Bergen tries to forgive holiday vandal

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A 20-year-old Bergen man has admitted to being the vandal who destroyed a vast collection of gingerbread houses assembled by thousands of children last weekend. Now his fellow Bergenese are debating what kind of punishment he should receive, while officials suggest they’re ready to forgive and forget.

The young vandal claims he was simply drunk. According to newspaper Bergens Tidende , he hasn’t given police any good reason as to why he destroyed an exhibit of more than 600 gingerbread houses (called pepperkakehus ) by smashing them, unleashing the contents of a fire extinguisher on them and spraying them with paint.

He reportedly also stole a bottle of the special soda pop called Julebrus that’s sold during the holiday season in Norway.

That’s what ultimately gave him away. He was seen wandering around the streets with a bottle of Julebrus late Saturday night, bragging about his vandalism. Witnesses later contacted police and they called him in for questioning on Wednesday.”He came in voluntarily and laid his cards on the table,” Bjørn O Johnsen of Bergen’s downtown police station told Bergens Tidende . “He’d been having a tough time, not surprisingly since everyone was looking for him.”

He was, however, released from custody and no formal charges were filed against him. His case was being sent to a commission that deals with conflicts but he likely would go free.

Steinar Kristoffersen (pictured above, with some of the damaged gingerbread) , head of the civic association Bergen Sentrum which sponsored the “Gingerbread City” (Pepperkakebyen) project, indicated that he was ready to forgive and forget. The association, aided by Bergen bakers, is already busily rebuilding the demolished exhibit, claiming it will be bigger than ever.

“First and foremost I’m glad the case has been wrapped up,” Kristoffersen said. “We must assume that the man regrets his actions and that he’s had an incredibly tough time the past few days.

“If he shows that he bitterly regrets what he did, I have no problem forgiving him.”

Other Bergen residents weren’t so sure. “He can be forgiven after a while, but he should make up for what he did, somehow,” Kjersti Pedersen told Bergens Tidende . Tom-Simen Sørensen noted that the drunkard destroyed a huge civic project and carried out “solid” vandalism.

“Putting him in a public stock in the middle of the public square where the Pepperkakebyen is located would be an approriate punishment,” claimed one older woman, Reidun Yvi.