Tromsø and the coastal steamer
After three days in Sweden we crossed the Saltfjell plateau and met the wall of pine tree mountains that is Norway, the world’s most beautiful country. Still, it felt a wee bit claustrophobic after so much horizon in Sweden; in Norway you can just see over the next rise.
Got home near 11 p.m. last night and left this morning at 9 for Tromsø where I now sit in the Aunegården café… and there goes my bus… I am done at the library and it doesn’t matter what time I get back to the hotel, which is located in a horrible backyard of a warehouse district on the outskirts of the airport.
Exam sensor meeting tomorrow, today research at the library for children’s non-fiction. I was lucky enough to be right downtown at 14:30 when the Coastal Steamer pulled in with hundreds of passengers, mostly unwitting foreigners who happen to be stand-ins in Norway’s cultural event du jour: the five day long minute-by-minute broadcast of the Coastal Steamer’s voyage North. I just caught a few minutes of it when I came home last night, and it was magical. Almost Zen, as Veronica put it.
I can’t quite imagine the brainstorming session at NRK when someone said, “Well, if we are going to think outside the box, what about a 5 day minute by minute live documentary of the Coastal Steamer’s voyage north? No commentary. No instruction. Just footage shot from camera’s on the bow, the stern, and at the ports of call.”
“Yes!” everyone cries and the rest is documentary history.
The passengers, mostly German, were met with flags, balloons, people dressed up as penguins and trolls, free hotdogs and coffee, and a drumming band in blue and white uniform (the colors of the conservative party, which is sponsoring bands to greet the steamer up and down the coast). I wonder if they think this is the way Norwegians always behave when the steamer stops in town, which it does everyday.
For those of us who know better, know that for Norwegians to come out en masse, smiling and waving, requires an extraordinary event. Something about this documentary has touched the national soul, quickened the collective heart, and put a sentimental tear in the nation’s eye. Why? It is the sight of Norway itself that amazes us, over and over again.