Glaciers and Animals

Monday, Oct 14

We left Alnes island today and headed inland to the shores of the largest and deepest Fjord in Norway: Sognefjord.  It was another nice, sunny day. Norway’s fall colors consist mostly of brilliant yellow trees. Today they glowed golden in the sunshine.  It was about a 5 hour drive. We stopped a few places along the way to take pictures.  

About an hour before our final destination, we emerged from yet another long tunnel, and spotted 2 glaciers on top of the mountains to our left.  There was a small road leading off in their direction, so we decided to take it and see how close we could get. It turned out we could get pretty close, indeed!  Best of all, we were the only people there – no tour buses full of cruise-ship tourists. This glacier is called Bøyabreen; it’s another finger of the large Jostedalsbreen glacier that we were at last week.  We parked and walked to the edge of the lake that inevitably forms below any glacier. It was just as lovely a turquoise color as the one we saw the other day. This glacier was bigger and not as high above us.  But, it was initially difficult to see how the water was getting down from the glacier to the lake. When we looked a bit closer, we saw and heard a waterfall inside a crevice of rock off to the right of the glacier.  It looked like we might be able to walk around the lake and get closer to see the waterfall. I was not wearing appropriate footwear; a pair of motorcycle boots instead of my hiking shoes. But, we decided to give it a try.  It was very rocky and muddy and at points we had to push trees out of our way that bent down toward the water’s edge. I came away with some mud on my leggings and some on my boots, but managed to make it around the lake. To our surprise, there were 2 chunks of glacier at the lake’s edge.  Rob climbed up on one of them to inspect the crevasses. Ginger and I inspected the base, taking photos and videos. We weren’t able to get close to the waterfall (I blame it on the inappropriate footwear), but it was really cool to see those bits of glacier up close. Rob even slid down, haunched over into a ball.

After making our way back to the car, we continued on to our place outside the village of Kaupanger.  At one point, we encountered a flock of goats just lounging on the road. There were probably 20-30 goats laying in the road,  At least they were kind enough to stay in one lane, leaving the other open for traffic. 

As the sun set, we spotted 4 female elk in a field near the house we’re staying in.

A Surprise Find

Sunday, Oct 13

I arose very early this morning, well before daylight, and was rewarded with a view of the bright orange moon setting over the water with tendrils of clouds attempting topull it under.  I ate breakfast while watching it descend to the horizon. A bit later, as the sun was rising, there was a large cloud bank just out above the water in front of our house. As the colors of the sunrise cycled through their pinks, the cloud bank reflected the pink, both in the cloud and on the surface of the water below.  I was secretly pleased to have these 2 fleeting views to myself while my 2 traveling companions slumbered in their beds.

Once the others rose, we were all glad to see the sunshine outside with only a few clouds dotting the sky.  Our destination for the day was to be the aquarium. We drove over around noon, and as we approached the parking lot, found that it was full.  Even the overflow parking was rather full. It seems lots of other people had the same idea as us. After some deliberation, during which no one really wanted to make a decision, we set off on a hiking trail near where we parked.  It turned out to be just the right decision. As we climbed up the hill nearing the water, we stumbled upon an old German gun battery from WWII. There were no signs or plaques to explain what anything was, so we had to just guess. It was kind of fun to guess, though. Later we found out it is called Tueneset Kystfort. One of the first things we stopped at was an anti-aircraft gun made in America by Kimberly-Clark. It was in very good shape. And incongruous in a German battery. Our theory is that the gun has been added recently by those seeking to preserve the area for its historical significance.  Later we came across a field oven that looked just right for baking pizzas. There was one more bug gun – this one likely for taking out ships – and lots of mystery bunkers.

Once we’d had enough of the bunkers, we headed back to the island we are staying on to check out a lighthouse that we could see from the bunkers.  We found it on a working farm. If you are respectful, you can walk through the farm and out to the rock jetty that the lighthouse sits on. Along the way, we passed an ancient burial mound from Roman times.  It was pretty tall, about twice as tall as Ginger. The farmer who owned the land discovered it was a burial mound in the 1930s when he was trying to clear it of rocks. Several items were found inside that suggested the occupant(s) were wealthy and traded with areas outside of Norway.  A little further on we walked down a long, rock jetty and out to the lighthouse. It was a pretty standard, round lighthouse. On the walk back to the car, Rob spotted a sea otter eating a fish. He grabbed the binoculars and was able to see him pretty well before he finished his dinner and slid back into the water.  Unfortunately, it happened so fast that Ginger and I didn’t get a chance to see him. Rob says he was really cute!

