Gabriel’s Trilogy, Part III: Sixty-three degrees North

It was a little over four in the morning when Gabriel woke up, fooled by the rising sun into thinking that it was already feeding time. No amount of reasoning would convince a 6-month old otherwise, so he got his breakfast early. Jules and I, despite what the clock told us, were also too confused by the bright daylight outside to go back to sleep. Eventually, a drowsy Jules, a blasé Gabriel and an enthusiastic Verne went outside to explore Trondheim’s wee hours.

This is the final part of Gabriel’s maiden voyage, you can read the first part here and the second one here.

Despite the glorious spring blue sky, it was still agonizingly cold. The residents, apparently impervious to freezing temperatures, happily jogged around the harbour in nothing but t-shirts and shorts. Using our lack of Viking blood as an excuse, we hunkered down beneath heavy coats, turned our backs to the piercing wind, and went looking for some hot chocolate.

Trondheim sits above the 63º parallel, the northernmost we’ve ever been. Cities at this latitude include breezy Reykjavík, in Iceland; chilly Fairbanks, in Alaska; and Anadyr, Russia’s easternmost town. In these places, daytime changes dramatically throughout the year, from more than 20 hours in summer to less than 3 during winter. As we walked around town, holding our hot beverages, we looked for any signs of madness. Surely, going from the unnatural light of The Shining to the gloomy darkness of The Crow is bound to drive everyone crazy?

Apparently not. Everyone we met was not only seemingly sane but also exceedingly nice. As the morning progressed, more and more people filled the streets, as if Trondheim was slowly awakening from a long slumber. Jules headed back to the hotel (we had organized the Norway trip around a couple of meetings she had to attend), but Gabriel and I continued.

Lulled by the gentle rocking of the baby carrier, Gabriel quickly fell asleep. With no one to talk to, I walked around taking pictures, occasionally using Gabriel’s head as a makeshift tripod.

Despite being Norway’s third most populous city, Trondheim has less than 200,000 inhabitants. Much like Oslo, it’s an old port city with a propensity for flames. Throughout its centuries, multiple fires have burnt down the city, hopping from one wooden building to the next. In the 17th century, the situation was so dire that private property rights were thrown to the wind to build large avenues, in hopes that these would stop fires from spreading. The plan seemed to enjoy little success, but those large avenues still shape the city today. The Munkegaten, for instance, neatly splits the old town into half, connecting the port to the Nidaros Cathedral.

On our way back to Oslo we stopped by Røros (pronounced like this), an old mining town from the 17th century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site first came into the limelight by the hands of Johan Falkberget, a Norwegian writer from the turn of the 20th century. Born in Røros, many of Johan’s works revolve around his own experience as a miner. The small wooden houses from those days are still there, huddled close together to withstand the rigours of the northern weather.

However, no amount of huddling was enough to keep the three southerners comfortable, so we hurried back to the car. As we drove those last miles to the airport, we stole a last glance of the surrounding serene landscapes. In many ways, Norway reminded us of our winter trip to New Zealand, a cold place that also left us with warm memories.

And so ended Gabriel’s maiden voyage. As I write these lines, I can’t help but wonder where we will take him next. It doesn’t need to be to some faraway place, it only needs to be memorable.

My earliest memories are from events that may seem mundane to an adult, but were incredible adventures for a kid. Going with my parents to the very same fountain next to where I live today, wondering what was behind the waterfall. Jumping around with my sister on a Tartan track, while our mom ran laps. Following my grandmother to the bakery and seeing how bread was made.

Verne*

38 thoughts on “Gabriel’s Trilogy, Part III: Sixty-three degrees North

    1. It was indeed chilly! Bu those deep blue skies were well worth it. By the way, I’m not sure I have mentioned it lately, but we’re big fans of your photography! I love wide angles and Jules has a thing for Calatrava 🙂 -Verne

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  1. This has been a heartwarming series! Despite your description of how cold the city was, I believe those blue skies over Trondheim were really worth the walk. Can’t wait for more travels of the three of you!

