Once in Ukraine I bought a bread with the name “Danish bread”. I am sure, there was nothing Danish about it, the producers just wanted to give it a fancy name. I was a student back then, just 20 years old, who had never travelled outside of Ukraine, except to Russia. The name of the bread made me wonder: “What do I know about Denmark? And Scandinavia?” I tried to make a mental list in my head. And was always messing up the capitals (“Oslo is the capital of Finland, and Helsinki – of Sweden?”). Ok, so Denmark is easy. It’s Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid and H. C. Andersen. Sweden is Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking (I was a literature student and it was easier to name books than IKEA. I had no idea about IKEA then). Norway? Ok, fjords. And Finland – just sauna and that’s it?
I still remember the kind of hunger I felt – hunger to fill in my blanks about that part of the world. I had no idea then that I could end up living in Scandinavia. And those blanks would be filled, with overflow actually 🙂 Already as a child, I had loved Scandinavian fairytales, Moomin trolls by Tove Jansson, H.C. Andersen – and I wonder if this could be a secret reason why I came to live here in the North, though I have never dreamt about it explicitly. Maybe, it was my subconscious dream 🙂
Is there a thing, an image, that pulls the whole Scandinavia together? What comes to your mind when you think about this part of Europe? An IKEA rug, a hygge book, a hipster backpack? There is one object which has always been a symbol of Scandinavia for me: a bicycle. When I lived in Ukraine, the bikes were just for kids. All the serious folks travelled by car or public transport. We had no bicycle infrastructure then, no special lanes, no parking spots for bikes (I don’t think much has changed since). Yes, in the villages people would bike – but come on, the village was not where you got your lifestyle inspiration then 😉 While the Nordic bike (especially, the Danish one) was the essence of freedom, casual and relaxed lifestyle, the non-obsession by the status symbols like big cars.
I remember the story about Ukrainian members of parliament visiting Oslo. Rumors said, they were shocked by the fact of Norwegian MPs riding their bikes to work. While in Ukraine every ministry office is surrounded by the fleet of huge black jeeps with tinted windows. “How can you bike to work when you are a people’s representative?”, the Ukrainian visitors were asking themselves and each other. The irony of it, haha. This is the people of Norway and this is how they are represented by their elected MPs. And I like it 🙂
To celebrate this Scandinavian thing, I went through my photos of Oslo for the last three years and compiled my collection of bicycles (ok, the reason was not so pompous. I just wanted to share my collection because they are such a pretty thing, don’t you think?). Feel free to pick your favorite one
and take with you home 😉
What is essentially Scandinavian for you? Do you have a relationship with bicycles?
Part 1. Some have the art to park a bike in a way that it looks like part of design. But they are not. These are not the bikes that shops set out to make their fronts more Instagrammable (or what do I know? 🙂
Part 2. Stories from my backyard
Part 3. What I found exploring the backyards around the town
Instead of saying good-bye – stay on those roads!