I landed in Bergen this morning after a mostly sleepless flight (but one that included hours of conversation with a couple from northern Sweden who just spent a week in New York and were very curious about my life) and decided to go check out what is billed as the city’s number one attraction, a funicular. I had heard it described as a “cable car that goes to the top of a mountain” (probably because the person describing it to me knew I wouldn’t know the word “funicular“), so I had been imagining a car hanging from a cable above the ground. Nevertheless, it had a good view of the city and harbor, and a lookout point where it stopped. There is an extensive network of hiking trails in the mountains that surround Bergen, so I walked down. The trails featured “no witches on broomsticks allowed” signs and one that said something about Christian men’s blood.
No sooner did I leave the hotel to go find the cable car than I came across a large group of boys and men of all ages, dressed in nineteenth-century military uniforms and/or suits and top hats, marching and playing drums, some holding swords, wooden rifles, and flags. It turned out that this group would later join seemingly unending others in a huge parade through the city center, which has lasted all day and can be heard from the mountaintop and from the hotel; the synchronized drumming really is impressive. What’s more surprising is that I can’t figure out what the event is. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people lined up on the main streets to watch and photograph the parade, but all of them seemed to be tourists; none that I asked (quite a few) knew what was going on. Finally I asked a policeman, who said that it was “traditional in Bergen” and was called something like “vierkoffs”. Unfortunately I don’t know how to spell in Norwegian and the policeman didn’t want to keep talking to me. Later I found another Norwegian man, who responded to my inquiry indignantly with “Of course I know what it is!” but went on to stumble through an explanation about how May 17 is Norwegian National Day (today is May 31), that he had lived here for 25 years but hadn’t known this was going to happen today, that the rifles must represent hunting because Norway is a peaceful country (not likely), and, pointing at one of the little boys in the parade, said, “You know what we call the little guy? A ‘ravedilter’ [?].” I nodded blankly. “You know what a ‘ravedilter’ is? It’s a guy who goes on the ass,” he said, gesturing to his behind. I didn’t press the explanation any further.
Below is a GPS track of everywhere I’ve gone so far today. I’m using a GPS logger so I can later remember everywhere I go on this trip, and correlate photos with locations (by time). You can see the steep altitude climb on the funicular.