This is part 5 in a series about my summer 2017 trip, which took me to Norway, the Netherlands, and Malta. You can read an overview of the trip here.
My time in Oslo corresponded with Oslo Pride; I arrived on Thursday at the end of Pride Week. Given that Oslo isn’t a huge city, isn’t known for wild gay life, and I’d never heard of any tourist ever going to Oslo Pride, I didn’t have high expectations. Those expectations were surpassed. It was certainly helped by the fact that Norwegians I met in Sitges last year welcomed me and helped guide me around, but it was also a great citywide celebration.
The sense of Pride was throughout the city. There were rainbow flags everywhere, including at City Hall. Every T.G.I. Friday’s in Oslo (and there are a lot) was rebranded PRIDAY’s for the week. And I just love me a pun.
During the week, the center of the action was Pride Park. In a lot of cities, there is a Pride festival with booths and maybe a concert stage, but it’s limited to one or two days and is kind of a side event from the parade. But in Oslo, the Pride Park is a gated square – around what’s an ice rink in the winter – and was filled with people from Wednesday through Saturday nights. (The closest I’ve seen is Vienna.) From right after work until closing at midnight, people stayed, drinking and eating at the picnic tables, dancing in the dance tent, attending a show on one of the main stages or on one of the smaller stages. And it wasn’t just gay people, but people of various ages and sexualities, which was really nice to see. The Park had the traditional community booths, including all the major political parties, the police and army, various nonprofits, and some businesses as well.
One area was the Bear Bar, where I met this guy:
There was also a concert stage there, where I got to see “Diplomatic Immunity,” on Sunday. a band made up of the Canadian Ambassador, the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, and other embassy staff. Very cool.
Another venue was the Eurovision bar, which had Eurovision trivia which sadly I could not partake in due to both my lack of Norwegian skills and of Eurovision knowledge.
On Thursday night, the mainstage started out with bingo, which was fun to watch, particularly in light of the sign language interpreter.
Then, there was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in my life, which consisted of about 10 people awkwardly dancing and lipsyncing to what seemed like 124 pop songs, changing costumes as they went about 15 times. It would. Not. End. They were followed by a group from the musical theater academy, who was a little better.
The main event that night was Samantha Fox, but I was tired and didn’t make it to her, ending with her opening act, which was Infinity, apparently a big Europop sensation from the 1990s.
Friday night was another fun night at the Park as people were letting their hair down for the weekend. The Oslo Fagottkor performed – not a slur, Norwegian for Bassoon! Seriously, I love puns. And of course they did Let It Go, because, Norway. I met a lot of friendly folks and we eventually made it to a pop-up bar/club called SLM after the Park closed, but I didn’t stay long as I had had many many beers by then. One thing that was interesting to me was how people really weren’t going to the bars during Pride, instead taking advantage of the open-air drinking experience of the Park.
I made a mix of some of the performances here. Seriously, check out those sign language interpreters.
Saturday was the Parade, and it was certainly not the spectacle of New York or Sydney Mardi Gras, though still bigger than Cape Town’s parade. I’d say LGBT people were in the minority of parade spectators, and possibly parade participants. But it was still great to see a range of civil society participants, including the American Democrats Abroad, military, police, and fire fighters in uniform. There was some corporate presence, but not much, and not many big floats. Between groups, there were a lot of just random people walking in the parade, which is always fun to watch. One thing that surprised me was the lack of shirtless or tanktopped boys – it was definitely warm enough!
I made a video of some parade highlights:
As the parade wound down, everyone ended back at the Park which was very crowded at that point. I lasted a few hours before needing a break, picking up a not very tasty burger on the way back to the hotel before a powernap. My Norwegian friends had invited me to a house party that was a pre-party for the official closing party, which was a great place to chat with folks and watch the sunset before heading over to the main event around midnight.
The event was at a big club/dance hall called Rockefeller, and was sold out – so buy tickets ahead of time! It was surprisingly not very gay, but maybe if I had stayed longer things would’ve gone that direction. I am not a club person, so I only stayed until 2, before getting some expensive doner kebab and walking back to my hotel.
I really enjoyed Oslo Pride, and am glad I was there for it. It wasn’t so overwhelming that the events kept me from exploring other parts of the city, but also showed a nice insight into Norwegian culture. It’s probably not an independent reason to go to Oslo, but if the timing works out, it’s a fun time!