[An entry written earlier, while on the trip, is being published as of that date and time]
It is a long time since I have been in a country where I do not understand the language. Having lived in Belgium, I can, now, understand traces of French and Dutch and basically understand which topic the conversation is about. I have the feeling, now when I travel to France and Netherlands, that I can get simple things done even without making the locals speak English. I do not even remember the last time I was in a place where I could not get a grip on the language.
When I landed in Oslo and walked around the town, I was happy to be in this strange environment again where I could not eavesdrop into other people’s conversation in the effort to see whether I could understand it. I did not even know the word for “Hello” or for “Thank you”. “Merci”, I told one person in the shop after sorting out many different languages in my head. The expression on my husband’s and the shopkeeper’s face told me that it was not the right word (he spoke English). So I was in a place that was truly “alien” to me. I could focus just on the fact that I was “different” and I was not becoming one of them. I started focusing on making it more familiar and getting to know the place without really knowing the language.
Oh! Don’t get me wrong – ALL Norwegians speak very good English and so it will not be difficult to “converse” with them and get by here. You do not need to know Norwegian to travel here – unlike in France, Spain and Italy where knowing local language helps.
Fascination for the old:
Local TVs give a glimpse of the decorative sensitivities of a country. Today, I was switching channels while waiting for hubby to finish his bath. I chanced upon a talk show. The show was in Norwegian. What happens, when you do not know what people are talking about, is you start focusing on other factors of the show. It was thus that I caught a glimpse of the old antique boat hung on the sets behind the interviewer. “There is something about Norway and old things” – was the thought that came into my mind.
When in Oslo, my cousin wanted to visit a museum. So we went to the Folksmuseum in Oslo. The museum has a permanent outdoor exhibition of old buildings set in “original” settings – old houses, old church, old farms, old school and the list goes on. It was our first exposure to effort at preserving and bringing the historical “normal” life to today’s generation. As we drove across the country from east to west, we crossed several towns. Some towns had a Folksmuseum. While we did not stop there, I was again struck by the interest in old things.
Later, we crossed a church covered in a blue sheet – I went to take a photograph and saw a description on old buildings preserved in the area and where we could see them. When we were researching which town we should stay overnight, we came across this old hotel – it has been a hotel from 1770. We arrived here to find the hotel with its ancient interiors preserved. The lady working there told us the stories – “I realized the morning after my first night, spent in fear, that the ghosts were really friendly”. It reminded me of Thelma, a book that had charmed me in my childhood, where the spirits around the fjords first caught my imagination.
Many other European countries also preserve the old things but what stands out for most tourists or becomes famous are the palaces and the grandiose life that existed long back like the castles in Britain. The Folksmuseum in Oslo had a small exhibition, non-permanent, dedicated to these aspects.
At the end of it, perhaps Norway has something to offer everyone and considering that I skipped the Vikings museum – it must be my eye trying to catch just old things that are kept out for display. Nevertheless, when we travel to other countries, it is difficult for me to find “normal” life preserved even when I go looking for it. In Norway, I do not have to look for it far – it seems as though Norwegians want to showcase what I want to see – a language I do not know and life in the past I can relate to. It seems as though Norwegians wants to hang on and handover these old traditions and cultures.