We headed back to the house for dinner.  After dinner I snapped a great shot of the other lighthouse on this island, the square one that is next to our house.

Ambling around Ålesund

Saturday, Oct 12

Today is Ginger’s first day in Norway.  It’s a bit rainy, but we want to make the most of her time here, so we set out to explore Ålesund.  It is famous for its Art Nouveau buildings. There was a widespread fire in the city in early 1904 that ruined nearly everything.  Major support poured in from all around Europe to help Ålesund rebuild. And so they did rebuild, with nearly all the buildings in the downtown area in the Art Nouveau style.  As in Trondheim, many of the buildings are painted pleasing colors that compliment each other and photograph well against the water, even with heavy dreary skies above. There are interesting details in the wrought iron railings, carvings on doors and pillars, and in relief along building facades.  The architecture was interesting, fewer in number than I was expecting. Being a Saturday, there were very few people out and about at just after 10am when we arrived. The rain picked up now and then throughout the day, and so did the number of folks out in the streets.

It was a bit difficult to find a place to eat lunch.  I had been expecting lots of little shops and restaurants, but there were only a few of each.  We managed to find a little cafe in a small mall that served up fiskesuppe (fish soup) for me, kanel snurr for Rob, and a skinke and ost (ham & cheese) croissant sandwich for Ginger.

After lunch we braved the rain to climb up 418 steps to Aksla Viewpoint, one of the mountains heming Ålesund in.  It was a lot of stairs and a long way up, but the view from the top was worth it. From there, we could see out to the peninsula on the island of Godøya where we are staying.  There is a lighthouse right next to our house, which we could just make out from on top of Aksla. The views and pictures of Ålesund taken from partway up were perhaps even better than those from the top.

After descending from the Aksla viewpoint, we wandered around a few more streets.  The rain had finally stopped, which was nice. We never really found much for cute shops, interesting shops.  By late afternoon, we were back in the car heading home. At home, we found that our internet had gone out, so my blog posts may be a bit delayed.

Glacier Gandering

Tuesday, Oct 8

Our outing for today was an hour and a half drive to the Briksdal glacier.  On the way, we drove past a lot of beautiful turquoise glacier water in lakes and rivers.  The color reminded me of Great Bluedini Kool-aid or the turquoise waters at Rotorua thermal parks in New Zealand.  I normally don’t like blue, but this was really amazing, probably just because it was so unusual to my experience. The nearest town to the glacier is Olden.  As we neared Olden, we saw a small cruise ship at the dock. And several tour buses waiting just outside the ship to carry its passengers on to the glacier. So, we hurried along, skipping the souvenir shops in town to try to get to the glacier before the buses.  We were happy to be successful. We pretty much avoided the cruisers the whole day.

You have a choice at Briksdal whether you want to take a 45 minute walk up from the parking lot to reach the glacier or take a troll car, which will cut off about ⅔ of the walk, leaving just 15 minutes walk up.  A toll car is a kind of super all-terrain golf cart with a train of open-air seats pulled behind. Being young and fit (ha, ha) we opted for the walk. The path took us along the glacial river flowing over rocks and waterfalls.  It was a pretty walk, but definitely got my heart rate up! There were a few informational plaques to read along the way. I was most interested to learn about the Little Ice Age that took place from about 1750 to the mid 1800s. I’ve always wondered how people of that time period could wear so many clothes all year round and not be ridiculously hot.  But, if temperatures were significantly cooler than they are today, that could explain heavy coats, long, full-skirted dresses with long sleeves, wigs (on both men and women). The last 15 minutes, we passed most of the cruisers on their way back from the glacier. By their accents, it must be a British Cruise line. When we reached the small lake below the glacier, there were only about 5 other people there; great for taking pictures!  We wandered around the lake a bit. The land around it was covered in very small rocks, almost sand-like. There was very little vegetation, mostly just some short, scrubby bushes. The water was, once again, a lovely turquoise color. The glacier, itself, hung down into a crevice of the mountains, not coming any where near to the flat part of the land that we were on. We saw a postcard later of the glacier spreading right down into the lake, but the men swimming in the lake in the picture were wearing very 80’s swim trunks.  It looks like it’s been a long time since the glacier reached the lake. When we had finished taking our pictures, we sat on a rock to have a little snack and some water. I was only halfway through my Larabar when Rob felt sprinkles on his leg. I felt the possibility of rain looming over us the whole way up the mountain, so was not surprised to see sprinkles. We made quick work of the walk back down the mountain, just in case the skies opened up, but they never did more than sprinkle.  

