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The Selfish Idealist


Freedom is a word that has been on everybody’s lips for decades, actually a century and more, and changes in the way of life have been going on for the better. 

But we are not completely peaceful beings, and increased freedom calls for responsible behaviour. There is violence and violent reactions to it, and increasing oppression is going on and is on its way, I believe in all countries, and right now it ought to be a time for thinking and talking rather than for rash action.

Winter morning, Oslo

Health & entertainment

Tourist at home Posted on 04 Jul, 2022 14:07

Ginger beer at Fuglen…The Bird, in Pilestredet.

I had had enough coffee for a little while, and thought, ok, why not buy one of those new soda types, they often taste good, and some of them are made pretty close to where you buy it, so less transport and less CO2 out into the air.

But this was actually mixed on the spot, with a ginger extract which the bar/coffee shop also made themselves.

No alcohol in the drink, but a lot of lime, it tasted almost like my mother’s lemonade, yeah, from my childhood, which is…I guess tradition, but this one with a clear twist of something else, ginger, which makes it into…something new at the same time, for me.

I love that mix.

Feet on the ground, head in the sky.

Probably the reason for all that coffee that we drink, too, and of course, getting fairly drunk in a normal way is also a possible escape when you need to be somewhere else than only on the ground.

Pilestredet, where the café Fuglen is, is one of those street names which are remnants of Denmark, the »Danish times», as we sometimes say, pil meaning willow, et strede is a street, but a word which hasn’t been in everyday Norwegian language since I don’t know quite when. Long ago, when written language here was also basically Danish.

I love Denmark.

For a joke I sometimes say that Norway stretches from Svalbard to the Canary Islands, because of vacation, I would almost say, in two very different senses of the word, but you have to include Copenhagen as part of a Norwegian cultural sphere, I think the city still functions as our extra garden, an easy getaway from Oslo, at least, and I spend my money there always in a good mood, I really don’t care that they may go fast, because the Danes are always nice to you.

At home in a different fashion.

After the ginger beer I feel refreshed, the trend of mixing healthy and entertaining I wish to applaude, besides the unhealthy things that are always there anyway.

Better to survive just a little longer.

There are actually birds outside of the café, sparrows, quick and fun and tidy animals, cleaning tables a little.

I know that making that ginger extract is also a science…I met some people once who were into that world.

Life just a little below the surface.


Tourist at home Posted on 01 Jun, 2022 19:33

…as a food nomad that could mean many things.

A Romanian food store in Oslo? Cool! 

Not a Romanian cultural centre of Oslo, this does not exist, but food is also an art.

The shop is in Mariboes gate, a few metres from Mela Café, if you know that one, Palestinian/Lebanese food, in the same street. 

I have only tried some cheap stuff, not much money in my pockets these days, a small box of paté, but it was good. There were salamis and I think some cheese behind the counter.

And a lot of other things.

The name of the shop is “Dor de casă”, which I believe means homesickness.

Apparently they already have a shop in Strømmen, which is half an hour or so from Oslo.

A Turkish Bakery

Tourist at home Posted on 29 Mar, 2021 17:21

There is a café in Herslebs gate, Mine’s patisserie, just off Trondheimsveien besides a big greengrocer and a butcher, they have very good coffee and Turkish things – baklava, simit (small bread things baked in a ring, with sesame seeds on top), and other stuff, I think baked there.

My favourite right now is a baklava variant with pistachio nuts in it.

It doesn’t fill you up quite as much the normal baklava, which I have to ration when I eat it, one small piece is usually enough.

They also have some of these “normal” baklava types, which are also good, and other, lighter types of baked goodies that are not heavy.

A cortado, a warm simit – a nice breakfast, right now on the street, but still…

A new aquaintance

Tourist at home Posted on 23 Jul, 2020 17:13

Another Norwegian artist rediscovered…at least by me, but I believe also pretty unfamiliar for “normal” art lovers, if not the experts.

Hans Dahl, painter, not related to the more famous Johan Christian Dahl. Hans was born and raised in Granvin, Hardanger, Johan Christian was from Bergen.

Hans Dahl was born in 1849, died in 1937, while his more famous counterpart lived from 1788 to 1857.

