"A lot of things aren't worth doing, but almost anything is worth telling."
Ursula K. LeGuin, "Shroedinger's Cat"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Norwegian for "Middle of Nowhere"

My friend Marty and I had no master plan for our tour of Europe after spending the summer in London.  Others may plan grand cultural journeys, but we pretty much just followed our whims and whimsy.  On a lark, we decided to take the Norwegian train to its northernmost point of Bodø, just to be able to say we had been inside of the Arctic Circle.

We were near a system of tidal eddies and whirlpools made famous by Edgar Allan Poe's "A Descent into the Maelström."  (Marty knew all of this.  I had never heard of the thing.)

We had to take a bus there, and navigating a bus transit system is confusing enough without factoring in a foreign country and a foreign language.  Most Norwegians speak English better than most Americans, but we ended up failing in the communication department.  When we got on the bus we had determined would take us where we wanted to go, we were trying to tell the bus driver that we were paying the "student discount."  Apparently, "student discount" sounds very much like Norwegian for "Please drop us off at a gas station in the middle to nowhere" because that's where we ended up.

When we finally communicated that we were trying to get to the maelstrom, the driver mumbled in disgust; however, with classic Norwegian hospitality and graciousness, he took us on his route until he passed another bus that would take us back to town.  That driver then saw us to the bus we should have been on in the first place.

And by the way, the maelstrom is much less dramatic (at least most of the time) in real life...Plus, on top of all that, I think the one near Bodø we went to is actually different one than the one the inspired the Poe short story.

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