Norway Is Closed

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“We’re closed for the summer”

 

As July comes to an end you’ll notice some stores that have been closed for what may seem like ages, will throw open their doors, ready to welcome you back again. The construction site one street over will greet your still sleep weary brain with the dulcet sounds of drilling, digging and dynamiting.

Norwegians enjoy an almost silly amount of paid vacation time and it’s refreshing to see that a majority of people actually take it. In Canada most employees are entitled to two weeks vacation though it’s common for a lot of people to not take that time off from work. And from what I hear it’s even worse in the US.

So every year, come July, don’t be surprised to find your favourite store closed for a few weeks, or the painters you had hoped would slap a fresh coat on your house unavailable until early August.

It takes some getting used to but I’m happy it’s the norm here.

Where Am I Again?

I saw her across the street, walking briskly past the empty store. She seemed familiar. Although she had large sunglasses on I could swear I knew her. Her hair, her gait and the way she held herself strongly upright, no hint of a slouch. So familiar yet so hard to place. As she turned the corner I finally made the connection. Or so I thought.

When I moved to Norway from Canada I expected to have to get used to things being a bit different. Shopping at stores that didn’t have quite the exact items I wanted. Feeling a bit disoriented while walking about in a new (to me) town. Sounding clumsy when attempting a new language.

What I didn’t expect was to occasionally feel a brief instant of not being able to pin down where I knew someone from.

Not in the sense of were they someone I actually knew versus someone who only looked like someone I knew. I mean in the sense of what continent did I know them from.

Canada?

Norway?

It can be a bit harrowing at the best of times when you’re approaching someone on the street and you’re wondering if you should give them a quick wave or will they think you’re a bit batty. Who is this stranger waving at me?

It’s a completely different feeling when you can’t even place which country you may or may not know this person from.

I wonder if there’s a an actual word for that feeling.

Anybody else experience this? It can’t just be me, can it?

Similar… But Different

The first time I heard the Norwegian word “skjærtorsdag” around this time of year I thought it had something to do with yeast though for the life of me I couldn’t understand what the connection between yeast and Easter was. I blame my less than stellar Norwegian skills. Skjærtorsdag translates to Maundy Thursday, which is the day before Good Friday and is one of the four Easter related don’t-have-to-work days here in Norway. Gjær, on the other hand, is the word for yeast. So close…

Holidays got me to thinking about other differences between my newly adopted home, Norway, and the home I grew up in, Canada.

Generally speaking I don’t think Canada and Norway are that different but there have been little things I’ve noticed over the past few years. So here is my fairly random, and by no means, exhaustive list:

  • This may just be a local phenomenon but there is a serious lack of street signs in and around my town. Being generally geographically challenged, this posed a bigger obstacle for me the first few months I was here (still does, to be honest). I’m used to looking up an address, noting down which streets to look for on my way to said address (no GPS for me) and then trusting there will be signs on street corners helping to guide me on my way. Not necessarily so.
  • Norwegian drivers are extremely pedestrian friendly. I’ve had cars slow down and stop for me at a pedestrian crossing when I was meters from actually coming to the crossing. When my husband and I visit Canada I have to remind him that drivers there don’t generally show you the same courtesy.
  • amazon.co.uk

    photo: amazon.co.uk

    During my first Norwegian Christmas I noticed how many homes had the exact same decorative light display in their front windows. I was convinced each neighbourhood had a team of people patrolling the streets, ensuring everyone had the requisite light and leaving a “Notice to Comply” reminder on the dissenting homes’ front doors. (pretty sure this isn’t actually the case)

  • Norwegians, and Norwegian women in particular, are masters of layering. Shirt, sweater, cardigan, jacket and scarf all effortlessly piled on as if they all had personal stylists available each morning before they stepped out of the house. As someone who struggles to layer a cardigan over a shirt, much less add a scarf to the ensemble, I can only look on in wonder.
  • Canada, at least the part I lived in, had the most fearless and friendly squirrels. If you were out in a park taking a stroll it wouldn’t be uncommon for a squirrel to scamper up to you, squat on its hind legs and look at you expectantly, its front paws curled up in front of its chest hoping you’d toss it a peanut. Here I’ve seen the more elusive Norwegian red squirrels exactly twice. Once perched in a tree about 10 meters away from me and the other time one was darting across a narrow mountain road.
  • dicerating

    photo: godt.no

    Book and movie reviews sometimes inexplicably use dice to illustrate how good or bad whatever book or movie they’re reviewing is. Alongside a review you’ll not see 4 out of 5 stars but 4 dots on a side of a die. Am I the only one who finds this odd? Dice, in my mind, are synonymous with chance not with opinion.

