I arrived from the Oslo Gardermoen Airport about 1.5 hours ago – relaxing now on the balcony of Hugo’s house in Kongsberg, and typing my blog entry. I didn’t have any access to the Internet, that’s why I can only share my whole experience now.
Hugo and I flew to Evenes Airport in the Lofoten Islands on Sunday morning – the flight was smooth and uneventful and it was so great to look out through the windows over the narrow channels and the fjords, the jutting peaks right out of the sea, still dusted by the snow left from last Winter. The flight took about 2 hours from Oslo. Evenes Airport is pretty small – but it is quite funny to see that the airport apparently has 30 gates. Whoa. *grin*. We rent a car from Evenes so we can head over to Svolvær, the base of our Lofoten expedition. The weather was fantastic on Day 1 – the sun was shining brightly, and the sky was blue as can be. I can’t ask for more, really – I can see each fjord, cliff and mountain peak all in their majestic grandeur. We drove, or should I say, Hugo drove, through little villages such as Gausvik, Fiskfjord, and we stopped for an ice-cream in a little village of Kåringen. The route that we took, E10, was a newer route that was opened in December 2007. It save visitors from having to take a ferry to a different island to reach Svolvær.
The hotel that we stayed at, Hotel Aurora in Svolvær, was a basic hotel that looked really dated from the outside. The room was also basic, but then again, we only needed it to rest and we spent very little time in the hotel anyway. Svolvær itself isn’t a pretty town, but the nature around it makes the town special. It is situated in a sheltered cove, surrounded by mountain peaks. One peak is the landmark of the town – it’s called Svolværgeita (The Svolvær Goat), because it looks like there’s a mountain goat on the top of the peak. Svolvær is also one of the stops of the Hurtigruten – the cruiseship that you can take out of Bergen, which goes all the way to the top of Norway, closest to the Arctic! So twice a day, the city comes alive with the sound of the BOOOOOOOOO from the cruiseship.
We had dinner in a little restaurant called ‘Børsen Spiseri‘ off the coast of Svolvær, in an island called Svinøya. It’s a historic wooden restaurant serving fish dishes and it came highly recommended by the hotel. We sat outside in the sunshine and it was the first time that I had a cod dish called ‘Bacalao‘, made from dried cod (tørrfisk) and some sort of tomato-based soup. It was tasty! If you’re travelling in Norway, you can’t get away from fish dishes and not being a person who eats a lot of fish, this is something that I choose to tackle head on. Hahaha. After the Bacalao, I had a dish made of anglerfish / monkfish (breiflabb) – ugly-looking fish when they’re alive, but tasty when they’re cooked. Haha. If you ever come and visit Svolvær, a meal in Børsen Spiseri is very much recommended – sit outside in summertime and enjoy the sunshine! Even though it was already past the midnight-sun period, the sky remained bright throughout the day. It felt like 6pm at around midnight, due to the position of the Lofoten, beyond the Arctic Circle. You just have to will yourself to sleep, even though it’s bright outside.
The next day, we explored the western side of the Lofoten Islands, passing the villages of Kabelvåg, Valberg, Leknes to reach our destination – the pretty and photogenic village of Reine, in the island of Moskenesøya. If you see photos of the Lofoten Islands, more often you see a picture of Reine, a picturesque village surrounded by jutting mountain peaks. The town itself isn’t very special, but if you stand in the walkway just outside of the village and take the picture, you’ll be awestruck by the beauty of the vista. Even though it was really windy when we reached Reine, I still enjoyed the time nevertheless! I also had my first taste of hvalbiff (whale beef) in Reine … it looked and tasted like beef steak, with a faint ‘taste of the sea’ when you chew the meat. I felt really guilty eating whale meat, but I suppose when you’re in Rome … I mean Norway … 😛 From Reine, we then continued on to a town called Å, the end of the road in Moskenesøya. The village itself felt tacky and touristy, but if you walked on from the parking ground towards the rocks and the sea, again, you’ll be struck by the beauty of the surrounding views. All in all, I have taken about 200++ pictures of the Lofoten Islands!
We took a different route from Å, passing villages called Borge, Limstrand back towards Leknes and Svolvær. By that time the low clouds had come over and obfuscated some of the mountain peaks – it was quite a peculiar experience to go from one spot being cloudy and gloomy, and yet a couple of kilometres ahead, beyond a cliff or a mountain, it was sunny and blue sky. The mountains and the cliffs provide a great example of microclimate around the Lofoten. If you’re unlucky in one spot, drive over – you may be lucky in the next one! We also stopped by numerous churches and graveyards, and learned about the earlier inhabitants of the areas – we also stopped by in a picturesque village called Henningsvær, immortalised through a Norwegian children song about the Lofoten codfish from Henningsvær … For dinner on the second day, we went to a Chinese restaurant in Hotel Aurora, called ‘Ni Hao’ – it’s a Norwegianised/westernised Asian restaurant unfortunately. It was nice to eat rice nevertheless … haha.
On the third day, we dedicated it to museums and indoor activities because it was cloudy and grey and mostly wet. In Kabelvåg, we visited a museum, an aquarium as well as a gallery housing the works of a Norwegian artist called Kaare Espolin Johnson. I was initially reluctant to go to the gallery but I was really impressed by the pictures when I saw them. I bought some postcards that I planned to frame when I return to Adelaide. We also continued on to a Viking museum called Lofotr in a village called Borg – I even had a picture taken of me wearing a Viking helmet, complete with a sword as well! Awwwrrrrr awwwwrrrr!!!!! Hehe. We learnt about the alternative medicine already known by the Vikings, as well as how they lived at that time – there’s a replica of the Viking longhouse in the complex, as well as a Viking boat. Too bad that was also when my camera decided that the battery went flat!
So all in all, Lofoten was fantastic – after the day full of museums, the next day we had to get up early so we could take the ferry from Fiskebøl over to Melbu, an alternative route back to Evenes. The journey back was quite smooth and uneventful but the weather was cold and wet throughout – so it was good in a way that I couldn’t take any pictures as the mountains and the peaks were covered by fog and clouds.
If you ever have a chance to go to Norway, please do yourself a favour – have a trip over to the Lofoten. I have dreamt and romanticised about the Lofoten ever since I learnt about Norway, before my first trip in 2002. Having seen and experienced in real life, I fell in love with it. Big time. Where else can you drive around mountains and through tunnels cutting through rocks, skirting around fjords and the sea, and seeing charming red-painted wooden houses around the valleys and the islands. The Lofoten makes the fjords so reachable and embraceable. It has definitely become one of my favourite places in the world.