Off-season Comino: a treat of silence

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In Malta silence is scarce. It is unwelcome and is almost feared. As if united in some secret anti-silence conspiracy, blasts of fireworks, church bell chime, gas delivery horns, loud conversations and passers-by’s vocal chords or/and car horns acting as door bells perform together to tear silence to pieces. Mediterranean passion for life and bustle does not have high respect for the noise-free environment. Every day, passion for life is celebrated here with fanfares and splashes of colour, leaving silence no other place but afterlife.

Comino, the smallest of the inhabited islands, attracts hordes of tourists and locals alike. In summer the famous Blue Lagoon fills up with boats, parties and laughter – everything that stands for summer fun by the sea. For too many, the Blue Lagoon is where Comino starts and ends, perhaps, that is why, by the end of autumn, the tiny rock of impeccable charm turns into a retreat of silence.

Off-season Comino is a meditation, a temple of silence worship. Every day spent here is refreshing for the body and the mind. The hidden caves, the sunset views from the tower, the flocks of birds flapping over your head effortlessly transform you into a silent observer of the beauty that surrounds. Small details, unnoticed during the summer, now rush to speak to you. A flower petal, a bee hive or a cliff of a particular shape stand out and call for admiration. While treating yourself with prolonged indolent moments you feel how the rustle of tree leaves and the bee’s buzz hypnotise and convince not to disturb their flow. The appeal of Comino extends far beyond its pretty turquoise bay: it allows the sense of intimacy with nature to develop – the effect that is difficult to match.

The true love for the natural world begins from the tender, meditative state of unity with it. Silence is an indispensable chord which sets us in tune with nature. Silence is magic.

P.S. Could it be that Maltese present-day obsession for concrete development and lack of appreciation for silence are related?

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Norway: a trip to the Elven Land

Whether you appreciate the beauty of northern nature or not, one thing is certain: those mountains, waterfalls and fjords cannot leave you untransformed. Secondly, if you do admire blonds, you might not even notice the landscapes.

After a few years in Malta, two weeks in Norway felt like an antidote to that Mediterranean bustle I had become part of. First in the chain of discoveries came the air filled with silence. First time in my life I experienced silence pouring into my ears, expanding there and filling me up. That incredible feeling when silence is loud. Even in a city like Bergen the loudest sounds were the seagulls’ screams. The culture that treats silence with respect deserves respect in return.

Reflections in the Oslo Opera House
Next discovery turned out to be the necessity to appreciate rain. “There is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothes” Norwegians say yet, for the first few days, the saying failed to provide consolation. Instead, the saying should state “No weather is bad enough not to have an ice-cream” as, despite the chill and rain, many Norwegians enjoyed eating ice-cream outdoors. Rainy days soon taught me how to appreciate quick sunny moments. “One shot of a clear blue sky” and the world immediately fills up with joy. Together with that came a discovery of new light and colours. In sunshine, the colours of the fjords, the fields and the pretty Norwegian houses looked so bright and pure, as if they were painted acrylic on a broad canvas.

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Aesthetics of Norwegian architecture deserves to be mentioned separately. Be it Tjuvholmen in Oslo, art-nouveau buildings in Alesund or traditional colourful wooden houses in Stavanger and Bergen, they all emit the ambiance of tranquility and freshness. Or should I just say they make you feel incredibly cozy? You enter a pretty coffee shop to seek escape from rain and its interior embraces you with emotional warmth – så koselig!

Next we learnt how deceiving the distances in Norway are. What looks “quite close, just the opposite side of the fjord” takes hours to drive to (along the most beautiful coastline). And again, together with this discovery came the feeling of remoteness and solitariness in this big world – a feeling rather satisfying than frustrating. Yet there still was a sense of connection too, owed to the ferries linking all the remote areas scattered around the fjords. Permanently on the move between the shores, they lace the isolated parts into one, just like a needle sews a dress from pieces of  fabric.

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Yet the most memorable discovery was still to come. In Trollstigen it found me staring in disbelief at the picturesque scenery dominated by waterfalls, mountains and green fields. The light was changing by the minute, from greyish to pure bright, drawing rainbows over the waterfalls. It was then I realized how tiny all of us, individual human beings, were on the scale of that, almost metaphoric, Elven land around us. The splendor of Trollstigen, Geiranger and other fjords truly puts you down to scale, it makes you feel your own insignificance and leaves you a role no other than of an observer.

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Can you spot the two human figures?

Rather a reconfirmation than a discovery was spotting Norwegian eccentricities. Bergen was full of eccentricities that could be rather sensed than seen. Sharp graffiti, peculiar zebra crossing signs, funny and clever disclaimers signified strong presence of good sense of humour.

IMG_3173-edt-selBanality to say, I always believed two factors make a country worth visiting: its appreciation for art and its people. The trip to Norway did not come spontaneously either. It has been a few years since I learnt about Janteloven, the Scandinavian set of rules (Google it!) which encourages such concepts as equality, modesty and “good enough”. Many say it deprives talented individuals a chance to be praised for their talents but, on the other hand, it is such a powerful opposition to the wide-spread North-American idea of “compete, win and show them you’re the best!”. Norwegian nature itself encourages humility.

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A trip to Norway could be a cure for anyone suffering from an inflated ego syndrome. You will suddenly realise that your selfie backdrop is much more outstanding than your own face (or any other body part). It will put you down to scale. And if this won’t help, the amount of beauties of both genders will inevitably make you question whether your own looks really are as good as you used to imagine :).

P.S. Sounds too sugary? Well, to balance it a little, I can also add that yes, Norway is a very expensive country, the variety of food (especially vegetarian) is not great and alcohol is mega expensive. But all of this is insignificant compared to the magic of the place.

Below you will find a selection of photos taken during the trip Oslo-Stavanger-Bergen – Geiranger (by Hurtigruten) – exploring Møre og Romsdal region while based in Vik, Tomrefjord – Alnes – Alesund – Oslo.

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo at the Astrup Fearney Museum

Begren eccentricities Bergen eccentricities
A cute cafeteria in Stavanger IMG_3566-edt-sel IMG_3421-sel-edt

at Prejkestolen Alone with nature

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new Rødven church Alnes

Geiranger reflections on the ferry

Trollstigen Geirangerfjord