With this photo documentary, I intend to show how alternative places and squats are necessary in a society that isn't welcoming towards unwealthy visitors. The story focuses on two people that decided to travel through Norway.
With this I hope to serve a small contribution to the memory of Brakkebygrenda, a place that not only saved my friend and I from a harsh winter, but also kept us around so that we could experience Norway in a way that wouldn't have been possible without such a community.
After traveling togheter for some time, two good friends and I decided that working as a team and buying a car to live and travel was our next step. We did
so by working for 6 months in the Netherlands. Somehow I convinced them to follow a childhood dream of mine: seeing the northern lights, so the destination was set. Once the
car was bought, we traveled around in the Benelux region and northern Germany during the summer. Our feeling of timelessness and lack of money made our Scandinavian
plan look very distant as the summer faded away.
With the winter coming and just enough money to get there but not to return, two of us decided to do it anyways. After all, we didnt had any other plan.
We arrived to Oslo in the month of October. Autumn seemed to have settled already. I wont forget that day, it was sunny and warm for the
last time in months. After that day there were only thick, gray clouds and plenty of rain until, very soon, it started snowing.
Oslo, being the capital of Norway, represented some opportunities that we didnt want to miss by simply driving by.
It was decided that we would stay for 2 weeks, Falko would search for money-making
opportunities and I would look for whatever was good in this town.
Comotion playing Harmonica at a Jam session - Hausmania.
Walking around town and searching online, I discover a Hackerspace called Hackeriet. At the time I was doing internet security and cryptography workshops
for non-technical people, so I was happy to meet with fellow hackers that welcomed Falko and me to their space. One of them (Comotion) became a good
friend of us. He helped us a great deal when hediscovered our precarious condition one night driving us back "home" (Voldsløkka idrettspark).
Comotion made a deal with some Palestinean refugees that were squatting an open area behind Hausmania and Vestbredden (40) so that we could park there. We still had no heating in our car,
the weather was hitting us hard and our future looked dark and depressive. But parking in town, next to a building where we were welcome to hang around day and night and have warm showers, plus not anymore having to walk upwards for a couple of kilometres to go back to sleep, gave us the peace we needed to figure out our next steps.
Unfortunately, a couple of days later, neighbouring squatters kicked us out by throwing rocks at our car from Vestbredden's rooftop. We had no chance, if a rock broke
our roof we would freeze (even more) and If it would smash our windshield, we would be officially fucked as we had no money to fix it. so we hit
the road again, back to city parking.
Staying in Oslo was a difficult task. There was no Gypsy Law ( at that time, but still we had to park in the outskirts of town and then walk our way down and up every day. We moved 'the car every couple of days or when feeling that people knew we lived there. Stealth living is not a great life, especially in winter.
One day, we decided that it was time to move our car to another spot. The car wouldn't start and it seemed like we needed replacement parts. Our few hundred euros wouldn't give us much chance at a mechanic, and we realized how bad the situation was.
Before our stone-based eviction, a friendly hippie-looking guy called Magnus came visiting us in our bus and told us about two places that would define our future in Norway. The first: a trailer park squat in Oslo called Brakkebygrenda (BBG), inhabited with people fixing their cars and a possibility of a temporary guest space. The second: an island in the north of Norway called Karlsøy, where alternative minded people would celebrate a gathering during the winter solstice.
We visited BBG and asked a few questions, and were told to better come on sunday to their weekly meeting. Somehow and with the help of another car, we started ours and drove to a nearby cemetary where we waited for the meeting. Solutions to Our needs were arranged in order of priority. First, our gas bottle froze so we couldn't cook anything from (in) our food storage or defrost stuff we found in dumpsters (basically, there was almost nothing to eat)
. Second, we needed tools and help from someone who knew enough about engines to figure out a way to fix the car ourselves. Third, temperatures where around -20 at the time, and sleeping was tough.We wished to fix BBG's not-fit-for-winter guest caravan and use it until we solved our situation.
All the three wishes were granted. We found thatthe trailer park was a very welcoming place for people with initiative, so we begun visiting everyday. We cooked warm meals, borrowed tools, people shared knowledge that helped us fix our car and we repaired their guest caravan.
In the meantime, another friend was made. Iris helped us a lot to realize that we where living in a city that had a community of alternative minded people. Among many other things, she fixed us short stays at places where we could have a good, warm sleep while fixing the guest caravan. one of those nights was at Vestbredden's guest room.
The woodstove is installed, and now Falko is fixing the insulation before finishing off the wall in the guest caravan. Brakkebygrenda.
The work was over, and the first days as guests at BBG had a bittersweet feeling. We were safe and warm for the guest period, which would be a standard 2 weeks, but we had no clue what we would do after that.
