Oslo Fjord – it’s a pirates life for me!
Don’t get me wrong, Oslo city has a lot to offer the intrepid tourist. Before you set your travel itinerary in stone though, ask yourself this question, «am I destined to be a dry-footed landlubber for the rest of my life, or could I become a free-spirited pirate, ready to take on the five islands of Oslo Fjord?» In this blog post, I will give you a brief history of the Fjord, an understanding of the geography and climate and also information on how to go about exploring this beautiful place.
A short history – for those who like to dwell on the past
Apparently, the oldest settlements surrounding Oslo Fjord date back to the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. It was at these very settlements that 3 of the best preserved Viking ships were discovered! In those times, this bay was known by the current name of the region, «Viken» (the bay). Some Norwegians on a kayak course last year told me that the word «Viking» traces its origins from this very area. Interesting or what!?
During the period 1624-1925 the name of the Fjord was «Kristianfjorden (or Christianfjorden)» since this was the name of the capital during this time. The old Norse name for the Fjord was «Fold.»
One other interesting snippet from antiquity comes from World War 2. The Germans were sneaking up the Fjord to launch a night attack on Oslo. Luckily Colonel Eriksen, commander at the Oscarsborg fortress, spotted the heavy cruiser and ordered it to be sunk. This action delayed the Germans, allowing for the government, King and treasury to be evacuated from Oslo. Now Norway could participate as an ally in the war, rather than a conquered nation.
Geography, Wildlife and Climate
The inner part of Oslo Fjord is well forested and characterised by hilly slopes rolling down into the Fjord. There are many islands within Oslo Fjord, each with their unique names and individual histories.
Oslo Fjord is the warmest Fjord in Norway. Yes, that means pack your speedos and floaties! The water temperature usually reaches around 18 degrees centigrade but last summer we had record temps of 22+. Because of the Fjords relatively high temperatures, an abundance of flora and fauna have managed to flourish. Many different seabirds are hanging out and pooping on people’s heads, and if you’re lucky you may see a seal or a dolphin!
The 5 Islands
Høvedøya is the closest island to the city centre. There are many lovely beaches to check out and a large grassy field in the middle of the island used for lounging and playmaking. Fires are not allowed, but there are designated BBQ areas – please remember to use those! Høvedøya also has protected nature reserves, so please stick to the beaten path. Be sure to check out the ruins of the Cistercian monastery and even the cannon batteries from 1808 – I find that religion and guns go well together…
Gressholmen, Heggeholman and Ramberøya – same thing right?
These three connected islands are great for vitamin D extraction, or in other words, sunbathing. Grab some beer, preferably not «Aas øl», which is a Norwegian beer that tastes how its name is pronounced. Heggholmen is home to one of Oslo Fjords oldest lighthouses – be sure to check that out. Ramberøya and the Northern parts of Gressholmen are nature reserves. I feel like I’m nagging now, but pretty please, do not go and disturb the wildlife. Many of the birds in Oslo Fjord are personal friends of mine, so I will find out if you messed with my hombres. It’s pretty cool watching the hatching season early in May and then to see the chicks develop into young birds throughout the summer. Heggholmen used to be a small industrial community where they produced oil. I once had to camp here when I got stuck out on Oslo Fjord on a dark and windy night. There was a fantastic sunset! Oh yeah, that’s also another great thing about Oslo: amazing sunsets! Last fun fact: Gressholmen was the location of Norway’s first airport, established in 1927.
Langøyene seriously rocks my socks off, like you literally don´t even need to wear shoes here; I’ve walked around this island many times without them. Anyway, Langøyene used to be two islands until the «powers that be» decided to use the space in-between as a rubbish dump. Yea, you heard me correctly the first time: a rubbish dump! Crazy as this may sound if you’re a tree-hugging-hippy-lover like me; the island is now a very comfortable and lovely abode. You can spot the original isles by the rise in elevation on either side of the island. Langøyene is a perfect place for chilling on the beach, barbequing, playing volleyball, or taking a hike.
How to get around
Oslo Fjord is a fantastic place to kayak. The weather is usually mild, making it ideal for beginners. DNT rents out kayaks for those who have their NPF våttkort, and Oslo Kayak Tours run guided trips almost every day. For more information, please contact us, even if you just have general questions about the area. I’m always more than happy to have a good old chin wag with a stranger!
You can catch a ferry from Aker Brygge (Google maps – Rådhusbrygga). You will know that you are in the right area if you can see an imposing brick building, which looks like Norway´s version of Hogwarts. Furthermore, you will be able to see an old jumble of buildings jutting out on a small peninsula; this is the old navy fortress. Last but not least, if you are beside the ocean, you are probably pretty close; the sea is a greeny-blue, and there should be seagulls in the vicinity. You can buy a ticket either online (ruter.no) or at a ticket machine located beside the ferry pick up point. Since all these islands are in the same transport area (zone one), you can buy a day-pass and use this to explore all the islands – pretty neat huh!?
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, please don´t hesitate to send all your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
– Tomas Hansson