It used to be that Norwegian cities all but emptied out during the country’s long five-day Easter holiday weekend that runs from Thursday through Monday, but times change. A recent survey shows that around half of all Norwegians were planning to stay home while the rest were heading for the high country, traveling abroad or engaging in highly non-traditional activities.
Some of the latter have become a tradition in themselves. Thousands of young computer enthusiasts were pouring once again into the Viking Ship Arena in Hamar for The Gathering, an annual event that lets them play computer games and share technical skills en masse during the Easter holidays.
This year around 5,000 self-professed “nerds” were also being told that The Gathering can be a good thing to have on their CVs if they opt for a career in the high-tech industry. Peter Blakstad, a divisional manager at large information technology firm Evry, told state broadcaster NRK that The Gathering “has been an attractive topic of conversation” during job interviews in which he’s taken part. “It’s clearly been of great value to me to have The Gathering on my own CV,” Blakstad told NRK.
Black metal milestone
In Oslo, thousands of black metal music fans were gathering for the annual Inferno festival, which was celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. It runs from Wednesday through Saturday and attracts black metal enthusiasts from around the world. Ticket sales were brisk, with 24 bands playing concerts at Rockefeller Music Hall and John Dee in addition to night concerts at the downtown bar and café Revolver. Norway is known for producing some of the world’s best black metal bands, and festival organizers said tickets have been sold to fans traveling to Oslo from as far away Australia and Mexico.
King Harald and Queen Sonja, meanwhile, left town along with thousands of other Norwegians last Friday. The royal couple opted this year for a highly traditional Norwegian Easter holiday in the mountains. Last year they set off on a trip to, appropriately enough, Easter Island in the Pacific, but this year they boarded their royal train and headed for the royal mountain cabin called Prinsehytta in Sikkilsdalen, not far from Vinstra in Gudbrandsdalen. The Royal Palace wouldn’t say who if anyone would be joining them, but royal family members have gathered there in earlier years for skiing and other winter sports during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
While hundreds of thousands of other Norwegians were also grabbing some final ski treks of the season, others have a tradition of preparing their boats for the summer season, opening up holiday homes along the coast or traveling abroad. Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen had a chaotic start to the holiday rush after last Thursday’s heavy snowfall, but traffic was back to normal, if brisk, from the weekend.
Many others were simply opting to spend the holidays at home, not least because of the growth in urban activities on offer. Gone are the days when most stores, hotels, restaurants, museums and cinemas closed for the entire five-day holiday. Many still do but now it’s possible to go to the movies in Oslo, visit museum exhibitions and eat out, with the forecast of sunny skies prompting some to look forward to their first outdoor beer after the winter.
The new survey of Norwegians’ Easter holiday habits, conducted by YouGov for the Escape Travel firm, showed that even among those who said they had no special plans for Easter, the holiday period landed in third place of those considered most important. Recent proposals to drop some of the holidays around Easter in favour of spreading them out over the year drew little support.