This time we have two contributors: E. Fazli Çorman, Ambassador of Turkey to Norway with: Ahoy! The Vikings Set Sail for Byzantium – Again
H. E. Iwona Woicka-Żuławska: Ambassador of Poland to Norway with ‘Riddle of Silence’: A Tale of Norwegian plants Botanical Art Watercolour Paintings and Text by the Ambassador
HERE COMES: Ahoy! The Vikings Set Sail for Byzantium – Again
By E. Fazli Çorman, Ambassador of Turkey to Norway
On a leisurely family trip to, of all places, ‘The End of the World’ (Verdens Ende), we had a lovely spur-of-the-moment experience of a story from the Middle Ages, brought into today’s world.
On a Sunday, my wife and our son and I decided to make a short stop in downtown Tønsberg during our journey by car exploring nice spots around Oslo. There at the docks, on a crisp summer afternoon, the shape of a large Viking ship caught our attention from a distance. Men were toiling at and around the harbour as if the Viking ship was to set sail the next day.
Curious, we approached the place, since it is quite unusual to see people actually working on a Sunday in Norway! We were greeted by two smiling and friendly persons, who resembled our sketchy imagination of what the Vikings looked like, minus the long beard!
Beautiful traditional Viking carvings on the Saga Formann
After a couple of introductory tourist-like greetings, we were shown the ‘Viking-time’ tools and arms in the small room on the dock. We soon realised that one of the men was Mr. Eivind Luthen, in charge of ‘Project Miklagard’ and the Viking longship called Saga Formann. He excitedly told us about the history of the relations between Norway and Byzantium (Constantinople), or ‘Miklagard’ as the Vikings called the exotic far-away city that is modern-day Istanbul.
The history comprises the travels to and the continued presence of the Vikings in Constantinople, the merchant trade and cultural exchanges that ensued. Rich maritime archaeological findings from that era continue to fascinate historians and archaeologists.
Map of the route Saga Formann will embark on, through the Volga River
An image that illustrates the history between the Vikings and Miklagard.
Wooden carving next to the Viking Ship Saga Formann
It was indeed very exciting to learn of Saga Formann’s planned trip next year. The ship will sail from Tønsberg in the summer of 2022 for its final destination: Istanbul. The journey is a re-creation of Viking expeditions via the River Volga to the Black Sea more than thousand years ago. Before it reaches the Russian rivers, it will stop in Gdansk, Grobina, and Saint-Petersburg.
The Saga Formann is currently at Tønsberg Harbour but will in two years and thousands of miles away appear at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, located by the docks in the Golden Horn area of Istanbul – which used to be the city’s Imperial Harbour. The expedition is arranged to coincide with the Republic of Turkey’s 100th anniversary celebrations in 2023.
I had heard about the Vikings’ presence in ancient Turkey through the famous runic inscriptions on the walls of Hagia Sophia, but I never expected to meet their modern descendants just outside of Oslo. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to meet and see these modern-day Vikings who keep the history and this rich heritage alive and kicking!
‘Riddle of Silence’: A Tale of Norwegian plants
Botanical Art Watercolour Paintings and Text
H. E. Iwona Woicka-Żuławska
Ambassador of Poland to Norway
Villrose – Rosa canina
Coming to Norway, I looked forward to working on new possible links between Poland and Norway. But on a more personal note, I looked forward to see and experience all the beauty of Norwegian nature. I have been using every possible moment to discover Norway’s amazing and varied landscapes, the flora and fauna. Walking around Oslo, going to the Fjords, Lofoten and Vesteralen or the Far North was an occasion to savour all the similarities and differences between the distinct regions of my host country and my home country.
Blåveis – Anemone hepatica/nobilis. Snøklokke – Galanthus nivalis.
Then the COVID-19 struck. Trying not to concentrate only on the challenges it brought, the restrictions and limitations, I started pouring inspiration – impressions of Norwegian fields, mountains, woodlands, lakes and sea-shores – in watercolour on paper. Those minutes and hours spent researching, sketching, and painting were a great, wonderful escape from the pandemic reality. They transported me into the realm of the small, often unnoticed, plants that surround us. They made me remember and feel the warmth of the sun in the middle of winter darkness. The flowers surprised me with their simplicity of lines, their purity of colours and, at the same time, the ingeniousness and complexity of Mother Nature. The textures and tonal variations, the diversity present in the plant kingdom, is really astounding.
Geitrams – Chamaenerion angustifolium Blåklokke – Campanula rotundifolia.
I wanted to know more about my ‘objects’. I started looking for information about their habitat, but also their properties. How were they used in earlier times and now? Have they influenced local art and culture? And finally – are there any similarities between how they were perceived, harvested, and used in Norway and Poland? It appears that, even with all the climate differences, many of them have been cultivated, consumed, used in medicine or folk art in almost the same way.
Kornblomst – Centaurea montana.
I was fascinated by almost identical floral patterns found in Polish and Norwegian folklore, including regional dresses. Looking at the embroidery on many beautiful bunader, I found the same motifs that are present in my country’s arts and crafts. Roses, poppies, harebells, orchard blossom or cornflowers inspired many of the patterns in both countries, as in many others.
Tyttebær – Vaccinium vitis-idaea Svart Kråkebær (Krekling) – Empetrum nigrum
I hope that this presentation will let you peep into the world of small, humble plants from our surroundings. They always remind us of the beauty of the world, the hope linked with the cycles of nature, the renewal brought by spring, the maturity of summer or the abundance of the harvesting season. And the need for reflection and cosiness during harsh winters. A time, when ideas and inspiration are born…