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Bergen, Norway

Norwegian stew with dumplings. The only thing this cafe serves on a Thursday, so that’s what I’m having. Last night I went to see a film at the Bergen FilmKlub. It was a Hong Kong Chinese film called Dumplings about a woman who makes dumplings out of aborted foetuses. They’re supposed to be an elixir of youth. The woman making them is supposed to be 64, but looks about 25.

I asked the guy behind the bar what was in this stew and he seemed to get a bit mixed up with his English vocabulary when answering. Something about beef, and something else he didn’t know the word for. Like most Norwegians, his English has always been flawless up to now. Better than mine. Perhaps it was the Swede he was having trouble with. He couldn’t bring himself to say I’d be eating Swede. That’s it, the yellow stuff there.

The dumpling doesn’t contain any meat, but it is solid. Very solid. It might not look much, but there’s a lot of matter in that dumpling. Any more density and its escape velocity would exceed the speed of light. It would be a black dumpling, contracting in on itself because there is no known force in the universe that can stop it until eventually it tears thorugh the very fabric of the plate, and the table itself, becoming a portal into another dromitory.

The swede is a relief. Just a normal vegetable. But the meat. It’s salty, and quite red, and still attached to bones. I don’t think it’s human, but it doesn’t taste like beef. Norwegians kill whales, but I don’t think it’s whale. Maybe it’s deer. I’m not sure. It would have been better if I hadn’t seen that film last night. It wasn’t a very good film. Lots of close ups of people eating, cruching on the barely formed bones of the unborn. It seemed as if the director, Fruit Chan, was going out of his/her (is Fruit a man’s name or a woman’s name, or the name of a dessert?) way to be gross.

Whatever that meat was, it’s in my stomach now, apart from a few scraps left on the bone. That was supposed to be a half portion I just had. It’s not surprising there are some quite large Norwegians around, though according to CNN’s Euro News (the only English language channel I can get on the TV here) Britain has the highest obesity levels in Europe. They keep showing an 8 year old British kid weighing 180lbs being given his dinner.

It’s a very lazy news channel. Repeats itself over and over, ever half hour or so, and hardly any difference from one day to the next, as if it’s trying to say “go back to sleep, there’s nothing much happening in the world.”

Yesterday I went on the Norway in a Nutshell tour. I usually avoid organized tours, but this was the only way of seeing some fjords first hand, though I spent most of my time with my face pressed against my camera, looking at it through the viewfinder, that I might as well have watched it all on video.

I wanted to see a glacier while I was here. The largest glacier on mainland Europe, Jostedalen, can only be reached by car. In the summer there are coach tours to the national park, but nothing going there at the moment and the park is closed. So, according to the local tourist office, the only way I’d be able to get there would be by hiring a car and driving the 250km out to the place. There’s one arm of this glacier, really a glacier in itself I think, that a few years ago retreated more than any other in the world. I wanted to see that, but not if it means driving to it. It’ll be better on video. Here’s what YouTube has. The woman in the tourist office said anyway, at this time of year the glacier will be covered in snow so it’ll just look like a wall of snow. It’s more impressive in summer when it’s naked ice.

Tomorrow I get on a boat that’s going up the coast, up as far as Bodø, just above the arctic circle. Then the plan is I’ll stay there for a few days and then get another boat up to Kirkenes, right up the top, on the Russion border. Near to Finland too. A place where three time zones meet. There is a 60% discount on the boat if you travel at the weekend.

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