Hans Dahl was born and raised in Hardanger, Granvin, studied in Düsseldorf, Germany, also like a lot of Norwegian painters of this period.

His father was a captain in the army, and the son also completed an education as an officer.

(Dahl is a very common surname in Norway, meaning simply valley, the h probably being a remnant of Danish spelling.) 

A close friend of the German emperor, Hans was also very sympathetic with German culture and art, as, I believe, many in Norway at the time. 

He was also writing a lot, and among other things published a book which must be characterized as chauvinistic in favour of German culture, talking also about the danger of the Slavs. («People of the North, wake up!» is the title of this book.) 

The way of seeing the landscape and Dahl’s world of ideas is probably much influenced by Germany, but we should be able today to sort out the dirt from the cinnamon, as we say here, and even if some of his writings, of which I have seen only a trifle, is difficult to accept, we should be able to enjoy the paintings. The same kind of discussions has of course been going on about Knut Hamsun, and we still read his books and enjoy them, even if we know that he did and said things during the war which were unacceptable to us. 

Hans Dahl was not considered important among influential Norwegian critics, which I should today consider a mistake, and in the debate about art and culture, stupidly enough, even back then, there was a conflict which in name was for and against the élite

Dahl sided with the anti-élitists, which also today seems irrelevant to me if we consider only the art. 

What to me looks like embryo-nazi views must be noted and considered today, but we cannot totally exclude the art of this painter and others because of this. 

The style of Hans Dahl is of course national romantic, the landscapes spectacular and with almost photographic qualities.  The women were probably commented too, in the press back then, the whole project was seen as an idolising view of both nature and people, which I also find strange today.  Sunshine and fun is also part of life, and darkness and depression does not have to be considered unimportant because of this.

This is a statement…

Many of the faces and situations in the pictures give me a lot of new thoughts about everyday life in Norway way back. 

In a way the landscapes remind me of normal postcards from my childhood, from the 60s and 70s, and this may lead you to think that German aesthetic thinking may have been present here for quite a while after the war.

This is only an idea in my head which is not documented, but maybe worth considering.

The quality of these paintings is still fantastic in my mind.

The first one down below has the same motive as one of the most famous Norwegian paintings, Brudeferden i Hardanger, Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord, painted by Adolph Tidemand and Hans Gude in 1848, and this also shows that there are of course a lot of variants of the subjects in our national «icons», and that the talk which you can hear from and among Norwegians that we have «so little art» being «such a small country» – is nonsense.

The erotic side of some of the pictures may very likely have been a problem in the 18- and early 1900s, in a country where petty morality used to be a cradle gift for most of us, or at least something we had to relate to. To call it erotic is maybe also saying a lot about us…

Dahl is known for having both treated and paid his models very decently, according to an online cultural dictionary.

Sweet Velvet

Tourist at home Posted on 10 Oct, 2019 16:38

I have started exploring the other way from my little flat, along Trondheimsveien instead of Grünerløkka. Løkka still has possibilities, which I discover every time I go out with another city dweller, when they have other habits and know of places I have never seen.

This time only a small dessert at what is probably a Syrian restaurant, since the name on the door is Damaskus.

It’s true, what a friend once said, that you don’t know what happens in your mouth when you eat sweet stuff from the Middle East, or even more Eastern parts. The Pakistani sweetshops in Grønland, a part of town not far from here, also have a lot of strange and enchanting thing to feed your sweet tooth, and I am going there whenever I have something to do there, or just take a stroll to buy these pink and green and otherwise coloured things. They often taste very sweet, but one of the guys in one of the shops said that they did not use that much sugar.

Today’s pudding was not too sweet, but warm, and the experience was a little circus-like and sensuous, as the last time I had it.

I always feel very relaxed among Muslims, they have, when I meet them, a very soft and friendly attitude which in a café like this makes me feel like I am paying for luxury, and, well, in a way you always do that in a café, but this time, cheap luxury.

In waiting

Tourist at home Posted on 26 Aug, 2019 17:08

I was going to take a walk and take a look at a statue of Rodin, which stands in Solli plass, kind of the beginning of the West End, Vestkanten, as different from Sentrum, the central parts of town, which is of course a concept with a little changing content.

But anyway.

The statue wasn’t there, just a kind of box which could have hidden and protected the sculpture, and with a picture of it on the outside, but the inside was empty.

