Archive for May, 2009


In my last post I promised to write about the parade of final year high school students on the 17th of May. This is a really curious part of Norwegian culture, called “Russefeiring“, Russ-celebration – the participants are called Russ

The celebrations start on the evening before the 1st of May and end 17 days later, on the 17th of May. During this time, the Russ wear a kind of overall, and the colour of the overall is related to which subject they study in high school (or aim to study afterwards): red for those continuing to higher education and blue for business/economics/management. Then there’s also white (medical/social studies), black (engineering) and green (agricultural) – but I have never seen these colours. I have seen one Russ in an overall that had 2 colours though, guess he couldn’t make up his mind! They wear the overalls continuously and are not supposed to wash them… In the photo below you can see how far that goes – normally in such a band you either wear the band uniform or a bunad, but this Russ girl is wearing her Russ uniform :) 

During the 17 days of celebration, they basically party a lot and they drive around in vehicles in the colour of their uniform, usually some old van. They play music really loud, and yell and whistle at other people from their van… Below you can see 2 examples, these photos are from the Russ parade on the 17th of May. We often saw the fake ambulance (called “ubalance”, inbalance) in the photo on the left, as one of our neighbours belonged to that group. If you enlarge the photo on the right, you can see the Russ are giving out something to the kids watching the parade…

What they give out are the so called Russekort, a kind of business card they all carry around. They give them to each other, but younger children are most interested in them, they collect them. It was incredible to watch, the Russ were throwing around many of these cards and the ground was full of them. Within a minute, all the young children had picked them up and there were NONE left. I did find 2 forgotten ones the day after though… As you can see, these are also in the colour of their uniform. 

The contact info looks fake, and they add some “funny”/silly quote. The one on the black (blue?) one says: “I need guys in the same way a banana needs hairspray” – some real wisdom there ;) In the photos below you can see the eagerness of children who collect them…. The boy on the right had an ENORMOUS pile of them, but would still run for new ones.

In the photo below you can see some other parts of the tradition. They all wear a whistle around their neck, and often whistle at each other or just at passers-by on the street. The cap he’s wearing is like a graduation hat, and it has their Russ name (nick name) written on the front bit. If you enlarge the photo you can see there is a bit of string on the back with all kinds of things attached to it. These are tokens you collect for doing certain things, for example if you drink a bottle of wine in 20 minutes you get a cork. I can’t see what the tokens of this guy are, except for a part of a folding ruler, but I haven’t been able to find out what that means. There is an endless list of tasks that earn you tokens and some are quite funny – like spending the night at a teachers house and make him/her breakfast, all without being noticed, now that’s a challenge!

The parade was a lot of fun, they all had themes and some groups dressed up, like this girl in the back of a disco van :)

Quite an impressive tradition, that actually goes back more than a 100 years. I guess for the students it’s just a nice excuse to party for 17 days, but it’s fascinating nonetheless!

I miss the blue skies from these photos, the weather has changed and now it’s just rain, rain, rain, snow (!!), and last Thursday temperatures went down to 3 degrees… brrr. Perfect weather for locking myself into my office and writing my thesis though! This is why I am not writing on my blog very much, and it will stay like that until July, sorry!

Søttende Mai

The 17th of May is the Norwegian national day – also called Constitution Day, as they celebrate getting a constitution on 17 May 1814. It’s a day people look forward to for a long time, full of parades and music. Here in Tromsø, festivities started at 7 in the morning! As we live in the city centre, we were woken up by the marching bands very early. Coming from a country where on our national day we dress up in orange (the crazier the better) I was very impressed by how formal this day was here! We took one look out of the window and decided that jeans and a tshirt would not be appropriate….!

