After an early morning jog along an already busy harbor, we headed to the old town area. Still jet lagged on Sunday, cramped & fraught with sciatic pain from sitting most of the previous day, we spent Sunday on foot, be-bopping around the city. (No one uses that turn of phrase any more, but maybe I can reintroduce it ;) We hoped to use some sightseeing to stretch our legs & backs and also get some exercise before the overnight train ride to Bodø.
There we found an old fortress, built upon a bluff, which must have conferred some defensive advantage in the days when cannons benefited from elevated positions. It turned out to be Akershus Fortress, a landmark fortification constructed before 1300 AD to stand guard over Oslo.
To us, the strange thing about the fort is the dual historical-tourist and active-use nature of the installation. Signs appeared to identify it as the headquarters for the Norwegian military, not just the military of 300 hundred years ago. It appeared to be the current headquarters of The Ministry of Defense. Strange then, that they'd let us tourists walk around the place.
So we walked boldly in, as if we owned this Norwegian Pentagon. Perhaps the best aspect of this fort is the striking position (pun intended) it occupies above Oslo harbor. The views across the harbor are stupendous, made all the more so by the surprise of finding this place.
Akerhus Fortress turns out to serve many functions: museum, national, historical symbol of Norwegian seat of government, erstwhile prison, church for the military, burial ground for royalty, current military HQ, site of official events/dinners for visiting dignitaries and military museum.
Note: For accurate, interesting and above all, detailed online maps of Norway, visit the fabulous Norgeskart. The site identifies the maps as being in beta status, but I found them accurate and full of details I was unable to find anywhere else online. They seem to be available in Norwegian & English and possibly other languages as well.
After walking around Akerhus, we followed the meandering harbor edge around to the Oslo Opera House. What a magnificent structure! Some architects went crazy designing this place, creating an enormously striking piece of work. In fact, the structure has been awarded prizes celebrating the unique architecture.
To paraphrase the Visit Norway site, the Opera House is itself a work of art. More than a just place to hear music, the opera house is destination for both tourists & locals. Dramatic, modern lines, all cut in stone & glass are a feast for the eyes and fun to explore. No two sides, angles or walls of the building are the same.
From across the harbor, it seems that if parents let go of their child's stroller, it would roll down the angled slope, right into the water. However, several cleverly designed breaks in the stonework, which don't detract from the overall slope, preclude this from happening.
The layout invites you to walk right up to the roof, from where you have sweet views across the old-town part of the city. Undoubtedly, the architects intended the opera house as a modernistic backdrop to the hundreds-year old buildings around it.
In fact, one of my favorite scenes shows the reflection of a very old hotel in the modernistic windows which make up one of the opera house walls. What a cool juxtaposition of old & new.
Most of the afternoon had passed by the time we walked around the fortress and opera house. The train north to Bodø was scheduled to leave late in the afternoon, so we walked from the Opera House to the nearby central train station, where we had our bags stashed in a locker. (yes, some places still let you keep your stuff in lockers)
More on the overnight train to Bodø in the next post...