Even in the middle of Norway, there are geographers of the urban kind. Last spring a group of Trondheim EGEAns tried out a new way of discovering their city, through the alternative urban geography subfield of cartozoology, a science in itself.
(Soundtrack: Camel, Nimrodel)
Cartozoology n. The science or practice of discovering and studying animals outlined paradigmatically by street layouts as they appear on maps, especially with reference to physical evidence of the animals’ presence in the corresponding terrain.1
A peculiar city, Trondheim. My worn-out city map lay unfolded on the kitchen table. I was sipping to a long desired cup of instant coffee. Simple in its bitterness, but even more gunpowder. As it’s supposed to be on a grumpy afternoon. Gruff! All of a sudden, I took heed of a fresh smell. Something raw, untamed. Wet dog? My sweaty mustache? More distinct, oriental. Desert creature of some kind. Camel? Here north? Coastal habitat. The need for humps, less conspicuous then? The ship of the desert. With bloodshot eyes. And a craving for, coffee?! Elementary! There certainly stood a genuine Camelus dromedarius snorting in my living room. Caffeine-addicted, as such. I shook – of too much coffee. The dromedary was disappeared, like sunk in the sand.
The next day, a pleasantly mild afternoon for an April Saturday in Trondheim. A handful EGEAns fed up with the same old town. Walking aimlessly around, kicking that lousy spring gravel. Couldn’t even call this exam procrastination. And the once so precious Sesam Burger at the corner of the Student Society, have you ever realized how ridiculous that alleged “sesam taste” actually is? And who fancy pickled cucumbers? But hold on! When crossing the Old Town Bridge – or “The Gate of Happiness”, as the old Trondheimers say – something in the air today? A wind of desert? With a coffee blend. By the next second, in a flash the dromedary appeared on our map. As the genie of the lamp.
The outline was clear on the map. But what’s that dromedary really up for!? We headed out for searching evidence of the animal’s presence.
Take care, dromedary. They are not few, the predators hanging around here in the gentrified Old Town, along your shaggy neck. The precautions apply to us too. To get a look of that dromedary, we have to be even more observant than those cats.
Climbing something like the Tower of Babel, any signs of dromedary here?
The door is locked. It’s a shy one, the creature we are dealing with. “H.K.”? Is also His majesty the King implicated? Anyway, still chances to get in through that famous needle’s eye, or keyhole, as we say in Norwegian.
Rough times might appear, both for caravans, caffeine-addicted dromedaries and students. No coffee for one hour, that’s a hard camel to swallow.
Now we’re talking!
“Dromedar Kaffebar”! Mister/miss dromedary, you are certainly one to be reckoned with. Yet another market trick? Or a good-natured gimmick? Regardless of that, some excellent coffee, I have to say that. A quick pit stop healed our worst caffeine abstinences. And for the dromedary too, it seemed, ‘cause a couple of sips later we sensed the steam of the asphalt and clattering hooves. No time for small talk and messing with coins.
The dromedary resting its muzzle at “The Sunny Side”, the most fashionable district of our city. Watch out for hipsters. They might cause nasal itching.
A good laugh there. The dromedary got two rows of long eyelashes, certainly no need for “vippeforlengelse” or lash extension. Those bushy eyebrows could need an overhaul though.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? I could really use a wish right now. Have anyone seen that genie of the lamp lately? Sand in the eyes and dehydration, blurred vision. Where are you heading? To the horizon? This got to be Fata Morgana or hallucination, for sure no oasis.
…or? What a revelation, we’ve reached the next trading post, get the coffee taps running!
“You won’t get any coffee discount, but my boss would find this funny”, she said. A pity, but nevertheless. Good service and some delightful coffee according to taste – black like tar if you’re a local – all this even on a dromedary expedition. Assorted coffee beans from several corners of the world. Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, El Salvador. And did someone mention Trondheimer “karsk”? That’s pure “glocalisation”!
“The joke of sending a camel to the son fell in fish since he suddenly had learnt to say cinnamon.” Hahah! … Why is that even funny? Are you allright? Rather take this cup of coffee. But hey, how can it be that the bald cartoon guy above is repeating what I’m saying?
In the hump, our dromedary’s keeping its reserves for the caravan wanderings. We’re approaching that hump just now. However, Chinese would be a bit radical on this dromedary dedicated day. But hey, Aladdin was from China. I wonder if they offer camel steak?
Holy camoly! The dromedary is showing its evil eye. Geographers, you ain’t playing jokes on my family.
Trondheim is surely the hamburgers’ city. But this restaurant is Chinese, bring on the kebab plates..!
Ahh, that was a bit of a meal. No matter desert mirage.
We can feel the flow now. The swinging rhythm of the wandering dromedary even materializing in our bodies.
A little wink from our friend?
No need to call for the moose yet, I presume.
Suddenly at track’s and day’s end. But the main question still remains: O Dromedary, Where Art Thou?
However, here’s no time for sentimentality. Later on we’ll meet at Moholt, Trondheim’s own Timbuktu, for arak and alcohol-free mojitos. “Hammers Harem” is the club concept tonight, obviously with Ad libitum guarantee. Happy hump day!
Leaving the caravan for a while, on the way home to change socks and brush teeth. Timbuktu after eight. Can not help it, but have to gaze at the skyline one last time. That view tonight, like the painting at my grandma’s wall, minus the Pizza Tower of course. But wait, to the right of the tower, that’s no regular moose in sunset. The dromedary in own person? Stretching its slim neck towards evening red, finally showing us a tangible proof of its animal existence? And perhaps also trying to tell us something more?
These days it’s winter, and the outlines in the sand are wiped out long ago. The city’s urban wildlife, sleeping in their nests now. The caffeine level is low. Nonetheless, the spring will arrive when the time comes, with new explorations of that peculiar city of Trondheim. For sure. The mystery is still what it is, but stay patient. In the next chapter, the dromedary might lead us towards a historical approach: The Young Trondheimer Dromedary.
(1) http://www.kartozoologi.no/English/ / Jakten på den skjulte elefant
– Peder Aukrust Osmoen, geographer