Svolvaer Sjohuscamp on Parkgata, is a self catering establishment with a number of rooms, accommodating between 2 and 6 people per room, in bunk bed style sleeping arrangements. Every room looks out over the water and you could sit in, what I called the conservatory, have breakfast and if you’re lucky to catch some morning sunshine, totally loose yourself in the view.
I had a room to myself which was good and had to share the kitchen and the toilet/bathrooms. I woke up at 8.45am. While I was in the shower my bag arrived and Gair’s wife was there to pick it up for me, thankfully. At least it arrived. So I unpacked my stuff and at about 10.30am headed out to find a cash machine but more importantly, food. I was starving!
I found a cash machine and then badly needed to get something to eat. Svolvaer, being the capital of the Lofoten Islands, with about 4,300 people living there, is one of Norway’s most important harbours when it comes to maritime services. It has more restaurants and accommodation than any of the other towns. Bacalao was one of the main cafes/restaurants on the quay and it seemed to be where most of the locals went to for lunch, tea/coffee and a chat. It’s big and open spaced and had quite a good selection of soups, sandwiches, baked potatoes, salads etc. Their menus are in English and Norwegian. Bacalao actually is the Spanish term for dried cod fish. A very appropriate name, seeing that the Lofoten Islands are renowned for their dried cod stockfish.
I had the chicken/thai soup and a baked potato with cheese and ham. The soup was absolutely delicious: hot and spicy and lots of it. The baked potato was creamy and very tasty too. I had a tea afterwards. I knew things would be pricey here in Norway and had checked out the prices of lunches and dinners before I came on holiday, so I wasn’t too blown away by the fact that the price for all 3 things that I had for brunch came to 252 NOK, the equivalent of 31 euros 90 cents. That was about normal for Lofoten. I had saved money for this trip and was going to need it. But Norway has always been expensive for non Norwegians and that’s just the way it is.
After brunch, I headed over to the tourist office to find out if one of the local bus companies, Bybus, which I had researched before I left, would be running any of their tours. The girl in the tourist office called them and they told her that I should call them tomorrow and they would know then. The girl also suggested that it would be a good idea to go see the Lofot Museet and Galleri Espolin and Aquarium in Kabelvag today and that there would be a bus leaving in 20 minutes. It only takes 10 minutes to get there and there were buses coming back at 14.55pm and 15.40pm. But the girl in the tourist office didn’t mention the fact that the Gallery and Museum was about 10 minutes walk from the bus stop. Today was no ordinary 10 minute walk! It was blowing a gale and the wind was against me. To be honest I don’t think I would have found them only because this Iranian guy who got off the bus the same time as me, lived very close by and he said he would show me where they were.
Now I had my clodhoppers on and they’re good for walking in snow but crap on ice. Some parts of the roads and streets still had unmelted, extremely slippy patches of snow on them and it was like a skating rink, honestly. Once we had gotten past the crossroads, it was easier walking after that. The Iranian guy told me where the museum was and said that if I wanted to drop in for a cup of tea or coffee on my way back, I was welcome to do so. He lived very close by. With the weather the way it was though: windy and rainy, I think I just wanted to get straight back to the bus.
The Lofot Museet is built around an old farm in a fishing village and gives an overview of the cultural history of the fishing village of Storvagan, with a number of old fishermen’s huts and boathouse, containing its traditional style Nordland boats. The main gallery of the museum was once the merchant’s mansion. This merchant used to hire out the rorbuer and sea houses to the fishermen and buy their catch. You could buy a combined ticket that covered the museum, the Gallery Espolin and the Aquarium for 180 NOK, which you could use over a space of 2 days.
I went to the Gallery Espolin first which was 500 yards up the road to the left, from the museum and then went back to the museum afterwards. I found the Gallery very interesting. It hosts paintings and sketches of the well known Norwegian artist Kaare Espolin Johnson. I had a look at the two rooms with all of his paintings and then the woman behind the counter asked me if I would be interested in watching a video about Espolin’s drawings/paintings? So I said yes. They have a video room there too, where she put on the film and gave me a cup of tea as well, which was very good of her.
