After gazing at dazzling Northern Lights in Tromso, I traveled to Norway’s most savory islands – Lofoten.
Some time ago a friend of mine sent me a postcard with a spectacular image of an island capturing snowy fjords, sandy beaches, and red fishermen cabins. Within seconds I decided I want to travel there.
I told him I would like to go during the winter season, but his instant reaction was: “Are you crazy? It is so cold and there’s nothing to do in March! You’d better wait for the summer to come when you can do plenty of outdoor activities and you can easily digest the outside temperature.” Of course, I didn’t listen to his advice. I’m always spontaneous and positive when I’m choosing and planning my travels.
Lofoten Islands are located above the arctic circle in the northwest of Norway. The remote location makes the islands isolated and difficult to access, especially during winter, when public transportation doesn’t work well.
My first base was Henningsvær, a village with 400 inhabitants, where I arrived from Svolvær. I got off at the last bus stop of the village, exactly where my Airbnb homestay was located. There, a friendly dog called Igor approached me and welcomed me inside the courtyard. Standing in the front of the house, I saw my hosts, Patrick and Lena. They’re a Swedish couple that moved to Lofoten Islands after previously surveying other places for living in Norway. Once I stepped into their wooden house, I totally fell in love with it. It used to be a regular fisherman cabin for more than 200 years, but now, with their own hands and talent, Patrick and Lena transformed it into a cozy homestay.
My bedroom was facing the harbor that has a magnificent mountain in the background. Everyday from my window I could watch fishermen going at work in their boats on the peaceful sea. I even remember once a young, handsome fisherman waving at me and saying good morning. That was another pleasant surprise after I witnessed, again from my bedroom window, the northern lights on my first night of the Norwegian trip. Well, it looks like I don’t really have to go South of Europe to meet romance…
The next day, Lena invites me for a walk with Igor. We went along the coastline toward town, overlooking the scenery that seems to illustrate an artistic drawing: fjord, turquoise blue water, and snow-capped mountains. This is definitely a photographers’ paradise, even though the weather conditions in Lofoten Islands can be totally unpredictable. Within just one hour I had experienced sunny, light rain, strong wind, and light snow.
At one point a distinct, special flavor started to envelop my senses and a spectacular sight caught my eye: large wooden racks with drying fish. I also notice a man who climbed the rack and hangs the fish. He is Alex, Lenna’s neighbor, who observes my curiosity and starts explain me the process of drying the fish.Apparently, fishing has been the main incoming source for the inhabitants of Lofoten islands for centuries, and the tradition of stockfish (fresh dried, not salted) goes back at least a thousand years ago.
In winter time the arctic cod arrives in the spawning grounds and fishermen will harvest it from the sea. From early March to mid April they dry it. First they clean the fish, then remove their head and split the body. Later, the fish will be tied and hanged outside in drying racks or flat lofts. There, it stays for three months, and after that, it will be deposited indoor, in drying rooms for another 3 months, before being sent to market and exported. According to Alex, the dry and cold wind of a constant temperature above 0 C, will keep the fish safe from frost and insects, maintaining its high quality.
Watching these almost decorative stockfish I felt like bringing some home with me, for cooking or to simply use it as a souvenir. Ah, silly me, it looks like I haven’t learn my lesson from my previous trip to Hong Kong. From there I brought (this time a salty) dry fish that during the flight to Kuala Lumpur spread its stinky smell all over my luggage, in a way that I almost got detained at custom control. It supposed to be a present for a friend of mine who, eventually did not accept it due to its repugnant smell.
So, this time I decided just to keep in mind the fragrance of the Lofoten stockfish, that surely adds its flavor to these islands. I will remember a red cabin with fjords and snowy mountains in the background, where one day I shall move and live with a handsome fisherman. I already imagine myself hiking with my dog during summer and hanging the fish in the winter. Hmm, what an aromatic life this could be…