These kinds of little differences will pop up every now and again, some puzzle me and others make me smile. My husband has had much the same reactions when we visit Canada though. While I find it perfectly normal to buy milk in bags and for people to still be using cheques in 2015, he’ll just look at me and shake his head.

First Glimpse of Norway

Now that it was clear I was well smitten with my Viking it was time to visit Norway and see where he called home. I landed in Oslo in July of 2007. We would spend a few days in the city seeing the sights and then make our way by train to his family’s cabin near Voss. It was overwhelming not only because we were reunited after a two month separation but because of the sheer beauty of the country.

Our hotel was on Bygdøy Allè in Frogner and the location was perfect for getting to all kinds of attractions in the city. We were within walking distance of Vigelandspark with its myriad of sculptures, Karl Johans Gate, the main street in Oslo with Oslo Central Station at one end and the Royal Palace at the other, as well as museums, art galleries, restaurants and shops. It was perfect.

oslo

We strolled around Oslo and some of the buildings were just beautiful. I constantly had my camera at the ready, oohing and ahhing at every corner, every twist of almost every street we walked.

Oslo

Stunning architecture around every corner.

Oslo

 

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This imposing figure in front of the National Theatre is Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who along with Henrik Ibsen, Jonas Lie, and Alexander Kielland, make up “De Fire Store” or The Four Greats. In the late 19th Century, these four were considered the most influential Norwegian writers. Both Bjørnson and Ibsen flank the entrance to the theatre with Ibsen standing to Bjørnson’s right.

 

 

Frognerparken

 

FrognerparkenWhile Frogner Park and the Vigeland sculptures within can be quite busy with camera toting tourists vying for the best shots there are plenty of quiet corners to take a moment and truly enjoy what’s around you.

The artist responsible for the more than 200 sculptures in the park is Gustav Vigeland (1869 – 1943) who also designed the Nobel Peace Prize. Along with creating the bronze, granite and wrought iron sculptures he also was put in charge of the design and architectural layout of the park.

 

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You’ll notice the famous Angry Boy statue’s left hand is a different colour than the rest of him. That’s because it’s become tradition for those taking a picture with him to hold on to his hand. All that hand holding is wearing away the patina and details on the poor tots hand. No wonder he looks so annoyed.

 

Royal Palace Oslo

The statue of Karl Johan in front of the Royal Palace bears the inscription of his motto “Folkets kjærlighet min belønning” or “The love of the people my reward”.

With our time in Oslo at an end we hopped on a train to take us north to Reime where his family has a cabin. I say cabin but it’s really a century old two story house. Set in the mountains near a roaring river the scenery took my breath away.

Reime

The water is the most amazing mix of teal, turquoise, blue, and emerald.

 

Reime

Reime

It was my first trip to Norway and over the next few years I would return, visiting my future husband, spending time with his family, getting to know this country. I would wait, splitting my time between Norway and Canada, missing one when I was present in the other. Waiting until the day when I would finally call Norway home.

Love at First…. Text?

I like coffee and will rarely turn down an offer for a cup. I’m not even a coffee snob who will only drink some rare bean grown in a remote region and harvested by the light of a full moon. I actually enjoy a mug of instant. This fondness for coffee is another thing D and I learned we share during our discussions.

One day we were chatting online about something I don’t even remember, my attention switching between our conversation and some obscure thing I’d been Googling. I glanced at the message window and saw the words “would you like to go for a cup of coffee with me?”.

Up until then we had talked about all kinds of things, sometimes way into the early morning hours. Music, what we liked to do in our spare time, details about where we lived and things like that. But we hadn’t made any plans regarding where this was all going. I think both of us were just enjoying the moment.

“Would you like to go for a cup of coffee with me?”

Why yes, yes I would. And I did.

Mug of Coffee

This was crazy, wasn’t it?
Was I really agreeing to meet a man I had met online, who lived in another country?
Was he really flying across the Atlantic to meet me?
Was I already planning our future together in my head before even hearing his voice?

Yes, it was a bit crazy.
Yes, I was.
Yes, he was.
Yup.

The time frame between our first instant messages and our first face to face, in the flesh meeting was 4 months. In that time my feelings ranged from excited, to apprehensive, to exhiliarated, to nervous and back again. I had always been a careful person who thought things through and during this time my head kept telling me to slow down, take a step back and carefully assess the situation. My heart on the other hand had already made up its mind. I picture my head was running around with a clipboard, checking a list of things that could go wrong, things it thought I hadn’t given careful enough attention to. And my heart was sitting in a comfy chair, coffee mug in hand, looking chill and relaxed.

We met in early May of 2007 and have been together ever since. At times there’s been an ocean and over 5000 km between us but we knew it was only temporary. At some point we would be together and that’s what got us through the times we weren’t on the same continent. It was hard but so worth it.

I now live on the west coast of Norway with my husband who is also my best friend. And he knows exactly how I like my coffee.