Lofoten Islands: Into the Wonderland of the Polar Circle

More than an hour after taking off from Oslo Airport, I lowered my altitude from the clouds, and the scenery below gradually became clear-the looming islands in the depths of the clouds, the majestic mountains, and the blue waters. So beautiful!

Landing in this “overseas fairy mountain”, what awaits me is a dream trip. In Old Norwegian, the “lo” in “Lofoten” (Lofoten) means lynx, and “foten” refers to the foot, which originally means “foot of the lynx”, revealing a full of wildness. From the map, the archipelago is 800 miles from Oslo, between 67°-68° north latitude, 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and belongs to the territory of the Arctic. The Westfjord isolates it from the Norwegian mainland. The archipelago is mainly composed of 4 large islands and 3 small islands, covering an area of ​​1,200 square kilometers, but with a total population of less than 300,000.

The islands have a small airport in the north, central and south respectively. I chose to land in Svolvaer in the middle, which is also the capital of the islands. Because there is an old friend Ula, I booked his villa and chalet early. Walking out of the airport, the guide Pete had been waiting for a long time. The “Viking Giant”, who was nearly 2 meters tall, had a childlike innocence and lived a simple and happy life. Picking up the car at the airport, we drove all the way to Cabevago where Ula’s house is. This is the earliest fishing village in Norway, and the first fishermen’s cabins “Rorbuer” were built here. The Lofoten Archipelago was originally a settlement of Norwegian fishermen. There are countless beautiful small villages connected by an E10 highway on the island. The houses here retain the appearance of the original fishing houses, whether they are hotels, guest houses, restaurants or other kinds. The locals call this cabin “Rorbuer”. When you come to Lofoten Islands, you must live in this kind of wooden house to truly experience the romantic life in Lofoten. Ula’s wooden house faces the bay, as if living in a painting.

Under the rosy sunset, people on horseback riding on the beach are relaxing.

There are small sculptures of white-tailed sea eagles beside the small pier.

The entire archipelago is within the Arctic Circle, and the climate is cold and picturesque.

Double-sided Lofoten
The extremely intertwined climate in the Arctic Circle has created two faces of the Lofoten Islands: the cold wonderland in winter and the poetic joy in summer. The people of Lofoten follow the rhythm of nature, and I enjoy the fresh air and tranquility that the urban jungle cannot give.

The unique geographical location of Norway’s Arctic Circle determines the beauty of the Lofoten Islands so extraordinary. This long and narrow fish-tail-shaped island chain is covered with granite mountains cut and cut by glaciers during the Ice Age. It is steep and rugged. It forms a 160-kilometer barrier between the western fjords and the North Sea. Dun’s Wall”.

Winter and summer in the Lofoten Islands are like two worlds: the beautiful scenery of green mountains, clear waters, lakes and mountains belong to summer; while in winter, snow covers the islands, turning the buildings into fairy-tale “gingerbread houses”. In the cold air, ancient glaciers carved, the white world reveals the glamorous beauty, isolated and forgotten by the world.

Self-driving is the best way to travel in the Lofoten Islands. The main islands are connected by roads, and the roads are built along the high mountains that rise from the ground. The scenery along the way is beautiful. However, it is still very challenging in winter. The road area is a lot of snow and thin ice, and the road is very narrow, which only locals can control. In summer, don’t worry at all, you can start exploring the surrounding beauty with Svolvaer as the center. In summer, the pier is very lively and there are many more tourists than in winter. It is also a favorite holiday destination for Norwegians, and many natives have summer villas in the Lofoten Islands. Svolvær has a permanent population of approximately 5,000, with supermarkets, restaurants, coffee shops, and outdoor stores.

Henningsvaer, 25 kilometers from Svolvaer, is a charming fishing village with a population of only 500. The fjord water passes through two small islands, like a perfect canal. It is called the “Venice of Lofoten”. It is the central area of ​​the town. On both sides of the waterway stands a series of traditional Norwegian wooden houses with red roofs and whites. The wall still maintains the style of Norwegian villages and towns from the 1960s to the 1970s, as beautiful as ever. The fishing village has a long history and is said to be one of the 10 most beautiful towns in Norway.

