King Harald and Queen Sonja are off on another trip to one of Norway’s counties. This year it’s Oppland County’s turn. During the next three days people in the Valdres region of Oppland will be able to see the royal couple up close.
Each year before their long summer holidays set in, King Harald and Queen Sonja make a flurry of public, goodwill-boosting appearances and often tour one of Norway’s 19 counties. June normally allows for good photo opportunities and in the smaller towns outside Oslo, a royal visit is a major event. Kindergarten children wave flags as the couple makes appearances at places like nursing homes, local industries and cultural institutions.
It’s been 24 years since the last time the king and queen toured Oppland.
“This is a great way to put Oppland on the map and show what our region has to offer in terms of both experiencing nature and local culture, including the food,” says Ivar Ødegaard to newspaper Aftenposten. He is head of information at the county governor’s office in Oppland.
The annual county tour is an opportunity to meet the locals in various parts of the country and to see how they live and work. The Valdres region has a dwindling population. Only Fagernes and Beitostølen, the latter best known for its winter sports, are growing.
“We’re trying to attract new businesses to the area, not least companies connected with holiday home construction and tourism,” says Ødegaard.
Tuesday’s program starts in Vestre Slidre kommune (local township), with a lecture on conservation and developement in mountain areas. After lunch, the topic will be”Multicultural Valdres.” More than 10 per cent of the people living in Vang Kommune are asylum seekers, work migrants or refugees with resident status. Many have the local library as their daily rendezvous spot, and this is where the royal couple will be meeting some of them, writes Aftenposten.
The tour reverts to a more traditional topic after the stop in Vang, with a visit to one of the Valdres region’s six stave churches at Høre. The day will end with a private reception at the mountain hotel where the king and queen are staying.
The trip itself wraps up in Sør-Aurdal on Wednesday. A performance at the Millenium site at Vangen in Bagn and a visit to a 100-year-old village museum at Bautahaugen in Hedalen will complete the day’s program.