The church that transformed Norway

If you didn’t already have Trondheim on your ‘must visit’ list, perhaps this discovery will change your mind. From archaeology.org: The Church that Transformed Norway.

When King Olaf Haraldsson gave up the old Viking gods to become Norway’s first Christian ruler, he fundamentally changed his society. Part of that legacy is the church he built in his capital city of Nidaros (now known as Trondheim), which was recently discovered at the construction site of a new office building. The church’s stone foundation is remarkably intact. According to Anna Petersén of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, the nave, choir, entrances, and foundation of the altar are still in place. The church was dedicated to Saint Clements the patron of slaves and seafarers and a popular figure among observant Norse raiders. A series of radiocarbon dates shows that the church was built in the early eleventh century, which affirms historical descriptions. [continue, see photo of dig]

The cozy linguistics of hygge and other “untranslatable” words

Perhaps you’ve heard the word hygge? It’s a Norwegian and Danish word, and it has become a bit famous in recent years due to articles like How ‘hygge’ can help you get through winter from mnn.com. There’s no equivalent word in English.

Anyway. Now JSTOR Daily has published The Cozy Linguistics of Hygge and Other “Untranslatable” Words:

Examples like hygge and koselig actually follow a long line of foreign words that fascinate us. In English, we tend to borrow quite a few “untranslatable” words and idioms, like the ever-popular German Schadenfreude (pleasure at another’s misfortune) and the Sanskrit karma (a Buddhist concept of destiny being influenced by a person’s actions). Perhaps they don’t always mean what they originally meant, but we’ve made them our own.

Just what is it about “untranslatable” words that fascinate us so much? There are endless lists and articles on these beautiful words, so apparently alien to English, that are simply “untranslatable” or even the hardest words in the world to translate… but then they’re subsequently translated anyway, in English sentences, just not in words that are directly equivalent. Untranslatable words aren’t really untranslatable at all. When we unpack this concept it raises a number of curious questions.

What’s so special about a single word capturing a concept, as opposed to a phrase or a sentence? If a language doesn’t have a word for something, does it mean its speakers have a harder time understanding that concept cognitively? For instance, if a language, such as Tarahumara, a Uto-Aztecan language of northern Mexico, has no name or lexical distinction for a particular color perception, such as between green and blue, are speakers of that language cognitively unable to differentiate between the two colors? Likewise if some Eskimo languages have many distinctive words for snow, are we as English speakers completely unable to tell the difference between all the kinds of snowy precipitation there can be? [continue]

The app that gives Oslo’s children a direct say over their own road safety

How cool is this? From the Guardian: The app that gives Oslo’s children a direct say over their own road safety.

With €347,000 (£290,000) in funding from the city, the Research Council of Norway and consultancy Capgemini, Rørholt needed to find ways to create an environment where parents would feel that it was safe enough for children to walk to school. “I was supposed to make a traffic report on all roads in Oslo. That’s a big job,” she comments. “So I thought, why don’t we ask the children how they feel on the street?” The best way to do that, she says, was to turn to gamification. Using a smartphone app, with the idea of users being “secret agents” for the city, children can send immediate reports on their route to school when they come across, for example, a difficult crossing on the street or an area of heavy traffic. Their location is tracked using GPS, so researchers can pinpoint exactly where these hazards are. [continue]

Viking ship ready for Atlantic voyage

From TheLocal.no: All aboard! Nordic Viking ship ready for Atlantic voyage.

The world’s largest Viking ship in modern times is about to set sail across the Atlantic.

Named after Harald Hårfagre, the king who unified Norway in the 10th century, the ship’s Swedish captain Björn Ahlander was originally supposed to have ordered the great dragon vessel to weigh anchor from Avaldsnes in Norway’s Haugesund on Sunday, but the departure was delayed by bad weather.

And time is of the essence. Following in the historical tailwind of Leif Eriksson, the Viking thought to have discovered America centuries before Christopher Columbus, the ship has a long journey ahead, taking a route via Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland before it finally drops anchor in the United States.

“We’ve got one month because the only gap, if you don’t want to battle low pressure and harsh winds, is May. That’s your chance to make it across,” Ahlander told the Swedish news agency TT on Monday. [continue]

No wool, no Vikings

From No wool, no Vikings.

