“You are moving WHERE? In January?? Are you crazy? It’s COLD there!”
“Yes, but I like it cold. I like snow. I have more energy during the winter. The shorter days don’t bother me. But of course, ask me again in a year and I’ll let you know how I feel after experiencing my first Norwegian winter!”
Versions of the conversation above happened between me and many of my family and friends in the months leading up to my move here to Bergen. I passed on my response in a light tone, but of course I have to be realistic and admit I’m a little curious, a little cautious, a little apprehensive about what a Norwegian winter will really be like. After all, I’m now closer to the Arctic Circle, in a land of mountains and narrow, steep roads and walkways (many times those are one in the same) that can get treacherous in winter weather. That’s quite a change from Maryland, where I had lived for almost fifteen years, from the other southern US states that I had called home at some point in my life, or even from Michigan and northern Illinois where I had spent my childhood.
But so far it hasn’t been so bad. During an hour long walk with MacKenzie, we’ve had blue sky and hail and thunder and rain and snow accompany us, but nothing overwhelming. If we were living in Oslo where Jan lived for years, or elsewhere in this big country, this would be a different experience for me. But we are in Bergen, a city surrounded by seven mountains, where weather patterns change with a frequency that I marvel at or laugh at or get frustrated at – depending on my mood.
Jan told me to expect a lot of rain. And the first ten days of my time here did bring rain, day after day of intermittent or constant rain, breaking records for this area. But my expectations of rain and the Norwegian West Coast’s experience for me are completely different. It may be raining outside when I look out the kitchen window, but a few moments later when I look out the bedroom window as I get ready to take a walk I can see the sun shining against the mountain, with very little rain on that side of the apartment.
One afternoon a couple of weeks ago Mac and I started out on an afternoon stroll. It was about 4:00 pm, so the sun was setting somewhere behind the constant cloud cover over the mountains and the light was shifting towards dusk – still a ways off, but changing nonetheless. I made my way to the top of the hill in the middle of this part of the city, zigzagging up through the apartments in the area, past Jan’s workplace, up a narrow road, then into the common park-like setting near the top. We explored a bit through the grass and paths, past a children’s fenced play area, around a door built into the side of the hill (underneath all of this is a set of tunnels, meant for protection in the event of a city emergency) – and we found ourselves on the other side of this hill, looking at the mountains from a different angle. As we had walked the weather had changed from cloudy/clear to a little rain/snow mixture, and as we reached that back side of the area we were climbing and looked off to the distance I could see a snow storm headed our way. The wind whipped the snow in every direction, and I saw the snow choreographing the wind just as the leaves had done back in Oslo this summer. But instead of seeming to be anchored to the ground by those fallen leaves, this wind was racing down and up and over the terrain, heading in my direction. I could see the snow blowing in sheets of different direction, and clearly see the pattern. It was beautiful!! I stood there as it started to snow where I was, and then I could feel the wind pick up. I’d never experienced a weather pattern like that before – it was invigorating to be out in it!
A little over a week ago we had periods of snow, beautiful fluffy flakes and more insistently falling ones too; a couple of fluffy inches were waiting for us when we headed out for our morning walk – the dry kind that isn’t good for snowballs but is great for a playful Labrador to dive into. That pattern continued for a few days, new snow covering up the old tracks and car exhaust dirt, a fresh world every time we headed out. Wonderful!
Then the weather pattern changed; it became colder and was just at freezing for a few days. The snow – stepped on, flattened, melted a little – became ice. My boots, perfect for summer or fall hiking on Maine’s Monhegan Island and perfect for warmth, are not meant for the ice that I encountered four times a day on my MacKenzie walks! Slip-sliding, especially when being pulled down an icy slope by a dog who is eager to get to “her” grass by the creek because she has to pee NOW, was treacherous. It reminded me of times we had ice in Maryland, and I would gingerly slide down my driveway to get to my car, grabbing hold of the handle as I went by to stop my forward motion and hopefully get the door opened and me into the car before I fell flat on my butt. Except, sliding down the gravel path with MacKenzie leading the way, I didn’t have much to hold onto!
But now we’ve had above freezing temps (it’s warmer here than it has been in Jessup, Maryland) and rain and the ice has washed away. The pond ice has melted, the ducks are back, the Snøklokker (Snowbells) – a delicate little flower – are up, and Crocus are also showing themselves. I feel I’ve experienced a mini winter-cycle during my four weeks here.
Tomorrow the temperatures are expected to drop again – they feel like they have a little throughout this afternoon – so we’ll see what the next weather pattern will bring us. And I’m eager to experience every bit of it!
(Here is where this part of the world is located on the map.)