Open and shy.
Rich and poor.
Patriarchal structures and lived gender equality.
About the differences of this world.
And something which is annoying everywhere.
(all of the pictures show the Lofoten)
Thanks to Peter for some of the pictures!
Cold and warm. In the last blog I talked about temperature and climate
differences. These may also have an impact on the mentality of people? As known, the people of the South are usually more open. Let's think of Italians, the Spanish, and the French. The northern people are
somewhat more closed. I also had this experience. I flew from California to Norway, was previously in Guatemala and Mexico. And the differences could not be any bigger. In the US
it's easy to talk to strangers. A 'how is it going?' is on everyone's lips. Almost everyone spoke to us when they saw the loaded bikes. Especially in cities, when the bike stand next to us you always got involved in
conversations. Where do you come from, where are you heading, how
many kilometers, where do you sleep etc. Sometimes it was almost annoying. WHILE traveling in groups
we sometimes laughed at each other, winked and gave signals: 'Its' your turn to answer and do the talking haha'. Sometimes we just wanted to eat in peace or
just hang out in the cafe and use the WIFI. But it wasn't possible. In Mexico, especially on the Baja
California, cars honked constantly. People waved so often out of the cars that I
could hardly hold my handlebars as I always tried to wave back. People constantly talked to us. Even in
the small Mayan villages, where people were very shy, most of the women laughed at me, very much to the disappointment of my former traveling partner Kieran. He did not get a smile from the female side. This would have been
inappropriate from their cultural point of view. Not to mention the children in the small villages of
Central America. 'Gringo' and 'Gringa' they screamed loudly and ran towards us. Originally 'Gringo' rather meant an ugly word for the
'white Americans' but today however it's mostly no longer used in the negative context. The children stopped at the edge of the street, stretched out their
hands for a HighFive and smiled. Little
boys, perhaps 8-12 years old, carried heavy wood down the mountains on their backs, sweating on their foreheads, but they were happy when they saw us. The girls balanced water jugs on their heads and looked at us with wide eyes. We often received invitations from people whom we just happened to meet. If we need a place to sleep? Or just
askinga bout the next camping possibility would end in an invitation.
Here it is somehow different. When I smile at unknown people I recognize for a quarter or half second surprise in the eyes. Unfamiliarity. Then maybe a smile comes back. Not always. Sometimes they look away, being shy or confused. Rarely I get a smile from people first. Although I often recognize curiosity in their glances. I feel when they look, but as soon as I look back, they are turning their head away. Norwegians and Swedes appear more reserved and shy. Well, touring cyclists are quite common here. On the Norwegian coast are hundreds of us. But it is not about being 'special'. On the Pacific Coast Trail of the USA, traveling cyclists are not a rarity either, but there were more of these small encounters, the short talks, the thumbs that one gets shown when you climb a steep road, a big smile... That motivates, it is fun and pleases me. I am an open-minded person, interested in encounters and like to go through the world smiling. I believe people here need some more time to warm up. If you give them some time, the people here are warm and open as well. Lovely and helpful people. I am once again grateful for networks such as Couchsurfing and Warmshowers. They make it easier to get in touch with people, so I'm not completely alone.
Where there is no
waving and no greeting on the street, there is also no whistling. No blown kisses. No international and very obvious gestures that I try to overlook. No comments which I fortunately do not understand with my few Spanish skills. I'm glad not to have traveled alone in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Because it was partly very annoying. The blond hair did not make
things any easier. Even if Kieran or Jesse rode a meter in front
or behind me with their bike, air kisses would flew to me. When I
was sick and so weakened that I could'nt walk anymore I took a taxi to the hospital. The taxi driver tried to persuade me to marry his son. Showed me his photo several times. This happened not just once. I took it with humor. Apart from
exceptions in the higher educated classes, women in Central America still have traditional roles. They stand by the stove and have to take care of the children. The woman gets at last to the table while the others are almost finished with
food. I was often asked why I was not married at nearly 30? I was looked at compassionately.
