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The Norwegian Customs Museum - Tollmuseet.
The Norwegian Customs Museum - Tollmuseet was established in 1915 and is a very interesting museum. It shows the history of the Norwegian Customs through almost 4 centuries, since the sixteenth century. Here on display are the original uniforms worn by customs officers through the centuries.
It is not known when the first customs were claimed, but the first taxes collected date back to the settlement of Iceland and were called Departure taxes... collected by Harald Harfagre (865-933). I know from the history of Iceland that Norwegians left Norway for Iceland as they were fleeing high taxes.
On display at the museum are confiscated contraband and methods of smuggling, very enlightening. There were all kinds of drugs on display and the methods shown how these drugs and cigarettes and alcohol were cleverly hidden, both during the prohibition years in Norway and in more recent times. It is amazing really how much contraband is confiscated, but one can only imagine how much gets through. Huge amounts of alcohol were smuggled inside logs. And during the prohibition years smugglers would tie small containers to their body filled with alcohol. Once 3 suspicious women were stopped - they looked suspicious as they were huge and waddled. They were carrying alcohol in "body-containers" all over their body, each one of them carrying 15 liters of alcohol like that.
There were also exotic animals and tusk on display. And weapons of all sorts. Plus a skate-board, but in the 1980´ it was prohibited to import skate-boards to Norway.
At the museum are also artefacts from the history of Customs in Norway.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday from 11:00-15:00.
After entering the museum by the main street one has to be buzzed in to get to the museum entrance on the second floor.
A recommended visit.
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The Nobel Peace centre.
The Nobel Peace centre is amazing, a must visit in my opinion. It is located by Aker brygge.
As you enter the first hall is the golden hall of fame. Then you enter the exhibition hall of the lives of Afgan women and the lives of American soldiers in Afganistan. It is very well made, both disturbing and enlightening at the same time. And gives one hope that these women will some day gain their full freedom.
There are more exhibition halls on the "burning of the veil" - or suppressed Muslim women fighting for their freedom.
On the second floor there is a fantastic exhibition on all the wonderful people who won the Nobel prize. That exhibition is awesome, the peace in there touched me to the very core of my soul. My photos don´t capture it well enough, but the hall is like a forest or lit up flowers swaying with flickering lights with photos of the Nobel Peace Laureates appearing and disappearing. I could have stayed there for hours, it was just amazing.
You can also listen to Martin Luther King´s famous speech.
Opening hours: summer time - every day from 10-18. In winter time 10-18. Mondays closed in winter time.
Admission fee: NOK 80.
I add more photos in a travelogue.
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Tjuvholmen - by Aker Brygge.
The end area by Aker Brygge is called Tjuvholmen and it is still under construction. Tjuvholmen is referred to as Oslo´s art district and there are some some galleries open there, with much more in the near future.
There is a big museum here, where the Astrup Fearnley collection is housed. The museum building is in the shape of a ship on shore. This is the most prominent building on Tjuvholmen. Beside the museum a sculpture garden was being constructed when I last visited in May 2013. It looked very interesting and I followed how more and more statues were being put up there.
In the autumn of 2012 "Tárnet" - The Tower was opened. It is a 70 meters high spiral tower with a great view of Oslo. I was reading an interview in one Norwegian newspaper, where they expect Tárnet to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in Oslo.
This area will be one of the most expensive in Oslo.
"Tjuv" actually means thief in Norwegian, as here thiefs and criminals used to hang out, so Tjuvholmen means literally The Thief island.
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Jernbanetorget square with the Tiger by Oslo S.
By Oslo S and Trafikanten there is a very popular square, Jernbanetorget square, with a big statue of a tiger in the middle of the square. Of course all the tourists, I included, have their photo taken there with the tiger. Some people crawl on top of it and it can be quite funny watching them try to get down again :) There was a name for Oslo "Tigerstaden" or The City of the Tiger to make Oslo look like a dangerous place one shouldn´t mess with.
On this square are also stone-benches and on the ground in the paving stones there are boxes with lovely butterflies - it is a lovely idea and makes this square a lot more lively and beautiful - instead of there just being some grey paving stones there. I love things like that - everything that can make one´s day brighter :)
And of course if one wants to listen to accordion music, then this is the place to be as there are a lot of gypsies here.
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The Opera House - Operaen.
"Den Norske Opera og Ballet" - The Opera House is Oslo´s biggest tourist attraction and in 2011 1,7 million people crossed the bridge leading to the Opera.
One can walk up to the roof of the Opera House for a fantastic view and take a sunbath on the steps on a sunny day.
There is a long queue every time the tickets are sold for the upcoming year. Last year when the ticket sale to the Opera was opened some people had parked outside in a camping chair from 6 in the morning, although the ticket office opened at 10, just to be able to get tickets. When the ticket office opened there was a queue of 200 people. And just in one day 18.000 tickets were sold. The Opera hands out coffee and buns for free to the people in the queue :)
If you haven´t been able to get tickets then you can ask from 9 in the morning on the same day of the performance if there are tickets which haven´t been picked up.