Driving Through the Countryside

Sunday, Oct 6

Not much to write about today.  It was another cold start to the day, so Rob and I hung out at the flat until just after lunch.  We ventured out for a walk along the waterfront. It was nice, but nothing much to write about that.  We walked for 13,000 steps, according to my Fitbit. On the way home, we stopped at the Dromedar Kaffebar; I wanted another mug of their dark hot chocolate before we leave the city.  Nothing but cafes and restaurants are open on Sundays, so the cafes are pretty full. Lots of Norwegians were also out for walks on the nice walking paths around the city. It’s cold, but it’s sunny.  I figure the folks here must want to get the most of the sunshine while they still have it.

Monday, Oct 7

We left the city of Trondheim behind us today and set out for our last really long drive (5.5 hours) of our Norwegian travels, heading south and west.  And, boy, were were surprised by the beauty of our drive. This is the Norway we were expecting all along. We drove through lush farmland. The farmsteads here are much larger with 4-5 buildings.  More on farms later. I noticed a stream of large trucks going the other way all carrying equipment for a carnival. I think there were at least 10-15 carnival trucks that we passed. Then we drove up, and up, and up.  Our car’s navigation system includes an altimeter. We reached an elevation of 1032 meters above sea level. For my American readers, that’s 3400 feet. For context, Asheville sits at 2400 feet. There was snow on top of many of the mountains that we drove through.  It was very picturesque. The road followed a mountain river with clear blue water and sometimes chunks of ice floating in the shallows. We passed hundreds of frozen icicles clinging to rock walls lining the road. To our surprise, there were small groupings of houses, even way up on the mountain.  We figure they must be vacation houses, clustered together. The folks who use them probably do a lot of cross country skiing and snowmobiling. There weren’t any shops or other industry, just groups of houses.  

We stopped for lunch at the little village of Oppdal with a downhill ski resort.  It had a small bakery and gift food shop. It was a happening little place, lots of other people were having lunch there, too.  Shortly after we sat down, a bee started pestering us. One of the workers came over with a fly swatter, although she was really scared of bees, but it flew off.  We tried moving to another table, but it just kept coming back. It seemed especially interested in the blueberry drink that I had, so finally I decided to let it climb inside the bottle and try to trap it.  It worked really well. The bee walked around the mouth of the bottle a couple times, then slipped inside. Once inside, Rob grabbed the bottle, threw a napkin over the top, and shook so that the bee fell into the juice, where he got stuck.  We showed the worker that we’d captured the bee, and she very kindly offered me a new drink, since I had only drunk about ⅓ of it before we trapped the bee inside. We figure we did the other diners a service by trapping it so it wouldn’t continue pestering people inside the restaurant all day.  On our way out of town, we noticed that this little ski village had seen enough snow in previous days for there to already be a 4 foot tall snow pile at the back of the parking lot (from being plowed there).  

We continued on through more snowy land, stopping occasionally to take pictures of some interestingly shaped country churches along the way.  See my Instagram or Facebook feeds for photos of them. Eventually, we drove through a series of tunnels through mountains, each one dropping us about 100 meters, all the way back to sea level.  We’re staying in a cute old fashioned farmhouse, right on the shore of a fjord near Stryn.

That brings me back to my observations on farmsteads in the region we drove through.  These were in the county of northern Oppland County. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop to take a picture of one, so my text description will have to suffice.  It was strange just how uniform they were through the middle part of our drive. The farms in the last part of the drive started to diversify a bit more. Nearly all the farms, all 4-5 buildings, were painted dark brown.  There was always a really big house, usually 2 stories with 4-6 windows across on each floor, in a rectangular shape. Some of the houses had traditional scrollwork wood trim around the windows painted red or white. Many had a set of antlers mounted on the wall of the house, sometimes over the door, sometimes just on one wall.  There was always one large barn, usually with that same ramp and bridge up to the second floor. There was also usually a second barn, smaller and more square in shape, but still with 2 stories that sat up on small cement pilings, maybe 1-2 feet off the ground. Our best guess is that it’s for storage of something that needs to be kept off the ground to keep rodents or some other pest from disturbing it.  The barns and storage buildings often had sod roofs, while the house usually had a slate or other non-sod roof. The predominant crop (at least at this time of year) was hay and the predominant livestock was sheep, although we did see several cows. Most had huge wood piles stacked outside, suggesting the use of wood stoves or fireplaces for heating their homes. I was happy to see more “traditional Norwegian” look to the architecture through little details around windows, or interesting color combinations in trim.  The architecture in northern Norway was much more plain, very unadorned and simple.

