Some months ago I saw a lovely post about the old signs in France. Lover of all things French and pretty vintage, I made myself a promise to go on a photowalk in Oslo and search for the old signs. Somehow I had an idea in my mind that the old signs of my neighborhood Grunerløkka were to be preserved and protected. Quickly I had to find out that either the rules have changed – or I remembered the wrong facts 🙂 There were no old signs – well, just a couple of them.
But I was already eager to set my lens focused on signs – and so I collected all the signs I considered worthy :)) They all are to be found in this hipster, relaxed, trendy neighborhood of Oslo – called Grunerløkka (where I happen – and am happy – to live). It used to be a cheap scary area which went through gentrification some years ago and now it is both cool and expensive to move in here. It used to be a place of many independent shops, bars and cafes, but now they give way to the bigger store chains and coffee houses. So some signs you see here can be unique and some are quite international. Now let’s walk – and follow the signs!
Where to find summer in the city? There are parks and botanical gardens, there are promenades by the sea and walks along the river. Some cities have beaches, some have lakes. Oslo is lucky to have both: lakes, beaches and the waterfront by the fjord. But I want to share with you my secret place, the hidden jewel of this city – kolonihage, i.e. colonial garden.
There are several of them around Oslo, well hidden and not visited by others than their users. I have discovered two and am totally swept by this idea. One kolonihage lies not far from my home and this spring I went there on the photo hunt. It was during the long weekend in late May when many left the city, and so it was quite and peaceful. The weather was warm and friendly, and made it perfect for tranquil walks around the gardens. Join me on this tour of early summer idyll!
I continue sharing my love for Oslo and its neighborhoods (you can see other posts in these series through the tag “barrios” in my blog). Today I want to share a pretty neighborhood of St. Hanshaugen which seems to be inspired by Italian cities, especially by Rome. I see it in the classical forms of facades, roundness of arches and buildings, in the cascade of stairs and the color palette.
So join me for the summer photowalk through this neighborhood and let me know if it gives you the same reminiscence.
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 🙂
Once, when I was working as a substitute teacher, in the beginning of my teacher career here, we took our second-graders to the local woods. To look for the spring signs. It was officially the subject of the class. To look for the first flowers, buds and bees, to listen to the birds. On return the kids had to fill out the form: “what have you seen and what have you heard?” The science teacher had warned them: “Don’t write “I have seen everything”, it is not interesting. Write what exactly you saw and what you heard (like birds)”. The smartest (or laziest) of them all wrote, of course, in their funny second-grader’s handwriting: “I have seen everything”. While others drew battle scenes from their fantasies. An early lesson on mindfulness. Failed? (Succeeded?)
I have caught myself in a pattern: every spring I go to the botanical garden. To look for the spring signs. After the long winter it feels like coming back to life. And when I see the first flowers, usually they come before the buds, I cheer like in some celebration: “It is spring again! The life has won again! We have survived this winter!” I guess, these emotions would not be understood by the inhabitants of the warmer countries where the season change is not so visible or not so important. But here in the North, where the country is covered in snow and ice for some five months, seeing the first signs of life is like waking up from the dead. For me it is an emotional thing. It seems that in the places where winters are long and harsh, the people are more keen to the change of seasons and are joyful about the spring arrival like no one else.
It is the middle of March already. Do you feel the spring somehow? Here in Oslo the sun shows its face for the third day in a row, making our greenish faces happy and smiling 🙂 Feeling the sun on my skin, I can tell that the seasons are changing, the sun got warmer and soon the first signs of spring will come. It is such a joy for me every year: it is like a victory of life over death. When the first buds appear, I know: we have survived again 🙂
But so far the winter doesn’t want to give up its positions. While the sun tries to melt some snow on the roofs, creating icicles (and threatening our walks), the temps this week fell to -15 at night. Gosh, I have no words for describing how tired I am of this eternal winter. Sometimes it looks like here in the North our seasons are: white and dark winter, light winter, green winter, yellow and rainy winter. All the snow that felt and melted a week ago turned into a blank ice on the streets, and I notice that my feet know so many ways to walk in winter. Heels down first in the mix of snow and salt, fishbone pattern when the snow melts, trying not to slide into the water from the ice on the side, side-side on the black ice. I never knew I could say so much about different quality of snow, ice and road conditions 🙂 So before the ice is gone from our streets, I don’t breathe out with light heart. It is still early to say that we have survived this winter 🙂
On the bright side, the Happiness Report is out again. It always comes out in this boring season when everyone is waiting for the spring but the weather still plays winter games. And it looks like the report was made for cheering up the Nordic countries in this weird period. Because, guess what guess who, the first place this time is taken by Finland! Norway was moved to the second place, and the top is still crowded by the Nordic countries. Haha, very funny. Have these researchers ever been here? 🙂 I have heard a lot about Finland lately, and to be honest, those reports didn’t hint that Finland could win that happiness competition. But it looks they did it anyway, so congratulations! 🙂
The February color theme is definitely pink. I stumbled over its first buds in the end of January and made a little collection in this post . Since then the pink has exploded. It was inspired by the St. Valentine’s day, but to be honest, I have never seen so much pink in Oslo stores. I guess, pink is also Pantone color of the season, so it is found everywhere, in clothes and interior alike. I am a lover of pink, so this season has given me a lot of fluffy emotions. That helps in the snowy season, while the spring seems so far away, and the winter doesn’t want to step back. While other places may soon boast of pink petals on the trees, we get our share while window-shopping. This is Scandinavian lifestyle. Now you know, why they invented hygge! 🙂