Here in Scandinavia I feel a gender equality in society. itfe els even stronger than in Germany. But maybe thats due to statistics being in my head. I haven't gotten the question 'You make a bike trip as a woman?' yet. 'You two women alone?' How many times have I or we heard such comments. In the USA as well as in Mexico. Here in Norway and Sweden this stopped.
Isn't it intersting that in the poor countries the
hospitality and willingness to share is usually very high? I'm not saying we
are not hospitable in developed countries. But my experiences coincide with those of others. In many poor countries it appears more intense and often. Maybe it's because it seems
more intense. The contrast is stronger if you get invited by a person who has
less. In Mexico and Central America we got invited to sleep in
houses and cottages that had no running water. Instead of taking
a shower, we cleaned ourselves with water out of a rain barrel. Cooked on fire places. Sharing is an essential part of life in the Latinamerican culture. These are just
In Norway in particular wealth is evident everywhere. In the general infrastructure (for example, the smallest villages are connected by a four kilometer long tunnel to the main road) or even in the private sphere. Almost everyone has one (or two) huts or cottages in nature. What was it that made Norway so rich? Fishing or oil? On queries I got different answers.
Even though I thought I had overcome my culture shock during the three-month break in California, it still caught me. I spent more than six months in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. This time made a big impression on me. Therefore I have probably perceived all these differences very strongly.
One thing remains the same everywhere. Whether in the USA, Mexico or here in Sweden. Their sound is no music in my ears. Fairly it must be said that they are not dangerous here. No malaria, no dengue and no zika can be transmitted. But they are equally annoying everywhere: mosquitoes.
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Warm and cold.
Wet and dry.
Enjoyment and struggle.
Together and alone.
About the differences of this world.
(more will follow in part 2)
It's making me crazy. It's raining.
It's raining and it just does not stop. It's already the fourth day with
continuous rain. The temperature is 6 ° C. I pack my tent wet and unpack it wet again, hoping it can withstand these water
masses. A few drops here and there come through. At night I wake up quite often to check if it becomes more and my down
sleeping bag might get wet. I cook and eat in the rain. My muscles are always tense because I do not feel comfortably warm. Everything is slightly damp.
I'm on a more remote route and I'm annoyed by this decision. Because I have not even the opportunity to go into a cafe somewhere or just sit on a bus stop. Because of all the rain I can barely make proper breaks. I can not stop for long, otherwise I'll get cold quickly. So I just stop quickly to put a banana into my mouth. I get closer to the Swedish border and am glad about the coming pass on a plateau. Because I will finally get warm again cycling uphill. At the same time, however, you sweat underneath all the rainwear. So, when the rain paused, I stopped immediately and took off the raincoat and -pants. Five minutes later it started again. So stopping again, putting on the rain clothes. I had this several times till I began to swear out loud. The frustration needs to get out. And I began to wonder where so much water comes from.
journey took me through driest regions: California and the Baja California (peninsula of Mexico). That was the absolute
opposite. The sun burnt down on us and I often longed for clouds. The heat was partly unbearable and I wonder how we managed it at all. The prevailing colors of the landscape are yellow and brown tones,
only a few dry green spots can be found. People are hoping for rain. They get it only
rarely. Instead, the sun shines uninterrupted. A woman, with whom we stayed in Mexico through Warmshowers, planned a longer cycle trip.
She wanted to start in Norway in March or April and continue in Europe. Instead of a whole stove, she only wanted to bring a immersion
heater. She planned to get power from a small solar cell for it. A nice idea. But
absolutely not implementable. But it shows how different our sense of normality
Here I wish for nothing more than the sun and a little warmth. The first two days of rain were still bearable, but then my mood sank by the hour. This had nothing to do with enjoyment anymore. Well, it was clear from the beginning that such a trip is not just enjoyment. But as always in life, this feels easier thinking about it. The wet reality looked different. I came into my 'persistence' mode and told me that the rain would have to stop somehow. But after four days, my mood was down and I played with the idea to take the bus somewhere. Why did I have to go to Norway?
