Jeg snaker ikke norsk – I can’t speak norwegian

Where to find the rhythm of the city?

Spending countless hours in downtown of Oslo shopping, sightseeing or just killing the time I found out that the rhythm of that city is there – street where on the one end there is the Central Station and on the other the Royal Place. Karl Johan Gate became a place of work and pleasure, happiness and depression but moreover the place where all symptoms of city life characteristic for Oslo can be found. Even in the early morning it is a place of work for cleaning stuff as they prepare the street for the next phase of its life.

City and I

At the same time last year many exciting yet restless ideas were wondering around my head. I was just about to spend the longest period in my life apart from home and things to which I used to long time ago. It was going to be spent in a rich, modern and cold place where people are reluctant to share them selves at first. Would your thoughts concerning a Scandinavian city be similar? Maybe, we are all likely to think stereotypically.

Rich but poor

Naïve is the one who thinks that a rich Scandinavian capitol will be free from sad scenes of beggars and drug addicts. It is quite opposite. Withered children of 60’s and 70’s are constantly occupying the lower section of the main city boulevard which starts with the Oslo Central station. Shadows of women and men hardly walking or leaning against trash beans and against them selves sharply contrast with fast-food restaurants and windows of snobbish shops – symbols of consumerism and Americanization. They seem to wait 24 hours a day for a chance that would never come as it already passed them by.

Shadows of women and men hardly walking or leaning against trash beans and against them selves sharply contrast with fast-food restaurants and windows of snobbish shops – symbols of consumerism and Americanization. Picture by S.Sendzielski.


It is impossible to walk through

Off course beside exclusive boutiques and stores filled up with popular brands of clothing Karl Johans Gate attracts sellers and con men of all descriptions trying to get as much money as possible from all who just happened to walk down the street. Recently even such unusual good as electricity started to be offered publicly. Cunning middleman companies are fighting for the clients circumventing expensive advertising campaigns.
Not far away, on the same street, form early afternoon till evening time volunteers of well-know world foundation (WWF) are encouraging inhabitants of Oslo to financially support the good cause.

Is it an actor or is it a swindler ?

No matter if you call Kris a bad actor or swindler he belongs to a wide group of street artists ranging from “human” monuments to graphic artists, musicians and acrobats. They contribute, to the large degree to the ambience of Karl Johans Gate.  Their appearance, actions and skills easily compel attention and provide entertainment for passer-bys.
A man that resembles a true monument and whom I call the “king of birds” provides a perfect example of how a good idea but not necessarily skills can lead to money earning. He wears a long trench coat and a mask on his face all painted in a steel gray color, which might be the reason why pigeons mistakenly use him as temporary rest place.
Another distinctive character can be found near Stortinget underground station. An orchestra-man starts his work in the late afternoon. Although he does not change his repertoire to often, sounds of variety instruments and country-blues style songs draw audience.

“I can’t speak norwegian.”

Since Oslo is perceived as a capitol of one of the richest countries and in addition English language is almost as commonly spoken as Norwegian, the city has become a destination place not only for people from central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa but surprisingly enough also for those who we would not expect to look for work here – Swedish, British or Japanese. Thus, beside previously mentioned artists also shoe shiners, rickshaw drivers and prostitutes try to make their living from Karl Johans Gate.
Tom says, “I can’t speak Norwegian, can you speak English?” It is a common phrase among rickshaw drivers. It will be the 5th month already when he repeats the same phrase. He does not find a reason why he should learn Norwegian. Only three from 12 rickshaw drivers are Norwegian. For the rest of them no matter if they are Polish, Japanese or Czech, English is good enough to get by.

“king of birds” provides a perfect example of how a good idea but not necessarily skills can lead to money earning. Picture by K. Pluta.

Entertainment for one’s and work for others.

What seems to be an entertainment for ones becomes a hard and difficult work for others. Early at night bike taxies chauffeurs are looking for their clients among sober, comfort-loving middle age and middle class people who together with their friends or co-workers are heading toward bars and pubs for the first drinks.
For young and almost drunk Norwegians – the next sort of rickshaw clients, party starts near Stortinget underground station late at night. Most of already drunk, strange looking youth and all kind of freaks has chosen that place as main meeting point probably thanks to its position on the top of the hill and in the middle of Karl Johan Gate. From that spot still lacking entertainment youngsters use alternative taxies not only as a kind of transport but also as one more way of loosing them self again.
At last, when the dawn of the coming day slowly spread over the city and most of venues are closed now, drunk yet fun seeking people use rickshaws, maybe for the last time this night, to get to still open night clubs and discothèques or set off in search of suitable candidate to spend the night with.
Through all the night loud and distinctive lips smacking can be heard on the street of Karl Johan. African women presenting their questionable attributes are luring solitary men. As many presented before, regardless what their nationality is, they came to Oslo having one goal in mind – money earning and chose that boulevard as the work place.

A theater scene open for 24 hours a day

0slo’s main pedestrian and probably most representative street has become not only an important work place for ones but also a city fun and entertainment place for others. It evokes memories of small Polish towns where almost all its inhabitants’ meat during the shopping or walk with families and then gather on the main street at night to have fun and celebrate for what ever reason it would be.
Life on Karl Johans Gate goes on for 24 hours a day changing their tempo at different times. When ones start their work in here others are just preparing to leave. When ones are trying to make leaving others spend their money carelessly in the quest of the best entertainment.

Many reasons to be proud

Painted white and yellow palace overlooks Karl Johan Gate. From its windows the Royal Family gazes on street where amusement and leisure activities seem to lead a symbiotic life with work, burdens and obligations.

Authors against painted white and yellow palace, which overlooks Karl Johan Gate. self-exposure.

My ideas and expectations about the capitol of one of the richest European countries meet the reality on Karl Johan Gate like on no other street of Oslo. I often find wealth hidden behind seemingly happy faces, careless acts of youngsters and just renewed building facades. Cold, of which I was afraid, was almost unnoticeable and more bearable than in many other countries on the southern Europe at the wintertime. People closed at first are chatty and even easy to make friends with after a while of pleasant conversation.
Although what the most easy to see are symptoms of over-work and fun, alcohol and drugs abuse there are also many, many reasons why King may still proudly look at his City as Oslo has much more to offer. Nevertheless I will leave this subject as a theme of another story.

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