Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bergen Night Life

This week has been halcyon in Bergen. The sun has risen about two feet above the horizon each morning without being obscured by the customary great clouds of misty rain. It’s just high enough to slant straight into our eyes (have you ever seen a toddler in a snowsuit wearing sunglasses?) and streak all the Norwegians’ hair blond-gold. Monday, driven outside to walk and walk, I came back to my apartment late at night, having traversed most of the city by foot, gloriously aware that I’d seen Bergen at its most beautiful and could sleep the sleep of the just. And woke up the next morning to find out that I’d missed the Northern Lights in Bergen—while I slept blissfully, the aurora borealis played out its drama over my dreams.

Tuesday I walked home from the university, because I couldn't waste the sun. And took the route through gorgeous Nyg√•rdsparken, which normally I can't because there aren't enough people there to make me feel safe with all the drug addicts. But today, there were plenty of people out to enjoy the glorious sun.  

At midnight, several friends and I headed down to Gamlahaugen, the park around the king’s castle in Bergen, to see the lights that were supposed to return for an encore. We lay on the king’s lawn for two hours, drinking tea in thermoses and stargazing, but not a streak of viridian did we see. Still, it’s nice to cuddle up and stargaze with friends, especially on the edge of a fjord with a castle lit up behind you, so the wee hours of the morning were in no way ill-spent.

Wednesday night was fantastically educational. I was out for drinks with one of the guys from my Norwegian class (a German physics PhD student), his Russian friend, and an American-turned Norwegian woman who works, surprise surprise, with Statoil. We somehow launched into a comparison of our countries’ governments and election systems, and I listened, fascinated, to the foreign explanations, and their impressive (yet occasionally humorously incomplete) grasp of American politics. I feel as though I could spend my entire life just talking to Europeans about their political systems. Not gonna lie, this whole proportional representation thing sounds quite a good idea…

Thursday night a friend and I went to a performance that is the second weirdest I’ve ever seen in my life (Ima and Abba, remember that time you traumatized us as kids by taking us to see the steps of drug withdrawal and cure in dance?). In the first act, the actors molested a barbie and babbled at us in several languages. In the second, a live guinea pig provided most of the action. The third act had an awesome bit of art: a huge cluster of copper cords suspended from the ceiling held ice cubes that slowly dripped onto the floor, and periodically lost their grip on the copper and cracked down to interrupt the serene dripping with violence (to make it even more exciting, the actors all had bare feet). The play’s statement that human performance is somehow secondary to other things on a stage kept my brain happy while we watched bubbles build up in an eerie representation of the immaculate conception. The playwright came out to talk to Yael afterwards about connections in the theater world. He looked indescribably pleasant. Clean and bald and calmly friendly. I wondered how such a man could have written such a play (a smoke machine wafted vapor right into my face! Invasion of the audience’s space without prior notice bothers me).

Reading one of UiB Masters literature students’ theses today, I stumbled on an idea I adore –that home is not a place, but a series of habits. My home in Bergen is not my apartment, it's the pot of tea I put on every time I enter my apartment, and my routes around the city, and my weekly dips in at the Bergen library, and the angle at which I set my computer when I'm calling family and friends on skype. And tomorrow night will be home, in a deliciously clear-cut habit that rolls around once a week. These things have made Norway, and I suppose can make the world, thoroughly mine in a way that will only be equaled by learning the language.

Pictures from a friend of mine who actually saw the Northern lights on Monday night:


  1. Hannah,
    I really loved this post and it made me miss you tons. I am so happy that you are enjoying yourself and what an opportunity!!! You inspire me :)
    love ya,

  2. Chana, those northern light pictures look beyond real. They're so amazing.

  3. Ali, I miss you too! And check up for new food every so often on your delish, mouth-watering blog... any dessert that can be made on a stovetop would be greatly appreciated!

    Scott, ah know. Awesome, eh?