Category: Journal

A Beautiful Time to Be Alive

At the moment, Joasia is on a flight to the U.S. on which she has internet access. I’m chatting to her, while I can simultaneously track her flight, see at which altitude she’s flying, at what speed, and at which gate she is scheduled to arrive. The internet has become more and more ubiquitous, which is a blessing as long as we are mindful of how readily you can be tracked.

Norway

I keep meaning to write about my time in Norway, which was spectacular, but I haven’t really found the time. Now that I’m at home fighting against a bug, I had some time to collect my thoughts. So this won’t be a long post, but a quick recap of the most prominent take-aways. (Disclaimer; the experiences down below are based on my experience in the area around Ålesund.)

The first and most important thing that I took away from Norway is the profound sense of awe at how beautiful the countryside is. Previously, the number one spot for the most amazing country in the world in terms of beauty was Switzerland. The reason why Norway overtook Switzerland was the coastline. One of the things which I may have mentioned on here before is that the idea of living in a land-locked country is disconcerting to me. Sure, there are rivers and lakes aplenty in Switzerland, but it just doesn’t beat a coastline, especially a coastline like that found in Norway. The stillness of the deep fjords is just not something that can be explained in words, or captured in a photograph.

A close second was the absolutely phenomenal infrastructure. From the road network, to the system of ferries, to the nearly ambiguous 4G mobile connection, even in the most remote places! It turns out that when Norway discovered oil off their coast in the mid-20th century, they used a lot of the revenue to upgrade their country’s infrastructure. The country being so large, and thinly populated, it allowed people to live in comfort and luxury in pretty remote places.

Another thing that struck me was that a lot of restaurants closed their kitchens at 19:00 and closed their doors around 20:00. Some restaurants in Ålesund were more accustomed to tourists, but certainly outside of Ålesund it was considered really normal. This meant that we had to eat shitty pizza take away one evening!

That reminds me that everyone always talks about how expensive Norway is to visit, but I didn’t think it was that bad. Don’t get me wrong, it was, but it wasn’t as crazy as I was warned about. Food was probably the thing which was most expensive, comparatively. Inflated by 20% or so, I would say. I’ve been told that prices are a lot higher around bigger cities like Oslo and Bergen.

Lastly, we went to visit the Briksdalsbreen glacier. There is a 45 minute hike through a beautiful valley which leads up to it, and they have sprinkled a lot of different signs with information about geology, meteorology and climate disruption. One of the most impactful thing that they showed was how far into the valley the glacier reached every decade since 1860, when they started measuring. The closer you got to the glacier, the longer it took for another decade marker, showing just how incredibly fast the rate of global warming is increasing.

Here’s a few photos I made which completely don’t do the country any justice whatsoever:

Ålesund from the Aksla viewpoint.

Godøya, west of Ålesund. On the right lies Alnesvatnet, a lake on the island.

Runde island. The puffins are a lie.

The boat through the fjord from Hellesylt to Geiranger.

Edit: Luckily, Joasia and I went to Norway just before the tourist season started. There were some benefits (fewer tourists) and drawbacks (stark weather). Regardless, there were some early bird tourists, like us, and a lot of them arrive by cruise ships, which generally are the worst type of tourist. The stereotypes of the nationalities of tourist tends to be different depending on the place you visit.

In Norway, the stereotypes seemed to be as follows: Chinese tourists yell at one another, no matter how close they are to each other. Indian tourists FaceTime their family members whenever they come across something beautiful. (Ambiguous high speed mobile service, remember?) American tourists fall into one of two categories; either you came in on a cruise, and you’re just there for the gift shops, or you’re a twenty-something and you’ve decided to travel the country by bicycle.

May 4th, 2019, Remembering the Fallen

On the fourth of May we remember the victims and casualties of war in the Netherlands. We do that by obeying two minutes of silence at 20:00. I’ve always kept to the tradition, but over time the tradition has faded a little bit. Fortunately, it has seen somewhat of a resurgence of late. Last night, right before the Bill Burr standup performance in a large concert hall in Amsterdam, I saw several thousand people hold two minutes of silence. Everyone just stopped finding their seats, buying drinks and snacks, etc. You could hear a pin drop in that place.

(It seems I last wrote about it in 2011.)