Tag Archives: travel

Chilly waters on Kvalvika Beach, Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Lofoten, Norway, Part 2

The weather was warm and sunny while I was above the Arctic Circle this summer, due to 23 hours of daylight. The Lofoten Islands are known for a distinctive landscape of jagged peaks, windswept grasslands, open sea, sheltered bays, and white sand beaches. I was excited to hike here where the mountains are exposed, with rock bordering the ocean, and visibility is fantastic. I was staying in a quaint fishing village bordered by a high wall of mountains behind it, with a protected harbor from the sea. It was a peaceful, back-to-nature place that still exists, whereas some of the old fishing villages are now abandoned.

Hiking up Vestvagoya in Noway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Hiking up Vestvagoya in Noway.

Led by our guides Anna and Annasteina, one day our small group hiked on Vestvagoya, a steep, exposed trail, with the ocean touching the base of the mountain, far below where we hiked. It was a day-long hike and ended with a walk on the white sand beach. I threw off my hiking boots, looked around to see if anyone was going to join me, and then waded alone into the cold Arctic water. It felt great after hiking, but that pleasant sensation lasted only a very few minutes before the blast of cold began penetrating my toes. There were several surfers in full diving suits in the water or on their boards.

Another day we spent hiking more gentle trails through grasslands, hills, and harbors. After hiking all day, our small group would enjoy a great meal by native chefs. The fish is caught daily and served the same evening. The meal was well prepared and we dined in a casual, friendly atmosphere. The islands have become a great place to hike in the summer, ski in the winter, and view the Northern Lights.

Soon it was time to leave Lofoten and Norway, but I would take with me many happy memories of hiking in different regions, the friendly people with a healthy lifestyle, and the beautiful country. Because we were so far north, it was a long day of travel.

Again in the wee hours of morning, but at least not in darkness, we departed the red painted rorbus, a cabin on stilts where I slept with the water under the floor boards. Then we drove an hour and a half to Svolvaer Airport on Lofoten, took a puddle jumper plane to Buda. There our group divided and we said our farewells. I took the first flight to Oslo, picked up some checked baggage and took an international flight to Denmark.

Of course there were flight delays to make my day longer and more tiresome. This is part of the “downs” of the “ups and downs of life.” The “ups” are all of the great adventures of travel: what you learn, who you meet, and what you do and experience. The “ups” far outweigh the “downs.”

I was very happy with my adventures in Norway. It is a beautiful country that is clean, friendly, safe, and a great place for many outdoor activities. I would be delighted to return to Norway someday.

(posted October 18, 2016)

View inland from lodging at Lofoten, Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Lofoten, Norway, Part 1

Hiking in Norway is a great adventure, and I hiked in different regions, each time going further north to my final destination above the Arctic Circle. Our two guides and small group of hikers left Oppdal at 3:45 am to drive 1 ½ hours to Trondheim Airport.  That morning, I saw deer on our north woods scenic journey. Our flight took us north to Bodo, then a transfer to a ferry for a 3 ½ hour crossing to Lofoten, a group of islands above the Arctic Circle.

On the ferry crossing, I saw a long row of islands in the distance: the last barrier west towards Iceland and Greenland. The Gulf Stream keeps this area warmer than I imagined possible above the Arctic Circle. On some of the uninhabited islands are large colonies of seabirds including puffin and cormorants.

Between Vaeroy and Lofoten is one of the world’s biggest tidal currents.  As we approached Lofoten Island, it was an awesome setting of steep mountains touching the sea, with a few protected harbors of fishing villages. The mountains are awe-inspiring, with patches of snow hidden where 23 hours of sun a day still cannot melt it.

We were headed to Henningsvaer, a small fishing village with a population of 500. Here cod is dried on large racks—the same method used by the Vikings 1,000 years ago. I stayed in a red painted rorbus, a cabin on stilts. There were several of these refurbished fishing shacks right on the village wharf. The sun set for less than one hour during this time of year, but I had no trouble sleeping until I was awakened by the loud shrill of sea gulls. I soon opened the outside door and walked on the wharf. The sun was warm and welcoming.

