Fjell, Skog, By, Sjø

Kongeriket Noreg er eit fritt, sjølvstendig, udeleleg og uavhendeleg rike. Regjeringsforma er avgrensa og arveleg monarkisk. Verdigrunnlaget skal framleis vere den kristne og humanistiske arven vår. Denne grunnlova skal tryggje demokratiet, rettsstaten og menneskerettane.

The first two paragraphs of the Norwegian Constitution (second oldest in continuous operation globally) in Nynorsk. The title this week (don’t ask me for pronounciation) is in Bokmål. I just wanted people to be confused when they read the first little blurb for this post. Surprise, I spent a few days this week in Oslo, Norway and this entry will basically be an overview of my time there (with a bonus book review at the end).

First, a quick word about this week’s shooting. I will only quote a mentor of mine who gave this definition: “Compassion is to care enough to do something to help.”

I flew into Oslo on Thursday afternoon and spent my time orienting myself a bit to the cityscape and finding my hostel. I also tried to work out what I was going to do for the two days I had. I chose Oslo because my dissertation is on Norway and I’d never been, but the purpose of the trip was expressly leisure, only to become academic if I happened upon something that could be helpful (I didn’t really). But, other than the prompting of a friend here in Dublin to visit the Fram Museum, I had no idea of what I wanted to do.

Straight off, I loved the scenery. It reminded me of home: the mountains, the forests, the sea winding its way with narrow turns and scattered with islets and sailboats. It felt good to be back among green. Now Ireland is a very green country, it’s true (though Dublin… is less so). But it’s a green of pastureland and rolling hills. There’s plenty of geographical diversity, but it’s a bit limited. Norway, at least the bit I saw, was the green I grew up with–the kind of green where forest is the default and not-forest is the exception. I don’t know how to explain it if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Anyway.

I started off my exploration with the European capital basics: cathedral, parliament, palace. The Norwegian Parliament (Storting) is an interesting-looking building of yellow brick and I found that they give free tours on Saturday mornings so I bookmarked that for the following day. On that tour, I learned loads about the Storting as a building and a body. I also saw the place where they do the press stuff after awarding the Nobel Prize.

The rest of Friday included a trip up the hill to the Royal Palace, through the National Gallery (where I saw The Scream by Munch), and up another hill to the fortress/castle (yes, Oslo is very hilly). The fortress was awesome, lots of cool stuff including an interesting juxtaposition in the crypt–the two previous kings of modern Norway and, across the hall, two medieval burials as well. It also just had a marvelous view of the harbor down across City Hall and everything.

On Saturday, after the tour of the Storting, I took my friend’s advice and headed toward the Fram Museum, about an hour walk from the city center. On the way, I stumbled across Oslo’s equivalent to D.C.’s Embassy Row which was cool. Then I traversed a royal estate that the king had opened to the public, mostly forest and farmland. Very pretty. I made a pitstop at the Norsk Folkmuseet (Norwegian Folk Museum, if you hadn’t gotten that) to see some cool Norwegian architecture. Possibly the first outdoor museum, it houses a variety of…houses and other buildings from rural communities across Norway and across history. The most famous attraction, though, is the Gol Stave Church, a magnificent wooden structure from 1212 and moved to the museum in 1880. So wandered about there for a while and then pushed on to the Fram. I went in with basically no idea what the Fram was. And I was pleasantly surprised. The museum, dedicated mostly but not exclusively to the Fram, documents polar exploration which, surprise, is something Norwegians have tended to be real good at. So I learned about loads of different explorers, their vessels, their voyages, and who got where when. Then I walked back into town via a coastal path that provided a wonderful conclusion to my time in Norway.

The flight back from Oslo involved some spectacular aerial scenery and the shedding of more than a few tears. Unsurprisingly, the latter were because of a book.

DSCN4612

Here’s the aerial scenery, since I didn’t take a picture of me crying.

It’s sort of like the first ten minutes of Up (or the whole movie, really) but for 337 pages. I don’t know if any book has made me cry this much. I started–not watery eyes but real, big, hot tears–on page 111 and was at it again approximately every ten pages thereafter. That is not even a little bit of an exaggeration. If anything, it’s an underestimate. It was a book about how to know people and how to love them once you do and how a cat can save a life. By the end, I was a blubbering fool. It was not a depressing book, though it was incredibly sad. It was beautiful. With a sprinkling of good humor and choice insults.

A smattering of the themes it touched on: death, sickness, disability, parenthood, childhood, pets, technology, bureaucracy, principles, integrity, friendship, love, being remembered, forgetting, order, homeowners’ association policy, and the comparative advantages of Saab over Volvo.

Anyway, it was just an incredible book. I don’t know if any of you would like it, or even if you did if you would react in a similar fashion. But there you go, my little review of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Lastly, television.

Past: Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)

Here’s a well-loved show cut too short. The resulting quick finish is less than ideal, but the rest of the quasi-fantasy crime solving show is absolutely precious. The fanciful storytelling (not least the quirky narration), refreshingly exotic (and frankly bizarre) crimes, and seriously strange characters made for a a show that felt as good watching as pie is eating. It lives in my Coeur d’Coeur.

Present: MI-5 (2002-2011)

This British spy drama (aka Spooks) is heavy and dramatic so obviously I’m real into it. They move a bit fast through characters for my taste, but we’ll see. I’m only three seasons in. It’s tough spies making tough spy decisions. It’s usually pretty tough. But thoroughly enjoyable.

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