The Place: Malangen, Norway
Like many hamlets in Norway, Malangen sits on a fjord (also called ‘Malangen’). It’s one of those places you’d probably only hear of if you’d grown up there and where everyone knows everyone. What can I say about Malangen? There’s a sense of isolation that you don’t feel when you’re somewhere like Tromsø. The mountains towering over you from every direction make you feel small, and to say it is beautiful is an understatement. In a small pocket of civilisation like this, people live in a way that is harmonious with nature. Everyone is a hunter, or a fisherman, or a dogsledder, or a gardener, and that has a certain charm to it. It’s a place to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with nature. In the unlikely event that you do one day find yourself here, take a walk up the local river to the waterfall, where you can dive from cliffs into a natural pool to find Atlantic salmon swimming a few feet below you.
Please note that we do not fact-check our interviewees, and that their views do not necessarily represent our own.
The Person: Jacob Mosli, 21, Dog-Sledder
My name is Jacob, I’m 21 years old. I am from Malangen which is in Balsfjord, 6 Norwegian miles (60km) from Tromsø. I spend a lot of time outside with my Alaskan Huskies “Kurt” and “Mira”. I have hunted since I was 14 when I passed my jegerprøve (hunting test). I went to Alta Folkehøyskole (a school for outdoor activities) for two years. My dream is to win the Finnmarksløpet; the biggest dog-sled race in Europe. It’s 1,200km which takes 7 days or something.
What is Home to You?
The fine nature that’s here. And the beautiful mountains and fjord. It’s also the family I have around. I have some aunts and uncles. The openness of all the people – not everyone here is related, but some are. I have a big family here. I have two relatives on this road. My aunt and my cousin, and my cousin also has his own family here.
What is Special about Malangen?
What’s special about Malangen is that it’s isolated but simultaneously so close to the city. Right now I’m not in the city so much, but it’s nice to be able to go. I like the isolation as well as the big city. I go crazy if I’m just here in Malangen for a year, so it’s important to have that connection. The isolation is beautiful; if the city was here the nature wouldn’t be as it is.
What have you learned from living here in Malangen?
You learn that you need to find some things to do; you need to play with the friends that you do have, because there aren’t many people here. You need to entertain yourself. You don’t have the ability to just go to the cinema or whatever.
Can you think of something that makes you proud of Malangen?
I’m very proud of Malangsrevyen. It’s a comedy revue in Malangen that’s very popular. It’s so good. It’s once a year and it’s just some people who get together and make these sketches. They are new every year. It’s really creative and it doesn’t have stupid humour – it’s all clever. It’s at Easter and I think everyone needs to see it. It gives Malangen some representation, because many people nearby have heard about it.
Do you have any concerns about Malangen?
I am concerned that the smaller farms here are going to collapse. The politicians want all farms to grow bigger, and if they don’t, they collapse. They don’t help the smaller farmers, so if you don’t have a certain number of cows, you can’t live, really. When the farms collapse, the trees and grass grow so much that the forest takes over the land. There are no sheep or cattle to graze it and keep the forest down. The sad part is that in 10-20 years all the small farms may be gone.
Have you travelled much outside of Malangen and Norway?
Yes! I’ve been to Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Germany, Poland, France, Italy, and Greece. Germany and Poland were with school and the rest just for fun. Poland was the most culturally interesting. We went to the WWII concentration camps. And Krakow was a really nice city.
What’s the best thing to ever come out of Norway?
Brunost! Brown cheese. It’s made from whey (the by-product of cheesemaking). It’s boiled because it’s not brown before it’s boiled. It’s sweeter than white cheese, and very traditional.
What do you eat during the holidays here?
We have Pinnekjøtt for Christmas. It’s lamb ribs from the store, then you need to leave it in water for some hours because there is so much salt in it. After that, you take the water out and put some new water in, and boil it for several hours. It’s served with potato, and mashed swede. It’s really good and eaten all over Norway.
What is your favourite local or national dish?
Reindeer casserole with potatoes, lingonberry, and some other vegetables. It’s quick to make. But it needs to boil for some hours. We have had it from when I was born, so I love it. I think it’s kind of a family recipe actually.
And your least favourite local or national dish?
Seal meat. I hope someday I can eat it and like it because lots of people do here. I think it tastes like fish oil, which I did actually used to drink when I was a kid. I even liked it, but then I had it too much. So I need to eat it several times and then I hope I’ll start to like it.
Chaga is a tea made from a mushroom from a tree which is trying to fix itself, usually an old one. It’s very rare. And we found some in our garden, which is so lucky. The fungus grows through the bark. You use a saw to cut it off, and you break it into pieces and dry it. Then you boil it with water and get the juice out of it. You can add some other flavours because it doesn’t really taste of anything. Chaga has 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries, and the Russians and Chinese use it for medicine. It’s very expensive and can be around 2,000 NOK/kg (£200/kg)!Life According to Locals #Malangen #Troms #Norway #InterviewsWithLocals Click To Tweet
The Plate: Chaga Tea
Chaga tea was not what I expected. A small cup of clear brown water with a muddy smell didn’t exactly scream appetising, and after being told it came from a fungus that lives on a dying tree, I expected bitterness and tastelessness. But combined with just enough chili to leave a tingling aftertaste on your tongue, it is also sweetened with honey. This melds with the earthiness of the Chaga itself, leaving you with something that you actually want more of. And, as Jacob told us, with 40x as many antioxidants as blueberries, it’s pretty good for you too.
Watch part of our cycle journey through Northern Norway below:
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