A Lofoten island escape.
An opportunity to explore these intriguing Norwegian isles with Cunard is not to be missed. Here’s a glimpse into their fascinating history, and what you can discover on your next voyage.
Deep in the Lofoten Islands, where the wind whistles around the mountains and icy glaciers, and the quaint red-painted wooden cabins quietly creak, there’s something rather fishy going on. Truth be told, that’s nothing new. Fish have been the lifeblood of this hardy-but-heavenly corner of far-flung Norway, north of the Arctic Circle, for thousands of years. "We have found evidence of people living here more than 6,000 years ago," says local historian Kristine Moltu. "They subsisted on fishing, with hooks made from bones and horn."
Stretching for 175 splendid kilometers, with peaks that tickle the clouds at heights of more than 1,000 meters, this is a land of fjords and glaciers, of whales and swooping eagles, and of ancient ways and quiet traditions. At the heart of it all is the port of Leknes, the perfect jumping-off point to explore the region's rich history in a little more detail.
This cultural backbone has also been underpinned, it seems, by a fascinating raft of superstitions which were once adhered to with unstinting reverence. Where fishing was concerned, a firm separation of land and sea was insisted on at all times. "All equipment and references relating to the land were banned on board boats – as was even the mention of words like cow or horse," explains Kristine. While such beliefs and superstitions have long been laid to rest, here on these unspoilt islands it isn’t difficult to imagine how generations of its hardy people would have existed in days gone by. Dressed for all weathers in wool and hide, life would have been hard.
Up until the 18th century, small communities lived in simple wooden-framed houses clad in bark and peat. Recycling was common because of the scarcity of building materials and lack of money, and dwellings were often dismantled so their components could be reused to create new homes elsewhere. There were also rorbus – small two-roomed fishermen’s cabins, the like of which still stand today. They were rented by visiting fishermen who arrived on boats, and went on to stay for the season. That historical nugget is surely an indication that seafaring visitors were readily welcomed into the local communities: just as those who arrive here are welcomed today.
On a Norway cruise to this region, our guests can enjoy a rich variety of tours and excursions to get to know these intriguing islands better: the Lofoten Heritage Trail, for instance, takes in a scenic drive along the Flakstad Bay to the charming 13th-century red church and then on to the Sund Museum with its fascinating collection of fishermen’s boats, utensils and artifacts from the last century. Or you can take the Leknes Tour, which makes the most of the islands’ breathtaking views, and includes a visit to Nusfjord fishing village – one of the most idyllic and best-preserved hamlets in the Lofoten Islands.
Article by Nick Boulos.