Gray clouds hang low over the Trondheim Fjord, a huge, convoluted indentation in the central Norwegian coast. A gusting wind blows the tops off the waves, tosses rain in my face, and fills Braute’s great square sail. It heels over, water splashing over its leeward gunwale and through the oar-ports, soaking everyone on that side of the long, open, Viking-style wooden boat.

Braute is sailing out from Fosen Folk High School, located in Rissa, on the north shore of the fjord. I’m sharing a hard wooden bench with some of the school’s students—mostly young Norwegians, with a sprinkling of foreigners. They’ve just spent nine months studying traditional skills that date back to the Viking Age, from boatbuilding and sailing to traditional farming and wool working.

On this, the last trip of the school year, we’re heading for Utsetøya, a little island near the mouth of the fjord. That’s where the school’s small flock of sheep, which provides both meat and wool, runs wild for most of the year, hemmed in only by the sea. Most of Fosen’s student body is crammed aboard Braute and two other Viking-style boats, along with staff, food, mounds of camping gear, and one shivering Canadian journalist. The plan is to camp on the island for several nights, check on the flock, and collect next year’s supply of raw wool.

It’s the end of May, but it’s cold. Viking life must have been like this—frigid, wild days in an open boat, constantly watching the waves and clouds to avoid disaster. Wool was as much a part of that life as the sea and the ships. The Vikings were great sailors and fearsome warriors, but they couldn’t have left port without wool. It provided the raw material for their clothes, their blankets, even the sails that harnessed the wind for their ships. [continue]

The Norwegian town where the sun doesn’t rise

From The Atlantic: The Norwegian Town Where the Sun Doesn’t Rise.

In Tromsø, the prevailing sentiment is that winter is something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured. According to my friends, winter in Tromsø would be full of snow, skiing, the northern lights, and all things koselig, the Norwegian word for “cozy.” By November, open-flame candles would adorn every café, restaurant, home, and even workspace. Over the following months I learned firsthand that, far from a period of absolute darkness, the Polar Night in Tromsø is a time of beautiful colors and soft, indirect light. [continue]

Ice instruments

From The ice instrument recording project:

Norwegian percussionist Terje Isungset has for years used a variety of organic sound elements in creating music and instruments. (…) Utilizing ice as a source of sound has long been a dream of his, and in year 2000 a serious opportinty came along to explore this possibility. He was commissioned the create a performance piece and composition incorporating the live sound of water beneath a natural frozen waterfall at the 2000 Lillehammer Winter Festival, at minus 15°C degrees and with Palle Mikkelborg og Lena Willemark as participating musicians. (the consert was televised in Norway). This was likely the first public concert ever combining instruments of ice with traditional musical instruments. While making preparations for the Lillehammer concert, Isungset was contacted to help create Sweden’s contribution to the worldwide televised New Years Day Millenium Celebration . In cooperation with sculptor Bengt Carling, Isungset created a set of ice percussion instruments that were played for the whole world to see and hear. [continue, see photos, hear sound samples]

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Nine ships found burried under Oslo mud

Well, goodness! Nine ships and two half-ships have been burried under the Oslo mud since 1600 or so. Now they’ve been found, thanks to a highway tunnel project. They’re well preserved, partly because they’ve been in fresh water clay and not on the bottom of the sea somewhere. The biggest ship is 17 metres long.

This is what I get from this article at dagsavisen.no, which is in Norwegian and doesn’t have photos. I’m hoping that some news service with brains will cover the full story in English soon, preferably with lots of photos.

(Thanks to my local Norwegian expert for help me to understand parts of the dagasvisen article.)

Military penguin becomes a ‘Sir’

From the BBC: Military penguin becomes a ‘Sir’.

A penguin who was previously made a Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Army has been knighted at Edinburgh Zoo.

Penguin Nils Olav has been an honorary member and mascot of the Norwegian King’s Guard since 1972.

Over the years, he has been promoted through the ranks after being adopted by Royal Guard who visited the zoo.

During the ceremony, Nils had a sword dubbed on each side of his head, where his shoulders should be, to confirm his regimental knighthood. [continue, see video]