We did not only make the caravan liveable, but as well cozy and warm at all times. Coffee and pancakes were the norm, so the BBG neighbours would eventually show up to see what we had done and appreciate it by agreeing to make the weekly meetings there. Feeling that we had a chance of another two weeks as guests, and with the winter solstice around the corner, we planned to split our ways for about a month. Falko would accept an invitation from his family to visit them for the holidays, where he could buy the necessary car parts and have a break from our situation. I would continue my way north, to Karlsøy, where I could stay long enough to see the northern lights.
Winter Solstice. Karlsøy. I excused my presence among the hippies and their gathering by being very busy at their communal kitchen, which also helped me avoid many esoterical workshops. While most people would sleep inside a small school building, I took refuge outside in an abandoned public transport bus. Like that i would avoid getting sick in the overcrowded school building which with its warmth and comfort would spoil me and make it harder to hitchhike back to Oslo. But most importantly the bus provided me with a big window facing the northern sky, and I would not miss the Aurora Borealis.
Before I arrived, I was told that there would be constant night, but it turned out that you don't get to see the sun, but it is possible to see it's influence in the horizon line. Here sunrise fails and turns into a late sunset. It is a very short event, but incredibly beautiful.
Approximately one month later, I arrived to Oslo after a 9 day hitchiking trip. I had to take a longer, but faster, route through Sweden. The choice was simple: Traffic in Norway was slow and deadly, as the temperatures inland were extremely low. Sweden had better traffic and weather, in the case that -25 can ever be so. Falko arrived a couple days later and things seemed much better. We had both recovered our energies, quickly gotten our car fixed and found a woodstove for it. People at BBG started becoming close friends as our guest period was extended over and over up to a point where we where asked to bring our car in to the Guest Spot. So we did. Being able to work more openly on the car than at the previous parking spot, we quickly installed the stove and got our first warm night at home. With a fireplace, a running car and people asking us to stop talking about guest period renewal at meetings, life started being great again. We had not only survived norwegian winter, but managed to make it worth the struggle.
Falko and I started cooking at Hausmania Cafe. Our goal was to make the cheapest, tastiest and biggest dish in town.
As winter retreated BBG became alive with people visiting and having coffee next to the melting snow.
Brakkebygrenda's vegetable garden in spring.
View from our car, BBG's Bar and communal barrack.
Falko having a nap while two friends play board games.
Jam sessions by the bonfire.
At the time, rats where a thing in Oslo. Many people would have one as a pet, some had several.
Rat Workshop in the communal barrack. Construction of houses and rat related discussions.
Koyote playing at an acoustic concert.
People hanging out at Brakkebygrenda's 3 year birthday party.
Sunngifu is painting her newly found and restored bicycle.
In spring, the old Aftenposten-building, also known as Borgen, was squatted by a large group of people. Being in their neighborhood, many people from BBG were involved.
Lots of people would show up to express support for Borgen's cause, using it for many things, ranging from creative studios to social meeting spaces. Some would stay until it was evicted.
The squatters and Jernbaneverket met in a courtcase about Borgen. We were self represented as we did not have a lawyer. Even though a great case was presented from our side, it was quickly dismissed and we were asked to leave Borgen so that it could be demolished. I had never seen or heard of cases being dismissed so quickly elsewhere, it was as if we were just called to court so that we couldn't complain about the lack of justice.
Borgen after the demolition.
Cities and big buildings were never my thing. After Borgen I turned my attention to the beautiful norwegian forests that surround the city. Some friends of mine had recently squatted a cabin in the woods,and invited me to come visit. Soon i realised did not want to go back to town.
I was told they had gotten into something good, but didn't imagine it was that good.
The house had it all. It was beautiful, peaceful and in nature. Most importantly, owned and abandoned by a big company.
Although one could forget about the city while staying in such a paradise, we could still get spoiled by the great norwegian dumpsters in the vicinity.
Entrance door to Blåbærslottet.
Unfortunately, the forest dream faded as a fire destroyed it. We still don't know what caused the fire. Back at Brakkebygrenda, Autumn was coming and I knew what followed. So with a friend who lost everything in the fire, I planned an escape for the upcoming winter. During our absence, BBG was evicted.
2 years later I return to Oslo. Now I live in a post-BBG squat somewhere in the outskirts of Oslo. This time combining the forest life with the trailer park concept. This place is called Sumpa, and was established by a small group that emerged from BBG. Not many people go there because its far away, but those who can appreciate the peace and tranquility of the forest, use their time to learn and do various things which in the busy social life of a city squat might be difficult to accomplish.
One of many lakes close by.
Constructing a sauna on wheels.
Blacksmithing iron rods into knives.
Having a trailer park in the forest has its pros and cons. A big pro is that we get to use real wood instead of pallets for heating, which makes us warmer and the place more autonomous.