Curving through countless fjords, dancing on top of trolls and pushing in to the Arctic Circle, we found ourselves in distant Norway surrounded by small fishing villages stuck in time and massive peaks carrying the Midnight Sun. A journey this far North is not ordinary but provided a sense of challenge that ended in more than a mental accomplishment.
We, as individuals, are incredibly minuscule in this world, yet have opportunities to make an impact on as many people we choose to expose ourselves to. We have a ridiculous amount of untapped knowledge and ways of life to explore – should we make the choice to seek it out.
For those that travel – you know the feeling. The sensation of immersing yourself in a culture so deep that you begin to question certain ways you’ve been living your own life. And for those that haven’t traveled – start small. Lift your head, listen to others’ stories and deliver respect again and again.
Departing Seattle on an evening flight, we found ourselves frantically buzzing through the Reykjavik Airport (KEF) in Iceland due to a short layover. Making our flight with little time to spare, we make it to our final leg of our ‘siblings from Seattle’ venture to Norway. Making the most of a half day, we land in Oslo and quickly take the train in to the heart of the city. Our walk from the station guides us past the Royal Palace, which sits within Slottsparken, and through parts of Majortuen – giving us a small taste of what we were to experience in the next couple days.
With the majority of the day left and a relatively short stay in the city, we settled in to our AirBnB and began to explore the close neighborhoods of the quiet, beautiful city of Oslo. Snaking down to the waterfront and Aker Brygge shopping area, we make an easy decision on fish n chips right on the water to fuel us for the afternoon. The Oslo transit system made it easy for us to get around without cash – simply downloading their transit app allowed us to pay straight from our phone and not hassle with asking a bunch of touristy questions.
Surrounded with quiet beaches and plenty of hiking and bike trails, the peninsula of Bygdøy hosts a couple museums that give a glimpse of tradition Norweigen culture and expeditions. Both The Viking Museum and The Fram Museum hold many artifacts and recreations of the events in which they are representing. After making our rounds within the museums, we chose to take the foot ferry from the peninsula back in to the main part of the city to finish up our evening.
Norwegian Constitution Day, or simply referred to as Syttende Mai (17th of May), if the National Day of Norway that observed every year by the people of Norway. The day represents the day the Constitution of Norway was signed, declaring Norway an independent kingdom in an attempt to avoid being surrendered to Sweden after a defeat in the Napoleonic Wars. We were incredibly fortunate to have our second and only full day in Oslo to experience the incredibly cheerful celebrations, parades and flying flags throughout the city. The celebrations are very non-military natured, with the most noteworthy being childrens parades, consisting of elementary school districts grouped together, found all over Norway. We had the honor of experiencing the hundreds of schools marching together past the Royal Palace – wearing costumes, flying flags and playing instruments.
We ended our time in Oslo with high expectations for the coming stops of the trip and, in retrospect, were very pleased with our choice to start in a larger city and work our way North.
Reaching the middle of Norway, we arrive late afternoon in the town of Trondheim, historically named Kaupangen (market place or trading place) in 997. While it holds a rich history, best known for historic sites such as the Nidaros Cathedral and Kristiansten Fortress, it is currently known to be a college town. The majority of the student population is held by the Norwegian University of Science and other technology-orientated institutions.
We unload from our 7 hour train ride through the countryside and make a short walk through the main section of town, and find our AirBnB in the vibrant, friendly and historic area of Bakklandet. Cobblestone streets lined with ‘pavement cafes’ and colorful homes welcome us to this beautiful neighborhood, prompting us to get out and explore immediately. The Nidelva River runs through and around Trondheim, lined with extensive walking/biking paths and old storehouses built overlooking the river from both sides. A main attraction, the Old Town Bridge, crosses the river a few blocks from where we were staying and ended up being a route we travelled often throughout our stay.
Splitting our time between the local cafes, historical sites such as the statue of Olav Tryggvason and Stiftsgården (royal residence), we also found ourselves on an island named Munkholmen (Monk’s islet). We took a quick foot ferry out to the 3.2 acre island on a calm afternoon and explored the diverse history that this island holds. While today it is a popular tourist attraction, it has been used for a place of execution, a monastery, a fortress, prison and a World War II anti-aircraft gun station.
Eating our weight in ice cream and watching people struggle on the Trampe bicycle lift, we enjoyed what we were anticipating being our last dose of warm weather in Norway. Our final morning led us to the Trondheim Airport for a short and sweet 450 mile flight to the town of Bodø.
BODO / FERRY TO LOFOTEN
Experiencing the most scenic flight I’ve flown, we find ourselves in our first municipality in Nordland, Norway, as well as our first steps within the Arctic Circle. With some time to kill before our highly anticipated ferry ride to Lofoten, we slowly explore the small town center of Bodø and sense the feeling of it truly being the gateway to Norway’s true north. An eclectic mix of locals and foreigners, the town is the most northern terminus of Norway’s railway system and is a jumping-off point for the Lofoten Islands.
We board our ferry as if we were children loading on to a Disney World ride we had been waiting years to ride. Trying to contain our excitement, we quickly let excitement takeover and were in and out of the ferry’s doors from outside to inside over and over – perplexed by the landscape we were going through. Eventually, we stashed our bags and spent the majority of our 4 hour ferry ride through the countless fjords of Northern Norway on the upper deck – taking advantage of the rare, sunny weather despite the wind nipping our faces.
Words cannot explain the mixture of awe, comfort and respect I had for those hours we stood on the deck watching the mountains and thousands of islands pass us by, making stops at the smallest ferry stations dropping off small handfuls of people every time. In America we live in a such a state of convenience and urgency that we forget to breath and look at the world surrounding us. Sailing through these islands and admiring the locations and conditions in which these individuals have chosen to live struck a chord with me. We are beautiful beings and are fortunate enough to live in a beautiful world. And sometimes it takes pulling a plug on what we’re comfortable with taking a moment to appreciate how raw, forgiving and giving our Earth really is.
Making our final docking in the town of Svolvær, we are able to make a short walk through the edge of town to our hotel. With a strong scent of fish, we quickly learned about stockfish – unsalted fish, mainly cod, dried by cold air and wind on wooden racks (hjell) along the shore. Perplexed at first, we would eventually find these racks around every bend of the remaining time of our trip. Another realization that was setting in was the amount of daylight we were encountering. Approaching the Midnight Sun, we were only getting a few hours of nighttime each night of our stay.
While I love taking photos and capturing these moments on trips like these, my camera is kept in my bag for the remainder of this trip. I met up with my parents and sister in Manzanita, and got caught up in the moment for the next few days. While it was completely involuntary, it has been gratifying to know that I intentionally put myself in the moment to experience something we get less and less of as we grow up. But. We hit all the good spots: Smuggler’s Cove, shopping, kiting, and (in our household) the legendary Left Coast for burritos