Sunday, September 25

Feels Like Home

For the first time in a while, what follows should be mostly positive. This is way overdue.

In the last two weeks...

Barbara showed me around Berlin on my last night there. It really was a shame that she wasn't with me for more of my time that I was there. Having someone that knows the most interesting places in a city makes things so much more enjoyable. After walking around for a while, we ended at an outdoor cafe listening to live jazz and folk music.

Copenhagen came next. It's quite possibly my favorite city in Europe. The most important thing was also a bit subtle. Most of the people there seem very happy, and even smile at you when you pass them on the street. After being in Prague and Vienna, this was absolutely huge.

As far as tourist attractions go, Copenhagen was a little lacking. But after being in Paris and Rome, most cities are. Still, it's not a big deal. More importantly, it felt like a place where I could live for a while. The pace of life is very nice, not too fast, but at the same time not being lazy at all. In addition to a feeling of vibrancy, there was a good deal of soul, old buildings mixed with newer ones, all the while without clashing at all.

The most interesting part of the city was a place called Christiania. In the early 70's, a group of hippies stormed an abandoned military base on the edge of town, claiming it for their own and wanting to establish a new type of society. People flocked there, and before they knew it they had over 1000 residents, so many that the police didn't know how to forcibly move them. The government decided to ignore them for a while, just letting them be. Over thirty years later, they're still going strong. They build their own houses, have their own schools and government, as well as their own market place. The people that live there try to make Christiania as self sufficient as possible, growing as much of their own food as they can, and offering free accommodation to anyone, so long as they're willing to help out around the village.

Unfortunately, the community became known mostly as a place to buy pot, and in time this became their main industry. All of this changed last year, when the police raided 'Pusher Street', as it was called. This was a result of the change in the Danish government, which for the first time in many years became more conservative. Unfortunately they're thinking of shutting down the whole thing, as the squatters don't pay any property tax. Still, the people there justify this by using as few government services as possible.

The rest of Denmark didn't seem very interesting, as it's mostly farms. So Sweden [in particular, Malmo and Gothenburg] seemed like a reasonable next destination.

The most striking thing about Sweden is also what they're most famous for. And it's very true, at least in the south. Most of the people are tall, blonde, and very good looking. Most of the women don't even wear make-up. To top it off, they're also very friendly. Though I suspect that things get a little less nice as you move farther north. Most of them say that the niceness is linked to the amount of sunlight.

Also, while in Gothenburg, I met a Finnish girl named Anna that was looking for someone to travel with. We've been traveling together around Norway. Still, she likes to live it up whereever she goes, and I'm worried that she might run out of money. [She's not even sure how much she has left...]

Our first stop was Oslo, which is one of the most cosmopolitan cities that I've been to. In fact, it's sometimes hard to tell exactly who is the minority. It's probable due to the Norwegians having such a strong economy that they're actually short of workers. This in turn is due to having more oil than they know what to do with.

After Oslo we headed west to check out some fjords in Bergen. They really are one of the most beautiful pieces of scenery imaginable. Huge mountains, towering over canyons filled with water connected to the ocean. The mountains themselves are covered in forest, which is only broken by a waterfall every couple of kilometers. And on the boat ride through, you're able to see a rainbow every half hour. It's also common to see seals, porpoises, or even salmon jumping out of the water.

Since Bergen, we teamed up with a Swisse fellow named Jean. As of now we're back in Oslo, taking a break on the train ride north. Though Jean will probably head south to Copenhagen, as his friends are going to meet him there next week.

One thing that's really surprising me about Norway is how similar it is to Canada. The geography [although Canadian mountain valleys aren't filled with ocean water], architecture, and even the people are all very much like that of Canada.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is very informative of the political/economical situation of wherever you are. I wonder, do you read this stuff online or in the newspapers or have people told you this?

For me, it takes an effort to try and learn what's going on in bj. Most of my discoveries have just related to the way the local act rather than any national economics/politics.

davie

8:47 AM  
Blogger ian said...

really a combination of many things. i do ask around a lot when i meet people (the reason that i try to find locals to talk to so much), but i also read a lot. favorites are wikipedia, courier international (french paper), amnesty international, and human rights watch. if anyone is interested, i can give more detailed references.

5:40 AM  

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