Thank you Ingvar

I hardly know where to start with this update. This last two weeks there have been travels, trials and hours spent bouncing experimentally on display beds and considering the pros and cons of decorative light fixtures. Family arrived and then left, the weather brightened then returned to clouds and a whole lot of stuff has been put into boxes. I suppose I should start with tales of a Swedish institution that we have all gotten lost in at some time and left wondering why we needed that miniature Persian rug and two different kinds of cheese-graters.
I am talking of course of IKEA.

As previously mentioned, we are in the process of moving. The new apartment is unfurnished so we have the chance to choose all of our own things to fill it with, something neither of us has had the opportunity to do before. So last week, with a mix of anticipation and wariness and a list clutched tightly in hand, we headed off to the nearest IKEA warehouse. As we found out last time, it was more or less identical to the one in Perth, except that now we know how to pronounce the names of the furniture. 5 hours later we emerged slightly dazed into the evening sunlight, heavy of furniture and light of wallet. We had got most of what was on the list, though towards the end we tended to respond to items that we needed with ‘I just don’t care right now’ and continue heaving our laden trolleys.

Soon after was the assembling day, which was happily rage free and didn’t involve any manuals or allen keys being thrown out of the window. We actually sort of enjoyed it and were rewarded with an apartment that was starting to look lived in, and a couch from which to enjoy it.

Rage free assembly

Rage free assembly

2 days later we were back at IKEA, to get all of the things that we hadn’t had the energy or time for the first time. This time we managed to keep our visit to 3 hours, and didn’t feel quite as exhausted as we headed home. We also had another assembling evening, late enough that once we’d put the bed together it was tough to resist trying it out, even without the sheets.

The second assembling time followed another event from the last week, which was partly why we were so tired by the end of the bed assemblage.

My partner’s parents had gone to Norway to see the fjords the week before last, and then for the last 2 and a half days that they were to spend in Oslo, we went up to join them. The weather was sunny and warm, and the city was completely transformed from the cold and dark Oslo we’d visited in December. Where there had been an ice-rink there is now a pond under thick green trees, with children paddling and a man making giant bubbles in the sun. Streets that had once been sparse and bare were packed with people, and restaurants that had been closed had their temporary verandahs set up in the sun.

Oslo in summer

Oslo in summer

That first day we only had time to settle in the the apartment and eat a late dinner, and plan a little bit for the next day.
When we were all ready to hit the streets the next morning, we set off for the ferry that would take us to Bygdøy, where many of the most interesting museums live. We had already been to the Viking Ship museum the last time, but it was new to my partner’s parents and neither of us regretted getting to see the beautiful ships again. They were still just as graceful and impressive, and provided great fuel for the imagination, wondering what those planks had seen and the names of those who had heaved on oars as they cruised along unknown coasts.

Detail of the Gokstad ship

Detail of the Gokstad ship

We then went to the neighbouring Folk Museum, which seemed to be a collection of ancient buildings from different eras of Norwegian history jammed together into a large park. We had seen something similar in Lillehammer during our last trip, but summer in Oslo brought out the historical re-enactors, cows, sheep, pigs and horses, as well as berries to pick on the sides of the path and green all around.

An old farm

An old farm

We wandered for a few hours, peering into farm houses from the 1600s, complete with painted and carved furniture, and the deep smell of pine resin. Entire gardens had been recreated, and everywhere we could hear the bleeting of sheep and calling of birds.
In one house we found a couple of women making traditional pancake-like bread the old way, and baking it on a stone in a large fireplace. It smelt amazing.

Traditional baking

Traditional baking

Elsewhere we found a building from the 1250s-1300s, the oldest surviving wooden building in the world. Inside it was cool and dark, and through the doors from the entrance, seemed to consist of a large hall with a little square chimney hole/sky light in the middle of the ceiling. It was simple and bare, and exactly like the halls I’ve seen in films and books, where folk gather around a central fire, hounds as their feet and smoke wreathing their faces.

A 700 year old hall

A 700 year old hall

Up on a hill we also found an 800 year old stave church, in which an older lady dressed in traditional clothes told us about the history of the building. She pointed out a pillar which is believed to be around 1000 years old, and faces carved and painted that line the ceiling, grimacing a warning those below of the hell that awaits them if they are naughty.

The stave church

The stave church

There were many other buildings and sights, including a friendly old pig, that were wonderful to explore, and I felt quite privileged to be able to walk inside ancient buildings and see life as it had been. Everywhere was history, from beautifully carved doors to children on school holiday enjoying a traditional lunch.

Children preparing for lunch

Children preparing for lunch

The next stop on Bygdøy was the Kon Tiki museum, which housed two ships built by Norwegian adventurer and archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl. There is a film about one of the ships, and how it crossed the Atlantic which I haven’t seen yet, but would like to now. Both ships were built using ancient methods and materials and it was very interesting to read about the voyages and trials and successes that were involved with them.

Kon Tiki

Kon Tiki

It also lead to a discussion among ourselves about what constitutes a hero. Sure, you can have a wild plan and set forth to achieve it, heroic stuff right? It would seem from what we could see that the only difference between the fool who tried a crazy scheme and failed and the hero who achieved his dream and will perhaps get an Oscar down the line, is whether or not they survive and complete what they set out to do. Simple enough I suppose, but the more I read about Thor Heyerdahl’s exploits, the more sure I felt that a lot comes down to chance. And he was very lucky.

After a quick look at the Fram, a polar ship that was used in expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic between 1893 and 1912, I began to get a bit museumed out (shocking, I know), and after the museum had closed we caught a ferry back to the town centre. Drinks were then had on a floating bar in the harbour, and followed by a final dinner in the apartment.

