Travel photographer and writer Maya Acharya captures the quirky character of Norway with both images and words.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Norway is a pretty darn weird place.
This is a country that has knighted a penguin, has a princess who believes she can talk to angels, hosts the world’s annual beard and moustache championships and who’s national dish (aside from the ever prevailing fish and potatoes) is hotdogs and ice-cream.
As a non-inhabitant of the north of nowhere, you’d be forgiven for having little more than a vague conception of flaxen-haired creatures living in igloos and skiing around aimlessly in the streets while wearing the sort of knitwear that’s somewhere between ‘where in Shoreditch did you get that?’ and looking like a slightly deranged sex offender from the 80’s.
However, truly understanding and integrating into Norwegian society is not such a superficial task.
Take for example the climate. When your stomping ground is above the Arctic Circle, you must be prepared to bid farewell to the sun for several months during winter. While the ‘dark time’ in Norway has been known to drive people into such a state of confused lethargy that they start to resemble the gormless trolls of Norwegian mythology- it also provides a foolproof excuse to hibernate under your bedcovers until springtime.
Alas, the second your body-clock gains a crumb of comprehension as to what in Thor’s name is going on – its summertime – which means 24-hour daylight. Again, when you’re not feeling dangerously unhinged due to lack of sleep– this also has its advantages; walking back from town at 3 in the morning feels more like a pleasant midday stroll, rather than a potential scene in a Scorsese film.
Having eventually outwitted the elements, you might feel victorious enough to attempt attuning yourself to Norwegian culture. This includes, but is not limited to; learning to understand why a program that literally films firewood for 12 hours is the height of Norwegian television, learning to value Christmas more than your own mother, and of course, learning to ski. The skiing part can be unnerving – particularly when your movements are akin to those of a sweaty, obese deer, and all you can hear are the impish giggles of infants in Lycra speeding past you as you try to retain a trace of composure.
In fact, from the very moment Norwegian children are old enough to move a few limbs, they’re bundled up and hurled outdoors to learn all manner of winter and summer activities, crawl around in the snow, forage for berries and generally engulf themselves in nature. This is widely considered much more important than busting their brains over the ABC.
Looking closely at Norwegians, I sometimes detect a sort of annoyingly happy scando-glow, which I’ve often suspected has something to do with being taught to value nature and the little things in life from an early age. Rather than feverishly obsessing over achievement, success or luxury, Norwegians are calmly content with good food (if you’re into reindeer, blueberries and the aforementioned hotdogs), soaking up the tranquil outdoors (albeit the malicious impish laughter) and watching some burning logs on the telly. Call me crazy, but I think they’ve got it sussed out.