There are surely few better countries for a road trip than Norway. The journey from the capital Oslo to Kirkenes near the Russian border high above the Arctic Circle covers over 2,500 kilometres. Along the way it passes through what is without doubt some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery. Here’s a short film made by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration – sounds dull I appreciate, but the scenery speaks for itself.
I fell in love with Norway on my first trip there in 1987 when I took a bus from Bodø to Narvik. The journey lasted around 6 hours and involved the bus driving onto several ferries to negotiate the numerous fjords. When there was no ferry service connecting the opposite sides of the fjord, the road took us from the coast deep inland, only for us to appear half an hour later on the other side of the fjord but within half a mile as the crow flies of where we’d been earlier.
The views were consistently stunning but the ones that left an indelible impression were those of the Lofoten Islands. It was late June and the jagged snow-covered peaks against the deep blue sky and the calm waters of the Norwegian Sea were far more beautiful than anything I’d previously seen.
And yet the delight of driving through Norway runs well beyond its landscapes. Years later I returned with my wife and stayed on the edge of a fjord near Tromsø. On a Sunday afternoon we took a leisurely drive to the island of Sommarøy, linked to the mainland by a modern high-arched bridge. The drive took around an hour with the road following the southern edge of the beautiful Kattfjord and with barely another car in sight throughout the entire journey.
Sommarøy itself is barely a village. According to Wikipedia its population is 261 and for the first few minutes after our arrival we’d have struggled to believe there was that many people living here – it felt as though the last inhabitant had long left and switched off the lights.
Rather than take a few snaps and leave we decided to see if the solitary cafe would be open. More in hope than expectation (it was Sunday afternoon) I pushed the door and immediately discovered why the village had seemed so quiet. It’s safe to see that a large proportion of the village were in the cafe and as we found a table in the corner and indulged in a couple of large wedges of cake and mugs of hot chocolate we sat in contented silence and listened to the unintelligible chatter around us.
The cake was excellent and we were happy enough that people nodded and smiled to us while carrying on with their own conversations and not making a fuss about the two strangers in their midst. We left Sommarøy happy to have stumbled across the lively cafe at the heart of the village; just another day of memorable road-tripping in what is a truly special part of the world.