A Travellerspoint blog

January 2008

Twin Peaks

fear, darkenss and wilderness

At the end of last year I snapped the opportunity to visit Norway. Thanks to the budget airlines operating now to many European destinations I flew to Bergen where I started exploring the Viking's land. That was my next trip to Scandinavia as I have visited Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden before. Before setting off I always try to contemplate for a short while to realize what my destination country makes me think of. Thinking of Norway I thought of their sportsmen first, mainly ski jumpers and downhill skiers, the country natural beauty and its fjords. There were two other ingridients that followed: severe climate and its position as important peace negotiator in many parts of the world. Here you go - that's the label of Norway.
Wait a minute! Does Henrik Ibsen and his 'the wild duck' tell you anything? He is one of the greatest names in the world literature and he was Norwegian.

The route was set before my departure and it was from Bergen to Oslo so basicly it lead me acorss the country and enabled to sightsee a city of Bergen, take a cruise to explore the longest Norwegian fjord and walk on a glacier. Great adventure!
What was even more adventours and a bit scary that was a feeling that accompanied me all the time. The feeling of being watched.

When you open the door to Norway you enter the world of greyness with overwhelming silence that is only disturbed by the rhythm of a flowing river. The weather is cloudy and a light mist hangs in the air causing your eyesight sense a lot of trouble to work efficiently. You seem to see some houses in a distance nicely built on a slope of the hill that might probably be uninhabited or neglected as there are no people on the horizon and no sign of life. There is no doubt you experience a surplus of trees and a lot of extremly green vegetaion that cover hilly and rocky areas cutted by fjords into long pieces. It rains day and night so you don't pay attention to that anymore not even expecting the rain to stop falling becuase if it does it is just a question of minutes when it starts again. There is a feeling of mystery and unexpected occurences that you might face every second as though you would be a part of 'Twin Peaks' film.

I am slowly walking towards a hotel I booked before my departure that unknown Internet user had recommened to me. It is dark around but I manage to see the wooden house painted white in front of me that could be suitable maximum for two families of 4 each. There is a burning fire in the portable lamp hanged on the porch to make the place be visible from a distance and facilitate people to walk the stairways and reach the door easier. I am totally wet but happy approaching my safe and warm shelter destination as all of the sudden I heared somebody's steps behind me following me in relatively quick rate. The sound of steps seem to get closer building an insecure feeling inside of me so if I had turned my my head back I would have seen a monster at my arm's lenght but my inner fear does not let me to turn back and face the danger! My walking pace turns into running but once I understood that my effort was sensless I stopped. In a split of second I turned my head back. At that moment the thunder stroke and to my surprise I saw a large stone in front of me. It was absurd to think that that stone got legs and followed me a long way.
I entered the hotel and felt relieved closing the door behind me. A few minutes later I would have known that I was the only guest in this tiny hotel.

Trolls - giant creatures inhabiting caves or hills in Norway (and other Scandinavian countries) with supernatural power, looked frightening and being melicious. Sunlight would either turn them to stone or make them explode.

Posted by tomik 06:36 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Fairy tales and global village

Europeans vary very much. Well, I think that's really remarkable that in a relatively small continent if not the smallest one in the world there are so many substancial differences among people (surely there is nothing wrong about that). My theory is that there is no other continent in the world that on such a small piece of land the differences among nations are the most significient. I refer to all kinds of distinctions among Europeans like cusine, human temperament, the way we look and act, punctuallity, cultural manners, holiday celebration etc. Certainly if I were to name all the differences I am aware of in topical order I would have to write that story for a very long time but that's not my purpose to name them all.

If I wanted to focus on the reasons why we differ that would be a massive work adequete for a serious university assignment. That's not my intention either however there is one aspect or factor I would like to touch upon and elaborate on it a little.

A fairy tale ! Magic story featuring imaginary creatures with superhuman power living in the wonderland that is one type of a fairy tale. We can read them in books or watch them in TV. We all had our favourite ones and those we easily agreed our parents to switch a channel while they were on.
Do fairy tales help to understand each other better in Europe/world?

Fairy tales are hot and loveable topic to discuss among people no matter their age, political preferences and the football club their follow. Besides they always play the same role in people's life eventhough that life is far more mature and serious. They were written and then adapted to be produced as TV programmes or the other way round to amuse and to teach children - to make them sensitive for human misery and to tell them that giving and sharing is of far more value than receiving etc.
Below you see the fairy tales book of Hans Andersen I have bought in Odense (he is considered by many to be the best fairy tales teller in the world)

There are at least three times in our lifetime we extensively watch cartoons and read fairy tales and tales right for children. First when we are children, then we get back to them after a few yeagrs when we become parents and our children put a constant pressure on us to keep the tv children channel turned on. Finally when we reach the point when our children have their own children and as a result we become grandparents. I think, well, I assume that in that case our grandchildren have always a final say with a consequance of fairy tales/cartoons being read or watched most of the time :-) People sometimes say that grandparents are to spoil their grandchildren not to give them proper manners and education - that's the job for parents!

