Tuesday, May 17, 2011

17th of May, Norwegian Constitution Day

17th of May celebrates the day, in 1814, when Norway's Constitution was ratified (this was essentially the first step toward Norwegian independence). It is a huge holiday in Norway, and every community has its own celebration. The schoolchildren parade through the community, the local school bands as well, and the parade is followed by a program of some kind (songs, speeches, the history of Norway and the community) as well as games and refreshments (coffee and a Norwegian cake table, of course!).

17th of May is one of the times when Norwegians wear their bunads, or national costumes. There are bunads for both men and women, and the colors and styles vary according to region (the region your parents are from). Those who don't have a bunad still dress up--many of the women wore dresses and many men wore coats and ties. It makes for a very colorful and festive scene. Many of the local stores sell bunads specially made for children (usually much less expensive than the authentic adult costsumes). We saw lots of very charming Norwegian kids all dressed up! The twins and middle child had bunads this year as well.

There are larger celebrations in the bigger cities, of course. We didn't go into Oslo, but I'm told that there is quite a parade there. All of the schoolchildren in Oslo parade past the royal palace, where the royal family is present to wave at them. It makes for a lot of waving for the royal family, as you can imagine!

Each family at the school contributed a cake for the cake table. This was ours.

The parade started with the Norwegian flag and also the school banner.

Each class in the school had their own banner as well.

It rained on the parade, but cleared up soon after, and we enjoyed sun for the rest of the morning.

After the children came those adults and families who wanted to parade along.

Our school doesn't have a band of its own,
but this was a kind of multi-school band that included some of our local students.

Games for the kids

Waiting to play ball-toss

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Impressions of Bergen

We stayed in a vacation apartment in the first floor of this 1760s era building.
It was a charming neighborhood of cobblestone roads and walking-only "streets."
Believe it or not, this is actually a driving street!

Our first morning, we took the Fløibanen (a funicular, or type of railcar) up into the hills to enjoy the panoramic view

We enjoyed a fabulous meal of fish and chips here at the fish market.
It was so good there was not even any question of us returning for lunch the second day as well!

This is the classic photo shot of Bergen (mine has the lovely crane in the background as well as the two church spires that are completely surrounded by scaffolding and wrapped in some kind of plastic as well). These old buildings, called "Bryggen," date to the 1700s and housed a vital industry of trading and fishing. They happened to be saved by the man who owned them--he didn't upgrade in the late 19th century like all of his neighbors. At the time he was thought to be slightly mad, but now Bryggen is the much-photographed "face" of Bergen.

The "new" buildings built around 1900

It was fun to walk the narrow alleys of Bryggen and browse the specialty shops that have now taken over the old warehouse spaces.

We also visited Edvard Grieg's home, Troldhaugen. Here is pictured the performance hall (added by the museum--the grass-roofed building) as well as his little composing cabin down by the lake. 
Edvard Grieg's home

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taking the Train to Bergen

Bergen is a harbor town on the western coast of Norway. It has a long and colorful history as a shipping port and fishing center, and now as a tourist draw as well. The regional train trip from Oslo to Bergen is considered one of the most beautiful train rides in Europe (some argue it is the most scenic!). Just after Easter we were able to take the whole family out on the train and spent a couple of days enjoying Bergen's sights.

The train took us from the city center of Oslo, through the farm fields in the surrounding area, along lakes and reservoirs in the valleys of the middle of Norway, and up into the highest of Norway's mountains before coming down again to the harbor city of Bergen. Because we were traveling on Easter Monday, we left Oslo with just a few passengers, but along the way we picked up many Norwegians who had been up in the mountains skiing for the Easter holiday.

It is about a seven hour train trip, but there was never a dull moment, either inside the car or with the scenery outside. It is impossible to really capture the experience, but here are a few photo highlights.

The city of Drammen, on the far outskirts of Oslo

Note all the holiday cabins in the mountains--for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer

Even though Easter was quite late this year, there was still quite a bit of snow in the highest mountains.