Sverresborg Folk Museum

I discovered the Trondheim Folk Museum pretty late in my Fulbright year, but have become somewhat enamored with it since then. Like most folk museums in Scandinavia, the one in Trondheim consists of a museum as well as grounds. Unfortunately the museum is a bit haphazardly done, or at least it felt that way because everything was in Norwegian, but it was still fun to quickly walk around. I enjoyed looking over a few of the historical displays, particularly the ones featuring Elvis and what appeared to be old punk rock clothing.

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While the museum wasn’t the best, the grounds were pretty great to walk around. There wasn’t an abundance of information for each of the ground’s buildings, but there was the odd sign post and the occasional human to answer questions. Thanks to them, I now have answers to two questions that have been bugging me since I arrived in Norway. The first involved wanting to know the reasoning behind Norwegian building’s grassy roofs. I was told that the benefit of the roofs were that they were cheap, long lasting (they last around 30 years or more), and they provide good insulation. The other question I had was why most of the buildings were red.* Turns out that one of the byproducts of iron is a red pigment. Because iron mines were in Norway and Sweden, getting the pigment was cheap, it was a byproduct which no one wanted, which made it cheaper, and it was also long lasting. The mystery of the red houses was officially solved.

The museum also has a few more well known places in the grounds. One of the most well known is the remains of King Sverre’s castle. The castle is in ruins now, but it was originally constructed in the winter of 1183-84. It was the first stone castle in Norway, although it was torn down and rebuilt twice. After the civil-war years, the castle didn’t serve a purpose and was abandoned and left to deteriorate. It was later reclaimed by the Germans during World War II due to its strategic significance, which I’m assuming was namely that it has a sweeping view of the city.

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Other highlights of the grounds included seeing an old catapult in action and following a few rogue lambs around the property. As for the buildings themselves, several of them were quite stunning, particularly one farmhouse that was redone and repainted.

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Nicole and I also had a lot of fun at a farmhouse where we were able to interact with a few Norwegians who decided to show us around in character. The farmhouse they gave us a tour of was from 1906, so we had a bit of fun playing along and saying that we had arrived in Norway by boat after many weeks at sea, and that while America’s streets were not paved in gold, they were paved in silver. They in turn had fun showing us around. I would say that the two biggest things that we learned were that most homes had a Sunday room, or a very special room only used on Sundays or for guests, and we also learned the proper way to sleep. Apparently it’s incorrect to sleep horizontally because angels flying overhead might mistake you as dead and come and take your soul. The proper way to sleep is to sleep upright, as if sleeping in a chair.

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We also paid a visit to the old town. The old town consists of buildings that used to be located in downtown Trondheim. There they have several exhibits featuring a dentist office, apothecary, and even a telephone operating room.

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My favorite spot was however the ski museum. I had never really thought too much about Norway’s favorite sport, so it was nice to gain some insight into it.

Skiing only started to take off in Norway in 1850. There were several factors that led to this, but they can be summarized by saying that an increase in wealth gave people the time and money to take up the sport. While more and more people were able to take up skiing, skiing only started to be closely linked to Norwegian identity after Fridtjof Nansen, a national hero and polar explorer, popularized his arctic explorations. This caused people to associate this hero, and Norwegians, with skiing.

Skiing was originally advertised as a masculine sport, and one that solely in the domain of men. The first organized ski trips in Norway used to be organized by groups of men, and they often ended in drinking. Women were allowed to go skiing for recreation, and it was common for small groups of men and women to go skiing together. Although women were encouraged to ski for leisure or for practical purposes, during this time they were largely kept away from competitive skiing, such as ski-jumping and cross-country ski racing. Women were only able to truly gain acceptance in competitive skiing in the 1970’s.

The Norwegian tradition of Sunday skiing started to gain popularity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but these days skiing has become less and less popular. Only about half of Norwegian children own skis, and an even smaller percentage actually use them. Some Norwegians worry that this downturn in skiing will cause it to fade out, eventually stopping the phrase “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet.”**

Overall, I really enjoyed going to the Folk Museum and would definitely recommend paying it a visit, especially on a nice sunny day.

*Generally speaking the houses in Norway are one of seven colors: red, green, blue, brown, yellow, black, or white.

**Alix can testify that she’s happy that this saying is inaccurate.

Arrival & Oslo

Fast forward to the present. I am in Norway, and it turns out that I’m not alone–my parents are here! My dad has been dying to get back to Norway ever since he took a trip there 45 years ago, and my mom has never been to Scandinavia. Thus, they both saw my trip as a great reason to travel to Norway (though I think they technically told me that the purpose of the trip was to make sure that I was properly settled in). I can’t complain though since the company is appreciated and going with my parents means that I get to knock a few things off of my Norwegian bucket list early on. The current plan is to fly into Oslo and explore for two days before catching the train to Bergen. After staying in Bergen for a few days we are catching the Hurtigruten ferry up the coast of Norway until we land in Trondheim. After we land I assume that a lot of unpacking and Ikea raiding will commence.

Everything went pretty smoothly once we arrived at in Oslo. Immigration was easy to go through since all they needed was my passport and confirmation from immigration (UDI) that I had been granted a temporary residence permit. The thing that really struck me about the airport was that in between immigration and baggage claim was a large duty free shop. The first thing that they were selling (and that many people were rushing to buy) was alcohol. I was warned before my trip that alcohol in Norway is prohibitively expensive so I had to smile watching people claim their reasonably priced alcohol while they could.

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Note: only 3 of the 5 bags are technically mine

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My first glimpse of Norway

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I kid you not, at least 40% of the duty free store consisted of alcohol

 

You can see a bigger version of all of these photos by clicking on them.

After we checked into our hotel we set off on our first adventure. First stop: Bygdøy (note the partial mastery of the Norwegian keyboard–that and copy and paste). In order to get to there we decided to take a ferry which gave us a great cityscape view of Oslo.

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Bygdøy has most of Oslo’s maritime museums, and I was determined to see the Viking Ship Museum before stopping by the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, also known as the Folkemusem. The Viking Ship Museum was both impressive and small. The main attraction is, yes you guessed it, a huge viking ship. The museum actually has three ships but the other two are smaller, simpler, and more run-down than the main ship. Considering that the Vikings lived from the 8th to the 11th century, the size of these ships and their attention to detail is stunning. While the ships themselves don’t have very complicated designs carved into them, the items that archaeologists managed to preserve from these ships showcase the Vikings’ skill and creativity.

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The Folkemusem was a completely different experience from the Viking Ship Museum. First of all, it was huge. The museum covers Norwegian history from 1500 onwards and has approximately 34 acres and 160 buildings. Not all of these buildings contain exhibits and many of them are simply traditional Norwegian buildings that you can visit and explore. Most of the buildings we looked at were old Norwegian farmhouses, guest houses, and storage buildings. The thing that initially surprised me was how much more ornate the guest houses were when compared to the farmhouses. The guest house was the first building that I walked into and had drawings painted on the walls and nice furniture. When I then decided to poke my head into the neighboring farmhouse I was expecting something fairly similar. To my surprise the farmhouse was sparse and contained no decorations. When I asked a guide she explained that this was because you want to provide your guest with the best of everything. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures for comparison, but here are a few pictures museum and the exteriors of some of the buildings.

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After the Folkemuseum we decided to walk around the docks before calling it a day. One thing that struck me was how many modern buildings there are in Oslo. I’ve never been a huge fan of modern architecture but some of the buildings here are just stunning. My favorite building was an apartment building that was right next to the water. Apparently the water is pretty clean because they had a swimming station complete with diving board right into the harbor. Some more pictures below and more to come tomorrow.

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