Norway's windswept Lofoten Islands

By Judy Skatssoon

Judy Skatssoon bridges a rocky Norwegian archipelago where fish is always the dish.

Reine in the Lofoten Islands. Photo / 123RF
Reine in the Lofoten Islands. Photo / 123RF

It's the work of Norwegian street artist Pobel, Norway's answer to Banksy, and the guy who earlier this year spray-painted a "mute" symbol on Donald Trump's star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The slogan on this Henningsvaer wall pretty much sums up life on the Lofoten Islands, a rocky windswept archipelago off Norway's north coast.

The islands live and breathe cod. In cod drying season at the end of April, the pungent fish are hung up to dry on ubiquitous wooden fish racks that each year hold 16 million kilograms of cod over an area covering 400,000sq m of the islands, according to the Lofoten Stockfish Museum.

In the off season, the smell lingers, fishy, faint and everywhere.

Year-long you can munch on dried cod out of a packet from supermarkets and service stations, or feast on stockfish, the national dish.

We stumble across Pobel's cod work while exploring Lofoten's southern islands by car.

The islands are connected by bridges and it's possible to drive from Lofoten's capital Svolvaer to the archipelago's southernmost village of "A" and back in a day, taking the main road through the island.

Our first stop along the drive is the charming fishing village of Henningsvaer, one of several small islands southwest of Svolvaer.

It abounds in street art, including a number of Pobel pieces. His portrait of a fisherman on a rusty water tank is particularly striking.

Henningsvaer has a population of just 500 but with a combination of rustic fishing architecture and spectacular views of the Vestfjord it's popular with tourists.

Stockfish drying in Svolvaer. Photo / 123RF
Stockfish drying in Svolvaer. Photo / 123RF

Travelling on from Henningsvaer we cross over to the island of Vestvagoy and pass through the hamlet of Borg, the site of an archaeological excavation that in 1983 unearthed the home of a Viking chief, the largest Viking building ever found in Norway and dating back to about 500AD.

The Longhouse has been reconstructed to recreate life as a Viking would have known it - you can even try on a helmet - and turned into an interactive museum.

The highway snakes on over another bridge on to the island of Flakstadoy to Ramberg, which is on a 1km sandy surf beach looking out over the Arctic Ocean, through picturesque Hamnoy with its fishermen's colourful huts nestled between mountains and the sea, and finally to "A", at the end of the archipelago and home of the Stockfish Museum.

Back from our journey, we celebrate our last night before the return journey to Oslo with Royal Stockfish at the Borsen Spiseri restaurant in Svinoya, a small rocky outcrop connected to the main island of Austvagoya by a bridge, where our temporary home is a cosy converted fisherman's hut.

The dish is the restaurant's signature meal and is so named because it was served to Queen Sonja of Norway during a visit to Lofoten to 2007, we're told.

It consists of the local specialty stockfish - or dried cod - creamed carrots, egg butter and baked Serrano ham. For entree we are offered local treats, including lamb, reindeer and whale, the latter we politely pass on.

To cap off the night, the aurora borealis come out to put on a show for us and we wrap ourselves in blankets, head to a cliff and watch in wonder as the northern lights dance and shimmer across the sky.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Emirates flies daily from Auckland to Dubai with direct connections to its service to Oslo.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 06 Dec 2016 15:04:14 Processing Time: 891ms