The Imsui Islands are not far from Svolvaer, about 30 kilometers. The horse farm Hov Hestegördin runs the riding of Icelandic horses. When the winter came, I even went to the stables with Pete to shoot the aurora at night, surrounded by a group of Icelandic horses in the dark, it was really a bit nervous.

Northern Norway is rainy in summer, the temperature is about 16℃, the eyes are green, green like poetry, and in winter it is white like painting. There are only two seasons in the Arctic Circle that I have experienced: summer and winter. From the end of May to September in summer, the winter is more than half a year after it starts to snow. In summer, the iconic local cultural landscape, the cod, is still in the air, the fjord is still deep, and the row of red-roofed wooden houses in Ula is no longer the background of the snow-capped mountains.

Pete took me around looking for a reference that could be used as the aurora foreground, passing by Vogan Church, which turned out to be one place. This church, built in 1898, can hold 1,200 people. The largest wooden building in Northern Norway is also the largest church in the region. Why would such a large-scale church be built in the remote polar circle? Because the fishermen need it. During the winter cod season, fishermen come here from all over Norway and they need to find spiritual support in the church. Churches in the fishing season are usually full. A record in 1929 shows that 2,000 people came, and 800 of them had to stand. No wonder it is nicknamed “Lofoten Cathedral” by the priest, although Vogan Church is just a parish church.

In summer, riding in the midnight sun sounds good. After the sun sets, the rosy sky is picturesque, and the people riding on the beach are relaxing and relaxing. It reminds me of riding a horse on a cod rack in Iceland in winter. The scenery in the polar circle will never be bored.

In the Arctic Circle, the Lofoten people, who have been accustomed to the aurora for 4 months in the dark, look forward to the sun in the middle of the long night, and their loneliness and cold are all magnified. However, when the sun is not setting, the hustle and bustle of tourists may make them look forward to the tranquility of winter. I was fortunate enough to see the two faces of the Arctic Circle Islands-the mystery of winter and the refreshing of summer, but one thing has not changed, that is, the beautiful scenery with vitality.

Sea eagle in the mountain demon fjord
A huge shadow shrouded his head, accompanied by the whirring wind, and when he turned his head, the white-tailed sea eagle was swooping down towards the ship, aggressively. There are no dragons in the fairyland-like Lofoten Islands, but there are sea eagles, and they live among the majestic mountains surrounded by mist.

Norway has many fjords and therefore has the most tortuous coastline in the world. It has been eroded by glaciers for countless centuries, forming peculiar topography and landforms such as ice buckets, glacial valleys, blade ridges and horns, making it the country with the most beautiful natural scenery in Europe. It is said that there are almost all traces of white-tailed sea eagles along the western coast. This time, I will meet them in the Lofoten Islands for a while.

Starting from the Svolvaer Wharf, the hovercraft galloped between the lofty mountains and headed towards the mountain demon fjord. Another benefit of this cruise is that you can get close to the magnificent mountains and rivers of the Arctic Circle. The interior of the fjord is calm and calm. Because of the large number of fish, it has become a paradise for seabirds, including the largest bird in Europe: the white-tailed sea eagle. These “kings of the sky” live all year round in the lofty mountains on both sides of the fjord. The rich fishery feeds Europe’s largest group of white-tailed sea eagles.

The speedboat broke the tranquility of the fjord and entered the territory of the white-tailed sea eagle. The boat began to slow down. The fishing season has passed, and the guide usually brings some fish to feed them. It is estimated that the signal was received, and soon, a huge figure appeared in the sky, swooping down at us quickly, full of domineering. The guide threw out the fish in his hand, and saw the white-tailed sea eagle grabbing its prey from the water at the speed of an arrow, but the body rarely gets wet. It is an absolute superb hunter. Soon there were two or three sea eagles hovering nearby, but the fish that were thrown were just “snack”, and the sea eagles still had to support themselves.

White-tailed sea eagles are active during the day, flying alone or in pairs over large lakes and seas. They mainly feed on fish and often fly at low altitudes over the water.

