Oslo: Ashes of Vikings

The one thing Tom and I do every morning is to take some time to savor a good cup of coffee. We are both aficionados of this savory drink, and it’s a great way to to warm us up from the inside out before we venture off to galavant about a city blanketed in snow. 

Since our legs and feet were so tired from walking about 10 miles yesterday, we decided today would be a museum day. Specifically, we would pass our time by visiting the museums on the Bygdøy Peninsula, an area that still maintains its rural vibe, and houses the Oscharshall Palace, the summer home of the Norwegian Royal Family.

 Our first stop was the Norwegian Folk Museum, an open-air museum that has many traditional buildings on site that allow you to explore the daily lifestyles of Norwegians from the 16th century and onwards. They also had a few exhibit halls that displayed typical wardrobes and furniture from these eras. The primary reason I wanted to visit however, was to see the Gol Stave Church.

 This one is from 1212, meaning that its over 800 years old! Stave churches were medieval Christian churches that developed in Northern Europe. The name for this type of structure is derived from the Old Norse term “stafr,” meaning the type of timber framing where load-bearing ore-pine posts support lintels. It’s a descendent of palisades construction from the Viking Age. Logs were split into two halves, driven into the earth, and a roof erected over it. 

 The Gol Church falls under a smaller sub-category called the Borgund Group. The stability of the structure is further enhanced by cross-bracing that joins the upper and lower beams and posts. This essentially creates a truss which allows for the weight of the building to be transferred into the ground without the need for intermediate posts, creating a wider, more open, interior space. 

Next, we stopped by the Viking Ship Museum, because what visit to Norway would be complete without getting the chance to learn about Viking history? 

 

  

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Oslo: City of Tigers II

In 1870, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson wrote a poem titled , “Sidste Sang”. In it, he illustrates a dramatic fight between a horse and a tiger. The tiger, metaphorically represented the dangerous city, while the horse symbolized the security of the countryside. This is where he first referred to Oslo as Tigerstaden, which represented his perception of the city as a cold and dangerous place. 

 This has not been the case for Tom and I. We have found this snowy, northern city to be warm and friendly. Our barista from earlier this morning graciously gave us a list of restaurants to eat at, and even attempted to teach me the word for “thanks” in Norwegian, “Taak”. (I hope I haven’t been butchering the word too much, but I always like to learn how to say “please” and “thank you” when I travel. I’ve found it is a simple way to show your enthusiasm for the local history and, even though they may laugh, the locals often appreciate your effort.) 

 Making use of one of the barista’s recommendations, we ventured towards Aker Brygge, a unique, waterfront development that was completed in 2014. It was formerly the site of a shipyard and industrial buildings. Vingen, a restaurant attached to the Astrup Fearnley Museet was difficult to find, but incredibly tasty! Tom had the Eggs Benedict, while I had their version of a Katz Pastrami Sandwich.

 After a brief break, we ventured back into the cold to explore the history of the Akershus Fortress. Construction of the fortress is believed to have started around 1290 when King Hakon V realized that the city needed a stronger defense center than that which currently existed. Since it lied adjacent to the sea, it allowed Norway to prosper commercially while providing the nation with a strong military presence. 

 The Akershus Fortress has never been successfully besieged by a foreign enemy. However, in 1940, it surrendered to Nazi Germany without combat. The Norwegian government evacuated the capital when it was unprovokedly assaulted.

  
Our feet getting wary, we decided to make our last stop for the day before heading back to the hostel to rest our laurels. The Oslo Opera House is uniquely designed such that the roof of the structure angles to the ground level. This creates an elevated plaza that allows pedestrian interaction with the building. Tom and I climbed all the way up and were greeted with a panoramic view of the waterfront.

As a structural engineer,the fact that this roof is merely supported by thin angled columns is intriguing. How, exactly did they analyze the load paths/patterns through the asymmetrical characteristics of the column geometry?  The minimalistic framing and specialty glass allows for optimal views of the surrounding water. 

 From the roof, and at ground level, we observed the sculpture, “She Lies.” The stainless steel and glass fabrication resembles ice and depicts a symbol of power for the region. As it lays on a transient concrete platform, it is free to turn with the bidding of the tide and the wind. I think the sculpture is a metaphor. For as quick as the tides change and the wind changes direction, so too can the power shift.  

P.S. Tom is currently passed out next to me. If anything, my boyfriend could certainly hibernate through a long winter if instinct required it of him. 😛