A tale of her­ring-do

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - JAC­QUE­LINE HA­GAN

Nostal­gia sur­rounds the her­ring. In Aus­tralia it re­minds us of be­ing a kid and fish­ing with our dad. In north­ern Europe, it sig­ni­fies hard times, of­ten when there was noth­ing else to eat, but also good times, when for cen­turies the her­ring in­dus­try pro­vided em­ploy­ment for thou­sands along the coast­lines of north­ern Europe and Bri­tain.

Play­ing such a cen­tral role in the liveli­hood of so many, her­ring nat­u­rally be­gan to be cel­e­brated in folk­lore, art, lit­er­a­ture and song.

Such rit­u­als sur­vive in places such as Floro on the west coast of Nor­way, north of Ber­gen, where on the Fri­day clos­est to mid­sum­mer’s eve the peo­ple of the vil­lage and sur­round­ing is­lands come to­gether for the Silde­bor­det, or the her­ring ta­ble, to cel­e­brate the his­tory.

It is mid-af­ter­noon as we wan­der into Floro and, in the main street, long tres­tle ta­bles have been set with white plas­tic cloths em­bel­lished with the name of the lo­cal fish co-op­er­a­tive. A few peo­ple are about and a fun­fair is op­er­at­ing at the other end of town. School is just out for the sum­mer hol­i­days and kids are ev­ery­where eat­ing blue fairy floss. The claim to fame at the fes­ti­val is the long­est her­ring ta­ble in the world — about 400m, we are told.

We go into the tourist of­fice to in­quire when we should take a seat. This re­sults in much ex­cite­ment; the tourist of­fice peo­ple have heard about us from the staff at the mu­seum we vis­ited this morn­ing. We are ex­pected. A quick photo and then we ap­pear on the fes­ti­val’s Face-

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