Saturday, October 25, 2014

Experience the Julemarked and joyful Norwegian Christmas traditions

Winter holidays are the most cheerful days of the year, when everyone celebrates Christmas and is preparing for a sparkling coming New Year, and every single place is surrounded by a special atmosphere - dancing snowflakes, a delicate pine tree scent blended with Christmas traditional cakes, gingerbread cookies, boiled wine with flavored spices, roasted chestnuts, Christmas carols and crispy voices of children choirs, Santa Claus and reindeer...

December is the perfect time when we celebrate the romance and magic of a traditional Christmas with family, friends and even alone.
Many locals and tourists coming from different corners of the world are enjoying winter markets were they have the opportunity to buy unique Christmas gifts, Christmas food delicacies and various home decorations.

And what would be most enjoyable than to ramble around a Julemarked/ Christmas Market, looking for joyful gifts for special persons in our life? : )
Julemarked (Photo by Øyvind Schei)
Julemarked (Photo by Øyvind Schei)
It is said that the European Christmas Market origins are from Tyrol area in Austria and Germany, and nowadays became a wonderful annual tradition spread worldwide.
Nowadays, Julemarked (Christmas markets) are all around Norway, and you can travel to your desired destination and chose from a wide variety of locally handcrafted products inspired by the Scandinavian old culture - handmade paintings, art glass and pottery, furniture, lamps, jewelry or even designed clothes - or attend a unique workshop - sheep shearing, wood carvings, activities for children, folk dancing, reindeer, horse and sleigh (free rides for the children), homemade products and Christmas decorations for sale.

In Norway, most companies, museums, galleries and various associations are organizing their own Christmas markets where they sell unique, handmade products along special activities, traditional concerts and festivities, and events attended by professional and amateur artists where they can sell their own pieces of art in any form - from organic jams or cheese from farms, homemade soap and cookies, various herbs, wool sweaters knitted with Norwegian pattern, to paintings, jewelry, pottery or other piece of art - and one can have a cup of coffee with Norwegian Christmas specialties and feel the magnificent Christmas spirit at any step around the place.

Visit any Norwegian Julemarked/ Christmas Market, enjoy the holiday atmosphere, catch a glimpse of the northern lights, and buy unique gifts for family and friends!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal

If you like simple things in life, love nature, autumn, local traditions, good food and pleasant gatherings, it definitely be an excellent choice to attend a "sauesjå" while traveling to Norway, and feel filled with lot of positive energy at the end of the day! :)
Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal (photo JH)
Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal (photo JH)
About "sauesjå" in Norway... This is common exhibition in most parts of Southern Norway, and the word comes from a combination of old Norwegian words: "sjå" (meaning “to see”) + "saue" (meaning “sheep”) = "sauesjå" (“watch the sheep”), similar to another combined world, "dyrskue" meaning the "animal show" (“dyr” = animals + “saue" = “to see”)...
Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal (photo JH)
This year, "Sauesjå", took place on Sunday/ 20 of September in Kvinesdal (a picturesque city from Southern Norway), and locals were very lucky to have a wonderful day, with nice weather, temperature at 17 - 23'C, sunny, ocasionally feeling a pale chilled air, just perfect to tempt everyone spend time outdoors, take a walk in the surrounding area admiring the trees start changing their colors getting the copper touch, and enjoy the beauty of the day and local special festival.
Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal (photo JH)
Early in the morning, the weather felt more autumnal, with a thick fog in the valley that shortly disappeared, being replaced by a joyful sunshine whole day long that emphasized the fantastic autumnal scenery with colorful leaves, making everyone enjoy a lovely dinner as a reward.
Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal (photo JH)
  Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal (photo JH)
Some people were busy doing everything for the sheep exhibit success, others were busy taking care of their large gardens, cutting and cropping the branches from apple and plum trees - being the perfect moment of the year for the trees to be pruned in the fall – but all at one moment came to join the "sauesjå" which turned into a very pleasant gathering, everyone happy to see and talk to each other (family, friends and simple curious persons passing by), smile, check for the goodies (tasty food), admiring also the old cars parked nearby, join the show and traditional festivity.
Old fashioned cars at Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal (photo JH)
So, if you are a curious traveler willing to find out about local traditions, this could be a perfect experience for you and your family, that will make you smile in the sunshine, and start the day in a cheerful spirit!
Sauesjå - the sheep exhibit in Kvinesdal (photo JH)
Special thanks to a dear friend of mine from Kvinesdal.for sharing this topic with me, and now with you.
Also, all the images enclosed here are offered from his personal collection.

Trolls - the most legendary and mysterious creatures of Norway

In Scandinavian mythology and folklore, a troll is a supernatural and shy being that comes from stone and is avoiding sunlight to don’t be turned into stone again - and according to the legends - some of them have bad impact on humans, others positive, and the most important thing was to don’t make them be your enemy.
Trolls turned into the stone (Own photo)
Trolls turned into the stone (Own photo)
It is said that the mystical trolls were hiding into the deep wooden forests and caves, living isolated in small families in the mighty snow-capped mountains, between rocks or near roaring waterfalls and would come out only after sun-set, and they would disappear before the morning sun arose because the direct exposure to the sun could cause them crack, turn into stone and possibly get burst.

As features, some trolls have long crooked noses, only four fingers and toes on each limb, and most of them had long bushy tails. Some are huge, ugly and and slow-witted, some look and behave exactly like human beings and others are very small, curious and friendly to humans.

As you can see, the trolls are not equal. Some of them reflect in legends created hundreds of years ago, while the rest appeared in stories of writers from Northern countries.
Norwegian Trolls (Own photo)
Trolls (Own photo)
It seems that trolls are of many different types, most of them being described and coming from old myths and legends, others created by various authors from Northern countries and worldwide in their fiction books:

- The troll of the forest - man-eaters - a giant, slow yet strong, ugly and lazy creature living in Norwegian mountains, deep in the dark forests, lied on the ground and looking like a huge hill, often being very old having mushrooms growing in his ears and moss coming out from his nose, yet able to sense the human scent, follow it and chase people to eat them.

- The troll of the mountain - as savage mountain dweller, as the troll of the forest but crazy about gold - he robs everyone met on his way, no matter if rich or poor. 

- The two-headed and three-headed troll - the most terrific creature compared to the rest of trolls - He has three empty brains which make him act weird and do nonsense. 

- The troll that could be a witch, a demon or an evil spirit, or a ghost.

- The good-natured and naive troll - a silly creature that could be easily played full, and if they realize this, can become quite revengeous and kidnap animals and children.

- The troll that is helping people... in which case are expecting a favor in return. :)

- The troll of the war - brought up in the contemporary fiction novel „Lord of the Rings“ - a monster wearing a heavy coat of mail, fighting with giant weapons, that can be defeated only by the greatest knights and restless fairies. 

- The Moomins - the best and sweetest trolls even able to sing - they appeal to the children willing to discover the “Moomin World”.

The most recent fairytales are saying that all around the beautiful fjords of Norway - in mountain areas full of rocks - are plenty of trolls still living nowadays, hide from sunlight and unexpected guests.
Be aware! Trolls passing by! (Own photo)
Be aware! Trolls passing by! (Own photo)
So, why not prepare your backpack and rumble around Norwegian mountains, fjords and waterfalls and get the chance to take a photo to the large local stones - often described as being the product of a troll's toss or being the trolls turned to stone upon exposure to sunligh -, and with the first troll popped onto your way!? :)