Sustainable tourism is important to Norwegians. Movie pictures like Disney’s Frozen, showing beautiful Norwegian nature and the so-called Norwegian ‘slow tv-shows’, have made hordes of tourists come to see the real thing.
In a country where in winter the daylight shrinks to a couple of hours and in the summer the night never quite grows dark, one visitor explained: “I wanted to go as far north as I could and see for myself how people managed to survive such a dualistic relationship with the sun without going at least some kind of crazy.”
But some are definitely crazy, making a tv-show from a 7.5 hour long train ride showing almost nothing than what could be seen through the train windows. It turned out to be immensely popular and was watched by two million people – roughly 45 percent of Norway’s population.
If you have the time you can watch it here:
The idea for slow TV was born over lunch at NRK Hordaland (in west-Norway) in 2009, the year that Bergensbanen, The Bergen Line, (a train that runs from the capital of Oslo to Bergen, one of the other largest cities in the country) celebrated its 100th anniversary.
“We made a couple of regular documentaries, but had lots of archive material left over,” says Rune Møklebust, Head of Programming at NRK Hordaland.
And Norway’s slam hit Slow TV has never left its home country, but it’s hard to understand why.
Their first broadcast in 2009 was the 7.5 hour long train ride from Bergen to Oslo which you may watch above.
”Slow TV” gives us a unique experience; the feeling of being present in real time and space. Whether the arena is onboard a train or a boat – or in a venue were knitting pins are clicking away for 24 hours straight, both Norwegian and international viewers are captivated. Could this be a counter-reaction to our stressed everyday life?
The “slow-TV” from Hurtigruten (The Coastal line), following the passenger line from north to south of Norway for several days, was also an extremely popular.
Hurtigruten literally means “the express route,” and while there is nothing “express” about it these days, back when it was founded in 1893, the ferry line was nothing short of a revelation, delivering mail and cargo and passengers to northern communities that were otherwise completely isolated from the rest of the world. Beginning in 1936, boats departed daily from Bergen and sailed all the way up to Kirkenes, covering a distance of 2,500 nautical miles while calling at 34 ports in just over six days. By combining navigational prowess, humble practicality and stunning natural beauty, the Hurtigruten ferry has become one of Norway’s treasured national symbols.
Most countries would love to attract more tourists, but Norway rather wishes they’d stay away. The country slashed its promotional advertising budget for next summer after experiencing a flood of curious visitors that it felt unprepared to handle, director of Fjord Norway, Kristian Jorgensen, told the British newspaper The Telegraph.
After the Bergen-Oslo and Hurtigruten TV-shows a lot more followed, all of them with exciting names like National Knitting Morning and National Firewood Evening. Norway actually wants tourists to slow down and travel more sustainably.
“This year is sort of off the charts… quite incredible. There are days when there are too many people at some of the smaller destinations like Geiranger and Flam. We have very few of them, but we are not trying to make more of them,” said Jorgensen.
TV viewers have embraced the phenomenon“ slow TV” (“sakte-tv”) to such an extent that the new expression has become a natural part of our vocabulary. “Slow TV” was even named “new word of the year” by The Language Council of Norway in 2013.
On YouTube there are videos that depict travelling the famous Bergen train line and flying over glaciers and fjords. They’re not exactly action sequences, and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has jokingly said it hopes people realize it’s not a screensaver.
Piip-show started as an Internet initiative where the whole world could follow the activities of birds that visited the small coffee shop that was rigged for the occasion.
A one-hour version of Hurtigruten has been shown on American TV.
LA-based indie LMNO Productions has acquired the U.S. remake rights to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK’s Slow TV format, from distributor DRG.
Slow Down in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg