Everything I Know About Norway

I don't generally travel worth a damn. Being packed into a tight space with other humans starts to feel like prison, and I'm just off my game for the entire journey to and fro. I hate traveling.

 Being there is quite a different matter.  I love being different places, experiencing different environments, different cultures- that is, once the jetlag wears off. Once I'm there, all is well. It's just the getting there. For me this involves one of two different courses of action: either I suck it up momentarily as far as my enmity for travel, or go there as a virtual trip. 

   In this instance I took a cyber-journey. An all-day boat ride down the Telemark Canal in central Norway. It's the kind of thing you watch for a half-hour or hour at a time. I guess you could watch the entire 8 hours(or was it 9?)at a stretch, but it would probably have to involve a lot of liquor or some major hallucinogens.

I don't drink anymore, and am probably too old to be messing around with anything but the mildest of hallucinogens, so I watched in little bursts. I'll get to the boat ride in a minute. First, some basic info:

Norway is a country of about five million people. It has a unique shape, something like a string with a rock tied to it. Or a yoyo. Most folks live in the southern part of the country, in or near its capitol Oslo. Other cities include Bergen, Trondheim and Tromso. 

I know a little bit about their flag.  The red background with the white cross represents their union with Denmark, from 1397 to 1814. And the blue cross is a note to their alliance with Sweden from 1814 to 1905. The Scandinavian languages: Swedish, Danish and Norwegian all have the 26 we have in the English language,
plus a couple extras. Danish and Norwegian have  æ(pronounced eh),  å(pronounced oh), ø(pronounced ur). Norwegian also has œ, which I'm sorry to say I don't know. 

Norway and Denmark were united for more than 400 years, which would explain the linguistic similarities. Norwegian differs from Danish in its spoken form, in that it's spoken more deliberately(like Swedish), and they use a 'rolled' r where then Danes use a guttural one- from the back of the throat. 
  Swedish language differs in its written form from the other two in that they use an umlaut(ä)as opposed to the tong. 
   Okay. Now on to the boat ride. It was a riverboat, like you'd see heading down the mighty Mississippi. A few live entertainers, and a lot of stuff piped in, plus a host and hostess who hung in there for the whole blessed event. 
    The best music I heard was folky 12-string kinda things, and some beautiful(and sentimental) Norwegian folk songs. A little bit of everything. Even a few that sounded just like good old American muzak. The kind you might find on that Texaco Christmas Medley. 
  This trip was up the middle of Norway, through a series of elaborate locks in just about every little town. So the whole population of these various little places were on hand to watch the locks being undone and the boat sailing through. 
  The reason for the locks was to prevent flooding and to maintain a stable water level for boats passing through. Norway definitely has its share of seafarin' folk, and they know these waters. Another fact about Norway-useful or not-is that they have 38 hydroelectric power plants. 
  It's a very homogenous culture, no great variance in size or shape of its inhabitants. Lots of blonde hair, even whitish blonde and a lot of ruddy complexions. More than a few of the younger women were strikingly beautiful. and the middle-aged ones still retained at least a handsomeness to them if not outright beauty.  And they all radiated health. Salubriously blonde. 
  Just about as jaw-droppingly beautiful as the women was the Norwegian countryside. There were some spectacular views along that boat ride. Views of great majesty and grandeur. Much like some of our western states. Like Montana and Wyoming. (Wyoming, for what it's worth, is where they filmed Rocky IV, simulating Russia). 
   Many cultural similarities between Norway and the US. But there is a big difference and it's right beneath the surface. It's their social mores. 
  Just recently I used the term social mores in conversation and was looked at like I was from Mars. But I'm sticking to my guns here. Whatever terminology you may use, there are basic unwritten social norms in any society. And theirs are most unlike ours. 
  There is a book, A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, by Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemore, in which he creates the Danish town of Jante, and their 10 Laws, or rules for human conduct, referred to as Janteloven.  Basically they all discourage individuality and individual success: you're not to think you're better than us; and you're not to think you're anybody special. 
  Janteloven may be a fading concept, possibly something only staunch traditionalists would hang onto. Couldn't tell you, never been there. Yes, that's the downside of these merely virtual visits. 
  I have actually been to Japan, for a week in October 1995. Not a long time, but enough to pick up on some of their customs, even the less obvious ones. "If a blade of grass is sticking up, push it back down, " was a phrase I heard there describing their cultural- mores.

 Anyway, that was my virtual Norwegian experience. Always interesting finding out how the 'other half' lives. How similar you are, but how differently you go about being you.  


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