A Nation Proud - and Drunk

It was Grunnlovsdagen in Norway, May 17, the day they commemorate freedom from Denmark in 1814. This is a major holiday, both in terms of the traditions that are followed and the amount of alcohol consumed. In addition, this was the first celebration after the terrible attacks of July 22 of last year, in which an apparent lone right-wing assassin killed 8 people with a bomb detonated outside of a government buildings and then drove to the island of Utoya and there shot 69 people, mostly young people, at a Labour Party camp before being captured.

This terrorist deed in a peaceful, open, and free country could have easily turned it into a police state, much like the hysterical USA. But Norway decided that they did not want to give up their lifestyle, and have been determined to not cave in.

The entire day, nothing was said about Utoya. No political speeches. No king declaring something or other. Oh, the heros of the disaster were invited to be VIPs at the Barnetoget, the children's parade at the castle. And every pore of every body was oozing: We are Norwegians and a free people and we like it that way.

We started the day early (although we enjoyed some wine we had along the night before) at 8.15 and managed to get to the castle by 9.25. That was just in time, we actually got places right along the police railing where we cound see the palace balcony. We waited for the festivities to begin and watched the people streaming in.

They were dressed to the teeth, most of the women in traditional regional
costumes (which cost upwards of 4000 € and weigh over 8 kilos) and many of the men as well. The rest of the men had suits and ties on, and everyone was wearing red.white.blue bunting or carrying a flag or two or both. Many of the kids had helium balloons purchased from the many men standing around selling a bunch of them.

Finally, the festivities got underway. A covered wagon with a group of fiddlers drove up, followed by some folk dancers. The king and the crown prince and princess and various other members of the royal family stepped out on the balcony. A choir showed up and some musicians and a flag or two, and they sang "God save the Queen" (except they sang in Norwegian about their king). This was followed by the national anthem. And then the children's parade began. Endless groups of children singing, playing instruments, waving flags. Many "multikultural" children were also carrying flags. The daughter of the Crown Prince apparently one of the 27.000+ participants. In between adult marching bands from all over the country performed. And each dipped thier flags as they passed by the King.

I finally talked the rest into leaving after an hour, it was just more and more of the same. We had coffee in a very fancy (=expensive) restaurant and then headed off to see the resnt of town.  We hiked up to the Vigeland Museum, a garden of delightful nude statues. I wonder if this is even mentioned in American guidebooks? Back in town we purchased a day ticket for public transportation and used it to take a boat trip - the sun was shining, it was delightful on the water!

The town was still crawling with people. The marching bands, being all dressed up and awake, marched and played through various streets. Groups of Norwegians strolled aimlessly through the streets. The seniors in high school were wearing overalls of red or blue (one is for those specializing in humanities, the other for sciences) that were decorated with their name and various oddities. Each overall has a pocket with clear pastic - their id cards are in that pocket, presumably so that the police know where to deliver them when they are picked up in the streets, drunk.

We tried to find someplace for dinner - but all the restaurants were filled with rowdy and drunk Norwegians. We finally managed to get a beer at one place before they closed the kitchen, so we ended up with bread and cheese meant for breakfast. We hope the stores will be open again tomorrow....

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