wtorek, 19 maja 2015

17. Mai!

On days like 17th May, I really really regret that we simply don't wear our national costumes for big occasions. Such as Constitution Day. 

If you think, that bunad is a relic of the past, you coulnd't be more wrong. Norwegians are fierce if it comes to making statements trough folk attire. The whole craziness started in 19. century. Don't get me wrong, in general the interest with folk culture started in 19. century, before that there was no such thing as national costume, mostly, because the nation, as we understand it now, is a fairly new concept (that's the cultural anthropologist in me speaking). But in Norway it was more than that. For the whole 19. century Norway under occupation - either Danish or Swedish, and therefore, under Swedish or Danish cultural influence. Gaining the independence in 1905 accelerated popularity of bunad and basically everything that's Norwegian, or, more precisely: non-Danish/Swedish (that's also how nynorsk was born - it was supposed to be pure Norwegian language, without any foreign accretions). Since then, Norwegians take their folk costumes deadly serious. 

Last 30 years of changes in Norwegian society in one picture.

Every girl and almost every guy owns a bunad, and there's a whole set of customs behind it. First of all, bunader are insanely expensive, they can cost up to 30 000 NOK (= roughly 4000 USD or 3500 EUR). On one hand it sounds like something that would require robbing a small bank, but on the other hand, national costume will be used in all kind od formal occasions, weddings, school ceremonies and national holidays, which means that they are saving on formal dresses. Bunader are not only the local patriotism statement, but also a status marker. Traditionally they are confirmation gifts. From some points of view, it's even a gender inequality issue:

"Boys receive money, girls receive bunad. Boys more often get money as their confirmation gift. As adults, men have 50% more savings than women"

If you are really in need, you can order a bunad from China or buy it in Sparkjop (a chain shop with cheap everything), but then it's not really right thing to do and Norwegian Institute for National Costume and Bunad wouldn't approve. I absolutely loved all the bunads around, but the most beautiful surprise we got, was this lady, proudly representing 5000 of Bergen's Poles:

sobota, 16 maja 2015

Hennebysmauet tribe

Our housemates are rather to be heard than seen, but you can track human presence in this place by dirty pans and constantly dissapearing small pot. There are nine living units in Hennebysmauet, one small studio and eight rooms, divided into three floors. Ground floor contains a studio, first and second have four rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom each. Legends say that there is also a microscopic attic with a small room, but I haven't been brave enough to check it. We are occupying a 11 sq. m room on the second floor, waiting for the ground floor tenants to move from the studio, making room for Hania. On the evening of arrival, I dropped my bags on the floor of our room and enthusiastically announced that it's high time to say hello to the neighbors. Little did I know. Apparently, rich social life isn't a thing in this place and cluttered kitchen, which is the only common space, doesn't even have a place to sit and have long conversations about life, death and everything in between. It's been six days since I arrived and I managed to figure out that:

- In our floor one room is occupied by Jason, who happens to be the most sociable of our housemates (also, he lent us his spare bed, thanks a million, Jason). Jason is half Thai - half Norwegian and is in the middle of his Russ right now. Basically, Russ is a three weeks long festival of soon-to-be graduates of high schools. They are expected to wear red overalls, party, drink like there is no tomorrow and, as a consequence, do stupid shit. Like, emmm... walking on all fours on Torgallmeningen. Or kidnapping three baby penguins and an unhatched egg from an aquarium in Ålesund. It also means that this is what you see when you live with a Russ-ian and open the door (but before this, you hear them, you hear them big time):

It's also worth mentioning, that Russ-ians can't take off their overalls, nor wash them during these three weeks. Which kinda doesn't make a difference in a house which is as dirty as ours. 

- The other room is occupied by Christian. The best way to lure him out of his room is to use a hairdryer. The hairdryer blows the fuses, the blown fuses cut off the router and the dead router makes Christian go out.

- The third room in our floor is taken by an invisible couple. They apparently live there, just behind the kitchen, but nobody has seen them. Hania says that she could smell marijuana next to their door. It's always better to smell marijuana than a rotting corpse.

In the top floor there is Sigurd, who is Norwegian, kinda gloomy but good looking, and Dimitros from Greece, whom I met only because I burned buckwheat and he rushed downstairs only to check if we're already on fire. 

Nobody knows who lives in the ground floor. Once, I spotted a guy in a blue jacket. Nobody knows who he is and what he does. Another great mystery of Hennebysmauet, along whith "who took the small pot" and "use of which sockets will blow the fuses".

piątek, 15 maja 2015


From now on, please, send your money checks and love letters to Hennebysmauet. 

Our place is in the upper part. I expect to have buttcheeks of steel in September.

This house is just bizzare. "You get what you pay for" should be written over the main door. With golden letters. It's a part of a muddle of narrow wooden houses and even narrower cobbled streets in Nordnes peninsula, one of the oldest districts in the city. Random windows just at the arm's reach from your bathroom window, your own window with a view of someone else's roof, a kitchen with a view on some mysterious alley, which doesn't exist in any of the maps you've seen, these are the joys of living in Hennebysmauet. 

After the first morning I realized that being naked in our bathroom is not a good idea.

The landlord doesn't seem to care much about what is happening in the house and house itself seems to hold together mostly by the strength of the dirt sticking it together. That's another thing - forget the pharmacutically antiseptic (yet cozy) interiors of Scandinavian houses you saw on the pages of IKEA catalogues. Hennbysmauet is filthy, and it's a filth of many shifts of tenants, who didn't give a flying fuck about such prosaic things as cleaning the oven or throwing away an impressive collection of glass bottles from over the fridge. Mould creates fascinating patterns on the bathroom wall and there is some mysterious hole in the wall in the cupboard under the sink. The washing machine in our floor doesn't work and the vacuum cleaner is long gone. It's quite exciting to live here as well. The electric installation is so ancient, that the fuses blow every time someone tries to use some energy-consuming device. Such as hairdryer. You never know what else will blow up, or what will fall on your head.

czwartek, 14 maja 2015

On the way to Bergen

After three wonderful days in Oslo, filled with meeting with old and new friends, puppy-like excitement, small heart-attacks over the prices of everything and complete lack of understanding of spoken Norwegian, I finally embarked on the train to Bergen. The ride was supposed to take 5 hours and 30 minutes, so I had a book with me. 

I barely opened it. What was happening outside of the windows was absolutely amazing. I got on the train on one of the cloudy Oslovian afternoons (panting, because hey, who would have thought that car number eight is in the end of the train). We went slowly past the suburbs, green hills and wooden houses painted in red. Few hours later we were speeding trough big, white, empty wilderness. I swear, I've never seen so much snow in one place in my whole life. We were passing by villages with names, such as Gol or Huk, apparently made up in a way that's easier to hear over a blizzard. At least easier than, let's say Tissvassklumptjønnin. We have also stopped in Finse (population: 10), a village that is connected with the outer world by only one way, that is - railway. I saw houses almost completely buried in snow and turquoise glacial lakes. I saw walls of the tunnels covered with a layer of ice so thick, that it looked like there were build of it.

Apparently, the best thing in Oslo is a train to Bergen.