Jul. 13th, 2011

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Tuesday -- Oslo

Tuesday started out as usual -- in the Lido cafeteria with bacon, grilled ham, sausage, and fried potatoes.  The difference today, was that we were parked in front of the Shlott Akerhus(?) -- a castle originally built in the 13th century, though rebuilt in the 17th -- and this was the view out of our breakfast window.

We had a fun conversation over breakfast with Becca about the differences between castle fortifications of different centuries.  In this one you could definitely see the old medieval portions as well as the star-shaped cannon bastions.  I even made a model of the fort out of folded Splenda wrappers . . .  until the steward cleaned them away.

We disembarked right after eating and quickly got offered an all-day pass on a tour bus.  The price was right -- 50 Euros for the three of us -- and it went to all of the places we wanted to see, plus drove all over the city.  We had to wait 20 minutes before the first one left, so that gave us time to browse some of the tourist shops right along the cruise ship terminal.  Lots of neat stuff -- all of it _extremely_ expensive.

Now if Chris thought the drive through den Bosch was harrowing, I don’t know how she made it through that bus ride.  Tiny little streets, lots of traffic, construction, many odd-shaped roundabouts.  Plus it was a double-decker bus and we were on top, which gave the impression that we were even closer to all of the obstacles. 

At one point we actually thought we hit someone, and the bus stopped and they turned off the engine.  Becca joked about that one episode of _The OCD Project_ where the woman kept thinking she had run over a baby.  That one became a running gag throughout the rest of the day...

I took lots of pictures as we drove through the city and eventually we found ourselves at the Viking Ship Museum, our primary goal for the day.  As far as museums go, it was a bit weak, only three exhibits really, as well as a few additional glass cases full of small artifacts.  But, man, those three exhibits were stunning.

Three real ships, a thousand years old, dredged up from the bottom of Oslo Fjord, sitting right there, honest to god, in the cruxiform museum building, built around those three ships; a temple, if you will, to the epitome of Dark Age military technology and the skill of the old Norse.

Chris and I were both stunned.  I mean, we knew months ago exactly what was in that museum.  We’d seen the pictures.  We’d read the descriptions.  We knew in our rational monkey brains the width and length of each ship. 

But it’s one thing to know those numbers and to see those pictures.  It’s something completely different to _see_ those ships.  To stand alongside one and marvel at the craftsmanship.  To see the cut of each axeblow in the wood, and know that every ship like this was unique, built without plans or books or blueprints or CAD designs; knowing that each ship sprang directly from the mind of one or a few men who had once lived and loved and built this ship, every bit as much a marvel of technology as the motorbus we’d just gotten off of or the cruise ship waiting for us to return or the 767 that would eventually take us home.  To know that if the guards weren’t there, you could grab ahold of the side and climb onboard, sitting on the decks where huge men had once sat and propelled that ship with the strength of their arms and courage of their hearts across that North Sea that we had just crossed in complete and utter luxury.  And that we, so proud of our learning and our technology and our science and our mastery of the world, would have seemed puny and weak and beneath contempt, because what are we without the trappings of the 21st Century?

We were in awe.  We squeezed in as close as we were allowed to peer at the woodwork and the nails and the immensity of that keel.  We climbed to the little balconies in the building, which allowed us to look down on the interior of the ship and see what the deck and the bilge were like and picture in our minds those men of courage who would have taken that ship to sea with only an inch of oak between them and a cold death.  We crowded around the steering oar, shielded from our grubby hands by plexiglass, and marveled at the engravings and the care taken upon its woodwork and knew that these people were somehow different than we, to put such care and attention in the decoration of a simple steering arm, an implement that to us was nothing but a tool, but to them was Important.

I took pictures.  I shot video.  In a way, I don’t know why.  It’s not like these things have never been photographed.  It’s not like a thousand other people haven’t posted pictures such as these to Facebook or Photobucket.  But somehow . . . somehow I hoped that _my_ pictures retained something of the feelings that I felt as I was taking them and that my pictures might mean more than somebody else’s.  I don’t know.

And Becca?  She hated it.  It was crowded and hot and we were just looking a bunch of old, rotting wood.  She wanted a souvenir which she saw as her right for having had to come to this uninteresting place; her bribe for putting up with the place.  But her choice seemed forced, like she was picking something to pick something, rather than choosing something she might actually want.  And we were still getting used to the money and it was expensive and we didn’t actually have any cash yet.

So we had a bit of a fight there out in front of the museum.  First about buying souvenirs and then, a few minutes later while I tried and failed to get us drinks, about the cruise itself and that she didn’t want to be here.  But Chris was very good with her, much better than I would have been alone, and soon we were back on the bus and laughing and joking.

We wandered around a bit in the downtown area.  Went to lots of touristy shops and bought lot of souvenirs.  All of them very expensive.  $1.50-3.00 a  piece for postcards.  $4 for a 16 oz. Coke.  $32 for a T-Shirt.  $80 for a hoodie that we wound up not getting. Spent about $200, but it’s all in krone so it doesn’t matter, right?

We came back to ship and got lunch.  I had a fabulous slice of meatloaf and a ham sandwich.  Then Chris and I went to the Thermal Spa together and had a very nice relax.  I read while she plotted out in her head her next book, Vikings of course!

Becca and I napped after that, but she was still awake and went to blog.  Becca and I woke at 5:00 and immediately got into another little fight.  I found Chris and we traded spots, I went to blog and she went to take a nap.  Instead, though, she and Becca had a nice long talk and then met me in the Crow’s Nest to talk about it.

We decided to have casual family time.  A quick dinner in the cafeteria followed by a few games of Settlers of Catan in the library.  Then we went back to our room and watched _The Ring_ which Becca had checked out.  It was a very nice, mellow evening that we all enjoyed quite a bit.  I’m so gland they suggested it.

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