Here’s a singing fisherman to provide a nice soundtrack while you read on (video courtesy of Visit Norway):
Norway is of course a land that is dependent on the sea more than most. Fishing is one of the main industries; transport between many places is goverened by the sea, whether people need to go over it, around it or under it to get to where they need to go. And increasingly, tourism is also centred around the activities and communities that are are as much about the surrounding sea as about the often narrow belt of land that makes up one of Europe’s most beautiful countries.
Having been up to the north of Norway a couple of times it’s one part of the world that I would always return to in a heartbeat. Wild, remote and staggeringly beautiful, a journey north provides enormous views over impossibly scenic landscapes. The air is unmistakably fresh and people have greeted us with an unfussy but sincere welcome.
Driving in the north retains the charm that for many of us disappeared from our roads long ago. Endless stretches of empty road where in some places reaching each small settlement is worthy of a coffee break. The towns themselves are remarkably self-sufficient for their small size. A visit to the city of Tromso (which claims many northermost titles, such as northernmost university and cathedral in the world) reveals a level of infrastructure that belies its relatively small size. Hardly surprising given that there are no cities for hundreds of miles in any direction.
One of the happiest memories I have is of driving for half an hour or so along the edge of a fjord, enjoying every moment of the spectacular views across the water and over to the spectacular hills beyond. We had travelled to reach the tiny island of Sommarøy, reached by crossing a high arched modern bridge. That they built such an impressive bridge for a community of less than 250 people says something about the commitment to inclusive transport in these parts.
Our drive to Sommarøy on this Sunday was made special by discovering a little cafe that was still open at 5pm. Expecting it to be deserted, we stepped through the door only to find what must have been half of the population inside. Loud chatter, laughter and music provided a pleasant background as we munched on homemade cake and sipped delicous hot chocolate. It’s amazing how such trivial pleasures create such happy long-lasting memories.
To travel in northern Norway is to travel slowly, in every sense of the phrase. It’s a place where us city dwellers can revel in an escape to natural peaceful surroundings. Tonic for the soul, as some would doubtless say.
by Andy Jarosz