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Archive for the ‘The European Diaries’ Category

The 29th of July, 1030 AD is an important day in the history of Norway. For, on that day, the well-organised farmer’s community in the Stiklestad, located in an area known as Verdal, saw itself threatened by an invading army, as the exiled King Olav Harldsson came from the East to claim back his kingdom. The area became the battlefield which marked the transition of the country from paganism to Christianity.

The Stiklestad National Cultural Centre at the location is a national hub institution with special responsibility for disseminating knowledge about Olav the Holy, the Battle of Stiklestad and the history associated with the events on the side.

The folk museum at Stiklestad consists of over 30 buildings, most of which are from the 17th and 19th centuries. The museum also has close to 30,000 objects and photos, some of which are in the buildings, but most are stored in a magazine.

Around the 29th of July each year, quite a few cultural activities get planned, including stage adaptations of the battle, often with audience being invited to participate.

The Tronder’s Right of Resistance

The oldest law in Trondelag that one becomes familiar with, Frostatingsloven, contains three chapters. These can be summed up as follows:

  • No man shall commit an act of violence…
  • But if the King should do this, you shall go after him and kill him…
  • But if he escapes, then he shall never return to the land.

An exhibition at the Centre presents a glimpse of everyday life in the heathen Viking age, when different regions practised diverse customs and traditions for religious succour. It also presents scenes from the battle and the changes the Christian medieval age brought with it – a uniform religion across the entire country.

Central to battle scene at the exhibition is the slaying of Olav. The blood from his three legendary wounds is later said to have created miracles. A year after the battle, Olav was made a saint of the Catholic Church. Thus, the battle became a turning point of the Norwegian history.

 

An interesting exhibit I discovered was a diagram which depicts the origin of several languages globally.

The effort to showcase the country’s rich history is indeed praiseworthy. Active dissemination of the same is even more laudable.

 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/a-walk-around-the-city-of-trondheim-in-norway-part-1-of-2)

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A friend suggested visiting the National Gallery in Oslo. Having had the opportunity of admiring the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso and others in the last few years, I was naturally curious as to what Norwegian artists had come up with in the past. The visit turned out to be a truly instructive one. I realized the depth and range of work done by painters as well as sculptors and marvelled at the passion and artistic fervour of the artists concerned.IMG_1716

Founded in 1837, the National Gallery houses Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. In its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum presents older art, with principal emphasis on art from Norway.IMG_1652

Highlights from the collection are shown in the permanent exhibition “The Dance of Life – The Collection from Antiquity to 1945”.IMG_1664

The exhibition presents a chronological overview of more than 300 Norwegian…

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Here is a country where the mind is without fear

And the head is held high

Where knowledge to children and youth is virtually free

And those distressed by the world are welcomed with open arms;

Where the definition of nationalism implies inclusivity

Fine arts of all countries and cultures are welcome

If narrow domestic walls exist, these are only to protect national interests

Where respect for the law of the land reigns supreme;

Where gender equity and diversity is not a mere slogan

The care offered to the elderly is exemplary

Some wish the taxes to be lower but realize the money is well spent

In many ways does it serve and comfort the citizens; 

Where human endeavour aims to attain perfection

Words come out from an inner conviction

Gentle, helpful, physically active and resilient

Following a work culture which deserves to be aped;

Where one can encounter the true…

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The Guardian Angels who preside over the affairs of yours truly recently enabled a short trip to Netherlands. Other than a wonderful meeting with some fans of P G Wodehouse in Amsterdam, one could also visit Zaanse Schans and Rotterdam.

Of tilting at windmills

Zaanse Schans in Netherlands is best known for its collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. Built from 1576 AD onwards, these windmills have been used for multiple purposes. Claude Monet was so impressed that he came up with several paintings depicting these.

From 1961 to 1974 old buildings from all over the Zaanstreek were relocated to the area, so as to preserve this unique architectural heritage and to promote this as a unique open air museum of windmills, old houses and traditional crafts.

While crossing the windswept bridge over the river Zaan, one is captivated by the panoramic view of windmills. One could be excused to feel like a Don Quixote who is firming up plans to tilt at some of the magnificent wooden giants.

Much before the management concepts of Customer Orientation and Flexible Manufacturing Concepts came into vogue, the entrepreneurs owning the windmills had put these into practice. The mills were producing whatever the market demanded.

Tobacco leaves were chopped and pulverized in the past to produce snuff in as many as 83 windmills in the Zaan region. From 1675, around 20 smaller windmills were used to crush mustard.