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  2. I especially like your photo of the mining houses – beautiful light. I lived for many years in the far north of Canada – Atlin just below the 60th parallel, and Whitehorse just above. I loved the summers of endless daylight, and the winters had their own special magic – hunkering down with friends, and on sunny days x-country skiing across frozen lakes that went on forever.
    Alison

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    1. Cross-country skiing on top of frozen lakes and below sunny blue skies seems magical! I never tried skiing before, as I have a tendency to turn sports into obsessions. Living in Lisbon, that would be a very expensive addiction 🙂 -Verne

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  3. Thanks for another beautiful post. The photos are lovely and the narrative was entertaining. During the 2 years that I lived in Trondheim I also looked out for signs of, if not lunacy, then at least irritation with the daylight hours variation. Instead I found that my Norwegian friends and acquaintances loved the changes and looked forward to the daily differences. They could find advantages to each extreme. Maybe that is the key to happiness and why Norway ranks so highly on surveys of happiness!

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      1. I’ve been contemplating your question and reading the Happiness Hypothesis by Johnathon Haidt, which suggests that everyone is either naturally positive or negative in their response to different changes. In our first year everything was novel so the rapidly shortening days (losing about 6 minutes of daylight per day) was interesting and then from 22nd December gaining daylight at the same rate was exciting. Walking 3km each way to and from work all year round gave me plenty of opportunity to notice and admire the changes. I think I am naturally positive too. The second year was different because we could predict what would come next. It was then that we adopted the Norwegian cultural practices that are cheering, like lighting lots of candles and placing them on our window sills, for not only us to enjoy but also passers-by, also decorating with a big white star full of lights and burning 4 purple candles – starting with one then one more per week leading up to Christmas, and going out no matter what the weather of darkness. Then we enjoyed everything. I can’t know what year number 3 would have been like because my job there came to an end!

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      2. That’s fascinating! Can that natural positive response to changes be passed on from generation to generation, either by genetics or environment? If so, maybe the secret to Norwegian’s happiness is indeed those long winter nights! 🙂 -Verne

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      3. I’m only 30% of the way through the book and I’m sure that Haidt will have a lot more to say as the book progresses but what I just read on the bus this morning is that genetics are very important and each person has a characteristic potential range of happiness and whether the person operates at the high or low side of their potential is determined by external factors. He hasn’t yet mentioned epigenetics but I think that is coming. It is an excellent book and I will write my reflections on a blog post when I’ve finished it.

        I have pondered the high ranking of Scandinavians in happiness surveys, and the book ‘The Almost Nearly Perfect People’ by Michael Booth (that I wrote about here: https://strivetoengage.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/book-reflections-the-almost-nearly-perfect-people/) gave several insights on the topic. I made my own observations and noticed that the striving and climbing that obsess Americans and Australians is largely absent as are the everyday aggression and the fear that we always feel that at any moment everything we have built could be taken away or destroyed. I do think that the security that comes with a strong social welfare state is a big part of the lovely, calm, and buoyant attitude of many Scandinavians.

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    1. Thanks for keeping up with the trilogy, Dennis! The next adventure will likely be to somewhere with both a beach and nice places to cycle. Jules and Gabriel love the beach but are not big fans of cycling, whereas I love cycling but don’t need much beach time 🙂 -Verne

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  4. You’ve brought back some memories from a 1980 trip, where I got as far north as Östersund, Sweden, about even with Trondheim. It didn’t get dark until around11 PM, and was light again at 3 AM. I can’t imagine doing the flip side in the winter months.

    I suspect Gabriel, by the time he’s a teenager, will have a much more open mind about the world than most people ever will.

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  5. Tão importante como as viagens que Gabriel certamente fará no futuro e ao longo da sua vida, será a disponibilidade dos pais em acompanhá-lo de perto e atentamente, nesta grande viagem que é a vida!
    Porque a viagem dos afectos, será sempre a mais importante!

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    1. Sem dúvida Dulce! Como dizem os ingleses “a family that travels together, stays together” 🙂 Por enquanto, e enquanto ele ainda é bebé e não se chateia com isso, enchemo-lo de beijinhos. Daqui a uns tempos parece-me que já não vai tolerar tanto os abracinhos apertados que lhe damos ehehhehe (Jules)

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  6. Lovely photos and descriptions. The more I see and hear about Norway, the more I want to go! Thanks for finding and liking my blog too (Natural Views).

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  7. This is a total aside, but your posts are written in such impeccable English I forget that you’re Portuguese until I hit a word like ‘confortable’ and then I go, oh yeah… Portuguese.

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