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Vikings and Jazz - The Fascinating Festivals of Norway

23 May 2014

Festival Celebrations

A cruise alongside Norway’s dramatic fjords is the trip of a lifetime. With their raw, astonishing beauty, they push away thoughts of the modern world and reconnect you with what our world is capable of creating. Norway, ancestral home of the Vikings, is the perfect place to bask in this feeling. Its most popular festivals will take you back in time, then home to the present to enjoy some of the best music in the world. From Karmøy’s time-travelling Viking Festival, to the world-class music and food festivals which can be found across Norway during the summer months, cruising visitors will be hard-pressed to choose where to go and what to see here.

Viking Festival, Karmøy

The coastal municipality of Karmøy, found in the northwestern region of Norway, had a reputation as a sailing community even during the time of the Vikings - in spite of the stormy and dangerous seas off its coast. It was said that Thor, the god of thunder, waded the straits at Karmsund each day on his way to Yggdrasil. This heritage is evident by the Viking remnants and ruins to be found here, and at the beginning of June Karmøy celebrates its long and storied past by recreating the lives of the Vikings.

The festival, which takes place at Karmøy’s reconstructed Viking settlement, is a treat for history buffs of any age. There’s no feeling in the world like standing in a place of history and watching that history unfold around you in a stunning and fascinating way. Wander through the vast “Viking Market” at the center of the festival, watch actors recreate living history, and take in the reconstructions: massive wooden boats, a blacksmith exhibit, storytelling of Norse myths and history, horse shows, archery, weapons demonstrations, and much more. When you’re ready to dig your hands in yourself, you can take part in a wide range of activities that have been put together to pull you deeper into authentic Viking life. Once you’ve learned the ins-and-outs of plant dyeing, learned how to start a fire, tasted the herbs used a millenia ago, and competed in games, you’ll begin to understand Norway better than you ever could before.

To finish your time at the festival, you can either purchase food, or grill up your own barbeque on communal barbeque pits - either way, you’ll want to sit back, relax, and listen to traditional Norwegian music while you eat. As the sun stays high in the sky long into evening, you’ll watch the jugglers pass by and thank Thor that you’re in Norway.

Summer Music Festivals

Of course, Norway is also a modern country, and its music scene has produced many exciting festivals. No matter your taste in music, you’ll find something here to keep you dancing: classical music, jazz, acoustic, folk, blues, rock, and indie are all well-represented at different festivals throughout the summer. Of these, the Molde International Jazz Festival and Øya Festival are two of the most popular.

Held each July and founded in 1961, the Molde International Jazz Festival is the longest-running in Europe. Drawing both Norwegian talent and top performers from across the world, this festival is a must-see for jazz fans, but also a great way to spend the day for everyone else. Over the course of five days, over 100 concerts - many of them free - are held across Molde, giving visitors the chance to see jazz greats in person. Herbie Hancock and Jamie Cullum have both performed here, and the 2013 list included Bryan Ferry & The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, John Legend, Jason Moran, and many more. No matter what you think of jazz now, this festival will re-ignite your passion or introduce you to the complexity and brilliance of modern jazz.

Øya Festival, Oslo’s largest outdoor music festival, is held at the beginning of August each year. Even among rock and indie festivals, Øya is unique; despite hosting some of the biggest names in the game, Øya retains its green roots (with environmentally ethical standards and 100% organic food) and provides a chance to see top acts without the crush of people found at most major festivals. In recent years, featured acts have included Queens of the Stone Age, Robyn, Kanye West, Iggy Pop, the Arctic Monkeys, and Lily Allen. If you’re cruising through Norway this summer, there’s no question that Øya is the place to be.

Gladmat Festival, Stavanger

When you think of what Norway offers, you might not think of delicious food - but Gladmat Festival aims to change that mistaken way of thinking. Drawing 250,000 people to Stavanger (on the northwestern coast) every year in July, the Gladmat Festival is Scandinavia’s largest food festival, and gladly welcomes everyone from top chefs, to the curious visitors in search of a nibble or two. Local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients are featured, but classes are held on cuisines from across the globe, and tastings are available for everything from chocolate to beer.

Eat your fill of local shellfish, listen to talks by famous and established chefs (Gordon Ramsay was the guest of honor in 2010), and wander through the vendors in search of something delicious to eat there, or to take home to your friends and family. Whether or not you consider yourself a pro in the kitchen, it’s well worth taking the time to attend some of the classes. Taught by some of Norway’s best chefs, these deal with everything from how to cook seafood, to how to brew your own beer - just watching these masters at work is a great opportunity itself. This is a festival which rewards day-long visitors as much as it does those who stay for the entire celebration, making it the perfect day trip during your cruise. Not only does it give you a literal taste of what Norway has to offer, but it will provide you with plenty of delicious memories to take home with you.

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