One of the main events of our visit to Norway was Månefestival (Moon Festival): three days of music featuring all female lead performers, including Patti Smith, Beth Hart, and Suzanne Vega. The festival was held in the old quarter of Fredrikstad, on an “island” in the Glomma river. Fredrikstad was a fortified city in the middle ages, with an elaborate, star-shaped, double moat, and mobile cannons. The concert venue was a large, enclosed courtyard that—I’m guessing—may have formerly been a military parade ground and muster area. In the middle of this was a bar with a terrace on the roof. Our group commandeered a picnic table up there, under the shade of a large tree, and we enjoyed all the music and plenty of beer, wine, and cider for the entire weekend.
The weather was very hot—extraordinarily so for Norway. We had prepared in advance by purchasing spray bottles and cotton scarves, which we soaked in water. Actually, that’s a funny little aside. At the shop where we bought the spray bottles, they were doing a brisk business selling a variety of electric fans. The clerk was at his wits’ end trying to answer customers’ questions about these alien devices. He commented to Gry, “It’s an emergency!” Between the bandanas and the spritzers, plus all the beer, wine, and cider, we managed to keep from overheating. The wine bottles were served in buckets of ice. As soon as the bottle was empty, the women would stuff their bras with ice cubes. The spray bottles made us popular; the Norwegians thought it was an ingenious idea.
Besides the headliners there was an assortment of regional bands. Two of my favorites were Marie Boine, who incorporates traditional Samí music into her tribal rock, and Katzenjammer, a quartet of very talented and energetic musicians who put on an excellent show. I really recommend checking out a recording of a live show on YouTube, such as…
When I grew weary of the heat and dust and crowds and noise, I wandered off into the streets of the old town. There was an arts and crafts market going on, and of course the souvenir shops, but usually I’d find a quiet, shady spot in the park surrounding the town, where I could relax. Karel would find me for lunch at a café. I love that the old buildings in Europe are still in use as shops, restaurants, and apartments. At the Café Magenta in Fredrikstad, I spotted a couple of bright orange coveralls on the wall, clashing a bit with the Medieval Scandinavian/Euro-modern décor. What the???? Then I spied the flattened and neatly coiled hose and ladder on the ceiling above. I verified later with Gry that Norwegians go well beyond Americans when it comes to fire drills. Besides learning how to evacuate in an orderly fashion, the restaurant staff is expected to don fire-fighting gear and man the hoses.