7 was a bit too early for us, so we gathered with a few people at 13:00. First we watched the small children parade, which was very cute. There is another parade for older school children, but this one was for the very young ones who are not going to primary school yet. Lots of them wore traditional clothes, though not all of them seemed to enjoy it ;)


Lots of people (especially the women) wear a “bunad“, a very traditional costume. They are very expensive but it looked like nearly everyone owns one, and I guess this is one of the few occasions where you get to wear it. There are so many different ones… In the photo below I show a selection.. the one on the left is the most common, and the one next to it is identical but in green. Next to that is a brighter blue one with the Tromsø palm on it, so I assume this is a regional one. I was impressed with the headdress of the woman on the right!

Men can also wear a bunad, but I didn’t see very many – most of them just wore a suit. The male version of the bunad is pretty too, you can see a picture here – I like the hat!

Then there’s also the Sami (Lapps), who wear different clothing, usually in bright blue and red – beautiful! The flag in the picture in the middle is the Sami flag. 

After the parade, we went to the main square, which was packed with people!

I’ve never seen the high street this busy… The other photo is a little stand selling crêpes.

Paul, Mats and Steve in town; and me and Marcel entertaining Emma – or was it the other way around? ;) 

There were stands everywhere, selling hot dogs and “sukkerspinn” – candy floss. The photo on the left also shows that even teenagers happily wear the bunad, very impressive!

And the dogs get to dress up too…

This was really funny, this guy was pumping up the tyres of his pram at a petrol station…

The final parade was the one with all clubs and organisations from Tromsø, and it was going through our street. Mats, Paul and Steve watched from our window, which looked very funny! The first photo is taken before the parade started, and the second one during the parade – when they changed into paparazzi ;)

They did have a nice view from there:

Below some impressions of this parade… like the scouts who managed to bring a campfire and roast marshmallows while in the parade! I was standing next to a group of women who were screaming “HURRA! HURRA! HURRA!” all the time, VERY loud…. guess what, they were all Dutch – perhaps they needed to compensate for that?? ;)

These spectators were looking really pretty, and I liked the contrast to the girl next to them :)

We also watched a parade of final year high school students, but I will write more about that in a later blog, as this is quite an interesting phenomenon. After the final parade, we had a nice BBQ at Marcel and Anja’s place – a perfect end to a very nice day!


Just two quick photos of today – we decided to go to Telegrafbukta, a park at the south tip of the island, with a beach :) There were a lot of people there, all enjoying the sunshine. We brought some food and beer and enjoyed the views. It was only about 10 degrees, but in the sun and out of the wind, it felt a lot warmer!

Marcel, Anja and Emma joined us for a while :)

It was a great afternoon, and we both got a little sunburnt. Tonight we watched Norway win the Eurovision song contest, and now all the drunk students in the street are “singing”(/shouting) “I’m in looooooooove with a fairy taaaaaaale” – wonderful ;)

Ok, I better get some sleep so I can take lots of photos tomorrow :)

Klokka 2 in the morning

Two more days and the sun won’t set anymore! Last night the sunset was a few minutes before midnight, and sunrise just 1.5 hour later, at 1:30. It doesn’t get dark anymore, and this confuses my inner clock – I just don’t get sleepy and stay up very late. This is the view from our balcony at 2 in the morning…

The mountains in the distance were just catching the first sun rays, with mist over the fjord… it was beautiful! 

The weather has been beautiful, the snow is gone, the grass is green and the trees are finally getting leaves. Spring is here! Tomorrow is the Norwegian national holiday, which is a very important day and preparations have been going on for a while now. Flag posts are erected everywhere, marching bands practice in the city centre, everybody is cleaning their houses and gardens… it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to watching the parades! It’s the first time we are here for it, Paul celebrated it on the ship last year (see here) and I was on a plane (where some woman took the microphone at 7 in the morning to sing the Norwegian national anthem… haha). 

Right, this is all for now as the weather is much to nice to be sitting inside. I still have photos of England to upload (we had a great time!) but not sure when I’ll have time. The photos I took at the wedding last weekend have been put online by Ian, see here. It was a beautiful day!

More soon!