Thursday, May 17, 2007

My plans for Scandinavia

I wasn't aware until breakfast time that May 17 is Norway's National Close the hotel kitchens early and starve the guests Day, and confirmed with a quick trip to the Post Office that I'd be in Tromsø at least a day longer.

The hotel receptionist did some foraging for me, staving off hunger* until an afternoon return to the city centre. (*A real issue after a day of diarrhoea and no food, followed up by a 2.5 banana stabilization day.)

Judging from the festivities on display, this is the day when Norway extends a heartfelt tribute to Disneyland; the citizens dressing up in colourful costume and waving balloons depicting Nemo, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and other copyrighted characters or images. I did see some factions paying homage to Spiderman and Sonic the Hedgehog, but didn't stick around to witness possible internecine battles.

It does bother me to see how much "corporate characters" infiltrate and take-over a culture's native expression. As writer Jonathan Lethem points out in an interview podcast (MP3, RA), you lose the ability to reimagine and even talk about stories so thoroughly protected by an army of lawyers. In Australia and the UK I've been frustrated by efforts to find children's books for gifts amongst the welter of paid-for shelfspace taken up by Nemo and friends. It's not just homogenisation now: it's a future where your childhood is mortgaged to these new brands. I just hope that the range of options afforded by a digital age where The Long Tail* rules may provide a cushion from this process. (*I'm reading Chris Anderson's book on the subject now.)

Irrespective of your own views on that digression, I'm very happy to be out living and re-imagining my own story. This provides a good segue to address a comment from Kristin (somewhere in Norway I guess):

First of all, I'd like to say how amusing it is to read your blog. You are doing what very many people only can dream of! It is interesting to follow your journey :)What other destinations in Norway are you planning to visit?

I'm hoping that food-poisoning in Hammerfest is not high on that list of dreams! However I do feel very lucky to have had this opportunity to travel this way with such a special companion ... and I do owe a clear debt to Bondi for opening up a large hairy space in my life for it.

This week would have been my late father's 68th birthday, and I am saddened still by losing him on the eve of his first ever international travel. Being of a generation accustomed to international travel for business, starting for me at age 23 with 3 weeks in Manhattan, I tried to include him in all my trips by calling him from whatever hotel I landed in and sharing my first impressions of New York, Tokyo, Bangkok etc.

Through the course of this year's journey, I've had numerous people, complete strangers, share their aspirations to make such a journey, or to declare that even though they wouldn't feel disposed to such a lengthy trip, that they're glad to see that I'm doing it and doing it with my dog.

This particular journey has about a month left to run before we head for Calais and deal with someone from the UK Home Office's border control (who invariably cannot believe that anyone can or would want to travel long-term). In fact I can feel the journey coming to a close, simply because I'm already having nightmares about the third-degree I get at that border. It's also necessary for Bondi to spend six months in one country (ie the UK) before he can be returned to Australia, and I'm anxious to have that happen before Xmas.

For the remainder of that month we'll be continuing down the Norwegian coastline: Harstad, the Lofoten Islands, ... Trondheim, Atlantic Road near Molde, Gerainger, Bergen and then across to Oslo. We're just winging it between Harstad and Oslo, and I'm proceeding a bit faster than originally planned, because it's not cheap to be here. I'll probably take the ferry from Stamsund overnight to Sandnessjøen*, and then drive on for land-based accommodation near Trondheim. (*Hurtigruten's website is frustrating in that it doesn't supply information on whether a particular ferry can carry cars or not. The mangled English of the site offers a "Witch boat from witch port": I know that Vardø was legendarily a town of witches, but surely the whole seaboard can't be rife with them!)

After that, it's down through southern Sweden, stopping in Mälmo (home of one ancestor), then Denmark, Germany (Berlin and a visit to another ancestral home in Saxony), Prague and then UK-wards via Luxembourg and Belgium.

The original plan for the journey is here, and my current route clan is shown below:


  1. Anonymous7:17 am

    I didn't take that food-poisoning into consideration when posting my last comment - I can hardly imagine it being something to remember when you look back on the trip ;)

    Hope I bump into you guys in Bergen! I'll keep an eye out for Bondi.


  2. Margot Murray12:04 pm

    Miss him too. Really enjoy visiting your blog every day - the Williams sense of humour, brilliant!!

    Margot xx