Monday, July 13, 2015

Midnight Sun

Our last full day in Norway was such a delight because the weather turned sunny and warm. Blue skies, just a few puffy clouds, and nice temperatures meant we didn't need to wear our coats. It also meant we finally had a chance to see the midnight sun.

On our last evening I sat on the small porch to draw the mountains across the fjord,
while enjoying a Norwegian beer.
I heard the cow bells and glanced up to see this guy walking his cows. Later we had to step through
the landmines of cow poop littering the road.
When we went to pay Ole and Magni for our five days in their cabin, we had expected to do the financial transaction and be on our way; it was 8pm and we hadn't eaten our dinner yet, which we planned to do right after paying them. We walked over and Magni asked if we wanted coffee or tea, and it turned out that she had made a big plate of waffles and they wanted to sit and talk with us for a while.

So we sat, we ate waffles (made with milk from their cows) with homemade jam and brown cheese -- which I ate, and it wasn't bad just kind of creamy but tasteless -- and drank coffee and talked for about an hour. We asked how many cows and sheep Ole tended (four calves and several sheep) and then I mentioned that I enjoyed the smell of the barn, the manure. Ole and Magni both laughed, and Magni said it's a romantic smell: "farm romantic." And apparently there is a reality show that's popular in Norway that's just like our show The Bachelor, but with farmers. After a round of 'speed dating,' the show spends several weeks narrowing the field to one final man or woman. Magni said it's funny because people are so ridiculous, and I said it's the same in the US. There is another reality program where contestants have to work a farm using methods from the early 1900s, and that's not a funny show because it's very hard work.

They had a young man helping Ole on the farm for the summer, from Chechnya. This was his second summer with them; after the first summer he said the work was so hard he'd never come back, but he did come back after all. He sat with us and finished off all the waffles. Another man came by with some fish he'd caught, and then he sat and chatted in Norwegian with Ole and Magni for several minutes. We can't exactly figure out what Ole does; mainly he seemed to drive his tractor back and forth all day to and from the barn hauling manure, and one day he mowed the grass. The young Chechen boy seemed to finagle the sheep a bit. Perhaps he had land elsewhere that he farmed.

I had such a stereotype in my mind of "Norwegian farmer" based on Garrison Keillor's "Norwegian bachelor farmers" from Prairie Home Companion. But Ole didn't fit that, of course. I mentioned that I'd just finished reading all four of the Knausgaard titles that have been translated into English at this point, and both Ole and Magni kind of grimaced a bit. Magni knows Yngve, Karl Ove's brother, and both of them said that Knausgaard was not liked in Norway -- which I had heard myself. Telling the family secrets, not a good Norwegian way to be. He's very American in that way, and very un-Norwegian. But then Ole started asking me if I'd read other Norwegian writers -- Ibsen? Have I read Ibsen? (Yes, I have.) "He's a dramatist, you know," Ole said. I mentioned that I'd started reading Knut Hamsun and they both approved. Nesbø, Ole asked? I will, I promised. We'd seen their enormous library when we'd go into their house to use the Internet, and it was very impressive. So yes, Ole is a Norwegian farmer who loves Ibsen and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. I tried out my few words of Norwegian and despite it sounding to MY ear like I was pronouncing things as Ole did, he always did this kind of smirk at my pronunciation. Although both Marc and I feel socially awkward and anxious about this kind of thing, I enjoyed the conversation we had with them very much, and feel like it was such a good part of our time there.

But finally, back to our cabin for Marc to make us one final dinner, and then we waited around until about 11 and headed back to Russelv for a chance to see the midnight sun. Russelv is on the tip of the peninsula so the mountains don't obstruct the horizon, and since the sun is relatively low in the sky although still quite visible, an unobstructed view is best. We'd been there on our first day, during the day, and we tried one other midnight to no avail, but this last night it all worked:

Back at Svensby, the light was so soft and pink -- the mountains looked pink,
the fjord was pink-tinged. Just so dreamy and beautiful.
We were up early to catch the ferry to Breivikeidet the next morning, and then on to the Tromsø airport for our flight to Oslo and on to Copenhagen. Leaving Norway we had much better views from the air -- no clouds this time -- and the views were breathtaking:

an archipelago
beautiful fjords
and snow- and ice-topped mountains
but flatter and greener in the south -- Oslo below
Next stop: Copenhagen. Farvel, Norway.

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