On the final day we got up earlyish to pack and then set out for Frogner Park, which I had been repeatedly told to visit by the mum and which I was quite intrigued about. It turned out to be absolutely worth the visit, and something I would like to see again some day. Much of the park was taken up by a boulevard, fountain area and rising platforms that lead to the pinnacle of the park, on which stands a giant granite obelisk carved with the shapes of hundreds of human figures.

The human obelisk

The human obelisk

All around it, and around the fountain and down the boulevard are hundred of other figures, also carved from granite or cast in bronze. They were in very posture imaginable, loving, challenging, laughing, crying, talking, playing, fighting and apparently trying to survive a rain of babies.

A rain of babies?

A rain of babies?

It was an amazing collection of work and I assume must have taken the artist, Gustav Vigeland, much of his life to complete. I would say it was worth it.

Girls

Girls

After this visit we went back to the hotel and then to the train station, to the bus and then some hours later found ourselves home in Göteborg.

Shadows of women

Shadows of women

Since then we had a final bbq and then dinner, and yesterday morning bade them farewell at the airport. Now we have the task of moving to the new apartment and removing the final traces of our stay here. This morning I went on my possibly final run in the forest, which was even more beautiful than usual. The new place will have many forests, and I’ll soon learn their paths and peculiarities, but none will replace the first forest I found here.

Fine food and deep snow

While I’ve been attempting to stuff my brain with a new language, writing, looking for a job and working out titles for my blog posts, my partner has been working very hard at his job. Even over the Jul break he put in hours, returning to the office for a day just after Jul and monitoring processes from our hotel room in Oslo, and so his boss decided he needed some kind of thanks.
Which was how we ended up walking a bit hesitantly into one of the 4 Michelin star restaurants in Göteborg, being offered a glass of spiced apple juice, escorted to a neat little table and subjected to 4 hours of amazing food, service and drinks. It was indeed a difficult cross to bear.

The restaurant in question was Thörnströms Kök, and at this stage I have to come clear about something. I have never been to a restaurant classified as ‘fancy’, so was prepared to be impressed. It didn’t take long for this to happen.
I’m no gastronome (gastrognome?) so I can’t list the food we had, but suffice to say we chose a set menu and matching wine list, and everything was perfect. The wine matched the food, each (somewhat, and expectedly small) meal was a feast of flavours and they kept foisting appetisers and sweets on us. We made a bit of a miscalculation when we ate all of the bread that was intended to last the entire sitting before the second course arrived, but they were happy to bring out another. More impressive even than the tastes and expertise was the uncanny ability of the staff to have the next course and wine on our table just when it was needed, and to my personal amusement, their habit of refolding the napkins while we were taking toilet breaks. I left mine intentionally folded but was foiled by the waiter’s superior skills.
By the time we had been there for 4 hours and I had finished a pot of a newly invented herbal tea combination, we were satisfied and ready to venture out into the cold for the slow plod home. If you get a chance to go there, go.

In addition to me now having an unrealistic benchmark for future meals, winter has finally actually arrived. About a week ago the snow came, which I mentioned in my last post, and has remained. The first day I stepped out into the now consistently -C temperatures, my breath caught in my throat, and I have resigned myself to wearing thermals whenever I venture outside and a minimum of two beanies. It has stayed cold enough that there has been hardly any slush or ice, so I make my way around town with enjoyable crunching sounds from beneath my boots. Last weekend we were lucky enough to get two days on sunlight and it was glorious. Though still cold the white snow and sharply contrasting shadows were beautiful and worth any amount of numb fingers.

Trollhättan canal

That weekend we also went on a short trip up to Trollhättan, a town about 40 minutes north of Göteborg, and where one of my partner’s workmates lives. We were greeted at the train station by piles of snow and said workmate and his daughter, who was gleefully being dragged along on a small sled. She’s about 3 and with her father’s encouragement exclaimed now and then in English, and the rest of the time squealed with excitement when he whipped the sled around in a circle or through deep snow. I very much wanted one, which was not helped when he mentioned that he sometimes attaches the sled to his bike to take her to day care. I tried sending significant looks and less subtle hints to my partner but thus far he has refused to bite.
We were then taken on a tour of the town, including a cafe stop and a visit to the locks and canals that connect the west and east of Sweden and provide the area with power. A large patch of deep snow in which the little girl demonstrated how to make a snow angel required me to do the same, and was only part of the capering about that my partner and I go into. We had a long of time to make up for from our childhood. After looking into the fast flowing canals that rushed towards the hydropower plants and exploring more of the area I discovered my phone was no longer in my pocket. We backtracked, my partner repeatedly calling my phone and the rest of us peering into tiny holes in the snow. It seemed likeliest that it had slipped out while I was capering, and as we wandered through a deep patch I heard the ringtone. After checking that I hadn’t somehow missed it in one of my pockets I dug into the snow and found it, wet, cold and loudly playing the theme to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Relieved and starting to get cold, we then headed to our tour guide’s home, where we were supplied with whiskey and wine until it was time to head home. As the workmate is a self taught connoisseur of whiskey we were quite merry by the time we left.

Sun on the canal

The next day we followed up the traditional playing in the snow with a visit to Ikea, carrying a list that I hoped and inevitably failed to follow. We did get what we needed, in addition to a number of things I hadn’t realised we needed, and it confirmed my suspicion that Ikea in Sweden is a clone of Sweden in Australia, or wherever else they have sprouted.

Since then we have worked and studied, waiting for the weekend and the rare days like today when the sun shines on Göteborg.