Saturday, May 2, 2009 2:37:13 PM
One thing that still surprises me about Europe is just how small some of its world famous cities are. Sure, London and Paris thrive at 13 and 11 million people respectively, but many other metropolises pale in significance. For a little geographical perspective, the city I'm from in Australia is Brisbane, which has a population of 1.9 million – less than half our biggest city Sydney’s total of 4.3 million. So when I discovered that Rome and Athens have just 3.7 million inhabitants, Brussels 2.7 million, and Stockholm 2 million, I was shocked. How could my home city, just the third biggest city in Australia and a city most tourists skip, be bigger than greats like Copenhagen, Prague, Helsinki, Edinburgh and Zurich?
As such, I was a little miffed when Oslo – distributor of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, capital of the world’s fourth largest exporter of oil – turned out to have a population of just 600,000 people. 600,000?!
Oslo has such a small-town feel to it that sometimes I actually forget that I live in a capital: like when my boyfriend points out a famous author or politician in the street and I think to myself, “Really? What are they doing here
Monday, April 13, 2009 7:23:41 PM
Happy Egg Day! For those of you who celebrate Easter, I hope you are enjoying your weekend. As for me, and as with all other occasions in Norway, Easter (Påske
in Norwegian) has offered up something different from my previous experiences.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009 7:05:15 PM
It may be because Norway is shrouded in darkness during the winter months
, it may be because of poor lighting, or it may be because Norwegians deep-down are just romantic softies – but whatever the reason, Norwegians love
candles. Yes, you read correctly: candles. In fact, Norwegians are the largest buyers of candles in Europe. (Yes, you read correctly: someone actually keeps statistics on these things.
Sunday, March 15, 2009 4:34:49 PM
For those of you who have lived in snowy countries, the following post will contain nothing new, and may indeed be downright dull. However, for those like me who come from warm, tropical (enviable) climates, learning the extent to which ice is out to get people is very nearly shocking.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009 8:00:00 PM
This Saturday Melodi Grand Prix was held, the finals to determine who will be the contestant representing Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest. Normally I wouldn’t pause to mention this, because quite frankly Eurovision makes me feel physically ill.
I feel tormented just thinking about the tacky costumes (you remember Lordi
, right?), cheesy special effects, weird dance steps, random instruments, folksy lyrics (the 2005 winner, Greece's My Number One
, sang “Never leave me, And believe me, You will be the sun into my raining season”? What the hey?!), and of course the crony-istic voting process.
Saturday, February 21, 2009 10:34:58 AM
I had intended to write some exacting and wise observations about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Norway, but – somewhat unromantically – there is very little to tell. Here, Valentine’s Day is quite literally a made-up holiday. It is only in the last five years or so that it has grown in popularity, having been gradually imported via American movies and television shows. For that reason, it is almost only celebrated by young people… and everyone else dismisses it as Yankee cultural imperialism.
On speaking to other foreigners about Valentine’s Day in Norway, I learnt that in fact many other European countries do not celebrate it – which shocked me because surely Paris is the world capital of lurve and their neighbouring countries would want to keep up with the Joneses (or the Jacqueses as the case may be
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 8:28:44 PM
It makes complete sense when you think about it, but it’s not until the first wintry day you find yourself landing smack on your backside in the gutter that you realise, “Yes, ice is slippery.”
Sunday, February 1, 2009 8:21:59 PM
Norwegians like to start the New Year with a bang – and usually, the bang of fireworks. After the traditional New Year’s Eve meal of turkey then festivities at a house party or club party, there is less focus on city fireworks displays and more focus on the private pyrotechnics extravaganzas people make in their own backyards.
Saturday, January 24, 2009 3:02:00 PM
‘Tis the season to eat far too much, and Christmas food in Norway is very different to what I am used to eating in Australia. Like Britain and North America, Australia’s national Christmas dishes are turkey and ham (though unlike Britain and North America, the heat ensures that we Australians mostly eat salad on the side
). However, turkey is instead the New Year’s Eve dish in Norway, so Norwegians have a range of other offerings for Christmas...
Saturday, January 10, 2009 6:09:48 PM
‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Except for the Norwegians...
So enthusiastic is the countdown to Christmas that Norwegians, like those in most other European countries, celebrate it on the night of Christmas Eve. From any time after 5 o’clock in the evening, key traditions such as the main feast and exchange of gifts take place. It is also typical on Christmas Eve to light candles at the graves of relatives (see below). A father or neighbour may dress up as Santa Claus, knocking on the front door to ask “Are there any good children here?”; sometimes this visit takes place in the afternoon, much to the delight of kids who are too excited to wait until the evening for presents.
(See my own Christmas Eve visit from Santa, below.)
I’m not sure about other countries in Europe, but the celebration of Christmas on Christmas Eve is so established that Norway also has a Christmas Eve Eve (called Lille Julaften
), which is typically the time for decorating the Christmas tree and the final preparations for the Christmas festivities.