Arctic plants, puffins and polar bears

I follow Jerry Coleby-Williams on Facebook, mainly because he lives in the same climate as me and gives out useful food-growing tips. (He is probably best known as a presenter on ABC TV’s ‘Gardening Australia’.) Jerry takes people on overseas trips to see plants and gardens (e.g. so far to New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.) Last year he advertised a trip to the Arctic. I hadn’t ever considered going there, but the itinerary ticked a lot of boxes for me: a 10-day wildlife cruise around Svalbard (aka Spitzbergen) and visits to other cities in Norway – Oslo, Tromso, Bergen and Balestrand, from which we’d do a tour of the World Heritage areas of the fjords and glaciers, and finally get the famous Flam railway (said to be one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the world) back to Oslo.

I’d also get a chance to catch up with Andrew’s Aunty Rosemary, whom I hadn’t seen for 10 years, and who has lived in Oslo for 30 years with her Norwegian partner.

At Oslo airport I hooked up with most of the 14 members of the tour – this was the start of fun and games as two tour companies had been involved in bookings, and itineraries and instructions varied slightly between members. But we had all been independent travellers and were able to work out the kinks as a team.

The gardening group; photo by guide

We were bussed to our hotel to recover from our various journeys (mine a 14 hour flight to Dubai, 3 hours in Dubai airport, then 7 hours to Oslo). My roommate, Janet, arrived later from London.

Next morning, the hotel breakfast room had an interesting sign, so I felt OK about scavenging a picnic lunch from there. (By the way, Europeans use a comma where we would use a decimal point.) (I took many more photos than the ones below, but if you google-image the names of places you are interested in, you’ll see more.)


I decided to skip the Oslo city guided tour the first morning in favour of seeing Aunty Ro. Two of her friends, Vidar and Ketil, drove us to the famous (and scarily long/high) Holmenkollbakken ski jump. The weather had been unusually sunny and warm for the locals (up to about 30C but about 18C today) for the past few weeks so the views of the city and fjord were fabulous. A pleasant lunch was had at a restaurant overlooking Oslo from the other side of the fjord.

At the end of the visit with Ro, I asked to be dropped off at the Natural History Museum, Norway’s oldest and largest – I am a museum and aquarium junkie and like to see these wherever I go. Walking through the Botanic Gardens, in which the museum stands, I was amused to see a small robot cutting the grass. I knew such things existed but had never seen one. Wonder if they make them for paddocks? The museum shop had some unusual souvenirs, but I passed on the moose poo earrings (yes, really!). It would have been fun showing them to Australian Customs on the way home, though.

The next day started with a visit to the excellent Viking Ship Museum, where there are three reconstructed Viking ships and many other archaeological finds, including carvings and skeletons. I’d seen these on documentaries, but being in the same room was something else – they are shallow, wide and long, absolutely massive things.

Photo by Mark Clements or Anne Mackenzie

Photo by Mark Clements or Anne Mackenzie

Unfortunately, not long after we arrived, a horde of other tourists arrived from one of the big cruise liners (these carry about 4,000 people each), so the place became very crowded and less easy to take photos in. We had our own local guide who explained a few things to us. The whole place was riveting despite the crowd.

The next stop was the Vigeland installation in Frogner Park. It contains 200 large, impressive sculptures by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland.

Walking in Frogner Park (Anne-Marie the guide in the front, middle); photo by Jerry Coleby-Williams

That was the end of exploring Oslo, although there would have been much more to see. The next day involved a flight to Longyearbyen in the Arctic circle and the start of the 10-day wildlife cruise in the Arctic (see the next post).

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9 Responses to Arctic plants, puffins and polar bears

  1. janebeau says:

    I am boggled by the size of the Viking ship – never realised!

  2. Betty Jacobs says:

    It is wonderful to have another glimpse of my trip in March but this time there is no snow! How great that you are posting for us. Thank you.

  3. Prue Gargano says:

    I remember that Viking museum well: what an amazing insight into that period of history.

  4. Hi Joy, enjoyed the detail of your story and great photos (good ones of you too). l realised l had visited Frogner Park in the early 1970’s, l remember those amazing sculptures! Thanks, really interesting, Jackie.

  5. alan48 says:

    We visited the Viking Museum during our trip and curiously enough saw a robot cutting the lawn there as well. We also enjoyed the Frogner Park with those amazing sculptures. I was tickled to see a group kids in kindergarten (pre-school) following us off the tram and into this same park, being led along by their adult minders. People in the US would be scandalized if young kids in this country were exposed to all those nudes. 🙂 I think we’ll have to return to Oslo, but then again we spent time in Stockholm and I want to return there as well. And on and on. So many cities/landscapes, so little time.

    • Joy Window says:

      Really? I’m surprised by that attitude. I also want to explore Scandinavia more, but probably in the ‘off season’ as I didn’t enjoy the huge numbers of tourists around the place (despite being one myself).

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