Because the nature here is breathtakingly beautiful. That's why I had to go to Norway. In Bodø
I unfortunately had to say goodbye to Rebecka and then I took the ferry to the Lofoten. There I spent only one night alone until the next evening Peter came. I met Peter
seven years ago. He was my couchsurfing host in Stockholm. We explored Lofoten together for over ten days.
The Lofoten Islands. How can they be described in words? Not at all. I also do not think that one should ride them by bike. Because you never get anywhere. Too many hikes to be made, too many breaks to enjoy, too many views to marvel. A paradise for hiking, kayaking and climbing. Indescribable. I hope the pictures will show everything.
I was alone after these days on the Lofoten with Peter. The first time alone again in a long time. This was the time when the continuous rain began. As well as the headwind. Wonderful timing. I had some concern on how it would feel for me. Since I am a very social person, I appreciate good company, interesting conversations and above all shared laughter. But it was better than I thought. Until the rain didn't stop. I hoped for loving angels, those little miracles that sometimes happen. For people who would ask me in for a hot drink or just nice encounters that would cheer me up. On my journey so far, something like that always happened. But here only campervans passed by me and I got several disturbed looks.
Looks like 'why does she cycle in the
Then the rescue: I could rest for a few days in a shared flat. Three dear young people who live in a place on the Swedish border, which has 36 inhabitants during the summer. I enjoyed being not alone and chatting. I love Couchsurfing and Warmshowers. It is so great to meet different people. Their views, their insights into their lives and work, their living region as they perceive it, learn new things and try them out. In Bodø two Syrian brothers cooked the most delicious Syrian food for us and I told myself to try their recipes at home. A couchsurfing host in the Lofoten took us fishing. After only 10 seconds Peter had a cod on the hook. I'm not exaggerating with time. After we had 'only' three more fish in the next twenty minutes, our host wanted to change the place. Too few fish here, he says.
Thanks to Peter for some of the pics!
... to be continued. Part (2) comes in a few days.
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What is typical for your home?
I asked that question in almost every country I traveled with my bicycle.
I got many different answers for the different nations and regions.
I also asked the people I met here in Norway.
'Nature is the most typical for Norway' was the most common answer. Absolutly right. The landscape is unique, unaffected and breathtaking (just wait for the pictures from the Lofoten Islands where I'm right now). When the sun comes out, everything appears as if in
a fairytale. One might think that giants and trolls inhabit the many rocks and jagged mountains. Between the many flowers, the fairies would buzz and
bewitch you. Wild camping is a dream coming true here. You find one amazing spot with a view after the other.
In fact the Norwegians also appreciate this
beauty. Most people here are totally excited about the outdoors. In every small town there is an outdoor shop and
the particular clothing is absolutely normal and generally worn. Well - the rain is a big reason for that. A trusting raincoat and pants is an absolute must. So the word outdoor was often included in the answers I got.
A very interesting answer came from a courchsurfing host: 'Social Anxiety'. Coming directly from the USA I actually felt a difference. There it is completely normal to chat with people and to laugh randomly at strangers. When I did this in Trondheim, people looked at me as if I was coming from Mars. The people in the north are somewhat more reserved. The answer fit perfectly to a book I read in Trondheim. 'The Social Guidebook to Norway' tries to explain the social life and interactions of the Norwegians with the help of funny illustrations. The author puts it here very nicely to the point;) Another example is this:
"I asked a Norwegian man what a good friend was. He was silent for a while and said: A good friend is someone I can sit alone in a room with in silence and feel comfortable".
As I cycled across the many islands along the coast, I realized how isolated people live here.
The eternally bright and never-ending summer nights bring with it also hard and dark winter months. I wonder how you can stand it here during the dark
season. A certain isolation is therefore probably also typical and was given to me as an answer.
Why, however, the Norwegians like to leave their lights on, is not clear to me. A lovely Finish girl named Mikaela at who we 'courchsurfed', had noticed this behaviour and I think she's right. Although we didnt' stay with many people here, the ones we stayed with had their lights on almost everywhere, during the whole day, in the corridor, bath etc. Mikaela worked as a nurse and when she switched off the bathroom light at a patients home, she was told to leave the light on, because the patient would need the light later.
