03 June 2009

Places You've Never Heard Of: Bygdoy

By Michelle Styles

About twenty five years ago, I was travelling through Europe for the first time and had to change trains at Eindhoven. It suddenly struck me that there were cities, big cities that I had never heard of but probably millions of others had. And when I go places, I do try to remember it is probably more my own ignorance about a place rather than a place being unknown.

Anyway, I am not certain how many readers of this blog will know about Bygdoy in Norway. Before I went to Oslo, I had no idea it existed but I was very glad to have found it.

Bygdoy is a peninsula in the Oslo fjord (originally an island, hence the "oy" suffix) and houses some of Norway's most important museums as well as the royal family's summer residence. If you are going to Norway, you need to plan to spend a day there and even then, it is hard to see everything. It is best approached by ferry.

First there is the Kon-Tiki Museum, which is dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl's voyages. It houses the famous raft which he piloted from Peru to Polynesia as well as the papyrus boat, Ra II which sailed from Morocco to the Caribbean in 1970.

Then there is the Fram Museum which houses the Fram, the boat that Amundsen used on his polar expeditions. Amundsen was the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911 and the museum provides a glimpse of what it was like.

After that, the Norwegian folk museum is an open air museum with over 153 different structures including a stave church. There is also a huge collection of interiors as well as toys, traditional costumes and Ibsen's study. It quickly give a bird's eye view of Norway and the many different styles of the various regions.

And finally, there is the Viking Ship Museum which houses the three most important Viking ships discovered in the Oslo fjord. The Oseberg ship was discovered with its grave goods intact and is thought to be the burial chamber of Queen Asa. You can see the various beds, sledges, textiles and other items. When you are standing next to the ships, the size is immediately apparent, particularly when you compare them to the Kon-Tiki or indeed the Fram.

So if you are ever in Norway, do make time to go to Bygdoy and see the museums. It is a day well spent.