There are different price ranges of course and the cheapest tickets are NOK 100 and 100 tickets are sold for NOK 100 for each performance. There are 32 "staplass" where you stand during the performance.
You can buy a subsription ticket (is this the right expression for it) and the most expensive are for the premiere with the red carpet, torches and champagne and you pay NOK 5.600 for 8 performances for the opening nights :)
There is free Internet connection and toilets in the lobby, which I have used frequently. It is lovely just sitting in the lobby or at the café there.
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Utviklingshuset - The Development Centre.
Utviklingshuset or the Development Centre is an exhibition/information centre about aid and development cooperation.
The centre is on 3 floors and is very educational, I spent an hour in there just reading up on Development cooperation, environmental and climatic challenges - finding out, amongs other things, that 4,5 million varieties of seeds from all over the world are preserved in Svalbard for backup. And here is also discussion on equality - I found out that women carry out 70% of the world´s work, but only get get paid 10% of all wages. This must be corrected.
On the ground floor one can also listen to a video on different Aid workers talking about their experience while helping abroad.
On the first floor one can read up on the 8 development and human rights goals that UN set out to reach by the start of the new Millennium and which they aim to reach by 2015. I so hope they do reach these goals.
On the second floor one gets to answer a series of question on help given to the developing countries. It is very informative.
Admission fee: free.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday from 10:00-16:00.
The Development Centre is run by Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) a directorate of the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also run the Nobel Peace Centre next to the Development Centre.
A recommended visit. A centre like this serves to raise people´s awareness on what they can do to help - and how differently we live and maybe why?
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Vár Frelsers Gravlund - Munch & Ibsen´s graveyard
There is a very big graveyard in Oslo called Vár Frelsers Gravlund - or the Cemetary of our Saviour. It dates back to 1808. It used to be the cemetary of the rich people and in 1903 it became an honorary cemetary.
Here Munch and Ibsen are buried - amongst a lot of prominent figures in Norway´s history. There is a Grove of honour - Æreslunden - where Munch and other prominent figures are buried. I had a hard time at first finding this grove, seeing that the cemetary is so big - and seeing that there are so many big statues there. Munch´s grave is here and a little further is Henrik Ibsen´s grave - it stands out with a lot of space around it - here he is buried with other Ibsen family members.
I also found the grave of Ivar Aasen, the founder of Nynorsk, which is now the official language in Norway along with bokmál. I noticed the inscription on the grave without knowing who was buried there - it is taken from Hávamál and written in old Icelandic: "Deyr fe, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama. En orðstírr deyr aldrigi hveim er sér góðan getr". I wonder how many Norwegians can actually understand their old language?
There is a special grove in the cemetary where Nazi victims are buried. It is written by the grave:
"Two of the best known victims of the Nazi terror in Norway are buried here, Harald Viggo Hansteen and Rolf Evald Johan Vickström. Hansteen was a legal adviser to The Norwegian Federation of Trading Union, and Vickström was a welder and elected works convenor at Skabo Railway Workshop. Following a strike in Oslo in 1941 they were both arrested by German police and sentenced to death by a hastily called court-martial and shot to death on the 10th of December.
It was the first hostage shooting during the German occupation and made a deep impression on the population."
There is a church in the cemetary which is now The Russian Orthodox church - dating back to 1864.
Opposite the cemetary is Akerskirke church, the oldest church in Oslo.
I recommend visiting this cemetary, even though I only recognized the names of few of the people buried here, then the cemetary is so big and there are so many statues and monuments, that it is well worth a visit.
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Walk on the roof of the Opera for a great view.
The roof of the Opera house is made for walking on it - and up on the roof is a great view of the city, the islands and the Middle age town. It is (in 2012) the only Opera house in the world where one can walk on the roof.
It is also a very good place for sunbathing on a sunny day. I have done that often because of the view.
It is an easy walk and the tiles are not slippery - unless on a rainy day. It says on a sign by the Opera that you walk on the roof on your own risk and that no skateboarding is allowed nor bicycles - imagine if people were scateboarding on the roof of the Opera... but I guess it is prohibited for a reason as youngsters are scateboarding in too many places, f.ex. in front of the City Hall it can be dangerous to walk as youngsters use it as a scateboard area.
The design of the roof is such that it is uneven in places, and I have seen people tripping over the protruding desing in various places - and I have tripped there many times while looking in other directions.
Anyhow, this shouldn´t be missed for a great view of the city.
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Trafikanten - info and maps on public transport.
Trafikanten is the tower by Oslo Central Station or "Oslo S".
Here you can get maps and other information on Oslo, like timetables for the buses, trains and streetcars. And more information from the clerks behind the desk there, who speak English like natives. Sometimes there is just too much waiting as it can get a bit crowded in there. Here I bought my 24 hour Oslo Pass for entrance to most of the Oslo museums, before the Tourist Information desk here closed down in 2013.
