One of my favorite parts about traveling is that somewhere along the way, you’re bound to run into something unexpected that’s really cool. For example, when Mikaela and I were in Vienna two weeks ago, we went to see the Town Hall lit up at night, and instead found ourselves going through security and being patted down on our way into a huge crowd of Austrians all watching Germany v. France in the EuroCup on a massive screen in the square!
Yesterday, I had another one of those surprises – I set out on my own to see a few places on my personal checklist, one of which was the Oslo Cathedral. I love visiting European churches, and since the rest of Norwegian culture has been so different from my previous experiences, I wanted to see how one of their churches would compare to those of continental Europe. However, I never got to see the inside of the church (guess I will have to return to Norway someday!).
As I approached the cathedral, I ran into a whole lot of police and some metal barriers along the street in front of the church. Some sort of event? I thought. After further investigation, I learned that yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the 7/22/2011 terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya, and they were holding a memorial mass for the 77 victims. In attendance were the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon and his wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit. Naturally, I decided to wait for them to emerge from the cathedral, eager to see royalty in person! I didn’t know that the mass would last another 45 minutes, but it was well worth it to catch a glimpse of the royal couple!
I found a few things interesting about the whole spectacle. First, it was clear that the mass was very emotional as some journalists left a little early wiping tears from their faces. Even the crowd waiting to see the Crown Prince and Princess was very quiet and respectful when they emerged with only a couple of little kids shouting, “Hallo!” Second, there wasn’t as much hullabaloo as I would expect for a royal sighting. The crowd waiting with me was relatively small, and security was tight but not nearly the level of the President’s. As you’ll see in the video, Princess Mette-Marit simply walks around to the vulnerable outer door of the car to get in with no escort or anything! Whether this is because they aren’t a target because they don’t hold real political power or because they just trust the Norwegian people, I’m not sure, but I found the lack of hyper-intense security notable. Lastly, I was surprised by how little English news coverage this memorial received. Only one article on the event came up when I searched Google on my phone, and this just reinforced my impression that Norway is very insular. Dr. Whitworth informed us of the remarkable homogeneity of the people and culture here, and from my brief experiences over the last few days, Norwegians do seem to keep to themselves and handle their own affairs among themselves instead of making international news with their doings. Norway continues to fascinate me in all respects, and I have already decided to return some day to explore it some more!
Here are some snapshots from my royal sighting since I can’t seem to upload the video!