Over time, in keeping with the demand pattern, windmills underwent a transformation. For example, one of the mills was originally a paint mill, but went on to be a mustard mill, tobacco grinder and board sawmill. Post 1911, it was converted into a timber factory with biscuit boxes being made for the Verkade brand. From 1961 onwards, the famous Mustard was produced here.

Of aniseed products and cow creamers

Some of the windmills have been making spices. Some of you may know that herbs and spices form an integral part of the Dutch cuisine. Spiced biscuits and sweets are commonly found. Mulled wine, aniseed milk and even some sandwich toppings containing aniseed have these. Traditionally, the birth ritual celebrating the arrival of a newborn baby involved the proud father stirring a cinnamon stick into the kandeel, a liqueur, providing strength and warding off evil spirits.

If Jeeves and Bertie Wooster had ever visited the area, the duo would have been delighted to have had an easy access to aniseed products. Luring back a dog McIntosh would then have been the work of a moment for them, enabling them to avoid a trip across the Atlantic so as to escape the fury of Aunt Agatha.

While in Rotterdam, yours truly was delighted to have had the opportunity of sneering at the cow creamers displayed in one of the stores. Being aware that these were indubitably of modern Dutch origin, one lost no time in registering scorn. The same was the treatment meted out to some distant cousins of the Empress of Blandings on the next shelf. However, all this sneering and scorning did not leave the sales girl on the counter amused.

But the aim of one’s life is never to keep sales girls amused. Rather, it is to outgrow the inane desires to possess material objects and thereby enjoy unalloyed bliss.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/another-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam)

 

 

 

 

 

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The Art Gallery at Trondheim has a large collection of Norwegian art from around 1850 up to the present. It also has an impressive collection of Danish art and a significant representation of other renowned international artists.

Savour some of these at leisure:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see artworks of a different culture is quite instructive. The kind of natural forces the people deal with. The kind of life they led. Such mundane happenings as calling a physician, visiting the town square, listening to a street musician or even depicting the means of livelihood of people – all these get captured in exquisite detail. Portraits of some persons – famous or otherwise – invariably form an integral part of the art collection. Even abstract art conveys the inner state of the artist at the time the work was getting done, possibly with a benevolent muse by his side!

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/a-walk-around-the-city-of-trondheim-in-norway-part-1-of-2)

 

 

 

 

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Just like human beings who boast of a life cycle, many of our cities also undergo cyclical changes. These gain importance over a period of time and then end up losing it at times, based on their economic and political fortunes at a given point in time.

But a ready supply of natural resources and the indomitable spirit of those who inhabit our cities ensure that these continue to thrive and do well. Over time, their character might change from that of a major trading centre to a well-known hub of education and scientific research.

Some may suffer repeatedly at the hands of Logi, the Nordic Fire God, and experience devastating fires, only to rise again from the ashes, much like a Phoenix would. Others may witness riots because of a proposal to change the name of the city, leaving The Bard squirming in his grave. Through all these challenges, the city continues to thrive. The resilience of the human spirit reigns supreme.

Recently, yours truly had the opportunity of a leisurely stroll or two through the streets of Trondheim in Norway. One can trace its origins back to the Viking Age circa 997 AD. It served as the capital of Norway until 1217. In the olden days, it appears to have handled the kind of challenges described above with much aplomb.

Here are some visuals which might appeal to some of you.

The Nidelva River

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Art and Buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nidaros Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last one, located within the premises of the Cathedral, is a monument commemorating those who lost their lives during the World War II.

Night view from the Egon revolving restaurant

 

As with most historic cities of the day, Trondheim also appears to be striking a fine balance between preserving its heritage and absorbing contemporary building designs. One merely hopes that forces of crass commercialism are kept on a tight leash by those who matter.

Stay tuned for a saunter down the Trondheim Museum of Arts!

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Here is a country where the mind is without fear

And the head is held high

Where knowledge to children and youth is virtually free

And those distressed by the world are welcomed with open arms;

 

Where the definition of nationalism implies inclusivity

Fine arts of all countries and cultures are welcome

If narrow domestic walls exist, these are only to protect national interests

Where respect for the law of the land reigns supreme;

 

Where gender equity and diversity is not a mere slogan

The care offered to the elderly is exemplary

Some wish the taxes to be lower but realize the money is well spent

In many ways does it serve and comfort the citizens; 

 

Where human endeavour aims to attain perfection

Words come out from an inner conviction

Gentle, helpful, physically active and resilient

Following a work culture which deserves to be aped;

 

Where one can encounter the true gifts of nature

Clean air, pristine water, lakes and streams

One amongst which is the clear stream of reason 

Leading to ever-widening thought and action;

 

Into this heaven of freedom, I wish this country to remain.

 

(Inspired by the famous poem ‘Where the mind is without fear…’ by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore)

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