Lofoten Bound

Oh, are we glad we changed our plans midway our Norway road trip and pressed North! With the weather not affording leisurely camping by blue lakes and fjords and a car being a safe (=dry) mode of exploration, we continued towards the Land of the Midnight Sun. Well, we were just a bit too late in the season for that and on the other hand a bit too early for Aurora Borealis. Dang!

Troll with our granddaughter’s doll Mila that came on the trip with us. We sent her pictures all along the way.

We said goodbye to the better-known fjords by driving the famed Trollstigen (=Troll’s path). The approach looked quite dismal.

The road begins where the clouds are the thickest

But miraculously for a few minutes the clouds lifted enough so we could see and drive the switchbacks with full force of waterfalls cascading all around us.

Impossible to show on a little photo the magnitude of Nature! See how huge the waterfall is and how tiny the cars?

We were hoping to take a small Rauma tourist train as we missed out on the famous Flam train ride due to rain. But the train was canceled, but luckily a nice girl in a sports shop told us we can see exactly the same from the car. Thank goodness for her advice. It is surprisingly difficult to get good information in Norway, web sites are not updated or only in Norwegian and tourist offices in many places closed.

On the way back through the Romsdalen Valley we stopped to admire yet another cool tourist architecture (a restaurant and souvenir shop)

and even more so the mirror reflection of the sheer Trollveggen (= Troll wall), the tallest vertical rock face in Europe. Naturally, such superlatives attract extreme sports fanatics like rock climbers and base jumpers and sadly many have been killed here.

In Molde, we had an ad hoc coffee with Laila, the mother of a tour guide we had in Bergen. She shared a lot about the Norwegian way of life and their values and attitudes. She worked at a refugee agency, so we had an interesting discussion about that, too.

She then put us in touch with her other daughter in Trondheim, who really helped us out a few days later by letting us do a load of laundry and dry out our tent in her garage. On top of it she gave us a tour of her city and over lunch enlightened us about the younger Norwegian generation, University system, etc. So it proved true what we heard that the further North we would go, the friendlier people became.

Old colorful quays of Trondheim

Trondheim is an interesting city for it is brimming with students, which means better coffee shops. It is also the end of a popular pilgrimage road, a Nordic version of the Spanish Camino. The St. Olav’s Ways is a 5000 km long network of pilgrim pathways meandering through Nordic countries.

Pilgrim’s passport with stamps collected on the way in front of accommodation set up for pilgrims.

We talked to a friendly Swedish couple who were just finishing their walking pilgrimage, heading towards the Nidaros cathedral. We offered them a ride as the rain clouds threatened again, but they refused.

The outside is not that special

What a wondrous surprise the cathedral was for us. After all the sweet, if at times also dramatic little churches the giant stone cathedral built over the grave of King Olav II, patron saint of Norway, was indeed impressive. After all it is the biggest cathedral in Northern Europe (it can sit 1,850 people) and the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world.

But the inside… wow, just wow!

I can totally imagine being a pagan from a small countryside settlement and stepping into this awe-inspiring place and converting on the spot. In truth of course Viking conversion to Christianity was a slow process in Norway and whole of Scandinavia. Sadly in the process, women were the biggest losers. Where they had great powers in their pagan religion and a certain level of equality with men in their society all that was gradually stripped away.

We had another great opportunity to learn about the Vikings at the Lófótr Viking Museum, where real live “Vikings” practice crafts and answer questions.

The Lady of the Longhouse
The weaver drinking from a replica of a Viking cup found at the longhouse
The replica of the longest Viking House ever found
One can even go for a ride in a Viking ship

Ah, Lofoten. For travelers and photographers, it is one of those whispered mystical words of a magical place that haunt you in your sleep and while awake. Only Svalbard perhaps holds more sway. We left frozen Svalbard for another time but took the six hours long ferry to Røst on the edge of islands in the chain.

Luckily it was a calm day on the open sea that kept going and going with a prolonged light of the lingering night beyond the Arctic Circle. Arriving way past midnight we slept a few hours in the car and witnessed the first sunrise on the Lynx’s Foot islands, as the Vikings named Lofoten.

Lazy photography: Sunrise reflected in our car bonnet through the front windshield.

We spent a week on Lofoten, in seven days four were dumping rain relentlesly, but the remaining three were enough to drive every single road on the islands, some more than once, returning to favorite picturesque spots.

Dramatic: tall mountains rising straight from the sea
Same but ever changing: Golden light of the Golden Hour
Dragon’s Eye
Beached Whale

You can let your imagination go wild down bellow or you plant your feet firmly on the upward path and climb to a different perspective.

The one and only trek that convinced us we should leave such adventures to the young and nimble. The wind nearly blew us off the mountain and into Kvalvika Beach.

Best to just go beach combing on surprisingly many attractive beaches.

When the weather is not cooperating there are many museums and galleries to enjoy and learn. Besides the Viking Museum one can not help but encounter the many museums and the still working establishments of the cod processing industry.

Since time immemorial skrei, the wandering cod from the Bering Sea has been caught and dried on Lofoten in the millions.

Drying racks waiting for the winter catch

It was the base of the Hanseatic league trade (and wealth) in Bergen and the means of sustaining Norway economically before the oil boom changed everything.

Dried cod gets exported primarily to Italy, Portugal, and Spain where the bacalao dish reigns supreme
The dried heads all go to Nigeria for spicy soup

Personally, we much prefer Lofoten salmon.

Salmon and shrimp sandwich with non-alcoholic beer and a view

We bid goodbye to Lofoten and continued North for we had a special mission to accomplish.

Lofoten panorama with typical red fishing village (now mostly turned into tourist accommodations).

To be revealed in the next instalment.

10 thoughts on “Lofoten Bound

  1. Fabulous post as always – can only hope to follow in your footsteps someday. Brings back memories of rain, rain, rain – making those special photos and locations all the more prized and cherished.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love love love. Spectacular!
    Might convince my pilgrimage „comrades“ to try Olav‘s Ways- or a section thereof. That cathedral!

    Like

      1. definitely need good gear! My friends and I have been doing Alpine pilgrimages, The scenery in Norway seems fascinating – when sunny 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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