When I was a child Poland was still behind the iron curtain and the fairy tales I read and watched were mainly locally written/produced. Well, there were number of tv cartoons from Czech Republic/Hungary and Russia on Polish television that we all enjoyed very much. Certainly we also listened to our parents reading us Hans Christian Andersen, Tove Jansson (below you see the book I have bought in Helsinki) or the brothers Grimm tales with great pleasure.

Travelling the world is the way to get to know a history and herritage of each country. To me fairy tale writers contribute very much to the process of bulding country's image abroad but what is even more they help to understand various aspects of social life and hierarchy, customs and their local meaning and many, many more. In a longer run the fairy tales might fight sterotypes and make people united one day (maybe that was be too optymisitc to say).

Over last 50 years or more the fairy tales travelled the world helping us to learn more and understand better our neighbouring countries being a serious factor to diminish the differences between cultures and nations.
Do you know the easygoing Moomintrolls or a cartoon featuring advantures of a small mole? What about 'The snow queen', 'The ugly duckling', 'The wild swans' or 'Cindirella'? Yes, we know them all.

Wherever I go (Finland, Denmark, Czech Republic) I always try to buy a gift for myself that is a book with local tales or a masqute representing a key fairytale character. If there is an opportunity its really worth to visit a museum of a famous fairy tales writer (below you see me o the doorway to the museum of Hans Christain Andersen) - that would be my recommendation.

As I have become a father recently I noticed one more phenomenon regarding cartoons and fairy tales. If we say that 50 or 40 years ago fairy tales traveled from one country to the other to amuse children around the world that would be true for sure. However nowadays we are familiar with global cartoon productions. 'Teletubbies' is a unique cartoon that is broadcasted worldwidely and always being received everywhere with great attention and addiction by some children. Well, I think that example supports my theory that fairy tales/cartoons help to create a global village and mutual understanding in the world :-)

Posted by tomik 06:44 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

To keep promises or not

When I come back home from my trip to the country I have visited for the first time people always keep asking me weather I liked the place. What was the most striking experience I had? Were there any interesting people on my trails? Was the country adequate either for solitary or family travelling? Many kinds of questions I face when talking to people and if I know the answers I give them true ones however, there is always the last question that comes at the end. 'When are you flying back there?' or 'are you going to visit that spot again?'. As I am always certain that that kind of question comes up sooner or later I am certain to the same extent that my answer is always the same. Having very confident face expression my reply is 'I never visit the same place twice'. People nod their heads with understanding and if not I add a short comment to my statement 'well, there are so many beautiful places around the world so it would be a waste of time to go the same place more than once'. Those who did not nod their heads with understanding at my first reply do nod now hearing that comment.

However am I really right saying that? Is that promise really worth and clever to make?

Last June I flew to Iceland for a few days. I was extremly lucky to experience a full week of sunny and unwindy weather and these who have been to Iceland know what I am saying. It is a beautiful country night and day and I am saying that on purpose as at that time of the year you leave a bar after midnight and it's still bright outside. Iceland has a lot to offer to visitors from its unique natural wonders and ancient heritage to omnipresent tranquillity.
Visiting mainly Southern part of the country I finally reached the place considered by many to be Iceland’s finest waterfall - Gullfoss. What really striked me while I was on my way to see Gullfoss was the landscape that doesn't reveal its greatest wonder whatsoever. I mean you could not simply expect to see the waterfall there - to me it was so surpising that all of the sudden and from nowhere the great Gullfoss waterfall appers in front of you to appeal to your visual senses.

When I was leaving the place my attantion was drawn to number of small stone towers. The towers made of small stones that people placed one on another. The maximum tower hight I observed was the tower made of five stones. 'What's the point of building such towers' I thought to myslef and when that question was running through my head I saw a person who approached the spot where those towers were built and started building his own. As you might assume I could not resist myslef from asking the guy the sacramental question 'what those towers are for? and what's the point in building them?'.
The guy gave me a short explanation to my simple question. The custom says that if you wish to come back to this place / vist that place again you have to build a tower like that.

Well, having not known why I approached the spot naturally (without even thinking of it) where the towers were built and I built my own one. With a great care I placed four stones one on another I got up then and stared at my tower with a smile on my face.

Since that time I have thought more of going to the same place more than once. I have thought of the way we all build our memories while travelling. There are many factors that influance the way we see the world and for instance our two vists to the same place might bring absolutely contradictory memories.

PS. I have also encountered the same stone towers in Norway

Posted by tomik 13:19 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Happy 2008

Yesterday we all celebrated the end of 2007 and start of a new year. At my party I talked to people about how good or bad was the passing year and what we expect from a new. Not suprisingly there were number of people who made their new year's resolutions to start taking up sport regulalry, go for a diet, get married and travel the world. The list of resolutions I heard yesterday was undoubtfully a long one and certainly I have my own as well.

I wish the 2008 be the most adventurous year in your life so you could explore the places you have always dreamed of visiting and meet the people who could enrich your life with their experience, views and creativity.

I think the most beautiful and unforgetable travelling memories we have, we have because of meeting intresting people on our way so I wish you to find them on your trails as often as it is only possible.

Posted by tomik 10:52 Comments (0)

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