Why a sleeping mask can be important.
About rain. Much rain.
And breathtaking nature.
The temperature is 11 ° C. I sit on the bike and the rain is pouring on to my face. The wind
makes everything seem even colder. What's going through my head? An old German advertisement for a hand
cream ... One sees a fishermen on a typical wooden boat, the waves are crashing on their hands and everything seems rough. The man says something like:
"We know what a good hand cream is in Norway. Buy the hand cream with the Norwegian formula." I actually have an incredibly dry and chapped skin on the hands. Aha, suddenly the advertisement makes sense.
Norway. A breathtaking scenery. Snow-capped mountains form the most incredible peaks, alternating with wavy rock formations. Roughness vs. Softness. In between are fjords, lakes, hillsides and mossy fields. Always forests. Not to forget the Scandinavian wooden houses in the typical colors like Faluröd (red) or yellow. Everywhere small and large water masses are shooting down the mountains. Mooses and reindeer cross our paths and I can't get enough of seeing the wild meadows that are everywhere. Yellow butter flowers and white and violet color spots form a beautiful overall view. It would be incredibly beautiful. IF the word 'IF' wouldn't be.
"IF the word 'IF' wouldn't be,
everybody could be a millionaire" [a german saying]. IF it wouldn't rain so
much, we could have enjoyed this landscape much more. The rain clouds are hanging deep. So deep that you can hardly see the mountains, fjords and anything else. If it didn't rain so much, then we could go more often for a swim in the many
lakes. If it didn't rain so
much, then I wouldn't desperately have had to buy a new pad for the tent as well as water resistance spray.
My starting point Trondheim showed itself from its most beautiful sunny side, 14 days later we have the following statistics: From 10 days of cycling we had eight rain days, one mixed and one day
of sun. On this one day sun I shot as many photos as on all the others
together. The soon to be seen.
Fortunately I'm not alone. Rebecka had written in a Facebook group and was looking for riders. She wanted to go to Bodø. We met and spent the last 14 days laughing together on the bike, despite the rain. I don't know if I would have had the stamina to stand these water masses alone.
Apart from the rain, this route is ideal for cycling. There are approximately 750 kilometers between Trondheim and Bodø. In addition there are several ferries which you have to take if you choose the route along the coast. Welcoming ways to dry. The traffic is minimal and mainly consists of campervans. Half of these come from Germany. Rebecka brought up the very positive mention that we give them a good feeling during that much rain. They can see us in the cold rain and hopefully appreciate their warm and comfortable camper.
We needed two weeks for the route. There are many campgrounds, but personally I don't realize why you should pay for them. Wildcamping in Scandinavia is absolutely simple and allowed by the 'everymans right' almost everywhere. You don't even have to look out for spots, you just stop and pitch your tent. If you are looking for a bit and maybe push a hundred meters you can find incredibly beautiful spots with a breathtaking view including a lake or river for washing. Alternatively we even found huts, which were old and abandoned or freely accessible. So we had a roof over our heads and no rain while cooking. In between we were able to dry and relax at a few couchurfing hosts. Warmshowers doesn't work so well here.
Absolutely necessary here? Rain
equipment and a sleeping mask. Maybe even earplugs. I wonder when
the birds are sleeping here. Apparently not at night. It is not getting dark at this time of the year and from a certain degree of
latitude also the sun no longer goes down. Accordingly, I had to buy me a sleeping mask, since a scarf or the
otherwise practical Buff don't darken enough. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of
the night, hear the birds chirping and think because of the brightness that it must be at eight o'clock in the morning. Then I look at the clock and notice that I just slept three hours. The constant
brightness makes the day forever long, so I don't have to think about when it's time to pitch the tent to have enough time left to cook.
Now we enjoy a few more days of rest and want to have a sauna before I continue going on to the Lofoten Islands. More photos and answers to the question "What is typical for Norway?" will be coming soon.