the aurora borealis as if the ship were really anchored somewhere near the North Pole.

The Viking Ship Museum was also interesting. At the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum we had been told not to miss this one, and it was indeed impressive as well as considerably different from Roskilde. These ships were all discovered in Viking burial mounds, so we learned something about the people who were buried in them as well as the other objects that accompanied them into the grave.

After three great days in Norway it was time to head to Sweden. Our journey by high-speed train could not have been simpler, especially because I was clever enough to book us a hotel just a short walk from Stockholm’s central station. We are very impressed with the Scandic Continental and would recommend it to anyone: highlights so far are the choice location, abundant breakfast buffet, and beautiful Face Stockholm toiletries.  I’ll tell you all about Stockholm in my next post.

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