In my past articles, you know that I have an addiction for the World Showcase Pavilions. For me, they represent the pinnacle of the Imagineers attention to detail and history. As you know, the entire Showcase’ countries represented are accurate microcosms of actual buildings, areas, and the people of the country. Of course, most are scaled down and changed slightly due to space constraints, but no matter what country you visit, you feel as if you are there.
Another wonderful country represented is the Norway Pavilion. Most people immediately think of Vikings and horned helmets, and although the Vikings played a huge part in Norwegian and world history, Norway is much more than that. With their rich history of exploration, expert boat building and literature, today’s Norway is a modern Hi-tech country. The pavilion is a re-creation of a fishing village in Norway. As always, there are the gift shops and eateries. And Norway is only the second pavilion to have a ride attraction, along with Mexico’s Grand Fiesta Tour boat ride starring Donald Duck. Let’s start with the ride attraction. The attraction is called Maelstrom, which is named after a giant ocean whirlpool, and Viking legends say they can consume a ship at sea whole. The ride is about 4 minutes long and depicts the history of Norway as a seafaring nation from the earliest Viking times to modern Norway.
The queue line meanders past a huge map of the earliest sea routes pioneered by Norway’s seamen, among them the route taken to the Americas long before Christopher Columbus arrived in the new world. On the opposite wall is an impressive mural that depicts life in Norway, from the Viking times to the modern. Look closely at the mural, you will see people at a campfire and next to them a Troll complete with hands in the shape of the mountain. Trolls are similar to Ireland’s Leprechauns and are part of Scandinavian mythology. They do not like people and in fact will do them harm. The ride vehicles are miniature replicas of the Viking Longships, complete with the dragon’s head brow that for centuries terrorized Europe. The ride states that you may get wet, but have no fear, I have ridden the attraction countless times in the front of the boat, and the most water you get might be a couple of drops! Your boat ascends a steep incline, where on top with a flashing eye, the Norse God Odin tells us that… “You are not the first to pass this way, nor shall you be the last. Those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure. But more often find beauty and charm. We have always lived with the sea, so look first to the spirit of the seafarer”
From here we pass dioramas of Viking life, further on we will encounter some of those evil “Trolls”. You will pass by a three-headed Troll who will cast a spell on your boat and cause it to turn backwards and you continue passing scenes of Norway, polar bears and forests. We come up to a fork in the river where another Troll pops it’s head up, our boat turns around and we descend another drop, splash down and we are now in modern day Norway, again with dioramas of modern-day Norway, oil rigs and finally the attraction ends in a small Norwegian fishing village. Note that the signs that are above the buildings were once sponsors of the attraction. The Maelstrom attraction is much like the Mexican; cute, but it is not a Space Mountain ride by any means.
When you exit the boats, you will enter a theater that has a short six minute film on Norway, “The Spirit of Norway”. There is no story line per se, but do take the time to see the film. It is a bit dated and much like Canada and China, both pavilions who did a major update on their films, I believe its Norway’s turn.
Let’s talk about the pavilion itself. It officially opened on July 5th, 1988. The Crown Prince of Norway Harald V was at the opening ceremony and that was televised back to Norway. The Imagineers initially first wanted to have a pavilion to showcase life in the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. But the costs of hosting an exclusive World Showcase pavilion was over $30 million dollars, only Norway fronted the monies. But in 2002, Norway did not renew its contract and the Walt Disney Company is now fully running the pavilion. Since Norway and all of the Scandinavian countries are seafaring nations and their history is so closely linked to the sea, the pavilion is a representation of a Norwegian fishing village. As with the other pavilions, the architecture is taken from actual places in the host country; this village apes styles from Alesund, Oslo (The Capital) and Bergen. The fortress that dominates the pavilion and that is home to the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is of the same name. This imposing fortress first began construction around the late 1290s, by King Haakon V, replacing Tandberg as one of the two most important Norwegian castles of the period. The fortress has successfully survived all attempts to capture it, primarily by Swedish forces, including those by forces led by Charles XII in 1716. But it surrendered to the German army during WWII without a fight. Today it is used for official events and dinners for dignitaries and foreign heads of state.
The Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is a buffet-style eatery that is extremely popular. It has three dining areas; one is the main area, with beautiful wood beams, chandeliers and ornate and tall windows and the other a room with white stonework all around, almost like a dungeon and there is a third, small area that resembles a medieval roadside inn. All are cozy and detailed. As you would expect, there is a good amount of seafood offered at the salad bar and it is a buffet-style eatery. This is a Princess character meal experience for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a bit pricey and reservations are a must.
You will notice the costumes the Cast Members wear. It is traditional folk wear called a “Bunad” It is not as elaborate as the real ones, but amazingly close. Look outside the restaurant and notice the incredible details of the fortress. I love architecture and if you look closely you will see ornate metal objects that look like cattle horns on the side of the buildings. These are anchor points that connect iron rods going through the building; which actually support the heavy stone walls. Before I-beams, without these structures, the wall would collapse under their own weight. If you look at any old building anywhere, look for them.
Another remarkable structure to see is the Stave Church. These churches once numbered over 2000, but today only about 28 exist. They were constructed by a technique called post and lintel, and this Disney church is a recreation of the Gol Stave Church originally from Gol, Hallingdal, Norway, from the year 1212. Outside the church there is a statue of King Olaf II, the Patron Saint of Norway. Inside the church, a new display; depictions of “Norsk Kultur” or Norwegian Culture now on display that replaced the original display of Viking history. Due to the immense popularity of its new blockbuster movie “Frozen” these scenes of Norwegian life were the inspiration used for the accuracy of the movie. And don’t forget to check out the Viking Rune Stone with the Norse language on it. It’s just cool.
The last part of the tour concludes with the gift shops. After exiting Maelstrom, you enter a gaggle of shops called the Puffin’s Roost. (Note: A Puffin is a stocky, short-winged and short-tailed bird with black upper parts that are hunted for eggs, feathers and meat). This section sells clothing and the lot. The section next to it sells souvenirs, like books, trolls etc. You can also get one of those Viking helmets with the horns. But a bit of information…There is no historical evidence of horns used on any Viking helmet. This is just Hollywood fiction. You will also find the Kidcot station here in this section. And here is a statue of one of the largest Trolls in Norway! It is also a must Kodak moment stop. The last shop sells perfumes and jewelry and showcases the fragrance Laila from Norway.
The last attraction is probably a guest favorite… Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. Inside is a tempting array of sweets, sandwiches, salads and pastries. Beverages and water can also be had. Outside is a cozy covered eating area. Next to the eating area there used to be a life-sized Viking longboat. Kids used to play on it, but for some reason Disney has removed this icon, with only a few bits of the original ship remain. Also in front of the outside area is a statue of the Norwegian marathon runner Grete Waitz. Grete passed away at the early age of 57 on April 19th, 2011. And if the kids are up for it, they can join Phineas and Ferb Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure; the registration booth is next to the frozen treat cart!
That wraps up the Norway pavilion. Again when visiting Norway, take a little time to see all the detail in the buildings and all around. I see so many guests running around and missing so much. There is much more at Disney than just the attractions, take the time to see it all!