Day 14: Lofoten Islands
As yesterday’s weather report predicted, it was a beautiful morning in Leknes today… BUT only for a while. Knowing the weather was going to turn by late morning, we woke up, ate breakfast and hit the road by 8:30am-ish to see the Lofoten Scenic Route.
As we learned last week, when Norway calls something a “Scenic Route” they are not screwing around. It’s the main reason we adjusted plans at the last minute yesterday and rented a car. So off we went in our snazzy brown Opal Astra stasjonsvogn.
On the road signs, the route is simply called Å¦ (pronounced ‘oh’), which is the name of the city at the end of the drive.
Heading southwest, we tunneled to FlakstadÃƒÂ¸ya Island and took a quick detour to see a historic fishing village called Nusfjord. Parts of the village have been replicated to serve as hotels (the part we saw), and parts have been preserved from its original state (which you could see for a fee).
The drive continued south, hitting another island named MoskenesÃƒÂ¸ya, getting us more amazing scenery, and eventually to Å¦. Another small fishing village on the edge of the island (what else are you supposed to do when you are so close to water?), Å¦ has a hotel, restaurant, bakery, cafe, museum, and of course, a gift shop.
When reading about the Lofoten Islands, we learned they are famous for stockfsh, which is dried cod (mostly), preserved using the old method of cleaning the fish and hanging it on wood racks to dry. Making stockfish is such an integral part of the culture and history that the museum in Å¦ is actually the Norwegian Stockfish Museum. We were game to try some, so we bought a small package. Additionally, while walking around looking for the gift shop, we accidentally found the bakery and failed to resist devouring a freshly baked cinnamon roll (Norway forgoes the globs of icing, and it is still amazing).
By this point, the glorious sunny weather was long gone so we headed back north toward Leknes. For what it’s worth, the Lofoten Island scenery still manages to impress even when it is rainy and cloudy.
Next up, we drove directly to the Lofotr Viking Museum and festival in Borg. Norway has a serious history with Vikings, including a trove of artifacts found on the site of the museum. Many parts of the property feature cultural remains, while others have been reconstructed. The museum is open all year, but for one weekend a year, they host a Viking festival. Lucky for us, it fell on the weekend we were there!
Rain or shine (but really, just rain for the rest of today) we were determined to have fun. First up, we walked 1.5km from the Chieftain’s House (the largest Long House in the world!) to the festival area. The main goal was to sail on the replica Viking ship (the actual ship is in the Viking Museum in Oslo). We arrived in time to see the boat sailing away, giving us 45 minutes until the next departure.
Wandering into the boat house, a musician taking cover from the rain offered a demonstration about Viking age music and instruments. Another vendor outside was selling Stockfish and offered us a sample (so, you know, we can find out what exactly we bought earlier, ha!). It tastes like salty cod, but has the texture of bark. Must be what fuels everyone to be as active and fit as they are. Finally, it was boat time.
Turns out that windy, rainy weather makes a sail boat go pretty fast. Whipping around the lake and banking a couple steep turns, we made it safely back to the dock.
Back on land, we continued to walk around the festival and check out the artisan tents. Vendors selling their wares was expected, but it was also cool to just see the Vikings hanging around their camps, telling stories, cooking, and sharing their food. Some explained their cooking process, some sold their food (hazelnut cakes for a dollar), and others just gave out samples to passerbys (including spit-roasted pig and a much-appreciated warm cup of soup).
Finding a warm wool hood/poncho from one of the sellers, I felt cozy and Viking-like, and was ready to play with some weapons.
First up was archery. We both hit our targets. Next up was ax throwing. The girl in front of us managed to cut herself while throwing the ax, so we discovered they are very real. But don’t worry, she was fine, and we were wearing gloves. Matt nailed it twice. I couldn’t quite get the ax to stick in the target.
Venturing into the smithy, the blacksmiths were not presenting a demonstration, but rather the three of them were just hanging out and helping each other practice techniques and share tips. Soon, festival staff came in to have them smooth and sharpen a couple of the axes we had just been throwing a second ago, which must have been why I wasn’t successful earlier. Obviously.
After one last lap around the market, we hiked the 1.5km back up the hill in the the pouring rain and crazy wind to the indoor refuge of the Viking museum. The exhibits feature artifacts excavated from the area, a twenty minute movie (filmed on the property), and clips of archeologists and historians talking about Viking history specific to Borg. Using iPods (old school!) to follow the audio tour, we learned a good deal about the Norwegian Vikings.
As we finished, the museum was closing, but we stuck around for the Viking feast we signed up for in the hope they’d have enough people. They did! Escorted to the Longhouse, we had time to look around before the dinner commenced. The Viking “king and queen” hosted us and performed a show throughout. When the delicious lamb and vegetable plate was served, we ate like Vikings (no forks).
As dinner concluded, we finished our mead, danced around the fire, and took a look around the rest of the longhouse. Very grateful for having rented a car, we headed home in the very heavy wind and driving rain.
Our trip is nearing its end. If the wind or rain doesn’t foil our flight times, we go to Oslo tomorrow for the evening before flying back on Sunday.