Lollygagging around Lofoten

Monday, Sep 30

Not much to report today.  We literally stayed in the house all day, pretty much just stayed on the couch all day.  The sky was heavy with thick clouds. Wind roared outside tousling the small bushes around the house.  Rain lashed against the windows. It was a good day to stay inside.

Tuesday, Oct 1

The weather was still kind of gray and rainy when we woke this morning, but the forecast had the rain moving on by lunchtime.  We didn’t have much of a plan for today. The weather forecast for tomorrow is supposed to be more sunny, so we originally thought to leave our excursion to several fishing villages further to the southeast until tomorrow.  But, just to do something today, we set out to see just the closest one; Nusfjord. There is a board game by our favorite board game designer, Uwe Rosenberg, named Nusfjord based on this little fishing village in Norway. So, we were interested in checking it out, if only to take our picture next to the sign.  We arrived in town about 11:00am, after taking the obligatory picture on the outskirts with the village sign. We had very low expectations of the village itself, and were surprised to find it set up almost like an open air museum. There was a big sign saying that it would cost 30NOK to enter the village, but the ticket booth was locked up tight.  We didn’t see anywhere to pay the fee, so just wandered in. It is definitely the off-season for tourists here. We are often nearly the only ones at any given site -this is exactly what we hoped for when planning this trip for fall. Several of the buildings had informative signs explaining their function in the village’s heyday of the late 1800s. We saw a couple of small boat houses with row boats, huge ropes, and other nautical gear.  The bakery was closed for the season, but stood prominently next to the water. There were rows of cute red “rorbu”: fisherman’s huts on stilts jutting out over the water. Some of them are now part of the hotel/spa in the village, they have been renovated into modern guest accommodation. We wandered a little further past another set of red-painted cabins and past the mustard yellow general store and restaurant. Mustard yellow and red seem to be the favored traditional colors in this part of Norway.  We see many houses and cabins painted these two colors. They blend nicely with the fall colors of the trees at this time of year. From far away, we could hear the seagull’s squawks and calls. There were dozens of them nesting in any nook they could find on the buildings along the water. There were dozens more on a rocky cliff just across the narrow channel, creating a cacophony of sound. I don’t think I would want to stay in any of the cabins nearby with that racket going on all day!  

We found the cod liver oil processing shed and went in (dodging seagull droppings from the nest above the door) and watched a short video about cod fishing.  The cod fishing season is a major event in the Lofoten islands. People come here from all over Norway to fish the cod when they come in to spawn. Some of the footage showed so many boats out fishing that it seemed they would run into each other.  Once the cod are hauled in, they are processed, liver oil to one place, the heads somewhere else, then the bodies are strung up on massive wooden racks to dry. We saw the racks all over, in just about any open and flat space. Rob read somewhere that everything smells of fish on these islands during the drying season.  I can believe it with the number of racks that we drove by today. I was hoping to get a bit of lunch at the small cafe/general store, which seemed to be the only place open in Nusfjord. Unfortunately, the proprietress told us her waffle iron was broken and the other food wasn’t ready yet. But , then, she also told us a bit about the general store.  How it used to be the center of village life and chock full of supplies, even hanging from the ceiling, until the ceiling started to sag from the weight. The Owner of the village (seemed to be a sort of feudal system) had his office where the small cafe is now, on the second story with windows that looked out on all the ships coming and going. He would watch and take account of who came in and with how much.  He was at liberty to pay whatever he wished to each fisherman. So, if you were on his bad side, he could just pay you less for your fish than the next guy. She did tell us that the last owner was actually quite a nice guy. He treated people fairly, rather than abuse his power. If a fisherman died, this particular owner would send a basket of survival necessities to his widow. Since there was no food to be had for us in Nusfjord, we decided to get back in the car and check out the next little village along the way, in hopes (vain hopes) that it would have a cafe.  For Lofoten being a major tourist destination, there is a serious lack of places to eat here.

The fall colors here are really at their peak.  I got a couple of nice shots of them today as we drove.  I also snapped a picture of a little country church with a Russian onion dome as part of its steeple.  We’ve seen a few of these churches scattered around the countryside. Russia isn’t very far away, so it seems not unusual that it’s architectural influence would stretch to Norway.  We stopped at a couple of beaches. By this time, we were far enough out, and on the northern side of the island that the water was open ocean. Waves crashed against the rocky shore.   After we tired of the beaches we realized we were fairly close to the village of Sund. I had read in a tourist magazine about a blacksmith in Sund (his business name is literally The Blacksmith in Sund) who makes these beautiful cormorants and mounts them on a smooth stone.  I thought that might be really cool, so we headed over to Sund and his forge. Despite it being the off season, and the fishing museum attached to his forge being closed, he was in and working. We stopped in a picked out a beautiful cormorant. He told us a bit about his process.  We choose one of the black ones, he only makes a few of them because he needs to get the metal extra hot to turn the oil he uses into black instead of a bronze color.  

From here, we figured we were nearly to the town of Å.  Our original plan for tomorrow was to go to Å, check out it’s fishing village, get a picture by the sign (because it’s a funny name for a town; just one letter), then work our way back toward home stopping at any cute villages along the way.  But, that meant we would be driving down the road we were already on (there’s really only 1 main road all down the Lofoten islands) two days in a row. We didn’t relish driving back the same way the next day, and it seemed that the “cute little fishing villages” were already starting to all look the same.  So, we decided to just go the whole way to Å today. It was only another half hour drive. We did get our picture with the sign. We stopped in their 1800s bakery for a cinnamon roll. The old ovens were intact (although didn’t seem to be in use, at least not today). The doors were encouraged to close behind each customer by a large stone weight tied to a rope attached to the door.  As you pushed the door open, the weight rose on a pulley system, when you let the door go, the weight pulled the door shut behind you. Good in winter to help keep the cold out! We purchased our cinnamon roll, but we couldn’t eat it there because the small seating area was full with 3 people. It was extremely windy outside, and rather cold, so we weren’t interested in sitting at their outdoor tables to eat it.  So, we headed back to the car. The little fishing village at Å was pretty similar to what we’d seen in Nusfjord.  

A fun feature of Norwegian roads that we hadn’t seen before today was a sort of half tunnel.  As we approached, it looked like we were going to go into a tunnel. The mountain above sloped right out onto the roof.  But when we got closer, we noticed that the side facing the ocean was open; the roof held up with a series of columns. It was light and airy inside.  And any falling rocks that may have come down the mountain would just continue rolling over the roof and on down to the sea, the road no worse for wear.

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