The Ylvis brothers (yes, the ones making us all wonder what the fox says) just uploaded another video, this time about the Norwegian phenomenon called “hytte”. It made me realize that I had to write about the craziness that Norwegians surround themselves with when it comes to their life in the cabins.
Sweden and Denmark
Now, Swedes and Danes have cabins too. In Denmark they are usually situated close to the beach and called “sommerhus” (summer house). If you look at a map, you`ll understand why. Denmark is small and has a lot of coast line due to all the islands. These summer houses are usually close to one another and leave you with very little privacy – as I said, Denmark is small.
Swedes also have a lot of cabins along their coast line and on small islands but, like the Norwegians, they also have cabins in the mountains. Swedes are not as extreme as the Norwegians, though. No one is.
Norwegians are crazy
Norwegians are crazy. Say that one more time: “Norwegians are crazy.” You might as well just accept the fact – at least if a Norwegian ever invites you to his or her cabin. Why, you say? Here is why:
- You have to struggle to get to the cabin.
Now, this is not really true for all Norwegian cabins anymore but if someone buys a cabin where he can park his car just outside he`s either very embarrassed about the fact or he has “too much money” (the general complaint about people who buy fancy cars and fancy cabins). A “real” Norwegian cabin is situated a place where you have to walk for three hours on skis to get there.
- You have to struggle when you are at the cabin.
You think you can go to the cabin and take a shower? Have hot and cold running water? Electricity? Haha, you don`t know Norwegians. A “real” cabin has none of those things. You can walk hip deep in snow to get to the outhouse and if that was good enough for grandpa Bjørn, then it`s good enough for you. The fireplace will heat up the cabin in just ten or twelve hours so stop complaining.
- You do not change anything at the cabin
You want to paint the walls white, you say? Or hang some new pictures on the walls? That is impossible. Any Norwegian cabin needs to look as it did when it was built in the `50s – which means pinewood walls and odd brass decorations.
- You have to own the cabin with at least three family members
Most Norwegian cabins were built a generation or two ago and the people who built them are now dead. Their children and their childrens` children can not let go of the cabin so they own it together – which makes for some intricate systems for deciding who gets to go to the cabin in the Easter vacation – the major cabin vacation. Hey, you had the cabin in Easter of 2006 – it`s my turn now!
- You do not wash yourself or your clothes when you`re at the cabin
You`re used to a shower in the morning and whenever you`ve worked out? Well, tough luck. Since there is no running water and no shower – there is also no way to keep the hygiene standards you`re used to. Go for a fifty kilometer ski trip and use a wash cloth under your arms afterwards. Then use the same clothes when you go for a ski trip the next day. It`s good for you. Or something.
Getting back to the roots
Cabins are very precious to Norwegians and I think you would have to look hard to find a Norwegian with no access to at least one cabin. In spite of the new wave of more modern cabins with running water and electricity (blasphemy!), most Norwegians still swear to the more old-fashioned version of the cabin. My husband owns a cabin with two siblings and we`ve really struggled to get both of them to agree to us having running water there. The water pipe ran right next to the cabin but apparently running water was “wrong”. Same goes with the small road we`ve made all the way to the cabin. When I first came to the cabin I had to walk knee deep in snow and I hated it – but apparently that was part of the fun.
Why is that, you might ask. And I`ve asked myself that question as well, since I`m not Norwegian myself. It`s all about getting back to the roots. Norway was an incredibly poor country up until a few generations ago and it`s as if Norwegians are almost embarrassed about the money they stumbled upon in the North Sea (= the oil). So, like the masochists they are, they need to make life as hard upon themselves as possible whenever they can – which means when they have a vacation from work and can go to their cabins.
Please remember to turn back time
So if a Norwegian ever invites you to his or her cabin, just remember to turn back your watch to 1930 or 1950 and you`ll do wonderfully. You`ll be reminded of all the fun card and board games from your childhood and you`ll enjoy the “slow time” in front of the fire place.
Because that`s the nice things about the Norwegian cabins. You do forget about your everyday stress and you have time to just empty your brain of all the clutter – which is probably why Norwegians love their cabins so much.