After a hectic schedule of travel and hiking, we spent the morning at an authentic Viking site, now the Lofotr Viking Museum. The “find” is on top of a hill, and it features an excavated chieftain’s house, boat house, and smithy from the Iron Age. The house is 83 meters long, 8.5 meters wide, and two stories high. One hundred people could live in this dwelling which is full of artifacts, benches, and fire pits. As I viewed the harbor below, it was amazing to think that 1,000 years ago, the Vikings sailed from this site to Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland, Canada.

The best way to get about this area is in small boats that the fishermen use to ferry people from place to place. Other than the people who live here, tourists come to hike in the summer and ski in the winter. It is a beautiful place with extreme and varying weather conditions.

Lofoten is a far away destination to gain strength for the body and soul. I enjoyed the strong natural character of the area, the gracious people, the comfort of good food, and a warm haven to rest. Next, I looked forward to hiking here.

(posted October 11, 2016)

Madelyn Given at the summit after a long day of hiking from Oppdal, Norway.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Hiking the Trollheimen in Norway

While in Norway I had hiked on different mountain ranges, and now I was headed to the small town of Oppda, in a valley surrounded by the Trollheimen, home of the Trolls. This is considered the most diverse and beautiful of all the mountain ranges in Norway. My last stay was at an old farmhouse with great hosts and wonderful food, which was great for hikers with good appetites.

Now we were headed to a new hotel, busy with skiers in winter and hikers in the summer. To get to this tiny village, we took a car ferry across a glacier lake and then a long drive, mostly through mountains, with long tunnels. Norway is a country with lots of tunnels. On our way, our head guide took us to her farm to meet her family. She lives on a six-generation place belonging to her husband’s family. It sits on a steep side of the mountain and to walk from the barn to the house to the fields is a feat in itself.

I wondered how dangerous it would be to raise a family here, but I soon found it wasn’t a problem when three school-age children scampered out of their grandparents’ car and ran across the ledges to the house to hug their mom, our guide. Her husband had been doing farm projects and rode into the yard on a four-wheeler to greet us. After a short visit, the children were on their way, with grandparents babysitting, and we were on our way to Oppdal for the night.

When we reached Oppdal, I was tired, as we had hiked all morning to Kavli Moen Gard, a mountain farm closed off in winter—yet the family was self-sufficient. For generations, the same family lived here year-round, but now they live here only in the summer.

A house near Oppdal, Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.This rural home has the traditional sod with grass-covered roof. The owner was making ice cream in the stone milk house. A mountain stream runs though the building, and inside, the milk it kept cold by placing it in a water tank with the ever-flowing cold mountain water swirling around it.

There is a lake for fishing and great hunting. Sheep and cows are free to graze on the nearby pastures. As we neared the farm, the fat, healthy cows were grazing along the path. It was a beautiful, tranquil place. We stopped long enough to enjoy a cup of tea along with our lunches we had packed early that morning.

Then we headed down the mountain and were on our way to Oppdal. After settling in to our mountain resort and dinner, I began to think about my next day’s hike.

We were on the trail early the next morning for a full day’s hike. The paths were good, and the weather was sunny and warm. The trail had a gradual rise of several thousand feet to a plateau, and then another steeper climb to a radio tower on the summit. In every direction we saw snow-capped mountain peaks, forests at lower elevations, and valleys, with only the small village of Oppdal far below. We had done a full day of hiking by the time we arrived back at the hotel.

Later, my guide offered to take me to a nearby Viking cemetery. Vangfeltat is the largest Viking graveyard ever found and the third largest cemetery in Europe. There are no markers or headstones, just mounds, thousands of them, spread out through the woods all around this area. Researchers have not found any children and few women buried here. Only certain Vikings were buried here, over a long period in history.

When a Viking died, he was carried here along with his possessions on a wagon, and dirt from his homestead was carried here in that procession from home to this site. The body was placed on the flat ground and cremated on that spot; dirt was placed over the cremated body and his possessions, forming a mound. There are no signs we would recognize as belonging to a graveyard; only the ancient mounds everywhere are a clue that this is an ancient site where something significant happened with mankind.

Every day there was something special to look forward to learn, see, and do. Hiking in a different part of the world is an adventure and every step is memorable.

(posted October 4, 2016)