Cod racks full of fish in winter. In addition to wood, oil, and natural gas, dried cod has been the most important export commodity for centuries, and it has also created substantial income for the local economy.

In this way, the white-tailed sea eagle has been flying with our ship. The white-tailed sea eagle has a wingspan of 2 meters and most of its body is brown, except for the light-colored head and neck, yellow legs, and distinctive white tail. When passing overhead, it looks like a small bomber. This fjord is deep and surrounded by steep cliffs and dense forests on the cliffs. White-tailed sea eagles gathered in twos and threes on the reef islands and beaches in the fjord. They searched for food among the seaweed that washed up on the shore, and they fought for food from time to time. Their food is not limited to live fish, but also includes small birds, small mammals, and animal carrion.

I watched the black-and-white mountain peaks rising from the sea, straight and sharp, among the criss-crossed mountains and seas, white-tailed sea eagles are like a king over the world, what kind of habitat breeds what species, sea eagles are the well-deserved owners .

Have you learned how to make dried cod?
For thousands of years, Norwegians have been well versed in how to deal with nature. The Lofoten Islands have a long-standing tradition of cod fishing, and they have also laid a deep “cod complex”. The influence of natural resources and climate in a region is also reflected in the diet. Culturally.

During the fishing season from February to April every year, “cod racks” full of cod can be seen everywhere. This herringbone “cod rack” is seven or eight meters high. People cut off the head of the cod, remove the internal organs, and clean it. The two cod are tied up from the tail and hung on a wooden frame to air dry. It looks like a fish skin house from a distance. Singular. You can also cut the cod from the abdomen, divide it into two halves along the spine, remove the spine, and place it on an outdoor rock to dry.

In fact, the air-dried cod is easier to store and transport. The islands are windy all year round and are very suitable for the production of dried cod. It is believed that it was the first time that Viking pirates brought dried fish to the European continent. They hung the fish on the shelf of the boat and transported it while drying. The fish can remain undamaged for several years. The production method is simple and the work can be done by the fishermen themselves. . There are two types of cod: pickling and drying: drying is natural drying directly under the sun and sea breeze; pickling is to remove the head, viscera, sprinkle salt, and place the head and tail in different layers. However, because salt was a precious commodity in the Middle Ages, it wasn’t until cheap salt was purchased from southern Europe in the early 17th century that local fishermen really used salt to marinate cod on a large scale.

In northern Norway in winter, the snow and cold climate just prevent and prevent bacteria and small insects from falling into the cod. But the temperature during drying should not be too low, otherwise the fish fiber will break, and this kind of frozen fish cannot be stored for a long time. The best climate is that the temperature is slightly higher than 0℃ and there is very little rain. The climate of Lofoten is just right. Cod usually needs to be placed on the rack for about 3 months, and after it is removed, it needs to be placed in a dry and ventilated room for 3 months. In this process, 70% of the water in the cod body will disappear, but the original nutrient quality will still be maintained, but it will become concentrated.

Dried cod has been Norway’s main export product for centuries. This dried cod, which is known as precious as any champagne or Iberian ham, has more than 20 grades. The Lofoten people export it all over the world. Southern Europeans favor fish bodies, and fish heads are exported to Nigeria to make fish meal, fish eggs are used to make caviar, and dried cod can also be used as a snack. After grading by quality, the best dried cod is generally exported to countries such as Italy, Croatia, Spain and Portugal. There is a very delicious restaurant on the Svolvaer Wharf called “Bacalao”, which is also the name of the main dish-tomato cod soup, mainly popular in southern Europe, a bit like a stew dish, this method is very suitable for Chinese tastes . It is said that there are more than 500 kinds of “Bacalao” in Portuguese recipes, which is really imaginative.

The roofs of the buildings here are mostly made of heavy slabs, which are usually fixed to the ground with ropes to prevent them from being blown away by the hurricane.

Vogan Church was built in 1898 and is one of the largest wooden churches in Norway.

The warm North Atlantic current makes it relatively warm and humid, with flowers blooming on the hillsides and lush green grass.

