To really get the most out of living in Norway you need to spend time outside. Nothing so strange about that when there is an endless supply of wide skies and grab-a-camera landscapes to be discovered. It is basically a selfie-stick user´s paradise.
Norwegians are rightfully proud of these amazing landscapes. In fact I would say the level of the general population’s pride even trumps their pride of the paperclip and cheese slicer. It is almost essential to Norwegian identity to be proud of the country’s natural beauty even if you do not partake in the splendour. It comes as no surprise then that Norwegians are what you would call outdoorsy people. The theory is that basically any happy, healthy and sane person spends time outdoors and both quantity AND quality is required.
What to do when one is outdoors you ask? Well you go on a tur of course (pronounced toor). The best translation I have for this word slash concept slash essential-part-of-living is trip, as in road trip or school trip. When you’re outside, you go on a trip.
There are many different types of trips or tur one can take depending on the preference for location and activity. When location is the primary factor, then you could take a beach tur, a forest tur, a mountain tur or the ever popular cabin tur (aka the hyttetur which deserves a fuller explanation. Watch out for an upcoming blog post about it). When activity is the primary factor then possibilities could be: a boat tur, a running tur for the sporty ones, an all-essential skiing tur in the winter months and not to mention the good old walking tur, a Norwegian classic. These lists are by no means exhaustive. Once you begin combining location AND activity – like a cycling tur in the mountains or a running tur in the forest, the tur options are endless. There is a tur for every occasion.Now at this point a lot of you may be thinking ok what is so special about this, I am just listing outdoor activities. Well yes, and no. Tur is not just about the type of activity and the location, it is a vital part of the lifestyle. It is part of growing up and of getting old. It is like free therapy and not in a niche hobby kind of way but in a mainstream, generally accepted, everyone does it kind of way. And Norwegians are hardcore about it (or maybe it is just the Norwegians I hang out with?). A great example is how they measure distance: in mil. 1 mil is 10km. So, for example, the skiing trip was not 20km it was 2 mil. Obviously, to me, this is psychological taunting and nothing short of a numerical conspiracy that all Norwegians are in on. My foreign brain finds 2 so dissatisfying compared to 20.
THE TUR CULTURE
When something is this deeply ingrained into a culture you can guarantee there are behaviours and rituals that are part and parcel of the picture. Speaking of pictures, this photo
although, on first glance looks like just another perfectly arranged and edited photo for the grace of Instagram, it essentially depicts tur. It shows some of the classic tur essentials. First you have the matpakke, the food pack, basically a twist on the sandwich (the package with Eleni written on it). My first experience of matpakke was at a mountain lodge at the breakfast buffet. A young boy sat with a stack of sliced bread and a selection of sandwich fillings. He was spreading and stacking slice after slice of bread. No sandwiching going on. Just the one slice of bread with topping followed by paper (to separate the slices), bread, topping, paper, bread, topping, paper then pass to mum to wrap it up in a nice neat pack and ta da, the matpakke is ready for the rucksack. But it was not just that little boy going crazy with the bread and jam, no, the matpakke ritual was going on all around me. I was mesmerised by the sheer amount of bread in the room.
Also in the photo is the, can’t get more Norwegian than this, kvikklunsj chocolate bar. It is very similar to another chocolate, which I will not name for fear of offending many a Norwegian, but let’s just say these two chocolates are so similar there have been legal cases in court to settle the issue. This chocolate bar has built its entire identity around tur, it is the chocolate that you take on a tur. There is even a suggested tur route on the inside of every wrapper.
Yet another staple shown in the photo is the orange, the fruit of the winter months. The orange is especially associated with winter skiing tur. Winter, when all that citrus fruit is shipped over from the Southern lands to ensure Northerners get their dose of vitamin C.
All things considered, the best thing about tur culture is that you don’t have to be super-fit, outdoorsy or live in the countryside to partake. Going on a tur is about getting out of the house and spending time with other people, with friends and family. In true commitment to the tur culture almost all shops are still closed on Sundays here too. A perfect day for a tur.