Open for Summer in Norway

NRK Travels Along the Coastline


Sommerbåt in Trondheim

Screenshot of NRK’s stream from the MS “Sjøkurs” in the rain at Trondheim on 9 July

As the south of Norway (Sørlandet) enjoys glorious summer sunshine, NRK’s MS Sjøkurs seems to be continuing as it started on the first day of summer: into rain.

Perhaps it became a little used to it.

In the same vein as the immensely popular Hurtigruten minutt for minutt, Norway’s state broadcaster NRK set off on 22 June for a summer-long, 38-stop ship tour around the entire Norwegian coastline: from Oslo down the southeast coast, past Kristiansand and Stavanger, then north along the western shore up all the way to Kirkenes above the Arctic Circle, and finally returning to Oslo on 10 August via a parallel route.

Kragerø from Gunnarsholm Fortress

Kragerø from Gunnarsholm Fortress

This time, the full live stream (alle sendinger) appears only online, and without the stops at every port that marked the more documentary Hurtigruten broadcast. TV watchers in Norway see highlights of the journey by way of the 10-year-old series Sommeråpent (“Open for Summer”), whose hosts – some just getting their sea legs – are on board. NRK has made the former Hurtigrute vessel MS Ragnvald Jarl, converted into a sailing high school under its new name, into a mobile, floating studio for the popular program as well as for other radio and television projects.

The broadcast combines a comprehensive range of Norwegian coastal views, a wide variety of music, and what many Norwegians find to be a happy separation from the national broadcaster’s association of “the nation” with “Oslo” (a phenomenon well understood by Americans who don’t live in New York, Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles, which make up the points of the Media Triangle into which much else disappears in the United States).

For me, it also offers the happy (if wistful, in Philadelphia’s tropical summer) experience of viewing familiar sites in Sørlandet – some seen this May, and some even viewed without rain.

That last bit was something of a challenge in the southern Norwegian spring and as summer began. Even as the MS Sjøkurs set out toward Drøbak Sound, streaming live on Aftenposten’s Web site was a scene that, unhappily, had been something of a regular pastime for Sørland citizens, at their kitchen windows more than online: “Følg uværet direkte” (Follow the bad weather live).

Kristiansand harbor, as seen from Odderøya

Kristiansand harbor, as seen from Odderøya

Whereas the Statoil station in Karasjok in Finnmark had recently registered 34ºC (93ºF) and Nord-Norge was experiencing the warmest temperatures since 1972, the Oslo newspaper’s camera tracked the effects of storm Geir (uværet is both “storm” and “bad weather”) on the Forex Bank at Jernbanetorget. This proved a prosaic experience, falling short of the anticipated two- to three-inch downpour to celebrate Sankthans, John the Baptist’s name day. (In an earlier time, such synchronicity may have bolstered Christianity’s standing in Scandinavia.)

The NRK broadcast from the “Sommerbåt” features less relentless rain than haunted May and June; they seem to have had similar luck to my own in recent years, with mixed weather around Verdens Ende on Tjøme and lovely weather in Kragerø and Kristiansand. And judging by the greetings they receive along the way, no one is likely to object to a few clouds and rain-spattered camera lenses. Indeed, if the MS Sjøkurs carries the bad weather away, so much the better.

For at least one stretch, they did carry away a fly. In a lovely example of summertime agurknyheter (“cucumber news”), NRK reported its antics and the names suggested on various social media for the stowaway. (Whether it was Thor Linseflue who made a return appearance on the Trondheim stream today or one of his relatives has not been reported yet.)

Fæder Lighthouse (Færder Fyr)

Fæder Lighthouse (Færder Fyr), seen from Verdens Ende on Tjøme

The Sommeråpent broadcast accurately represents the broader experience of summer in Norway: considerable boating activity, relaxed national feeling, and a degree of work absenteeism that would make productivity-minded corporate America near-suicidal. At the seaside and in the mountains, Norwegians enjoy their summer vacations and tend to make the most of them. I think that NRK’s passing on the full “slow television” experience may reflect on the greater likelihood of viewers in winter – for Norwegians stay outdoors in summer, if at all possible.

Which is another reason I find myself envious, even after my own holiday. If one must undergo it, a Philadelphia summer is best experienced curled up by the air conditioner.