Lofoten Islands, Norway

 

We finally said farewell to our boat home after being onboard for four days. We got off in Harstad, after sailing around the Lofoten islands during the night. It was almost like the crew threw a party for us, because we were sailing into the Trollfjord, and to celebrate they were serving fish soup and Troll tea. The fish soup is like calm chowder, but with more than just clams. The troll tea was an alcoholic tea that was delicious. I know it had spiced rum and tea in it, but when I asked the server what else it had, he only replied “Troll juice.” Those Norwegians think they are soooo funny. The Trollfjord is a narrow cut into kilometer high mountains, despite being on a relatively large ship, you feel intensely small while the rock faces loom above you.

After getting off the boat we had a cold breakfast in town while icy wind bit at our faces. The town was completely empty, despite being a weekday and about the time people should be arriving at work. We decided to get out of there, and headed to the airport to pick up our rental car. We were going to drive through the islands for two days, before catching a flight back down to Oslo.

The Lofoten islands are what would happen if Middle Earth, Hogwarts, Narnia, and the Hundred Acre Woods all got together and made a baby. It is a scenic drive that only takes 3-5 hours to reach the end from Harstad. It is field with huge mountains, deep blue sea, cute little red houses, and bright green trees. It would be perfectly acceptable to see a hippogriff flying between the tall peaks, or a hobbit having their second breakfast in an open meadow.

The Lofoten islands have a rich viking history, and have been fishing Cod for the last 1000 years. The name is derived from the Norwegian word for Lynx foot, as apparently that is what the islands look like. Jeff believes that the chain of islands looks more like the arched backs of sleeping dragons.

 

On the first day, we drove straight until the end of the archipelagoes. At one point we picked up some hitchhikers, which is very common on the islands, it was my first hitchhiking experience of any kind. They were a very nice French couple, both of which were animators. I tried to talk art-things with them, but they weren’t so good at English. Jeff had a nice go at practicing his French.
We arrived in Å (yes, that is the “city” name) in the evening and were throughly tired from our early wake up and drive. The town consists of a small fishing museum, a restaurant, some old-fisherman-cabins-turned-hotel-rooms, and a single restaurant. It also had a large parking lot and some camping sites nearby. We ate at the one restaurant, which was overpriced but tasty and then returned to our car. Our car was our tent, we just put the seats down, and voila, bed. The only problem was that our car was extremely sensitive to movement, so if we rolled over, moved our legs, or sneezed too violently, the car alarm would go off for the pleasure of everyone around us. Poor Jeff slept with his hand on the door remote, and would wake up and quickly hit the button to stop the alarm whenever one of us (mostly me) set off the alarm.
Did I mention that the Lofoten Islands are above the Arctic circle, so it never actually got dark? Yes, we slept in the light, with a car alarm going off every hour or so.
The next day we got up and drove for a short while until Jeff magically found a hiking trail. He just said “I want to hike,” made a couple of random turns, and there we were, a hiking trail. It was a cloudy morning, but a nice temperature to walk around. We looked at the hills around us, and picked one to try and reach the top of.
The trail led us to a large pond, which awesomely was also a water source. No swimming was allowed for this reason (it was too cold anyway to swim) and it looked awesomely clean. I bet the don’t even need to filter the water much at all.
As we climbed higher and higher, we eventually lost the footpath and had to guess at what route to take. We also determined that there may not even be a way up to the hill we had chosen to summit. While the top looked flat enough, the last 50m or so looked to be nearly vertical, which would of been slow to navigate. Instead we relaxed and enjoyed the view for awhile before returning to the car.
Later that afternoon we went to a small town which holds the Lofotr Viking Museum, which happened to have a Viking Festival going on while we were there. Jeff and I, both being slightly viking at heart, we’re really excited to spend the day there. Everyone was dressed in viking clothes, carrying small axes and knives, and eating traditional viking food.
They had an area set up that you could try to shoot a bow and arrow, and also to throw an axe. The archery area was manned by a volunteer with the fair, who would collect the arrows after everyone shot. The axe throwing area though, was completely unmanned. Nothing was to prevent some kid from running into the path of a flinging axe. Any Joe Schmo could come up, pick up a metal axe with points at every end, and throw it at a piece of plywood with a spray painted target on it. It was a great example of how in other countries, your expected to be mildly intelligent and that people can have fun events without the worry of some idiot suing you for their own blindness.

 

 

After shooting some arrows and throwing axes, we wandered around the fair. Lots of people were selling their own homemade wares, like handthrown pottery, knives made from old fashioned blacksmithing,  jewelry, hand carved wooden wares, all sorts of neat stuff. Every hour a new show would occur as well, which also sparked another cultural difference. It would seem that sex is not a taboo topic here as it is in states. It seems that it would not be socially inappropriate to acknowledge the existence of ones genitalia here. Even in front of children. How does this society function after having clearly fallen into the hands of Sin?
This is a comedy/juggling performance for kids. The man was demonstrating how vikings would take a bath, which was by running a torch over their skin (burning the sweat/dirt off). Here he is demonstrating the importance of washing ones nether regions.
After the festival, we drove to the largest town on the islands and had a nice dinner. We then drove towards the Harstad airport and pulled over at a scenic outlook to sleep for the night. Luckily, the car alarm decided to give up and didn’t go off like it had the night before. By the way, we did try reading the drivers manual to figure out how to turn the car off, but since it was written in Norwegian, it didn’t go so well. The next morning we flew to Oslo where we later caught a bus to Sweden for a frisbee tournament. Norway is one of the most beautiful countries I had ever seen, and though it is expensive, it has a rich interesting culture and its most certainly worth a visit.

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