I came from Rome with postcards of everything, inspired throughout to my fingertips. Among other things I shared was my collection of Everything That Moves. I don’t know how, but looking through my older photos of Oslo brought me to a simple insight: Oslo has no less postcard-worthy bikes, scooters and small cars. Isn’t it strange that you have to travel to a new place – so that the treasures of your own place can be discovered by you anew?
We get so used to the same town, the same streets. So we travel to break away from the routine. And traveling away seems not only to provide such a break – but also to bring a new inspiration that can be found on the same old streets. Interesting!
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 🙂
The spring in Norway seems to be the most unpredictable of seasons. One day you wear a winter jacket, the next day you sit in the park with only a bikini on. So it looks like both people and nature try to make the most of it and catch every opportunity. For people – to enjoy life, for nature – to bloom. It is unbelievable how much comes up in such a short time. Wasn’t it all white and cold here just a couple of months ago, lasting like forever? And now everything that can bloom – blooms. The nature seems to be in a hurry like it knows that the season is short 🙂
In spring we all become botanists and a huge interest for nature wakes up in everyone owning a mobile camera. People stream to the parks and gardens, take the photos of cherry trees in blossom and tulips, either available in fields or modest patches. My favorite place to observe the season changes is the botanical garden of Oslo. However, it is not only I who remembers it these days. On a nice sunny day there are crowds wanting to take a pic of that alley with white and pink blossoming trees. I came on a Sunday evening and there were still enthusiasts waiting in line to take a photo. So I stayed in a shade and took photos of some shy blue flowers. Why, they deserve admiration too. Will you join me on my natural explorer walk through the garden?
And it is 17th of May again! A day when Norwegians say to each other “Gratulerer med dagen!” (Congratulations on the day!). An only day in the year when they become extremely social, talking and smiling to strangers, starting easily a small talk. When it is ok to start the day drinking champagne and then put on your best dress or a suit or a national costume – and get in crowds on the streets, laughing and cheering. It is Norway’s national day, a birthday of the country, as they like to put it. Hip hip hurray!
Schoolchildren march to the main street where they will parade in front of the royal palace and wink to the royal family. Adults march later, after the 17. mai frokost (17th of May’s breakfast), some holding beer or a wineglass in their hand. The numerous musical corps play famous national songs. One of them is called “Norway in red, white and blue”, where there is this line: “It is you, it is you, dear Norway! We will clothe you in red, white and blue”. This looks like the official color theme of this month, and I gladly follow it 🙂 Here is my color report of the day, and the month, and some celebration. Join me (no champagne glass needed)!
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! 🙂
While somewhere they already talk about the spring – look how much snow there is in the forest around Oslo! On Friday night I wrote a post about thriving in Norway – on Saturday I had a chance to practice what I preach 🙂
The past weekend we had visitors from Barcelona: the nephew of Carles and his girlfriend. A young couple of 19 year-olds, eager for the Nordic experience. So we took them to the woods. Or, wait a second, to that very famous Norwegian wood 🙂 We started from the frozen lake Sognsvann where you can walk on in winter and walked up the hill, in the snow, along the ski trails. The skiers of all ages were passing us by, while we were the only ones walking there. Add to this – talking in Spanish and Catalan, video calls from the grandmother in Barcelona, kids stopping all the time to take pictures and selfies – and this is how you get a totally non-Norwegian day in the woods :))