Tuesday, May 25, 2010


When going on holiday it's always nice to plan stays to coincide with local festivals and celebrations. With this trip, however, I am where I am when I am and there's little I can do to alter that, as I move inexorably onwards towards my final goal (wherever that may be). I therefore often just miss out on various events that I would dearly love to experience but just can't reach in time. For example here in Norway I missed out on the National Day festivities on the 17th of May, which is supposedly the biggest celebration of the year, where people go a little bit crazy, wrap themselves up in their flags, and get horribly drunk in the streets (the latter is a common theme in Scandinavia). I was also wanting to do a fair amount of hiking whilst here (the landscapes of Denmark and the Netherlands don't really lend themselves to mountaineering), especially in the Jotunheimen national park, which is said to contain some of Norway's most spectacular mountain scenery and highest peaks. Since I would be doing this alone it is imperative to get properly informed, so I made my way to the DNT office (Det Norske Turistforening - Norwegian tourist association specialising in trekking) here in Oslo to enquire about conditions and about getting a map. The guy at the office said that this would be difficult for two reasons: firstly there is still a decent amount of snow from about 1000m and above (i.e. pretty much the entire park) - he even showed me a real-time webcam to prove his point; and secondly that the temporary bridges that are removed over winter have not been replaced, and so all rivers, which are now high with meltwater, need to be forded. Needless to say I will be revising my plans in light of this and will have to opt for lower altitude hiking.
Oslo's funky new opera house, whose roof has become a favourite public space.

On the other hand, it is possible to stumble across quirky events that you have no idea are happening. And so, to compensate for missing the National Day and being too early for the mountains, I chanced upon the Eurovision Song Contest, which is currently underway here. Although I will have moved on by the time the final contest is held this weekend (and there are no tickets to be had anyway) there have been free concerts held in the city to raise interest among the local population. I happened to chance on one of these as I was strolling through town the other day and so I stopped to listen. Some of the contenders were onstage and I must admit I thought they were rather flaccid. This was made up for, however, by a local warm-up band who outshone the other performers by coming onstage and belting out a series of hard-rock classics, from AC/DC to Guns and Roses, that got the crowd jumping. I suppose Scandinavia, with its penchant for operatic heavy metal, is the only place in the world where you can have a crowd at a free public concert singing along to Highway to Hell.

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