Tubas, Trumpets, and Trombones in Trondheim

Saturday, Oct 5

We awoke this morning with frosty windows.  The temp outside was a frigid 28 degrees. Bearing this in mind, we hung out at home for a while before setting out.  We didn’t have much planned for today, really we were just going to wander through some other parts of the city center that we hadn’t made it to yesterday.  I wanted to check out a yarn store and a couple of touristy shops. So, we set out. Just below our flat, there is a cordoned-off section of canal that was totally frozen over.  Rob threw a screw that he found laying on the ground onto it, and it didn’t break through. It was frozen enough to support the weight of a screw. We saw steps on the other side leading down to the water,  so we figure it’s probably used for ice skating in the winter.

It was a cold walk through the streets of Trondheim.  We tried to stay on the sunny side of the street, which helped a bit.  I did get quite a bit of nice Norwegian yarn at the yarn shop, while Rob sat playing iPhone games at the table near the front of the shop.  We wandered on until lunch time. A menu outside one restaurant (all in English) caught Rob’s eye. The Bror Bar & Grill had house-smoked bacon as a side order item.  He was intrigued and feeling the pull of bacon, so we went in for some lunch. I was a bit hesitant because all the menu items were really American: burgers, tacos, wraps, and fries.  But Rob isn’t often intrigued by a restaurant’s menu, so I figured we should give it a try. Well, it turned out to be a pretty disappointing meal. I ordered a cider that had (what I thought) was a Norwegian flag next to it on the menu.  When it arrived, it was an English cider. Shame on me for mixing up the Norwegian flag with the English flag, but in my defense, it was the English flag and not the Union Jack that I’m used to seeing in all the places and websites that you click on to get the English language menu/website, etc.  Since I’ve had lots of English cider, I was a bit disappointed. I wasn’t very hungry, so ordered sweet potato fries with a side of truffle mayonnaise.  They were fine. But, Rob’s double order of bacon was not at all what we expected. Since arriving in Norway, we’ve seen bacon in several places that is just like American bacon, so that’s what we were expecting.  We were not expecting huge cubes (1”x1”) of pork fat with crusty bits on each end. They were so fatty as to be gross (at least to both of us). Rob valiantly took a bite, hoping for that crispy smoky bacon taste to come through despite the unusual shape.  It did not; that was Rob’s first and last bite. I used a knife and fork to cut off any small bits of meat I could find, which wasn’t much. So, not a great success for lunch.  

We had to cleanse the palate, so found a chocolate shop nearby, then searched for 2 blocks to find a bench in the sun that we could sit on to eat our chocolate without freezing.  We found one that had dappled sunshine, the best we could do. We each only ate 1 of our pieces of chocolate because it was too cold to have our hands out of our mittens long enough to eat any more.

From our bench, we proceeded to Nidaros Cathedral for the Saturday afternoon organ meditation (Thanks, Abby, for the suggestion).  They have 3 different organs, but only play one during any given Saturday. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t play the big one with pipes on our end of the cathedral.  They played a smaller one located in the transept a bit farther away from us. It was still a nice service, lasting about 20 minutes. After the service ended, we looked around the cathedral.  It is made of dark soapstone, and is rather gray and dark in a beautiful way. Much darker than other cathedrals I’ve been in. The dark gray color makes the colors of the stained glass windows stand out that much more.  Maybe also helped along by the fact that it’s a sunny day today.

As we walked back toward the flat along the river, we heard a brass band in the distance behind us.  We turned around and saw clusters of people, some holding flags and banners crossing the river on the bridge far above.  Curious, we headed in that direction. As we neared the bridge, we ended up behind a group of students dressed in blue and white kilts.  Behind us were 4 young men in tuxedo jackets, short pants, black berets, and tall Norwegian socks. We wandered along through the Bakklandet neighborhood and encountered a few more groups.  I got a short video of one of them, with their brass band playing. Click here to see the video. They pushed a large blue sphere, probably made of papier-mâché with a large yellow “ribbon” around it. Another group had a replica of a space shuttle labeled “Space XYZ” that they pulled on wheels up the hill.  When we got home, we googled some of the words on their banners and found out this was an annual tradition for Trondheim students from 1915 until 2001. Various student organizations make floats (like the space shuttle or the blue ball), all congregate in one place, then set out in a train to the city center where they build a tower.  (The website was in Norwegian – we had to use Google translate, so it sounds a bit funny). This year it is being revived for the first time since 2001. It seemed the students were having a great time, so hopefully it continues for years to come.

