The sail down Oslo Fjord reminded us of last summer in Alaska. Cool temperature, low hanging heavy clouds. Close examination of the buildings showed a different architectural style; picturesque homes dotted the green hillsides. If there was a flat spot, someone had built a home there. We were also left with the impression that every Norwegian must own a boat.
Oslo is a wonderful city to visit by cruise ship. The dock is right down town; many stores and museums are within walking distance. However, this is definitely a window shopping sort of town. Prices are breathtakingly high. At the grocery store ordinary coffee cost $33/pound. At McDonald’s a Big Mac cost $8. A 6-ounce bottle of Coke was $2.60. At the TGIF what the two $20 appetizer/entree combos would cost at home, went for $36 for one. It’s fun to have a bouquet of flowers in the cabin and the bouquet from Ft. Lauderdale is long gone. It was easy to find a bouquet of nothing special for $50. It made the prices we complained about in Alaska downright reasonable. Oil wealth has made both these areas even more pricey than their remoteness would cause them to be. I’m beginning to feel like we live in a bargain basement country.
Many museums of national interest are located on a peninsula just outside the city. We visited the Fram Museum named after a ship that visited both the North Pole and South Pole over one hundred years ago. In 1893 Nansen & Johanssen had the Fram built to unusual specifications. The hull was much rounder than normal and had thicker wood reinforcement. Previous attempts to go to the North Pole had resulted in ships crushed in freezing ice. It was hoped that the Fram would rise up on its round hull as the ice froze around it. That worked just fine, but it was tough to handle in the rough Arctic seas. Cargo in the hull shifted constantly and occasionally a sled dog was lost over the side. After the Fram froze it drifted closer to the ice for 1- 1/2 years. Finally Nansen & Johanssen decided they couldn’t wait any longer and they made the rest of the trip to the pole on foot. Luckily, they were picked up by a passing British vessel and arrived back in Norway three years after they left. In the meantime the rest of the crew brought the Fram back to Oslo as well.
In 1911 Roald Amundsen took this very same ship to the South Pole. He was racing with Ernest Shakelton to get there first. He did, but he and his crew died in the attempt. The Fram was eventually located and brought home once again. (Shakelton lost the race, but brought home his entire crew.) Much of the equipment and many artifacts used on the Fram is lovingly preserved in the museum today. The Norwegians are justifiably proud of their polar accomplishments.
The heavy gray clouds from the morning broke loose and put a real damper on what would have been a scenic harbor cruise. The tour boat was not enclosed and sailing in the rain and 40º temperatures was not my idea of a good time. We sailed past light houses, fishing villages, summer cabins. As I peered through the plastic cover I could imagine that this could have been very beautiful. Once again I was left thinking about Alaska.