Heart-shaped stone on Leknes Beach.

No matter where I go, I hope to live a few days like a local. When I went there just in time for the fishing season, I went out to sea to catch cod with the local fishermen, lived in the old fishermen’s hut, visited the cod factory, took pictures every day, and went to the back kitchen to learn about the various methods of dried cod. When I return to China, I don’t forget to bring two dried cod fish and make a delicious tomato cod soup at home. For a foreigner like me, fishing at sea is fun, and eating fish is enjoyment.

In the blink of an eye, summer, there were no strings of dried cod on the birch racks, and no busy fishermen could be seen. Life in the fishing village was much more leisurely, and Norwegians flocked to their country houses from all over for vacation.

“The End of the World” in Norway
Continuing our trip to the Lofoten Islands, we head to Reine on the island of Moskenes in the southern part of the archipelago. My memory of this beautiful fishing village still stays at the dusk in winter: people on the waterside are dimly lit, and the blue sky is mysterious and dreamy.

In the late 1970s, Reine was rated as the most beautiful village in Norway by Norway’s largest weekly magazine “Allers”. Tourism is booming. Despite its remote location, it still attracts thousands of people to visit each year.

It must be admitted that in the same location, the summer scenery of the fishing village is also very charming. There are too many people yearning for a simple village life, without hustle and bustle, without pressure. Every angle here seems to be a postcard. In the blue harbor under the high mountains, you can see the midnight sun in summer, full of the beauty of Nordic “idyllic”.

The deserted beaches, hidden fjords, and the pristine green fields hidden behind each sharp peak constitute the typical scenery of the Lofoten Islands. A tourist agency lists the top ten landmarks in Lofoten, and the number one is actually a beach: Leknes. Pete took us to this landscape photographer’s creation “base”, and triumphantly pointed to an eyeball-like puddle on the ground, saying that this was the first thing he discovered, and it has now become an Internet celebrity landscape.

The dark clouds are overcast, the blue-black mountains in the distance are silent, and the seaweed that flows with the rising tide is underfoot, and there is also a huge heart-shaped shape made of stones. People regard this as the end of the world, and love extends. Arrived at the cape.

Although the sea is very cold, there are still brave people jumping into the sea to swim. Norwegians who love outdoor activities enjoy the beauty of nature: cycling, climbing, hiking, sea fishing, canoeing… There are so many things to do in summer. The deep fjord allows the sea to communicate with the inland rivers, and on the surface it looks like a huge and peaceful lake with a calm look. This is the place where I tried kayaking for the first time in my life, and the owner of the kayaking project personally escorted me. The winter sun shines on the body very warm, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the surrounding silence filters out all the noise, only the sound of paddles paddling the water, at that moment, it is the harmony between man and nature.

Reine has an iconic mountain, no matter from which angle you take the shot, it is a beautiful model, confident, perfect, and unique with no dead ends at 360 °. In fact, Reine was first known from a photo on the Internet: a young man sitting on a cliff and looking into the distance, underneath is a magnificent fjord. The place to see the most beautiful scenery in the village is on the top of the mountain. Without any signs, it is not easy to go up the mountain, but as long as you climb up, you will definitely feel that your hard work is worth it: small red houses lie quietly at the foot of the huge rock, and the last ray of sunlight reflects on the west. On the mountain, dreamlike scenes unfold in front of you.

Norway is not famous for its forests, but in my imagination, it should be densely forested. The novel “Norway’s Forest” written by Haruki Murakami was sold in dozens of countries. From then on, people remember that this place is about forests. But in fact, about Norway, the more fantasy is the sea monster. In Norse mythology, the Norwegian sea monster is a big octopus, engulfing the passing ships. This terrible legend is also described in detail in the book “Norwegian Natural History” by Ponto Bidan, Bishop of Bergen in 1752: Its back, or the upper part of its body, seems to be about a mile and a half around, as if It’s like a small island… So about Norway, it’s full of imagination.

Of course there are no sea monsters, but the coastline of Norway is indeed long and tortuous. People who have lived by the sea for generations have nurtured their lives with myths and legends.

