It takes only three days to be away – that I come back as a total Oslo patriot. I suddenly discover this: I love this city. I am even surprised. With all the sadness and hardships I had to experience here, with all my negative reports about Oslo – here I am, calling it one of my favorite cities. Well, hello!
Last weekend saw us driving to Bergen. 500 km over the mountain, as they say it here. In any other country 500 km is a fast, boring and anonymous ride on the motorway. Not in Norway. No way in Norway. Here it takes 8 hours. Yes, 8 hours of roads through villages with funny names (and speed limit of 40 km/h). Up on the mountain plateau, Hardangervidda, which is also a national park. Beaten by the rains, down through many tunnels, along the fjords, next to waterfalls, sharp rocks and rocky rivers. Mysterious and breathtaking landscapes.
Here I understand why the notion of humble (ydmyk) is so popular in this culture. Living between these high mountains, dangerous rocks, deep waters and dark rains – how does it feel to be a human? Well, humble. Where would the arrogance come from when you are reminded every day about how tiny you are. This is the Norwegian nature at its best. It is not about bunnies and flowers here. At times it can even feel overwhelming.
Bergen is the most rainy city in Europe. We were lucky with the weather, that is, it didn’t pour all day long as it could be, but the clouds will occasionally empty its waters on us and then disappear giving space to some sun rays. The rain will come and go throughout the day, it feels like a weather rollercoaster. Bergen is a beauty, washed by rain. Proud and very independent. With its distinct old town crawling up and down the hills.
But… after this weekend – of 16 hours driving back and forth and one day in Bergen – I am so happy to come back to Oslo. Almost kissing the ground of my dear neighborhood Grunerløkka :))
Back in Oslo it feels so right. Birch trees at the tram stop (named after the park Birkelunden, the name devoted to the birch trees). Tram here bears the usual name of “trikk“, and not “bybane” as in Bergen :)) Clear autumn air. A guy with pink socks and banana print on them, sitting on the stop. As I breathe in that cool air, I understand how much love and gratitude there is in my heart for Oslo. And I start thinking why…
Oslo is the only city in Norway that gives me the feeling of a big city. I couldn’t live in another place in this country, honestly. Sure, in a different country a city of half a million people is not considered big. But here it is the most bustling place in the country. And its modest size is all right for me. I don’t miss several millions on my head. I just need this half a million, it feels perfectly comfortable to me.
Oslo is way more stable in terms of climate. As breathtaking as the nature of West coast is, it never felt something I could grow to love (though, who knows. Have I tried it for 10 years, maybe now I would be singing love songs for it :))). Oslo has seasons which the West coast is missing in its eternal rain. Oslo has snow in the winter and sun in the summer. I lived a year in Haugesund, on the West coast, and it felt like one long rain season, colder in winter, warmer in summer. With one week of snow, and some days of sunshines here and there.
I love Oslo with a very subjective love. It is not kind of post like “10 reasons to love this and that”. It is not for tourists and visitors. I love Oslo because it has become a part of me. Recently, one of my students was making an art project about Oslo and asked to film me, saying: “Oslo er min skjebne” (Oslo is my destiny). And I totally felt it. Whatever happens, wherever I find myself later – I have got Oslo under my skin. It has been forming me all these years.
It is the city where I became adult. Where I became strong, independent and happy. Where I suffered from stress and loneliness, emotional and physical pain. Where I felt an outsider and where I found new friends, where I fell in love and got my heart broken. Where I learnt to pick myself up and fight, over and over again. Where my dreams were crushed but I learnt to build new dreams. Where I learnt to mend myself, to heal my heart on my own and dare to love again. Where I found happiness – no, where I learnt to create my own happiness.
Now, as I think of moving to another country, some would ask: “but isn’t it a pity to leave Oslo just when you found your peace with it? When you stopped complaining about it and seem to enjoy every small detail of it?” And I would answer: “It always hurts to leave a place you’ve learnt to love. But isn’t it also a right moment to move? Isn’t it better to leave a place on a positive wave – than on a negative one?” I believe, it is better to go from a place where you feel happy – with a hope to carry that good vibe with you. It is better than running away because of desperation. I did it too. And no, it doesn’t help to move in desperation. Because wherever you go, you always take yourself with you, you cannot escape from yourself. And you bring it all with you – your paradise or your hell.
And who knows, maybe, this love is felt stronger exactly because I know that my time here will not last forever. I guess, if I knew I’d stay forever I would not be so attentive to every breeze of fresh air, every autumn leave in the wind, every smile, every hipster of my neighborhood. Isn’t it what makes our life sweeter – its temporality?
My man, who is also an official Oslo guide, likes to guide groups around the fountain of life by Gustav Vigeland and say: “Death is also a part of life”. It is, isn’t it? And, in a way, it gives meaning to our life. Who would care if we had eternity? We all strive for it – but how would it feel if you knew it never ended? Doesn’t this uncertainty give life its taste? When you realize that you don’t know how more days you have, that you can be gone in a moment – doesn’t it make you awake and your eyes sharp for the beauty that surrounds you?
So, in a way, it is also good to move. From time to time. The feelings get fresher. That’s why we travel. That’s why we cross the mountain.
Life is too short for this and that, they say. Life is too short not to take chances, I say. That is, if you believe you have only one life. I don’t count on living several lives so I want to take chances that are there. And no matter what, I always have Norway. I am always Norwegian from now. Proudly waving its red-white-and-blue flag :))
May you walk in beauty! And may you walk in love!
Has it happened to you – discovering love where you didn’t expect it? And what is your relationship with the place where you are living?