October 1, 2020 A taste of Nordic food and nature

Visiting the Midnight Sun in the Lofoten Islands of the Arctic

It was almost time for my tour and there was no one, much less a crowded bus, hanging around the edges of the square. I anxiously checked and re-checked my ticket to make sure I hadn’t booked the wrong date in my mad dash the night before. My spontaneous boat ride from Bodø had just started to seem like a bad idea when a sleek black Mercedes slid into view.

“You’re the only one who signed up, so this one’s private,” my tour guide told me as we sped out of town.

He told me about the islands as we wound around looping roads, following the coastline and hugging the mountains towering overhead. Every now and then we would swing around a bend and the world suddenly opened up into breathtaking views of thunderous mountains plunging into the sea, all bathed in the warm, brilliant burn of a sinking sun.

We passed a herd of sheep grazing just off the road. I asked why they were out of their pasture, and earned what I like to call the “ignorant-but-earnest-American” smile: the sheep are let loose to graze up in the mountains in the summer months, then brought back down to pasture in the winter. Only in the world of allemannsretten.

Since there was no giant bus to maneuver around unforgiving rural roads, my driver, whose name I admittedly could not pronounce or remember, took me to an extra lookout spot with a spectacularly rocky beach. The granite boulders sloped their way down the shoreline to reach the frigid water.

“The next stop is Greenland,” he told me as he pointed out to the horizon.

It was hard to get a good look on account of the giant burning fireball perched just above the sea. The clock had barely ticked past midnight, and there was the sun, acting as if it had never been anywhere else. An angry orange sphere hanging steadily over the water, but never making contact. As if nature was acting against itself.

We jumped back in the car and zipped across the islands toward our original destination. An eerie feeling settled like a blanket over the landscape as we passed farmhouses and tiny towns that appeared deserted and forgotten, sitting quietly in the fuzzy daylight. Campers and tents were strewn about adjoining fields as we drove through the countryside. We slipped between the shuttered windows of sleeping houses and arrived at a quiet beach set against the looming backdrop of an old white church that was tied to the ground with metal cables, necessary protection against the area’s vicious winter winds.

Sitting on the damp, smooth rocks rising out of the cool waters was like slipping into a dream. The only sounds were the gentle lapping claps against granite and a soft but constant wind breezing its way across the landscape. And there sat the sun, sending a radiating warmth out across everything in its reach.

It felt like standing at the edge of the earth, an alien dimension, just barely unable to glimpse the other side.

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