Lofoten upset by cemetery campers

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Norway’s scenic archipelago of Lofoten has once again been full of tourists this summer, some more audacious than others. A local mayor was deeply offended by two men from France who pitched their tent in a local church’s graveyard, used a utility shed as their urinal and didn’t think they were doing anything wrong.

Reine is one of Lofoten's most pictuesque communities, and bursting with tourists during the summer months. Some have caused offense by pitching tents in unsuitable locations, like the church graveyard. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Reine is one of Lofoten’s most pictuesque communities, and bursting with tourists during the summer months. Some have caused offense by pitching tents in unsuitable locations, like the local church graveyard. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Laila Jusnes Kristiansen, vice-mayor of Moskenes, reacted immediately when she encounted the tent set up in a corner of the churchyard in the picturesque community of Reine. She marched over and shook their tent until one of the men inside responded.

“I asked whether they were aware they were camping in a graveyard,” Kristiansen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The answer I got was ‘So?’ They did not apologize. Instead they thought I was the one being audacious.”

There were two men sharing the tent, and Kristiansen spotted the other man urinating against the shed that houses gardening equipment for the churchyard. Kristiansen described the entire situation as “horrible,” with both French tourists showing “a total lack of respect.” She gave them  10 minutes to pack up their things and leave.

“We had another conversation after that,” Kristiansen told NRK. “They didn’t see any problem with camping in a graveyard, and said it was common both at home in France and in Spain.” She was surprised. “You don’t need to be religious to realize it’s not right,” she said.

She had also run into the problem as late as last year but had hoped it was an isolated incident. It clearly wasn’t. Other Lofoten residents have also reported campers in churchyards, and on private property. Elisabeth Dreyer, who heads the local visitors’ bureau, told NRK she was shocked to hear it’s also a problem this year, when tourism all over the country has been booming.

“I can’t understand that people would do this,” Dreyer said. “It’s all about respect that should be universal. We shouldn’t have to post ‘no camping’ signs in a church graveyard.”

Dreyer said she does have the impression that many tourists want to camp outside established campgrounds, but stresses that they should have some respect for local etiquette and ask permission if they’re unsure. She intends to take up the issue with local politicians on Lofoten, and see whether they can print up information material directed at tourists, about where it’s allowed to spend the night.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund