Lofoten

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Lofoten

Lofoten
Timeless

In the far north of Europe, the sun shines around the clock in the short polar summer – on a trip to the Lofoten and Vesteralen archipelagos, the feeling for day and night can get mixed up.

Uschi Backes

03/27/1997

The sun is good. We are lying on a rock on Vikten beach and let the rays tickle our noses. A light breeze drifts over the white sand, the warmth of the sun slowly penetrates our motorcycle clothes. “It’s getting late,” I say. “Late?” Yawns sleepily and looks at his watch – it is almost midnight and the sun is not thinking of going down. We drove over 2000 kilometers with the BMW and the Transalp, crossed the barren and windy Arctic Circle, crossed twice sailed the sea before we landed here and lost time. But time doesn’t matter here. Two hours later it is still there, the sun. It won’t go away either, we know that. In fact. Nevertheless we stare as if spellbound from the window of our accommodation: Under the warm reddish light of the midnight sun, the green of the meadows looks even greener, the blue of the water even bluer. Magical play of colors lies across the small fjord of Sund i Lofoten.It is the beginning of July and about 150 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle there is no night for six weeks. Sleep? No, that’s really a waste of time, says Sissel, our landlady. Her three children are also constantly on their feet, play long in the evenings in front of the house and then take their parents to see friends or relatives. School is free anyway. “You can sleep again later,” says Sissel and laughs. Because they are back much too quickly, the long nights and cloudy, cold days. In the short summer time, the Lofoters catch up on everything that life means. Nevertheless, it is quiet in the evening on the rugged piece of land. Almost eerily quiet when the wind isn’t blowing. No music, no festivals can be heard. When we turn back to our quarters on the narrow streets after long tours, we only come across a car every now and then. Life takes place in the houses. Because it can get fresh in the evening, even in July. Thick banks of fog move from the open sea onto the steep cliffs, push themselves thick and heavy over the rugged mountain ridges in order to slowly invade the narrow valleys and fjords on the other side. We make a game of driving away from the fog, because it crawls wet and nasty under the chasm. Early in the morning the swaths clear up, revealing the small red, yellow and white wooden houses that line the narrow stretch of land between the mountains and the Line the sea. And everyone is back early. Inger, who freshly paints his house with oil paint, the fish seller who opens her shop, the seagulls whose screams ring through the fjord, and the stench of the fish shops where the dried stockfish is waiting for customers. Time to drive, time for culture. On a lonely road meandering through the mountains, we come to Nusfjord, a fishing village that nestles romantically around its small harbor. A few tourists are strolling through the place, which has been declared a cultural monument by the Uneso. But apart from a general store from 1907 there isn’t much to see. For the fishermen it’s everyday life, with or without visitors. Unmoved, they paint their boats and mend their nets. A few tourists have rented the rorbuer, the typical huts of the Lofot fishermen, which are extremely expensive here. They sit in front of their historic abode, amazed and therefore a little annoyed. Somehow I get the impression that they don’t really like the coffee. Deep tunnels or high bridges connect the Lofot Islands Moskenesøy, Flakstadøy, Vestvågøy, Gimsøy and Austvågøy. At Hamnøy the road was even cut directly by a breeding colony of the rare kittiwake. The gigantic buildings are a welcome to tourism, but also to the islanders who have not yet moved to the mainland. On road 815, which follows the jagged foothills into the Vestfjord, we drive into the wilderness. The land does not fall abruptly here, but gently tapering into the large fjord, but it is swampy and lies in the shadow of the mountains. The isolated houses along the street are almost all deserted. As breathtaking as the view over the sea to the glacier-covered mountain ranges south of Narvik is, it does not seem to have compensated the fishermen for the meager income, the long distances and the harsh winters. New types of income were more likely on the mainland or in Svolvaer, the main town and transport hub of Lofoten. The city is not beautiful, but there is casual activity. Today it is downright warm. 25 degrees – almost too warm for the Lofoters who are used to the cold. Anyone who has shorts in their closet can be proud. You show off sun-drenched white skin and try to get an ice cream in the supermarket. The expensive Norwegian sweaters that are draped in front of the shop windows for tourists look completely out of place. Souvenir shops and excursion boats, lovingly prepared, wait for the guests. But this year, so Ev and Kjell, a motorcycle-riding couple from Oslo, tell us, tourism has fallen by 40 percent in all of Norway. The wet, cold winter drove the holidaymakers to the south of Europe. When we left Lofoten a few days later in the direction of Vesterålen, which is even further north, there is no guarantee of good weather in the north, even in midsummer. It is windy and drizzling and the ferry in Fiskebøl drove away in front of our noses. One and a half hours of waiting. We try to keep ourselves warm with plenty of coffee and pølser, the obligatory Norwegian hot dogs. Two BMW drivers, father and son, engage us in a conversation. You come from the totally foggy North Cape, take the Lofoten and Vesterålen with you – tomorrow you have to be back on the mainland. In Melbu they are the first to get down and away from the ferry. No, they don’t deserve that, the Vesterålen. Precisely because there is nothing going on here in terms of tourism, this peninsula is a boon. Or is it the untouched nature? Or is it the trees that no longer exist in Lofoten? The much wider, more open country? We drive, drive, drive, after all it is still bright as day at eight in the evening and the clouds are slowly clearing away. In the middle of the forest there is a nice guy sitting in an information booth for tourists. With the patience of a donkey, he shows us where we could possibly find accommodation. After three wrong turns, we dare the last attempt: a dirt road. Six kilometers of potholes and it doesn’t seem to end. Tired and hungry, we are already thinking about whether to turn back, when we see a flag flying behind the curve. The Klaksjord Sjøhus lies lonely in a small fjord. Of course we could have a room. “Or would you prefer a Hytter?” Asks the fisherman’s wife. The hut, of course, with a view over the fjord and lots of sun – day and night.

Info

A trip to the rough Lofoten Islands is a great thing – if the weather cooperates. Anyone who accepts the long journey will discover a wild, rugged and almost deserted fjord and mountain landscape beyond the Arctic Circle.

Arrival: The ferry connection from Kiel to Oslo is convenient, about 19 hours, depending on the cabin from 338 marks per person and motorcycle. The ferry from Hirtshals in Denmark to Oslo costs 148 marks, around eight to nine hours. From Oslo you drive on the E6 to Bodø, from there you cross over to Moskenes on the Lofoten. Travel time: You can enjoy the midnight sun between late May / early June to mid / late July, depending on where you are. The warmest month is July. You should still pack warm clothing. Accommodation: Campsites are rare and often sparsely equipped. A hut (Hytter) can be rented for around 40 to 100 marks. Hotels are rare and very expensive. The tourist offices in the towns provide information about private accommodation. Literature: The Lofoten / Vesterålen travel guide from DuMont is very detailed, at 19.80 marks. Recommended for motorcyclists: »Scandinavia« by Josef Seits from the Unterwegs edition for 29.80 marks. In bookstores or to order by phone 0711 / 182-1229. Map: Central Norway on a scale of 1: 400000 by Kummerly & Frey for 19.80 marks. Time expended eight days, driven distance 450 kilometers

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