It was very interesting and informative. He found out at the age of 8 that he had vision of minus 8, which is pretty bad. In the video he said that because of his bad eyesight he couldn’t distinguish lines but could see the light and dark much easier. He worked a lot with charcoal drawings and said he would start a drawing with darkness and bit by bit, faces and landscapes would emerge from this. A lot of his paintings are what seem like black and white but he explains in the video that he used light and darkness more than colour because it was mostly what he could see. I liked a lot of his paintings, some more than others. He had an operation done on his eyes in the 1970’s and that improved his eyesight. He died unfortunately in 1994.www.galleri-espolin.no This website is all in Norwegian and you can see some of his work here. But I’m sure, if you’re interested you can google him anyway, if you want to see more of his artwork.
After the gallery, I went back to the museum and had a look in some of the buildings there. There was quite an impressive collection of fishing equipment, a house which showed what the village market was like and two boathouses down by the water. I must admit, I found the gallery more interesting. Well I’m telling you, the wind was whipping up a storm by this stage and having nearly landed on my arse a few times, with the ice on the ground, I decided to head back to Kabelvag.
I made it back and on my way, asked this Swedish girl, who I met on the street, if she knew where the bus stop was. She was looking for it too and wasn’t 100% sure either where it was exactly. So she asked a few locals and we found it anyway. The next bus wasn’t till 15.40pm and it was now 14.55pm, so we had about 40 minutes to wait. Too long to stand out there in the cold and my jacket and jeans were soaking from the rain/sleet. I bought an umbrella earlier on that day, but it was bloody useless with the wind.
We decided to head to the cafe, the only one she knew of in Kabelvag. So over a cappuccino and green tea we got talking. Johanna is from Uppsala, an hour north of Stockholm and was working in Svolvaer last year for the summer. She’s now filling in for a friend who’s on holiday. On the bus on the way back, she was telling me a few things I didn’t know about Svolvaer. The stop that we got off at, was very close to this supermarket and I needed to get food for the week. She was heading off somewhere so I said that I’d drop into the restaurant that she works in: the Borsen Spiseri and we’d have a coffee.
So I got my food shopping, enough for breakfast for the 10 days and I made my way back to the Sjohuscamp.I had decided to have breakfast at the Sjohuscamp and eat out for lunch and dinner, to try and save a bit of money. It was so cold that I was delighted to get back there to a warm house and change my clothes. At about 8pm I went for food. I had wanted to try the Anker Brygge, which was in all of the guidebooks and it was just across the bridge on Lamholmen. It’s a hotel with a bar and an old style restaurant, which has been renovated quite recently. We were in the grips of a bad storm but I had to eat. The walk across the bridge was open to the elements and I was pushed over to the left railing a few times with the wind.
It’s a very nice restaurant. I went into the bar first but they were only serving a pizza menu in the wintertime. The girl behind the bar said though that I could go through to the restaurant if I wanted to. The restaurant was designed in the old fashioned style, with old pots and pans on the walls and a spinning wheel by the fireplace. I liked the feel of the place. Mind you, there were only 3 people in there: a couple and a guy eating on his own.
The prices for dinner here were higher than in Bacalao, of course, as this was a proper restaurant. The average price for a main course was 310 NOK. So I had a glass of white wine, a main course of baked coalfish, with the matron’s sauce (I don’t know what it was made of but it was divine), potatoes and vegetables. Really, really nice. Oh, I decided just for this time to splash out and have a dessert of chocolate fondant with a small spoonful of berry sorbet. Worth every cent of the 500 NOK I paid for it. While I was there, the lights nearly went out once or twice with the storm. I was thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be great fun if we had a power cut and had to work with candlelight. It might be a bit scary though on my own in the house.
I had a bit of a walk by the quay but it was too windy to go any further than the main square, so I decided to go back to the Sjohuscamp.