Viking Ocean Cruise Into the Midnight Sun Post #4, Lofoten
As we sailed into the port of Leknes with Viking Cruises, this magnificent church was on the shore and caught my eye. Lofoten (Norwegian “lu:fu:tn”) is an enclave of islands and a long-established district in Nordland Norway. It is infamous for its astonishing rugged mountains, protected bays and a pleasant summer conditions. Even though it’s located within the Artic Circle it encounters a warmer than expected temperature range.
The Lofoten Islands were settled approximately 11,000 years ago and the earliest archaeological sites are only about 5,500 years old, at the period from early to late Stone Age. Agriculture, livestock, and significant human habitation can be traced back to the Iron Age or roughly 250 BC. The islands extend from Norway’s coast into the Norwegian Sea or approximately 118 miles. These waters were outstanding for Norse communities and the waters have produced massive quantities of Cod as they spawn in the waters around the islands.
Every tour begins with what regular passengers label a tour guide with a Viking lollipop. This way whether you are wearing a headset or just listening close by you can always locate your specific guide as they each have their own number. This was actually the first time I was able to capture this equipment in a photograph. I thought it unique.
Of course as soon as I turned around we faced the obligatory Norwegian troll portside. Kim and I were novices in Norway and weren’t aware we would encounter a myriad more of these adorable creatures. Seriously how can you not love each and every troll you have seen, if you are following my posts? We each took our solo portrait with the Lofoten troll and moved on.
We had occasion to witness several fish drying racks as we toured Norway. They were discussed in our pre-port discussions and we drove by a few outside of Bergen. Stockfish is unsalted fish, especially cod, dried by cold air and wind on wooden racks along the shorelines. They are called “hjell” in Norway. The drying of food is the world’s oldest known preservation method, and dried fish has a storage life of several years.
We drove over a back road under construction and were stopped at the island’s only stoplight. This light dictated which one way traffic could proceed across the one-way bridge. It was kind of hilarious give traffic patterns in major cities all over the world. Finally we proceeded to a wharf type area with various boats, ships and structures surrounding the harbor.
Along the harbor was what I am guessing is the only grocery store within miles beside a ship maintenance facility. I try to explore grocery stores in every country I visit since I was in the industry before. It’s always amusing to see the offerings and prices. It gives one a feel for what items appear to be important to cultures and which ones don’t. The conversion rate for Norwegian Kronor to US Dollars is ten to one with a Kronor equaling about $.10 in US currency. The blue labeled Cruesli on the middle shelf is $49.90 Kronor or about $4.90 US Dollars. That seems reasonable to me.
The brownies on the top shelf are $68.90 Kronors or about $6.89 in US Dollars. This seems rather expensive. Of course being located in a remote area probably motivates one to purchase this type of goods. It looks like Toro has a monopoly on sweet cookies and treats.
Beer in Norway has up to 4.7% alcohol or has to be purchased in a state owned Vinmonopolet. Beer between 3.7% and 4.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) is taxed at an astonishing 22.4 kroner per liter, while beer above 4.7% ABV is subject to 5.01 kroner per percentage point per liter. These rates are applicable to all alcohol, which goes a long to explaining why spirits are so expensive.
I walked by the fruits and vegetables aisle and saw something I have never seen before. Remember I’m from Texas and we eat peppers with just about everything. Depending on the dish, mild peppers may be used or extremely hot ones depending on who you are cooking for. As I walked down the section I spied these red peppers that I thought were a red Chili peppers. Lo and behold they were actually Paprika peppers. I can honestly say I have never seen these prior to this cruise. I have used the spice forever, but this was a new phenomena to me.
As we left the harbor we encountered several groups of wooden row houses. It’s fascinating to me since they are in different colors, but don’t necessarily line up in the same color or have a pattern for rotation. I do think they are well constructed and appealing to the local masses. We saw similar housing in Bergen and afterwards.
We then moved on from the small community of row houses and drove into the countryside. This was on the way to the lakes with “beautiful” beaches the tour guide told us about. Of course we were all wearing jackets and sweaters but what the hay! This house particularly appealed to me with its cellar door on the front side. I am not entirely sure if this was for storing canned goods or a place to ride out severe storms. The ones my paternal grandparents had was used for both actually.
We then passed this group of Sea-houses on stilts. They are called Rorbus in Norway. A family, couple or individual can lease them and fish directly off the deck of their house. absolutely ingenious in my opinion. Most offer either shared kitchens and bathrooms or private facilities. They have apartments also which have seating areas for relaxation, and all have great views. The bedrooms have between 2-4 beds, while the apartments have 3-6 beds spread across multiple bedrooms in each apartment.
Once we left the area with the Sea-houses we came upon this view as we headed into the “beach” areas. It was a beautiful country road with hardly any room to pass. At times the bus driver amazed me with his skills and knack for forecasting oncoming traffic. I’m not sure how this was accomplished.
Then we came around a corner and I thought I was in the Caribbean. The Haukland beach lay before us and it was truly gorgeous. I don’t know if my photo does it justice. I seriously wonder when the temperatures warm up how people manage to swim in the cold waters. The bay was very protected and hardly any waves were present. Probably a great place for snorkeling, if underwater fish are present.
We only drove by this beach and didn’t stop for taking outside photos. The bus driver did halt his driving for a minute or so in order to take a few photographs of these wonderful beaches through the buses’ windows. On the way to Uttakleiv beach we passed this guard house below that the local ranger inhabits according to our tour guide. I’m not sure I could really live in such a desolate place. Of course if you consider the tourists that visit daily it might not be all that bad.
Then Uttakleiv beach appeared and it was gorgeous also, but had a multitude of large boulders on the side. The stone appeared to be either a lava product or some type of granite. The entire side of the mountain appeared to be of this substance and over the years erosion had chipped away and strewn stones and boulders down the side and into the ocean.
One of my favorite photos was this naturally sculptured heart shaped rock at Uttakleiv Beach, along with a heart formed with small stones from the beach. When they were combined it was a very romantic gesture in this old man’s opinion. I have always favored romanticism in human beings!
This plaque on the beach represents a very important piece of Norwegian history of this portion of Northern Norway. In 1814 the long distances meant that Northern Norway was not represented at Eidsvoll. Eidsvoll is mentioned in Old Norse manuscripts. In the 11th century, it became the site of court and assembly. Elections were held, but everything happened too late for anyone from the north to join the National Assembly.
Christian VIII was the King of Denmark from 1839 to 1848 and, as Christian Frederick, King of Norway in 1814. During the dramatic events of 1814, the whole of the northern part was in constant deficit with regard to knowledge on what was going on in political Norway. The long distances and a problematic postal service brought news only weeks, or months, after the proceedings themselves. When ballots were cast all over the country for a constitutional assembly, the distance became crucial for Northern Norway. The messages reached Nordland, Troms and Finnmark too late for anyone from there to show up in Eidsvoll. Keep on reading and my next post will be in reference to Tromso.
*** Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking Ocean Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.