Engogirl and I have just spent a few days in Tallinn, Estonia. Whilst Tallinn is a beautiful medieval city, it is a complete tourist trap complete with a plethora of shops selling all the same tourist tat as each other. Babushka dolls, amber jewellery, felt knick-knacks and knit wear of the type that the locals probably haven’t worn for generations.
We were beginning to lose any hope of finding something to take back home that spoke to us of contemporary Estonia, in an original way. That is, until Engogirl said, ” Let’s check this place out (Galerii Kaks)”, and we went in and found some exciting examples of modern Estonian creativity.
A lot of what was on display in Galerii Kaks would be considered decorative items, albeit of a high standard, but Anne Türn’s “Hundid” were very different and they called to us. Actually, her figures howled at us and we knew that we’d found what we were looking for.
Wild, humorous and exuberant figures performing what looked like some sort of corybantic dithyramb (look those up in your Funk and Wagnalls). There were about 6 statues of different sizes on display, and we saw two that stood out, but the problem was, which to get?
Stuff it! We bought both of them.
Now all that remains to be seen, is if Finland’s postal system can get our crazy little ceramic wolf women back to Australia intact.
I find the old stave churches in Norway fascinating and I was saddened when I read that many were pulled down in the 17th and 18th centuries as communities became financially able to build what they thought was better. As a matter of fact most of the stave churches that are left standing, are in what used to be the poorest areas of Norway.
The stave church in Borgund (built at the end of the 12th century) is one of the most spectacular examples left, but after seeing the dark, cramped and cold interior it’s not hard to understand why the locals, who had to use such churches, didn’t feel so sentimentally attached to keeping them, and built new churches as soon as they could afford to do so.
Whilst the exteriors of the new churches (such as the one at Borgund built in 1866 right next to the old church) aren’t as fantastically striking as the stave churches, their interiors that may be considered by some to still be a bit Spartan still have their own charm that is much more comfortable to be in.
Amanda who is one of the last two people who still lives in Vinstad year round, runs what she calls the “smallest cafe in Norway” in a schoolhouse that is no longer used.
Vinstad can only be reached by a short ferry ride from Reine and it’s the starting point of a short hike to Bunes beach.
Amanda makes a little money selling drinks and fresh made waffles to the hikers who come through. After our hike, as we waited for the ferry to come we had some waffles and a chat with Amanda. She told us how her family had been in the area for centuries but the community had been shrinking for decades now with people moving away to find work.
As we talked I mentioned that I like to go to places that are bit of the beaten track. Amanda in reply said, “a lot of people who come here say that”, and then she pointed out that 12,000 people a year come over on the ferry to Vindstad!
Å is a tiny little town that seems to have closed because we arrived few days out of “the season”. The only place we could get a coffee was at an old traditional bakery.
After being in Norway for the last two weeks, the more of Norwegian I hear the more it’s starting to sound a little like English and I have started to feel that I can catch little snatches of what is being said around me and understand some of it. As I was helping myself to some coffee at the counter in the bakery I could hear some Norwegian guys ask the baker, in Norwegian, where she was from and I heard her answer back in Norwegian that she was from Poland.
When the guys left I asked the Baker in English (just about everyone here speaks English) how a Polish person ended up in Å of all places. The baker was surprised that I knew she was from Poland and after a short interrogation from her we quickly got into a discussion about all sorts of things.
I asked what the bread-like cinnamon rolls were called in Norwegian and she told me but said that was the local fisherman’s dialect for them and then went on to give me a bunch of other names that basically meant things like, spice roll, spice snails, cinnamon spirals etc. From this topic we moved onto the people of the Lofoten Islands and the way how they speak and what issues affect their dialect.
It turns out that the baker is an historian and we got talking about how fixated the Lofoten Islanders were on cod (torsk in Norwegian) to the point that when a Lofoten Islander says the word “fish (fiske in Norwegian)”, they are referring to cod and when they speak about other fish they mention them by their specific name.
After hearing this, I suggested that perhaps we could simplify the naming of the little cinnamon rolls by calling them “ikke fiske” (not fish)!