I recently noticed that it had been a while since I lastly updated my blog on my year in Norway, so here I present you an extra-long Norwegian Christmas / Winter Special!
First of all I want to start with a little announcement. I have decided that from now on I will write my blog in English for the very reason that my Norwegian friends are also wondering what I have to write about my year here and it is a little annoying for them to use google translate every time, or even worse ask me to translate… So from now on you will have to bear with my blog being English.
Now we have dealt with that let’s dig straight in.
On the menu today stands first a little about winter in Norway to warm us a little up. The main dish will be reserved for Christmas (of course). Third plate will be reserved for the trip to Steigen, and we will finish with a sweet dessert from Kristiansand.
The longest season of the year
So, Winter in Norway. Passing the winter in Norway was one of the most special and also one of the most exhausting experiences I ever had. It was what seemed like a very long period of complete darkness and cold, but at the same moment was also a very warm and beautiful time. Of course when we think of winter in Norway there are some stereotypes like looooots of snow (which was actually quite disappointing because there wasn’t THAT much… lots of ice though…), the freezing cold, the Northern lights, polar bears, etc. But it goes way deeper than that. I certainly do enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Northern lights and the pretty stars. But winter in Norway actually means a time where family comes together and where everyone desperately tries to escape the darkness by decorating their houses full with lights. Really, you see lights everywhere! It even goes as far that they completely decorate their houses with Christmas lights… Astronauts orbiting the planet can spot North-Norwegian houses from their space shuttles! An (somewhat uncommon) example:
So yeah, so much for light pollution…
On the other hand it gets really comfortable inside! Sometimes a little too comfortable… EVERY northern Norwegian house has a wood stove inside. It is an essential element of the common Norwegian citizen’s habitat appearing in many forms and formats. Because the winter is (in some places) so cold and they have more than enough forest to chop down they all warm their house on logs in the winter. And yes if I say warm their house I really mean WARM their house… They stoke like if there will be no tomorrow. As an outlander you will often find yourself on the blink of passing out because of the extreme temperatures and the lack of fresh oxygen in the room. But anything better than a little cold, Right?
But besides from a little light and some warmth, it really gets ‘Koselig’. I’m not sure how to completely translate ‘koselig’… it has a much deeper meaning than what google translate explains us. ‘koselig’ is when the atmosphere gets really close and comfortable. When people come together and have a good time, be there for each other and spend the long dark period with close friend and family. And this is where Christmas comes.
[I have some photos of the beautiful northern lights prepared here for you http://s1370.photobucket.com/user/xLePolte/slideshow/Northernlights ]
The light in the dark
Ahh Christmas, a feast for the family, for the close friends and… for the tummy. Yes Christmas in (northern) Norway is on a whole other level than probably the rest of Europe. My whole family flew from almost the whole of Norway all the way home in the north to stay together. Everyone finds happiness again and feast a lot. The long dark ‘mørketiden’ wears everyone out and asks a lot of their wellbeing. Some people get really depressed about the endless darkness while others have no real problem with it. I myself must admit that it was REALLY exhausting. The scarce bit of daylight only last for a few hours and the need for energy is unfulfillable. Everyone gets tired about it after a while and some get really upset, bet then… then Christmas arrives and suddenly everybody learns to smile again! It was a relief to find myself in the cozy family ambience. The words lack me to explain this feeling to you but I can tell you it was really a relief to find myself surrounded by this family love.
I have of course a lot of pictures to share with everyone which explain more than words!
If you pay close attention you can see the obsessive compulsory decoration habit of the Norwegian family, especially the Santa Claus puppets seem to be doing very well this year
The interior of the house gets really pretty decorated making it even cozier inside!
And so winter passes its peak moment and carries on in a slow but certain pace to SPRING ^_^
After rain comes…
The darkness slowly makes place for fresh vitamin D when the light returns to the arctic lands. Winter drained a lot of both our energy and our emotional stability but when the sun suddenly shows his rays of happiness again everyone wakes with a smile again. People automatically get friendlier again and get more outside. This is the absolute proof how the lack of sunlight changes people…
But the Norwegian spring is all but a sunny one… although the light came back, the unstable weather arrived too. The end of January till March is a really stormy period. Even hurricanes seem to now and then terrorize the coasts above the Arctic Circle! Although the electricity tends to have this bad habit of every now and then blacking out, the landscape transforms into a really beautiful spectacle of dancing trees, devouring waves and rushing clouds. And there is another jewel of the northern coastline. The rough terrain make the destructive waves crash upon the rocks creating spectacular pictures of… waves crashing upon rocks!