Traveling to Trondheim

Thursday, Oct 3

Today we flew from Leknes on the Lofoten Islands to Trondheim on the mainland.  We are officially leaving the north of Norway behind. I didn’t realize until we got further south, just how far south we were headed.  As soon as we left the airport the landscape was much different. Gone are the full autumn colors, trees here are mostly still green, although some have changed.  There are also a lot more evergreen trees and more flat land that has been plowed for fields.

Trondheim is a much bigger city than we were expecting.  It feels good to be back in a city for a bit. We parked the car and have been walking instead.  People here dress more like city-folks. The coats they wear are more fashionable and less simply functional.  Our only real excursion in the city for today was to the famous Rosenborg Dampbageri (bakery). I had a really nice little pizza on really fresh, fluffy bread dough.

Our flat is the 6th floor of a really old building (my best guess is that it was built in the 1700s).  It’s been renovated recently so the finishings are modern. There are cool nooks and crannies, it’s built into the roof line, so slanting ceilings and skylights in all the rooms.  There is a nice little windowed alcove for the dining table that I’m sitting in now with views out over the lower buildings below. Since Norwegians never seem to close curtains/blinds at night, we can see at least 8 different TVs in various apartments around us.  Most were all watching the same show when we looked. Somewhat disconcerting is the fact that the building shakes and you can feel it wobbling from time to time, possibly when a large truck drives by on the street below.  

Friday, Oct 4

We spent some time this morning just wandering around the city center of Trondheim, and doing a little bit of shopping.  We stopped first at the Tourist Information Center and picked up some brochures. I’ve got one with some articles about the city that I’m excited to delve into.  We stopped for a little snack at Dromedar Kaffebar where I had a really lovely pistachio roll and a rich dark hot chocolate. I bought some jeans at a Trondheim jeans store (this is their headquarters) called Livid Jeans.  I probably paid too much for them, but they’ll always be my Trondheim jeans. 🙂

For lunch we stopped at Godt Brød bakery.  I had another mini pizza with super fresh ingredients on a fluffy bread base.  Rob had a large skillingsboller (cinnamon roll/knot). After lunch, we walked along the Nidelva river.  We stumbled onto some very old warehouse buildings painted in bright colors. One was in such disrepair that it was slumping downward, ready to crumbled into the river.  We crossed the river at the Gamle Bybro (Old Town Bridge built in 1681). Everyone on the bridge seemed to be a tourist, taking selfies and other photos. On the other side of the bridge is the Bakklandet neighborhood.  We wandered past lots of old houses. They seemed to be the typical style of house from early Trondheim history. They were 2 stories tall, built one right next to the other with no land in between, with 3-4 windows per story.  Each one painted a different color than the one next to it. The neighborhood seemed to be full of students walking about at 1:00 on a Friday afternoon. From there, we took another bridge across the Nidelva River and made our way back along that side of the river and eventually to our flat.  It felt good to do some walking again. We’ve been pretty sedentary these last few weeks, averaging less than 5,000 steps per day. Today we got in 13,000.

Lazy in Lofoten

Wednesday, Sept 2

Well, the wind continues to howl outside our windows, making us very reluctant to go outside.  It’s been blowing so hard today that there are white caps on the water (despite being in a sheltered fjord) and a few times the house shook from the force of the wind.  Just as I am typing this, the sound of the wind changed from what we’ve been hearing for the past 1.5 days to the sound of an airplane flying overhead. But I looked and there was no airplane.  We did venture out just after lunch to the Lofoten Wool farmstand. They sell wool and products (sweaters, socks, etc) from their own sheep, as well as dye some of their wool with natural dyes. I picked up some wool that was naturally black from a black sheep and some from a gray sheep that was dyed using madder to give it a really nice copper color.  Great for fall.

