OSLO, Norway -- There are three great museums on Norway's Bygdoy Peninsula that visitors should not miss:
1. Norwegian Folk Museum
Norway's largest open-air museum with more than 150 buildings, many from the 17th and 18th centuries, is a fun place. The Stave church built around 1200 is a highlight. Various buildings showcase traditional crafts, folk costumes, toys, weapons, and Sami culture. It's most lively during the summer when there are horse and carriage rides, animal feeding, guided tours, folk dancing, exhibitions, markets and more.
2. Viking Ship Museum
The museum houses three Viking ships excavated from the Oslofjord region. Two of these, the 24-metre-long Gokstad and 22- metre-long Oseberg, have elaborate Carvings on the prow and stern, date to the 9th century and are the world's best preserved wooden Viking ships. The vessels were brought ashore and used as tombs for nobility who were buried with jewels, food, etc. Tools, textiles, a decorated cart and household items are also on display.
3. Polarship Fram Museum
This museum houses the Fram, "the world's most famous polar ship." The 39-metre rigged schooner was used by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen on his 1893-96 expedition, which got within a few degrees of the North Pole, then by Otto Sverdrup, who sailed to Ellesmere Island on the vessel's second expedition (1898-1902), and later by Roald Amundsen on his 1911 discovery of the South Pole. Visitors can see a fascinating exhibits of the three expeditions, and more.
Kon-Tiki sails again: New film, new exhibits chronicle 1947 expedition
On April 28, 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and a crew of five men set out in a primitive balsa-wood raft from Peru on a 6,980-km journey across the Pacific Ocean to prove the theory that the South Seas Islands could have been settled by ancient South Americans.
Called the Kon-Tiki expedition, it gripped the world with excitement. Experts said it couldn't be done. They maintained the logs would absorb water and lose buoyancy, that the lashings holding them together would break, and that ocean currents and wind alone would not provide enough propulsion.
But after 101 dangerous days at sea -- during which the crew ecountered raging storms and sharks, and used only the stars and ocean currents to navigate -- they arrived in the Tuamotu Islands triumphant, but exhausted, after smashing into a reef at Raroia.
What followed was a book by Heyerdahl -- The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas, which sold 50-million copies in 70 languages -- and a documentary, The Kon-Tiki Expedition, which won an Academy Award in 1951.
Now, 66 years later, a riveting new feature film recounts the epic journey. Kon Tiki, starring Pal Sverre Hagen as Heyerdahl, has been getting rave reviews. It's due for release in Canadian theatres May 3 (Toronto), May 10 (Vancouver and Montreal) and May 17 (Ottawa). Though the story is already well documented, directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg say they have the advantage of modern technology to recreate the scope of the adventure on the big screen.
Kon-Tiki fans may be intrigued to know the original raft was not wrecked during its tortuous journey but has been on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway, since 1950. With renewed interest in the expedition and the museum, the raft was recently restored and the entire exhibit is being expanded. (The raft restoration was overseen by Heyerdahl's grandson Olav Heyerdahl, an adventurer who also helped make a replica for the new film.)
When the new exhibit opens in mid-June, it will tell a more personal story of the crew (five Norwegians and one Swede), daily life on the vessel, the consequences of the expedition for Heyerdahl, and its impact on popular culture in the '50s and '60s. An exhibition for children has also been added.
Viewing the raft up close -- it's made of nine tree trunks, up to 14 metres long and 60 cm in diameter, lashed together with hemp ropes -- you get a sense of the crew's bravery. Who would willingly agree to be so exposed on the open ocean for three months?
Another exhibit shows some of the marine life encountered on their journey -- tuna, dolphins, an enormous whale shark, and flying fish that actually landed on the raft! Visitors can also watch the 73-minute documentary in its entirety.
Heyerdahl's other adventures are also chronicled. After Kon-Tiki, Heyerdahl undertook other spectacular expeditions on the Tigris and Ra II, the papyrus reed boat he sailed across the Atlantic in 1970 (also on display).
All of the crew have since passed away. Heyerdahl died in 2002, but not before collaborating with screenwriter Petter Skavlan on the story. Skavlan said it was important to Heyerdahl that the story wasn't only about the expedition but showed the larger picture, and why he became the Kon-Tiki man.
The Kon-Tiki Museum is in Bygdoy just outside central Oslo. There is a bus to the museum (every 15 minutes) from either Central Station or the National Theatre. From April to October, a ferry sails from the quayside near City Hall. For more, visit the museum website kon-tiki.no.
NEED TO KNOW
For tourism information, see visitnorway.com.