RUTER is the name of the company in charge of all the transportation in Norway. So if you have to look up info on transportation or buy tickets then look out for machines with their sign. This sign is also on all the public transport, including the boats and ferries.
Opening hours are: Monday-Friday from 7-20 and at weekends from 8-18.
There used to be a Tourist Information desk here, but it has closed down and they refer to the Tourist Information by Oslo City Hall, where one can pick up brochures and buy the Oslo Pass.
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Get yourself the necessary maps and information.
On arriving for the first time to Oslo I headed straight for the Information center behind City Hall and got myself a lot of brochures and maps on Oslo. The Oslo Guide and What´s on Oslo are the best ones and different maps are necessary as they show different information on the museums.
At the library I found four excellent big maps for free on different parts of Oslo - with detailed information on the back on these places (see my photos of these maps). I would recommend those, as they show the history of Oslo and different areas of Oslo - just what I was looking for. The ones I used the most often were "Turkart Oslo vest" and "Turkart Oslo sentrum" - and then an excellent one "Turguide Akerselva" on the history of the factories and walks by the Akerselva river. They are in Norwegian though.
Opening hours: every day of the year - I refer to their website for opening hours as they vary for summer and winter seasons.
Norwegian Parliament Building
This pretty building from the mid-1800s resembles more an Opera House than a parliament building. It is influenced by Italian styles of architecture, but can not be attributed to a single type. It took 52 years between the establishment of the Norwegian Parliament and the actual finishing of the building. This was mostly due to the rejection of the original design by the parliament and the hesitation to build it, thinking that it was far too large for its purposes. Today, several neighbouring buildings have been acquired to accomodate secondary offices of the parliamanent. By the way, the main assembly hall is located in the round part you see right at the front.
The Norwegian Parliament is often called Stortinget, so do not be confused when you hear that name. Check their website for guided tours in English and Norwegian.Related to:
" Alfred Nobel's peace prize monument
The Nobel peace Prize is given out every year in Oslo to the person who
“shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
Some of the most controversial peace awards:
1994: Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin “for their efforts to create peace in the middle east.
2009: Barack Obama : “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” Nobody knows why he was given the award.
2012: European Union (EU) "for over six decades [having] contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe" ( and by the way,we're not part of the EU, we voted against it twice!)Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
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Opera only the tip of an iceberg
The Oslo Opera House is a spectacular piece of architecture. From afar it seems as if an iceberg has parked itself in the bay waiting for the sunrays to melt it into oblivion. From close range it allows you to cuddle as a teddy bear and climb up and down all the way from the roof to the water surrounding it. The top has been squared off and looks very similar to a nuclear reactor!?! Even the texture of the material covering it reminds remotely of computer platforms. Some very impressive combination of modernity and nature motives makes this building a chef-d’oeuvre on monumental scale. On a rainy day it would be advantageous to try out the acoustics as well. The rumour has it that opera tickets are very decent price especially considering Norway’s standard of living, therefore must be subsidised. Just off the building a self-rotating glass sculpture sticks out of the water with a meaning of its own but can also be treated as a chunk of ice that has recently collapsed off the large iceberg.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Alfred Nobel digs
Oslo is the place to get in touch with Mr. Alfred Nobel. For some reason, this Swedish chemist and inventor of many things, among them the dynamite, is intricately related to Norway and as a result the Nobel prizes are handed out in Oslo’s city hall. Along the city hall connection there is the Nobel institute which is a bit off the harbour, at the base of the hill where the Royal palace is. Another branch, as it appears to be, is located almost at the water front immediately on the left side of the city hall. This location is difficult to ignore – people bump into it without looking for it specifically. On the ground floor of the elegant building there was an exposition dedicated to Afghanistan; might have been a temporary one but hey, what is permanent anyway. The visitors have an option of following a group with a free guide at certain intervals. The main exhibition consisted of two wings covering American soldiers and Afghan women. The soldiers were showing off their tattoos and the women were revealing acid burns when not under veil. Despite the guidance it did not become quite clear why they were lumped together. Maybe something was lost in translation. Maybe it was an open-end message. Maybe, the thing that they had in common, except for the fact that both groups were in the same country, was the influence of chemicals on their skins.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
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- Budget Travel
Kvadraturen is named after King Christian IV's city from the Renaissance era. The area is today known as Kvadraturen ("the quadrature") because of the rectangular street pattern of Christian IV's renaissance town. Not many of the 17th and 18th century buildings remain, although I managed to find some.
I found the square "Christiania torv," which is known for the fountain shaped like a hand pointing to the ground. This is where the Danish-Norwegian king Christian IV decided to rebuild the city after the big fire in 1624.
He pointed to this spot and said: "The new town will lie here!"
Another old building was Oslo's first town hall, and the city's oldest restaurant, Café Engebret is located here.
In the area are museums at Akershus Fortress, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Architecture, the Astrup Fearnley Museum, the Film Museum and many small galleries.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
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