Left Stockholm on Friday and enjoying a short holiday in Norway at the moment, in a beautiful town (or city) called Stavanger, located on the south-western shore of the country. It is probably one of the most beautiful places in Europe I have visited in a while. The cozy wooden white and coloured houses you’re surrounded by when walking across the centre, mixed with an amazing summer sun, make a great atmosphere. I am aware that I am in one of the rainiest locations in Europe (worse than London I have been told), but for now the weather has been great and it is supposed to stay sunny for my whole stay. Being here does not feel that different from Sweden – obviously different from Stockholm as it is a capital and Stavanger is the third/fourth biggest city in Norway. But the kind of architecture, the language (which does not significantly vary) and the way people look is kind of similar across the whole Nordic region.
In the title of this post you can read the two Norwegian ways of saying “Norway”, as there are two official languages. The first one is written in “Bokmål” (literally meaning “the language of books” and it is the most popular throughout the country) and the second one in “Nynorsk” (which means “new norwegian” which does not substantially differ from Bokmål but it is still taught in schools as a second national language).
I’m here visiting my good friend Mariann from London, who lives here. She guided me to the centre of the city on my first day, before heading to work. I have toured the place, visiting the old and new part of the town, the harbour, where the world beach volley tour is currently being held, and eventually enjoyed the summer nordic sun on a lawn next to a lake.
And now, as I traditionally do, I’m having one of my “Hemingway moments” (just because I imagine him sitting in a cafe writing, maybe without the MacBook) in a place called “Bøker og Børst” in the most beautiful street of the town, called Øvre Holmegate. It is also known as the “coloured street” (Farge Gaten) because of the blue, yellow, red and orange wood houses which make it such a special place. It feels like being in a movie set rather than an actual street in the centre of a Norwegian town.
The rest of the centre, including Gamla Stavanger (Old Stavanger), is characterised pretty much by the same architectural style, without the strong colours; I would agree that it could get way too fake if every street in Stavanger looked as colourful as Øvre Holmegate.
While writing this post I held a conversation with a complete stranger who approached me to ask if I was Italian. She heard me speak with my family on Skype and told me that my “beautiful language” reminds her of her last amazing trip to an Italian town called Assisi, not far from Rome. One of those typical scenes of two strangers meeting and holding a conversation on each other’s countries had just happened. She asked me what I found interesting in Norway and why I was visiting. Typical questions I get frequently asked up here, especially when I tell people I’m Italian.
“I don’t understand Italians sometimes” she told me “you have everything: beautiful beaches, amazing mountains and countryside, together with the best food and coffee, and you always end up travelling abroad… Why?”. But as they say, the world is a book and those who don’t travel only read one page. Travelling and exploring other cultures opens your mind and significantly enriches your personal knowledge. It also influences the way you live your everyday life.
Of course I do not travel to England or Norway for the coffee or the food (although the Salmon up here is pretty damn good!) but I do so because it’s my passion to learn from other cultures.
And we never stop learning.
On Saturday Mariann and I went on the most amazing and rewarding hike one could ever imagine. Just close to Stavanger is Preikestolen (or “Pulpit Rock” in english), a steep and massive cliff 600 meters above Lysefjorden. It was not the easiest hike, but definitely worth it. The view of the long fjord from the cliff was spectacular and no photo does justice to the greatness of the place.
I am not going to make any philosophical remark of how it felt being in nature but you can imagine the feeling of witnessing how stunning some places on this planet can be.
Heading back to Rome on Thursday for twenty good days of mediterranean sun, food and beaches. It will be a nice break from the bright north. I’ll be seeing full darkness again after a whole month, how ironic!
Ha det bra! (literally “have it good”, it means “take care” – you say it when saying goodbye to someone)