We’re now back at the house, watching the waves and listening to the wind. Since we’re not doing much of interest, I thought maybe I would take today’s blog post to tell you a few of my observations of Norwegian houses, specifically in Northern Norway outside of cities.  They generally look very similar to American houses, even in size. In my experience, European houses are generally much smaller than American houses, but there is more room here, so the houses are similar in size to ours, although yards are often still small with houses clustered close together.  They are generally built of wood like ours, but are often much more boxy and square. Some have revived the tradition of sod (grass) roofs, but not very many. Most have 3-4 foot wide walls built on either side of the front door, narrower at the bottom, wider near the roof, to protect from wind and snow. Nearly all of them have a ladder attached to the roof going up to the chimney.  Rob quipped that it was to assist Santa Claus. My guess is that many Norwegians use their wood burning fireplaces and find it useful to be able to go up to the chimney to make repairs or clean it out. Favorite colors for houses seem to be red, mustard yellow, white, and gray. Except for the white, they blend in nicely with the fall colors we are experiencing now. Barns and other outbuildings are nearly always red.  Many barns have a ramp of earth leading to a small bridge and into the upper story of the barn. I haven’t gotten a picture of this yet, but it looks neat. We have seen very few rundown houses or barns in our travels so far. Norwegians seem to take very good care of their houses and yards.

We noticed from the very beginning that Norwegians like their lights on.  In the little neighborhood that our first house was in, all the houses had multiple outdoor lights on every evening as soon as it got dark.  The lights on our house must have been on a timer, because the front door and porch lights came on every evening by themselves. Norwegians also don’t seem to mind that others can see inside their house.  No one closes curtains at night, but instead let the light of the house spill out. In fact, most houses hang a single light in each window. It reminds me of the old Christmas tradition of putting a lit candle in each window.  I guess the lights would make me feel better in Nov-Jan when the sun never really comes up.

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.

Little Bit ‘o Lofoten

Sunday, Sep 29

Today is Sunday.  Pretty much everything is closed on Sunday.  The weather this morning was sunny, but very windy.  Both of us were woken this morning to the howling wind outside.  But, tomorrow is supposed to be rainy all day, so I wanted to get out and do something outside today.  We knew that most things would be closed today, so we decided to head to the north side of our island to settlement called Eggum.  There is supposed to be a sculpture of a person’s head along a walk near the beach and an old radar installation built by the Germans in WWII.  We were the only car on the road as we approached the parking area. And the sun had disappeared, leaving us with temps of 45, winds of 20mph. It was pretty miserable.  We parked, the only car in the lot, and headed toward the old stone radar installation, dodging an excessive amount of sheep poop along the way, much of it fresh. The only other people there were a couple just packing up their tent.  I can’t imagine camping there in that wind and cold. We checked out the stone tower from the radar, but the rest of the building was closed for the season. Then we set out to find the head statue. Rob tried to intimidate some sheep, with little success.  We walked for about 10 minutes and still couldn’t see the statue in the distance. We stopped and debated continuing. The way out was with the wind, so the way back to the car would be into the wind. Based on that thought, we turned around and headed back to the parking lot.  As we turned around, we noticed very dark skies ahead of us and wondered if we’d make it back to the car before it rained. The answer to that question was, “no.” We ran the last little bit, past a bus load of Chinese tourists who had arrived behind us – they were also rushing to get back on their bus.  

Our next stop was a cheese shop that advertised they were open every day.  We drove about 20 minutes out of our way, down gravel roads, through sheep pastures to get there.  When we arrived, the sign on the door (thank you Google Translate) said something to the effect that they had gone to church.  So, no cheese for me.

On our way back to the house, with rain showers on various horizons, we stopped at the grocery store in Leknes.  One of the 4 grocery stores is open on Sunday, the same one we’d been to yesterday. It’s a good sized grocery store for Norway.  We were surprised as we pulled into the parking lot that the few cars that were there were all parked toward the back of the lot, not next to the front door.  That’s when we noticed people going in a little door at the back. We headed inside and found a small separate little “store” taking up one corner of the main grocery store.  It was stocked with the most basic items (thankfully that included the Giflar Cinnamon rolls that Rob was after). The doorway to the main store was open and an employee was standing guard while she let one shopper go inside.  I noticed that the door had been closed by the time we were ready to check out. It all seemed so weird we figured that there had to be some law that required this strange setup. Once home, Rob got to researching. There is, indeed, a law that says only shops smaller than 100 square meters can be open on Sundays.  It was passed in the early 1990s, so isn’t some strange old law from 100 years ago that never got removed. The purpose of the law is so that nearly everyone has a day off each week to spend time with families. I guess that’s nice if you have family nearby to spend time with, or if it’s a nice day and you want to go for a hike.  For everyone else, though, it seems like it might be a pain. This does explain why the grocery stores were so full of shoppers yesterday afternoon – everyone had to get their shopping done before the Sunday shut-down. Maybe not surprisingly, the majority of the shoppers in the little mini-store today were tourists (several Chinese tourists and us).