I promise you, you have NEVER – EVER – IN YOUR LIFETIME experienced something quite like this, unless you have been in Norway for the 17th of May, that is. A little bit of history, before I go on: it is Norway’s national holiday, or as A wants to remind me, ‘Constitution Day’. The constitution, declaring Norway an independent nation, was signed on May 17th of 1814 at Eidsvoll. To be honest, I believe that’s all you need to know, right now, if you want to find out more about it, google it 😉
Anyways, so A and I were super stocked. Beforehand we got tickets (for free) for the ‘standing area’ around the palace, so we could gaze upon the royal family, while they wave their royal hands at the passing parade (side note: you don’t actually need tickets to see the parade or the royal family, BUT if you want a close up of the family, you might want to get tickets for ‘standing or seating areas’). We got there a wee bit early, anxious to find the best place, so we could enjoy the royals AND the parade.
I heard from various friends, that the parade would last from about 10 a.m. til 1 p.m. but I didn’t really believe it, who parades THAT long??? With kids nonetheless??? So I opted for the standing places, I also thought, I shouldn’t get a seating place, as they are reserved for disabled and old people, but after about 30 minutes of standing, I regretted my decision and goodwill. I forgot to mention that, when we left home, it was pouring down cats and dogs and A and I both were ordered to dress up, as Norwegians wear their ‘bunads’ (their traditional gowns) when meeting the royals and A and I wore our most suitable ‘royal’ outfits (which meant a not-for-rain-made-suit for A and a nice summer dress for me). We had discussed the ‘renting’ of bunads before but to be honest, I was kind of afraid of ruining the hand-made outfit (which makes it so special) not only through my own clumsiness and fondness to fall when there is absolutely nothing to fall over and the weather conditions (rain or snow – after all it is only May… sarcasm).
After some time an elderly woman, properly dressed in her bunad, came up to me and asked me how many people we were, I told her (in proper Norwegian) and she handed me tickets and said, why don’t you come into the seating area and just sit down with us. A and I were happily smiling, not without earning jealous and mean looks from the people surrounding us. Meanwhile the weather cleared and hundreds and thousands of Norwegians were waving their little flags, shouting ‘Hipp Hipp Hurra’, clapping and just genuinely enjoying themselves. And then finally the king’s helper opened the balcony doors and out stepped a hairless King Harald the V and his Queen Sonja and of course the Crown Princess Mette-Marit and her spouse Haakon and their children.
They were greeted by cheering and clapping and waving the flags and thus began the longest parade of my life. When I say, you haven’t seen something quite like this. I do mean it. You have NOT. It all started with a barnetog: Children holding big flags, waving them at the royal family, singing, chanting, playing their instruments and me being so incredibly happy that through all of this, I was able to sit and enjoy the spectacles. I was flabbergasted and happy and didn’t quite know what to do other than cheer and wave back at the king (as if he could have spotted me…).
Just imagine, all the kids, the teenagers (graduation from highschool, wearing their ‘russ’ outfits (a red jumper suit, signed by their co-students not been washed for about a month, basically a modern ‘yearbook’), crawling in front of the palace to show that they are finally done with school, needless to say, I wanted badly to participate), the people, the tourists, all their to see the king and his family and we were in the middle of it, swooped in.
This was a true first for us. And I can only recommend to anyone who ever wants to visit the far north, to come on the 17th of May. You are in for a treat!!!! Best way to enjoy the rest of the day: get some ice cream and some pølse (hot dog-like sausage) and you will not regret this day.
The only downside of this day: I ended up hearing drums and trumpets and all kinds of other instruments (which by then were already long faded) in my inner ear until I fell asleep. But it’s a small price to pay for an unforgettable memory like this.