Mosken Stromman Strait is the place where American novelist Allan Poe wrote “Mosken Whirlpool Ups and Downs”. From Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Miles Under the Sea”, to Melville’s “White Whale”, to Liu Cixin’s “Three-Body”, all have written about this maelstrom.

This famous Mosken Maelstrom is not the fisherman’s nightmare fictionalized in the novel, but is formed by the conflict of tidal currents between two small islands. Other vortices are often located in narrow straits or waterways, and the Mosken vortex is more in line with the image of the great ocean devil in horror stories because it was born on a wide open sea. There is a shallow ridge between the two islands adjacent to the Mosken Whirlpool. The ocean current will rotate in the shallow ridge and gradually expand. At the same time, affected by various factors such as tides and strong local winds, the maelstrom is formed. As early as the 16th century, the Maelstrom was recorded on the map by navigators. It is said that any ship that dared to approach it would be ruthlessly swallowed.

The unknown flowers in the wilderness sway in the wind, and the fun of the wilderness belongs only to those who like to explore. On the way, sometimes just for an inconspicuous chapel or a remote beach, we stopped the car and watched the mountains appear like fins on the sea, reflecting their reflections into the unfathomable fjord. The Lofoten Islands have been inhabited since 1120, and life here seems to have not changed much. There is only one E10 road in the entire archipelago, and a bridge and causeway link the islands together. At every turn on this road, you can see the coast. At the end of the E10 highway is the Village of ?. “?” is the last letter in the Norwegian alphabet, which corresponds to the geographic location of the town. Our self-driving has also come to an end. Standing on the beach again, those who are obsessed with this kind of scenery must also enjoy loneliness, such as me.

Art under the Aurora
With the attitude of looking for life, you will find that every detail in the trip is beautiful. Especially for artists, this is a place of inspiration. The imaginative works they created add a lot of fun to the journey. Of course, the key is to be able to discover these works.

Lofoten people are very dependent on fisheries, and fish has naturally become a cultural symbol of the Lofoten Islands. P?bel is an anonymous street artist whose hometown is Stavanger in southern Norway. Since 2008, he has created the “Getto spedalsk” series, that is, paintings on abandoned buildings in the Lofoten Islands, which mainly reflect the themes of local people and the natural environment, and are well-known throughout Norway. I saw his graffiti work “The Man Holding Cod” on the dock and I was very impressed. Another masterpiece “Butterfly” is located in an old abandoned house on the side of the road on Gyms?ya Island. A man wearing a diving mask is painted on the mottled wall, watching a beautiful butterfly on his hand. This time, Pete took us to another masterpiece of P?bel, “The Fisherman”: on a huge oil tank, a fisherman with a pipe in his hand looked melancholy.

In recent years, there have been fewer fishermen on the islands, but the number of tourists and artists has increased. More and more people are attracted by the natural light and shadow of Lofoten, and it has become the “House of Art”.

The graffiti on this huge oil tank is “The Fisherman”.

It must be admitted that the supernatural scenery of the Lofoten Islands, especially the beautiful northern lights in winter, provides artists with unlimited creative inspiration. The strong artistic atmosphere on the island is in sharp contrast with the sparse population. This is a pristine place suitable for creation.

Nowadays, the rudimentary processing sites in some small fishing villages have long been replaced by large fish processing groups, leaving many such abandoned industrial buildings and facilities. As we all know, Norway is a big oil country. However, the Lofoten Islands are currently the only place in Norway where oil is not allowed, although under the picturesque appearance, it is said that there are oil resources worth tens of billions of dollars. Around the issue of whether to mine or not, all parties are arguing. Due to the pressure of climate change and economic interests, it has triggered concerns from practitioners in the traditional cod processing industry and tourism.

The eruption or cessation of the contradiction between man and nature is always carried out in a spiral manner, and the starting points for considering issues at different stages are also different. The artists are just exaggerated artistic expressions, which arouse the attention and reflection of the world. After walking through so many places, perhaps the Lofoten Islands can be a special existence for those who are nostalgic for pure nature and remote islands.