Over the last few days, NRK has been broadcasting live footage of the Hurtigruten cruise along the Norwegian coastline. I’d seen some of my Norwegian friends mention this on Facebook, but this morning, I finally got around to finding it online. The ship is almost to Lofoten, an archipelago I visited while I lived in Norway. I just checked my blog to see what I wrote about this trip . . . and it seems I didn’t write anything, I think because this was just the first part of a 10 day trip. So here’s a much belated entry about wonderful Lofoten.
I was invited to present in Stokmarknes and Melbu by an energetic teacher, Siri Johnsen, who had never before had a visit from a Roving Scholar. She was so enthusiastic about my trip—and about where she lived. Since I also had heard from many others how beautiful Lofoten was, I traveled there a few days early. On the advice of Maj-Britt, the travel agent for the Roving Scholars, I chose Svolvær, a small town known for its striking scenery, as my destination. Although it was late January when I arrived, there had been quite a bit of rain followed by freezing temperatures that left a thick coat of (melting) ice on the roads. The hotel I was staying at was about a 10 minute walk from the center of town—and in order to avoid the ice, I had to walk down the middle of the mostly empty road. As I was there during the off season, the whale watching trips and other tourist activities were closed. I spent a quiet few days there, taking photos of the spectacular scenery on long walks, reading, and walking into town to eat.
I then went to Stokmarknes to present. Siri had prepared the students for my visit, even inviting a local reporter, Vegard Bakkely (who wrote a story about me published in the local paper), to attend my presentations. I spent the day with a really nice group of students, talking about American culture. The students were funny and engaged—and I remember that they asked really good questions about the U.S. Later, they made a video about Norwegian food for me to share with American students. Speaking of food, I also enjoyed a delicious lunch with the Hadsel VGS teachers that featured whale and a traditional dinner with Siri, her American husband and another teacher that evening. Siri gave me a beautiful necklace that I still wear and love—and I think of my visit to her school every time I put it on.
I also presented in Melbu, a small fishing village south of Stokmarknes. One of the teachers arranged a last minute presentation with students at the ungdomskole, the only time I presented to younger students during my Fulbright year. This group, too, was delightful—they were energetic and funny . . . and so excited to have an American to talk with. Several of them walked me to my hotel afterwards and two emailed later to ask if I could find an American penpal for them. My stay in Melbu was especially memorable because I had been the only one at the hotel the night before. Even the hotel employees went home and left me alone, but they had returned in the morning to make breakfast for me. I also really enjoyed walking around the area thinking about the cod that is caught and dried there. Cod (baccalhau) was such an important dish to Portugal, another country I’ve lived in, that it was fascinating to see where it originates.
Lofoten is one of the most beautiful places in the world, I think. I hope to return some day.
Note: the first three pictures are from Svolvaer, the last from Melbu.