I don’t quite know why.

One could phantasise about anti-art governments or politicians, who don’t care about art, and who don’t push those processes which always go on in administrations, necessarily so. Those processes, I believe, although I’ve never been an insider, often depend on people who wants this or that and push things they feel are important in a particular direction. In the direction of doing, not just thinking, which, I acknowledge that, is also necessary.

But I ‘m sure there is a good reason that the statue is not there.

Dead sure.

I passed Ibsen and Bjørnson on my way there, they were standing in front of the National Theatre, and looked a little high up, which is of course an unneccessary way of seeing them, as long as you stick to what people write and not what someone says about them, I mean, their art is a lot more interesting than their lives, at least it should come first.

I met Ibsen once more, sitting outside his extravagant appartment in Drammensveien, which is now Henrik Ibsens gate… Here he looked a little comic, sitting on his…pedestal would maybe be a proper name for it, I don’t know if the artist had a particular reason for making him look funny, this could be interesting to know, or just had a thing with humour in general.

I have nothing against making fun of Ibsen, but I would love to know the reason for the mocking. I’m not bigger than that…

I don’t know why Ibsen is considered our only great playwright, and I say this straightforward, I don’t know it, but I believe we could as well get others out from the shadows and read them and play them.

It’s probably done already too, just as the music of Norwegian classical composers are coming out from their shelves, where they have been sleeping for quite a while. Everybody who are into classical knows Grieg, Svendsen, Halvorsen, but seriously, there is also Catharinus Elling, Johannes Haarklou, Hjalmar Borgstrøm, there are loads of composers and fantastic music which only need to be understood and played.

Actually, it seems to be happening. New recordings emerge, more and more interesting.

A national renaissance? Why not, we’ve been actually too timid to appreciate our own stuff properly. As long as it’s used for thinking and contemplation, not war, I find it totally in order to revive this part of tradition.

No war against other nations, and no war against popular culture, which was always strong here and should go on being important.

Why not have it both ways?

I think it can’t be wrong.

So I guess I’ll check out Bjørnson, which I have read just a little of so many years ago that I can’t remember what it was.

Or someone else.

The same with painters, the last years we’ve seen things of women, Harriet Backer was of course known, but had a lot more than I knew, Kitty Kielland, there are doubtless more of them too, men and women, painters I didn’t know of.

In this vein Lillehammer kunstmuseum is worth a visit, I believe, and others, I shoud not say too much, I’ve been too few places. There are regional museums around the country.

They have closed the National Gallery in Oslo in waiting for the big new museum…they, maybe some of them could emerge from their shadows and tell us why. Kunstindustrimuseet, also closed, used to be a beautiful place, I thought.

The Munch Museum is still going on like before, even if this museum is also moving into another new, huge building.

The Høvikodden and The Astrup Fearnley, modern art places, I haven’t been there for a while, but I usually check out what’s happening when I feel like it.

The Rodin statue is nothing big, and it’s a copy, but I guess those greats had people working for them anyway, they didn’t actually do all the work themselves all the time, although the shape, of course, the mould or the result is supervised by them and the form is…formed by them.

He’s just a sculptor I really like.

But right now I didn’t find him where I thought he’d be.

Irony and nature

Tourist at home Posted on 01 May, 2019 02:32

For those unfamiliar with Norwegian humour, the name of the restaurant Ben Reddik in Grünerløkka refers to one of the characters in an extremely popular film from many years ago, Flåklypa Grand Prix. The film is an emblematic portrait of an important part of Norwegian mentality, with the (anti-) hero Reodor Felgen as its main character.

His title is actually bike repair man (sykkelreparatør), but he is more than that, an inventor type, seemingly modest both in apparition and behaviour, but capable of creating all kinds of fun technical gadgets, like for instance a wooden box for recycling used tobacco smoke, which you strap onto your back. This way you can both save money on tobacco and save your immediate environment from breathing your cigarette smoke.

Reodor looks like a typical Norwegian of my father’s generation, and you can still see his type many places here. The nickname Reodor (Felgen) is still a common expression for the ability to fix or invent anything practical, anytime anywhere, which is actually a typical national inventiveness, also in other connections than practical and technical. It must have developed out of geography, fun, and the relative lack of traditional European education.

