Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Sunday, Ruth (the other Fulbrighter at Fantoft) and I were planning to hike, but Bergen unleashed angry rain interspersed with sunny skies, so instead we decided to explore old Bergen.

A man was carving a giant fish
We walked down the Bryggen, bashing umbrellas against other passersby. On the wharf, tents were set up for the Bergen Food Festival. The smell of cider, waffles, and sausages wafted towards us on gusts of rain. Peddlers hawked jars of preserves and snips of lox on crackers. One stand selling lefse made me salivate. Enormous wheels of moldy-rinded cheese scared me off dairy for life.

As we walked towards the Bergenhus, an old fortress from the 13th century, we bumped into children dressed as medieval Europeans. Little boys wore armor and stubbed swords into people’s backs, and little girls carefully picked up their velvet gowns, revealing suspiciously modern rubber rain boots beneath.

The Rosenkrantz Tower is named after governor Rosenkrantz, from the 1500’s. We started at the guard room, and wound our way up narrow stone staircases and through tiny passages. The dungeon was properly dungeon-like and sent me reeling out of it with claustrophobia clenching my body into panic. The governor had the nicest room, even nicer than the chapel or the king’s bedroom. Perhaps the builders figured that neither of the latter would sleep in the tower as often as Rosenkrantz. 

View from Rosenkrantz Tower
This week I taught Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” drawing links for my students with the current political situation in America. What would Thoreau have said about the US government today? The students’ responses saddened me. America has degenerated, and they know is. It’s not that I think we should all espouse Thoreau’s ideal –he seemed an unrealistic, uncompromising, ill-mannered sort of man—but America is so very far from the individualistic, non-materialistic  vision that he had. Still, I made excellent use of Thoreau’s “corporations have no conscience” quote to introduce Mitt Romney, and we spoke of the debt crisis in August with Thoreau’s ideas in mind.

The “rain warning” on the weather website has officially changed into a “flood warning.” Now I might have to row my way to school each day. I can picture everyone on the bybanen taking out their ski poles and helping prod us along.  

Went to the Bergen Art museum. It’s housed in three buildings: Modern, 19th century Norwegian, and everything else. I dashed through the modern, imagining my grandparents’ comments (Kim really doesn’t like those arrangements of neon lines. And one can see his point). One diptych struck me as cool: a painting of a group of doctors standing together whose white coats merged into a blob, above which their faces still held personality, and a painting of a group of businessmen standing together whose black suits merged into a blob, above which their faces also remained distinct. It seems such a good way of representing both the individuality of the modern man as well as the way in which certain professions can blend you into anonymous authority.

The building with 19th century Norwegian art was right up my alley. I fell in love with Dahl’s månescapes; he makes the moon glimmer behind the clouds as though they’re just haze on the canvas. Munch’s Evening on Karl Johan Street hit me with all the unpleasant anxiety that he’s so good at. Being able to see the original and compare it to Karl Johan when I was there two weeks ago was kind of stupendous. The “everything else” building was a mix of inspiring old Norwegian and nauseating modern.

This boat was ACTUALLY used on
Pirates of the Caribbean! And
parked at the wharf! How cool!
I realized that Thursdays I spend most of my day dashing from church to church. Exit Bergen Katedralskole, nod to the cathedral beside it, and set my sights to Johanneskirk, the big red spire obstructing my view of the Humanities Faculty building across town. I’m thinking of asking someone to hook up zip lines between the spires. It would cut my rainy-day commutes in half.

It really hit me I’m in Norway the other day. I went onto the nefesh b’nefesh site, but before I could enter it, a screen popped up saying, “NBN is not currently organizing flights from Norway at this time.” Firstly, how scary is it that the web knows where my computer is? (And yours, too—I can check what countries my blog viewers are in). Secondly, wow am I outside of the stream.

This weekend is supposed to be gloriously sunny. Expect pics of the Ulriken to Fløiyen trail. I’ll finally get a chance to hike it! 

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