This is one very natural question I get from my friends. I would ask it too. “Do you miss Oslo?” And it would be more polite to answer that yes, of course, I miss some parts, but how can be I honest then? If my sincere reaction is: “Miss what? Snow, icy sidewalks, that long dark period of year called winter? Empty streets, lonely evenings, gray skies and gray faces?” Well, it is different for everyone, but this is the first thought that comes to MY mind. So nope, I don’t miss it, I just can’t :))
In the end, it is all not about finding the perfect place – since it doesn’t exist. But to find the place that is right for you. Your place under the sun. There are people who would love the introverted culture of Norway, who miss this chance to spend long days and weeks alone, without anyone asking them a question. I just don’t happen to be that person. So I am not able to appreciate it either. I am more of the Southern soul, who loves a spontaneous dinner date, a chat with the the neighbor and the cashier man in supermarket. So I found my right place. Even after some weeks here I felt more at home than after years in Norway. There is nothing right or wrong with any of these places. It is just that some are more like you, and some are less.
So often when we talk about a country or a culture, it seems that we compare it with another one and come to conclusion that sums up to: “I’ll stick with this one, no matter what” – or “No, thanks, I’ll go for another one”. It sounds like we choose all the time. But why choose only one? Can we take (and make) both?
I have noticed that my life comprises mostly of the people who come “from here and there and a bit of everywhere”. There are few (or none) 100% Norwegians, or 100% Ukrainians, or other pure nationalities in my life. Maybe, because that’s my natural tribe, reflecting my life choices. I am not amazed, for example, that I, born Ukrainian, communicate with my native Catalan husband in Norwegian language, not native to either of us. It once suprized a couple of Norwegians though.
I can understand them, they didn’t expect to hear the language of their little proud country in some tapas bar in Barcelona somewhere around midnight. Especially coming with heavy Spanish accent and sweet Eastern-European accent, used to discuss a love relationship between those two. Why Norwegian?? They seemed to be falling from their chairs, breaking their backs to turn and see who these two were, using their language in this place.
It is interesting, how we talk about a thing, using the same word – but we have different meanings behind it. And still we think that we are talking about one and the same thing! Take October, for example.
I say October and we think about different things, maybe. Some say, pumpkins and Halloween, some say, rains and hygge. Somewhere in the Mediterranean they still go to the beach in October. While here, in Norway, it feels like a Barcelonian winter: chilly and wet.
October has arrived and I definitely feel it. There is no slight glide like between August and September. When it is still all late summer/early autumn, with blurry borders like the tree shadows in the morning light. October is more distinct. It is getting dark around 8pm and we all know for sure: winter is coming, and darkness is coming. It is getting cold, and we pull out our warm jackets and solid scarfs. There is no more wardrobe flirting that September does: one day – light leather jacket, another – no jacket at all. October doesn’t fool around. Jackets and coats, please.
Want a quick recipe for life? If you feel bored in one place – move. If you want to discover how amazing your place can be – move. If you want to start noticing again all the beauty of your old place – move.
Since we started moving plans for real, Oslo has become so amazing to me. I can just walk without my headphones now, listening to the people talking, to the singing notes of everyday Norwegian. Listening to the fountains and dogs barking. Noticing all the small things that make this place beautiful. Lights in the dark autumn evening. Hipster shop signs. Friends smiling to each other. City bikes. Blue trams. Bars and cafes of my neighborhood.
The more I realize that moving is for real, the more I come to see the things I will miss. I think so. But there is one thing I will not miss. Or will I?
Some weeks ago we were walking through the woods – and I suddenly got the flashback of my adolescence. We were visiting friends outside of Oslo and took a walk to the beach. Through the woods which went up and down, with a little river and a bridge over it. This spot brought a vivid memory of a similar place in other woods – in the village where my grandmother lived. I walked there, some 14 years old, and that place seemed just charming to me. Why? Because I thought, it would look perfect in the photo. At that time my pictures could be taken by the old black-and-white analog camera, difficult in use. Why did I want those photos? Passion for photography at such a young age?