For those of you interested in splashing water and salty seaweed flying through the sky, here is some visual footage to quench your thirst
Oh and for those of you who haven’t checked out my facebook page, i made a little video about the uværshula, check it out
And now for something completely different
And so the all-in-a-day life goes on and on and on, and here and there we travel a bit around the country and visit some new places and visit my host brothers and sisters. In early spring this year we went to the small but ‘koselig’ (trying to learn you some Norwegian as well ) village of Steigen.
It’s certainly not a crowded place (which are for some reason really rare here in Norway) but where it lacks in people, the beautiful nature and serene atmosphere take place. Steigen is the home to one of my 3 host sisters: Cecilie, who lives there with her husband Peter and their three sons Sebastian Mathias and Theodor. I really like being there together with my family. Although the full attention of three children can sometimes be a little overwhelming, it really is nice to play with them and be there with them. The family feeling takes its peak when we go out for a walk. Norwegians (especially the ones in the north!) is a folk that really enjoys being outside, so much that they alter their daily lives to it. The weekends are reserved for walking in the mountains and grilling sausages on a log fire outside while enjoying the wind blowing and the view of the mountains. Ut på tur!
Nothing goes above this pure, authentic lifestyle close to Mother Nature.
Some photos of the trip to Steigen can be viewed by clicking on the blue underlined link below.
… koselig =D
Journey to the end of… Norway
Another trip I recently made was where I found myself visiting my 2 host sisters Sunniva and Ingvild, and my host brother Isak. They live all the way down to Lillesand and Birkelnd (but for convenience I will refer to this as Kristiansand being the ‘largest’ city neighboring). So where exactly is this place? I will give you a hint, go all the way south until you reach the ocean and see the coasts of Denmark appearing on the horizon. Can’t miss!
Yes the flatlands of the south, a totally different place than the North where I spend my year… You might even wonder if it is still in the same country! The look is totally different. The only way I can explain this to my Belgian (and maybe Dutch?) readers here is by comparing our “Ardennen” to the Alps. Quite the subtle terrain difference if you’d ask me. Yes Norway is a very long country with a very varying landscape. But I digress, let’s continue.
Here in the south we are faced with a completely different lifestyle, a more “urban” one. Southern Norwegians seem to be a little more adapted to the common central-European lifestyle. They actually have highways and trains her, an unknown appearance for northern Norwegians as the only way by traveling there is either taking a bus which passes by every one and a half hour driving over small roads infesting the idyllic mountainous terrain or by either taking airplane or the boat. And again I digress.
So we went there to visit the other half of my family again (after the baptizing and of course Christmas ). It was really great to see everyone again and to see little Haakon having grown a little more since the last time. We stayed there for a week so we had quite some time to do some things. Unfortunately I fell sick the day before we traveled there so it was quite an exhausting week for me. But I did not let this ruin my stay there. We went to visit a lot of places, one of them being the cozy little village of Kristiansand (not to be confused with Kristiansund, located about 600 km to the north of Kristiansand).
This region is apparently widely known for its summer festivals. When summer time arrives Lillesand and Kristiansand organize a lot of little events and the beautiful idyllic coastline full of little islands becomes filled with luxury yachts.
We also took a look at a quiet part of the coast where some German bunkers from world war II were located (Above the entrance they appropriately wrote “Das Bunker” to make sure everyone sees its a bunker and don’t confuse it for a house, can’t miss it), and the really beautiful nature takes its place.
And with the urbanized life takes place, instead of spending the day outside in the mountains we went out shopping in what’s called the biggest shopping center of Norway.
There you see how lifestyle can differ
And on the last day before we were to head back, we visited the local zoo and amusement park to spot some Norwegian animals such as Moose, mountain foxes, wolves, otters and lions.
All by all it really was a delightful trip even though I wasn’t really feeling well, this wasn’t the worst thing. At the end of our stay the airline service decided to strike so our first plane from Kristiansand to Oslo was cancelled (hurray). To reach Oslo in time (because we had a second plane from Oslo to home to catch) we had to take the night train… really comfortable! A long day that was happy to come home!
And of course there are more pictures to be shared with you! Impossible to go somewhere without my camera, right?
And so we came to the end of this really long blog update, a lot of time has passed since the last time (sorry for those who have been checking frequently).
I will try to post more often some shorter ones!
Next week I will be visiting Oslo with my politics class (if the airline service finally stops its strike because right now it’s looking rather hopeless…), so there might be coming something about that very soon.
Thank you for reading, I know it was a lot but you made it to the end.
Here are some picture I couldn’t really fit into a theme so I just put them here!
See you next time!