The Scandinavian Adventure – Akershus Festning and the Viking ships

The Scandinavian Adventure – Akershus Festning and the Viking ships

Friday, July 24, 2014

Today we are going to find the main entrance to Akershus Festning. This fortress is such a beautiful place I cannot let Solo go home without seeing it for himself.
Luckily upon arrival on the closed entrance, I am spotting a tourist group taking another route. Maybe they are going toward the entrance? We decide to follow them to see if this will take us where we need to go. Next, to the stables of Akershus Festning, we find the entrance. Guarded by the military, where a guard inspects vehicles, we can pass through. This even without inspection of my backpack. Though we are at some higher alert state everybody is still relatively relaxed.

Even though it is still early in the morning, the weather already shows all signs of continuing with yesterday’s heat wave. I am glad for every spot of shade that I can find on the way to the fortress. And then people claim Norway is always cold, dark and it is always raining–I cannot confirm that.

Akershus festning

King Haakon V (*1270, †1319, ♚ 1299) mentioned the king’s castle at Akersneset in Oslo in a gift letter to the Mariakirken (Church of Mary) in 1300. He also started the construction of the castle in the late 1290s. His daughter Duchess Ingebjørg (*1301, †1361) and her son Magnus Erikson (*1316, †1374, ♚1319) continued the building process. The castle was however not finished before Håkon VI Magnuson (*1340, †1380, ♚ 1355). He lived in the castle with his wife, the Danish Princess Margrete (*1353, †1412, DK ♛ 1375, NO ♛ 1380, SE ♛ 1389) until his death. Margrete I became the most powerful woman in Europe. She founded the Kalmar Union. The same Queen Margrete I. we learned about in Copenhagen earlier on our journey.

In 1527 lightning hit the castle, and the resulting fire destroyed large parts of it. Farmers from Romerike, a region northeast of Oslo, were forced to rebuild the castle. King Christian IV (*1577, † 1648, ♚ 1588) modernized the castle into a Renaissance building.

During WWII the Nazis used the castle as storage, prison and execution place for more than 40 members of the Norwegian resistance.

In 1947 Kong Hakon VII (*1872, †1957, ♚ 1905) was the first to use the fortress as a place of celebrations for his 75s birthday.

During our visit, I find most of the cannon stands clear, possibly a result of the current security level. A few barrels remain, some of them lying down on pallets instead of being mounted. To our surprise, they bear the seal of King Christian VI. The same King’s cannons we have seen before on our journey in Frederikshavn while visiting Krudttårnet. Of course with the historical background it is explainable, yet for me, it feels like the circle is closing.

We spend quite some time exploring the castle and its little, but interesting, museum. But there are more places to see in Oslo today.

After a stop at the nearby Irish pub for some refreshing drinks, we continue our explorations with another tour to Bygdøy. This time to visit the Vikingskiphuset.

Viking ships in Oslo

The Vikingskiphuset (Viking ship house) is the home of the remains of four Viking ships. They were found in the Southern Norwegian areas of Gokstad, Oseberg, and Borre on the western and Tune on the eastern side of the Oslofjord.
The museum has four wings. One for each of the ships and one for the so-called Osebergsamlingene (Osebergcollections). The Osebergsamlingene are a collection of pieces of grave furniture from all three ships and of what is left of the Borre findings.

The Tune-ship

The Tune-ship is the smallest of the three remaining boats, but with a stronger mast mounting. The distinctive mast mounting, combined with the ship’s shape, makes it likely that it was meant for transportation of lightweight goods like fur or a fast ship of war. It was a clinker built ship of oak tree, built around 910 AD, large enough for a crew of 26. The first excavated ship of the museum is the Tune-ship. The ship suffered from the rough treatment during the excavations and transportation in 1867, so few details are preserved. During the excavation of the grave-mound, the body of a man and his three horses–one inside the ship and two outside of it–with burial gifts were found. To receive such gifts at his burial, he must have been an influential person at his time.

The Gokstad-ship

In 890AD, at the height of the Viking age, the Gokstad-ship was built. It was suited for expeditions, merchant travels and journeys of war and had a crew of 34. During the ship’s excavation in 1879, 32 shields were still attached to each side of it. Black painted shields next to a gold painted ones. In the ship leftovers of a white woolen material with stripes in red attached to it were found. These are probably are the remains of the ships sail. Even though no dragon heads were found, this must once have been a spectacular–or frightening–sight.

The Oseberg-ship

Excavated in 1904, and built around 820AD the Oseberg-ship was highly decorated with animal ornaments. It had a crew of 32. In 834AD the ship was taken on shore and used as a burial ship for two ladies. One of the women was between 70 and 80 years of age and the other one around 50 years old. Considering the way they have been buried they must have had some influence in their region.

Though today’s museum is rather small, compared to the Viking ship house that we visited in Roskilde, I find it interesting. Plans for a new museum have been made. Since the ships cannot be moved to a new location, the “new” museum will be an extension to the existing one. I am looking forward to the completion of the new museum. Maybe the exhibitions will then also be able to show how the Vikings lived? But for today I am satisfied with our visit.

Leaving the Vikingskiphuset, we are considering to add another museum to our explorations, but we are both tired. So we decide to return to my place. Tomorrow is going to be Solo’s last day in Oslo before leaving for Tennessee again…one more day of explorations left for our little adventure.

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