No, it was not the passion for art. It was a wish to show something to my classmates. And how did I get inspired? So, there was this popular girl in our class, Irina, and in the back of her day-book (an obligatory book where we noted our schedule, homework and the teacher put our marks into it) she had some chocolate wrapping papers and photos. Yes, we were showing each other the papers of sweets we ate. Asking each other: “Did you try Mars? Did you try Snickers?”
We have engaged ourselves in the time and energy consuming project: selling our flat. Who has been through this once? Raise up your hand 🙂 We just have started and already Carles, my man, is sighing with exhaustion: “Cannot we just sell it just the way it is? Like in Spain?”
In Spain they seem to make little fuss out of selling a property. Wherever we go, we always stop by the property agencies and study the announcements that hang in their windows. So it seems that in Spain they just walk into a flat, just as it is, take some photos (with the bad mobile camera) – often dark, full of messy details, clothes hanging to dry, dishes in the sink and all – and paste them into their announcement.
After Norwegian experience of buying/selling a flat, this attitude makes us laugh. Lousy photos, the process of selling can take up a year, series of of visitors over time coming to see the flat. Those visits quite unfussy too, the owners show the place just as it is, without fixing it or hiding the clutter. The method, almost opposite to the Norwegian way. So how do they do it in Norway?
Where to find summer in the city? There are parks and botanical gardens, there are promenades by the sea and walks along the river. Some cities have beaches, some have lakes. Oslo is lucky to have both: lakes, beaches and the waterfront by the fjord. But I want to share with you my secret place, the hidden jewel of this city – kolonihage, i.e. colonial garden.
There are several of them around Oslo, well hidden and not visited by others than their users. I have discovered two and am totally swept by this idea. One kolonihage lies not far from my home and this spring I went there on the photo hunt. It was during the long weekend in late May when many left the city, and so it was quite and peaceful. The weather was warm and friendly, and made it perfect for tranquil walks around the gardens. Join me on this tour of early summer idyll!
I have returned home from my favorite craziest adventure – Summer salsa festival in lovely Rovinj – and I keep on repeating one phrase. “So good to be back”. Wow. I am surprised.
Usually I turn my nose away from the everyday reality (from the need to clean the house, shop my food and cook it myself :)). I post the vacation photos, the feeling of missing it already playing on the strings of my heart. This time, however, I just feel loads of gratitude to the place and the event – but I don’t want to get back into my past emotionally. I enjoy every moment here. And I want to live in my emotional present. To connect with my life which is only happening here and now.
This year – like never before – I am love with my home, my city and the country I live in. I am so used to the feeling of “yuck, this gray and cold place again” – that I even get surprised by my sudden “oh, Scandinavia, how lucky I am to experience this my Norwegian adventure” (adventure? Since when has it become an adventure??? :)) And here are my reasons to love it.
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 🙂
Scandinavian summer is the best. When it happens. And it happens. This year we have experienced a natural miracle: three weeks of summer in a row! In May. Like never before. It never happens in May. It very seldom happens during the summer too. When the temps go up to 30 degrees – and stay there. When evenings are so warm that you don’t need a jacket. Some say, it’s the global warming, some say, it is the direct wind from Sahara, blowing between the low and the high pressure (can it reach all the way up to the North?). It’s unbelievable, but it’s true. While the South of Europe is cold and rainy – Norway, for once, is enjoying the real summer!
Scandinavian summer is the best because it is never too hot. Only a bit too warm at night because the houses are built for winter, not for summer, no one has AC and the fans get sold out with the speed of light these days. Even though it is burning in the sun, the shadow is always cool and the wind is refreshing. This is the best version of summer I ever know! If it would last for three months, like it does in other places, who would travel to the South? To the full airports, taxis, hotels, packed up beaches. Who? Usually we have to go because we need sunshine. As it is said here: “I love Norwegian summer. It is the best day of the year”. That’s the real reason why we travel. One day is just not enough 🙂 But if it would last – the rest of the world would come to us in summer! 🙂