Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 26 Lofoten Islands

The maelstrom is the strongest of the world’s tidal currents and flows between the islands of the Lofoten group.  The difference in height between low and high tides can be as much as 1.5 metres and at the moment when the current changes, whirlpools begin to appear with speeds of up to 6 knots.  The Lofoten Islands are the western remnants of ancient mountains, which were pulverized by glaciers.  We had a bright sunny day with an arctic wind and this showed off the rugged mountain peaks and the splendid colours. 
The first people to live here were aboriginal hunters and fishermen, drawn by the profusion of fish, birds and marine animals.  Their later descendants grew rich during the Middle Ages providing limitless dried fish for the Hanseatic cities by means of Bergen.  Even today, cod fisheries form the backbone of the local economy.  We went to see a Viking Chieftain’s home site which dated back to 700 AD.  There were three rooms.  One was where the 50 people slept, one was the kitchen where they ate and partied and one was for the animals and slaves.  We had the opportunity to touch and photograph memorabilia from the Viking Period which is now stored in the chieftain’s house.
After this we had a scenic drive to Nusfjord.  On the drive we saw beaches, mountains and houses with grass growing on the roofs to provide insulation.  On one of these roofs we saw several sheep munching away.  This is the Norwegian lawn mower service. 
Nusfjord is UNESCO heritage listed and is one of the oldest and best preserved fishing villages in Norway.  Archaeological finds have confirmed the existence of rorbu cabins (fishermen’s cabins) as early as 400 AD.  The main fish caught here is cod.  Every part of the cod was used.  The blood from the fish was mixed with oil from the fish and became red paint to paint the cabins.  Only the wealthy owner had a white house as white paint was expensive.  The fish were dried on triangular wooden constructions, or salted and left to dry.  Cod liver oil was also made here.  The whole area is most picturesque.

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