The northerners even have a saying for it – vi træng ikkje pæng, vi fikser med stræng, (we don’t need doe, we fix it with wire).

In the real north (remember that Norway is about 2000 km long) – the improvisation has also gone thoroughly even into the language, and the ability to create words and expressions on the spot has been common there and in other parts too. Probably still is.

Reodor Felgen is the product of Kjell Aukrust’s mind, who was an artist and writer and the creator of Flåklypa Times (Flåkypa tidende), the local newspaper of an imaginary place in a valley of Norway, which came in several volumes in the 60’s and 70’s. It actually contains a lot stranger things tham just local news, and the humour touches upon many different issues from public life.

A felg means the rim of a wheel – and this constructed last name illustrates another side of Norwegian humour – slapstick, practical humour, visuality – these tools or modes are never far away.

Flåklypa as a place name actually exists, but I don’t think anyone lives there. I had some motor trouble there many years ago, and accidentally noticed the road sign, not far from Lom.

Aukrust himself came from Alvdal, quite a few hours drive from the actual Flåklypa. Alvdal is partly the inspiration for the fictional Flåklypa.

The author has also given a witty impression of the real Alvdal in Bror min (My Brother) and other autobiographical works. A great humourist and also illustrator of his own books, he has given us a picture of an important part of Norwegian culture. We have after all always been rural to a large extent, despite a normal output also of “European” art, music, etc.

The landscape I grew up in, in Asker, just outside Oslo, is very much recognisable even in those drawings from Alvdal, which is further up the land from my home place. The Eastern hills and slopes resemble each other across a large area.

In the film, one of the sponsors, I believe, of the car race, is sheikh Ali Ben Redik Fy Fazan, who meets our countryside heroes in the tent that he brought with him from his homeland. He also brought with him a beautiful bellydancer, who has just about time to turn the head of Solan, who sees her in a glimpse through the tent opening. Solan is an outgoing and optimistic chap, always willing to take a chance, the complete opposite of his friend Ludvig, whose gloomy slogan is “The Northern winds blow from everywhere”.

The film is animated, played with dolls made by Ivo Caprino, who is also famous for animated versions of Norwegian fairy tales and other stories.

Racism was already rife in Norway when the film appeared (1975), but I don’t think sheikh Ali or the film contributed substantially to it. “Fy Fazan” is a “foreignised” and euphemistic version of “fy faen”, the most common Norwegian swearword, but knowing Aukrust and Caprino and their work you have to think very strangely to interpret the character as racist, rather the opposite. His accent is comic, but all characters are comic, and we see in him, for instance, a guy who is confident enough to give respect to his hosts.

All characters, in the film and the stories, are comic, maybe except Reodor himself, who is actually more of a wise grandfather, the person who “owns” the humour. His personality also resembles Aukrust’s, in the film especially, and also in sequels, which have been made in recent years.

The humour of Norway often resonates to a coarse background, not necessarily in a bad way, but it is completely strewn with irony, hints and double meanings, it is often difficult to see through to the last end of it. Which is also often the point, to pull your leg.

A little tourist information

Tourist at home Posted on 01 Dec, 2016 18:27

If I had the kids with me, or maybe even better alone, and were having a vacation in Western Norway, I would consider stopping at Årdal and visit this place, simply the public outdoor swimming pools. There are even two, a few miles apart, in two different villages.

Looks like a pretty fine place to swim, if you ask me, if you enjoy the scenery. Outdoor swimming feels special, exactly because of the climate. The swimming season is normally short, but if you’re a little daring you can do it even in rather cold weather. The pool is anyway heated.

I’ve never used the pool in Årdal myself, the last time I was there I was 17 or something, on my way down from a hiking trip in the mountains. I have been swimming in an outdoor pool, though, for instance at Klækken hotell in Ringerike, where they have a small but fun pool where you can swim from the indoor to the outdoor part of the thing. Heated pool water and snow on the ground was really fun when I was there.

This is the pool in Øvre Årdal, which seems to be the most spectacular place, judging by the photo:×768/4820652_1352375.jpg?

Information about the pools on the same site, unfortunately not in English:

It says to be open “all summer”, whatever that means. I would say normally May until August, but I don’t know how Årdal kommune defines the summer season…

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