The Harry Tur

(Post by Cindy Mom)

We experienced a unique cultural phenomenon today that would not easily be stumbled upon without the “inside” persective that the GSE program offers.  We did a big circle tour by car  clockwise from Stokke to Horten, then a short ferry ride to Moss, and a stop in the Gamlebyen (Old Town) area of Frederikstad.  In Frederikstad we browsed a flea/crafts market, visited the historical museum, and had lunch at the Gamlebyen Konditori Cafe.  Then we continued our loop tour by driving south along the east side of the Oslofjord to Sweden.  No border patrol was present to witness our crossing over into another country.  We spent an hour or two wandering the Swedish town of Stromstad, whose mascot appeared to be a giant crawdad.  Then we boarded the Color Line ferry ( back to Norway, and here the adventure began.  Turns out that many Norwegians make this pilgrimage regularly, to buy wine, beer, liquor, tobacco, and meat on the duty-free ferry ride back from Sweden.  Norwegians can buy an annual membership to the ferry service for 150 NOK (about 30 US dollars), which entitles them to all the ferry rides they want for the year.  For a bit extra, they can have access to an all-you-can-eat buffet and open bar during the ride.  Once they are well-fed and lubricated, the duty free shopping spree begins.  The ferry is pretty much a floating shopping mall, with beer, wine, spirits, candy, electronics, and meat available in shops inside the ferry.  (There was also, somewhat incongruously, a salon of one-armed bandits on the center deck.)  The Norwegian passengers load up on this stuff, which costs about one third of what it would at home.  The ferry line makes its money not on fares, but on the stuff it sells.  Meanwhile, outside on deck, a stunning landscape of sea, sky, bare rock, lighthouses, and fresh air glides by unnoticed by the vast majority of the passengers.

This phenomenon, of the Norwegian journey to Sweden for provisions, is known as the “Harry Tur.”  Harry is a guy with fuzzy dice and a pine-scented air freshener in his car.  He takes the tour to Sweden to find affordable stuff, meanwhile supporting an entire tourism-based economy in the Swedish town of Stromstad, as he hangs around waiting for the ferry.

This experience proved to me that the European peoples are still on the move, as they always have been down through the ages, in order to trade and exchange new ideas: Norwegians go to Sweden for cheap beer, the Swedes go to Denmark for cheap beer, the Danes go to Germany for cheap beer, and the Germans go to Poland for cheap beer.

(post by Cindy Mom)


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