Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fools Day in Norway

In the UK, it almost certainly goes back as far as medieval times and possibly beyond. As it is essentially a folk event there are few historical records of April Fools Day.

One of the strongest candidates for its origin was the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Poe Gregory decreed that the calendar would start on 1st January. Because communications were a bit on the slow side in those days many folk continued to celebrate the start of the day under the old calendar on 1st April and so left them selves open to ridicule and the label of April Fools.

As The Norwegians are not exactly renowned for their sense of humour, it came as something of a surprise that they pulled an April Fools day prank on their Swedish neighbours. The newspaper Aftenposten published a story supported with full page adverts that tried to lure the unsuspecting Swedes into believing that due to the influences of the Gulf Stream they could enjoy Mediterranean holidays at "Playa Los Fjordos," where they could swim in fjords warmed up to tropical temperatures. Where, the water temperature had risen to a positively balmy 24C (75F). It is not recorded how many Swedes fell for the prank. It has to be remembered that the Norwegians and the Swedes have a similar relationship to the English and the Irish when it comes to Jokes.

Probably one of the most famous April Fools day pranks in the UK was the BBC’s report of the Swiss Spaghetti harvest. In 1957, the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. [View original video clip – needs Real Player].

All coyrights recognised

Friday, March 31, 2006

Free with the Duty-Free

Travellers arriving at the superb Gardermoen Airport, gateway to Oslo, will almost certainly have been warned that they are in for a period of alcoholic abstinence enforced by cost and restricted availability of alcohol in Norway. (You can only buy wines and spirits from Government controlled stores Vinmonopolet.) Although the winos littering the streets and parks don't seem to find the cost of booze or the absence of an off-licence on every corner a deterent.

It will come as something of a surprise to visitors to discover, as they enter the luggage hall, a giant Duty-Free store. Now isn’t that novel, Duty-Free in arrivals, eat your heart out Manchester. As you might imagine the store does a roaring trade. Dozens of disbelieving travellers stuff their trolleys full of booze and fags. The wine section does particularly good business. Hardly surprising when a bottle of what we would consider cheap plonk, £3.99 in Somerfields can cost you £9.00 in a Vinmonopolet. There may not be any wine at £3.99 in the Duty-Free but the prices are about 30% cheaper than in the wider world. I also discovered the cheapest gin anywhere at £6.00 a litre. You are supposed to be limited to 1L spirit, 2L wine, 2L beer, 250g tobacco, 200 fags and curiously 250 leaves of cigarette papers, although you would not think so from the look of most of the trolleys at the checkout. In addition to this unique perk Gardermoen Airport already has the largest Duty-Free store in Europe. Is that ironic or what!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Coffee or Tea

Norway Top Coffee Drinkers

Even without the aid of a single Starbucks, Norwegians managed to consume 41 tonnes of Coffee last year. That’s equivalent to 8.8 kg of coffee per head or 4 cups per adult per day.

It may have something to do with the price of booze that they need to get their stimulation from a different substance. I have to say Starbucks or no Starbucks I enjoy my regular daily Mocha when we come to Oslo. Oh and they haven’t heard of decaffeinated coffee!

More Tea Vicar

Tea consumption is also up, 4.5 million Norwegians brewed up an amazing 680 tonnes of last year, 5% up on the previous year. This is a statistic which I find rather surprising. Although you can buy Tetleys tea bags in Norway the content bears no comparison with an English Tetley tea bag. I think my grandfather would have described the taste as "horse s..t and tram tickets".

Tea bags are high on the list of illicit import requests from family when we are visiting. So take note tea importers, if Norwegians will drink 680 tonnes of crap just think how much they might drink if you put decent tea in the bags!