The past few days have been breath taking and full!
On the 21st June we celebrated Oda’s 24th birthday. I had just woken up, and I was summoned upstairs to help prepare for her special morning. The five of us, Norwegian flags in hand, crept silently down the passage to wake Oda up, in a similar way that has been tradition in my family for years. They sang a lovely Norwegian song, and I clapped along eagerly, although oblivious. Then we gathered on her bed, sprawled between blankets and presents, and awaited for Oda to open up the parcels.
If it’s one thing Norwegians are good at, it’s gift giving. Oda had unwrapped hiking gear, a Swiss army knife, a portable shower, yoga clothing, a flash drive and bright yellow socks. All very practical.
We popped into town very briefly on Tuesday, which was mostly to visit Bryggen, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Bryggen consists of colourful cosy houses huddled up tightly next to one another. The structures date back to the Hanseatic days of the 1300’s, when the Germans traded frequently with Norway. Although the entire dock area was burnt down in 1702 (in fact, all of Bergen has experienced the wrath of two raging fires) the houses of Bryggen was rebuilt to reflect the architecture of a much older era.
Oda and I navigated the narrow streets and twisted between the picket houses. I love little streets. Oda and I poured out our delight of the small cobbled roads as we meandered through the little ways. It felt like we had stepped into another time, save for the eager faced tourists with snappy fingers on cameras. We soon trailed off to other parts of Bergen and speculated at what folk might live in the tiny houses that hug the narrow cobble roads. Many walls were decorated with art, and windows were lined with flowers. It was a very colourful experience.
We returned home in the early afternoon, to prepare for the birthday party. Twenty-three people were expected to arrive. After Oda and I dressed up, guests started arriving in packs. I greeted all her family members, and needed to make it clear that I am South African. Although the course of the evening continued mostly in Norsk, Oda and her father translated frequently.
This situation was familiar once again, as it was not far removed from my family’s social gatherings in South Africa. Although here events were centred around the Euro 2016 Cup instead of rugby, and there was less beer involved. But I thoroughly enjoyed.
After the Germany vs Northern Ireland match finished at 7:45, we unwrapped more presents and proceeded to flock outside to enjoy the temperate weather. A game of football spilled onto the awkward yard. Very quickly the two vs. two game turned into five vs. four and the girls were owning. Eight goals and many “knott” (miggie) bites later, we retired indoors to watch the second game of the evening and enjoy a well-deserved dessert.
The food has been amazing! Norwegians don’t skimp on anything, except the cream in their milk. We ate until our bellies were full and round, then ate some more. It was somewhat reminiscent of the opening scene in the hobbit where Bilbo was entertaining the dwarves who ate lavishly. There is even a term called the “Norwegian hand” to refer to their eagerness to eat and reach for food. Needless to say, I fitted right in.
There were lots of breads, meats, cheeses and salads. Bread is very much the staple diet in Norway. Families will usually have bread for breakfast and lunch, only refraining for dinner. Dinner is also eaten early, around four to five o’ clock. According to my host family, this is for digestive purposes.
Only once the football game was done, and more dessert was eaten, did we turn our heavy heads to our rooms and sleep deeply.