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Bodø and surroundings areas
As the jumping off point to the Lofoten Islands, Bodø's port bustles with ferries and fishing boats, and passengers waiting for the famous Hurtingbat service, the dauntless ferry service that runs along the coastline, regular and dependable regardless of the weather. Here too, visitors disembark from the train service from Trondheim or the airport, ready to hike and explore the region around Bodø.
 
The town's position on the southern point of a peninsula gives it a feeling of space, yet the Swedish border is less than 70 kms due west so the coastline seems somehow squeezed between the sea and its Scandinavian neighbour. Bodø's boom years were formed by looking after the herring fleet, and then all that glory was virtually wiped out by WWII bombing raids.
 
Today, Bodø town is bright, modern, bustling, positive, despite the rather desolate, treeless hills that surround it. For a more positive spin, many head for the popular Norsk Luftfartsmuseum, an aviation-geek heaven with a genuine Spitfire and U2 US spy plane. Today, you're more likely to see sea eagles than Spitfires, soaring across the town skyline.
 
To visit the old trading port at Kjerringøy is to step back in time amongst 19th century timber buildings, to a time when one family virtually ruled the fishing industry of the Lofoten. From here, the Zahl family supplied the fishermen with everything they needed, but in return fixed the price of fish, virtually enslaving the fishermen in a cycle of debt. The contrast of the fishermen's huts to the opulence of the Zahl home is in itself a tribute to the final triumph of the free market. The coastline is sheltered by islands, producing an effect of alpine serenity on this normally wild coast, and making the white sandy beaches that nestle below towering cliffs very inviting during the summer months.
 
At Saltstraumen, however, nature is very much in charge. Four times a day, millions of gallons of sea water stream through a 150 metre wide channel between the inner and outer fjord. The final effect is a maelstrom, wild foaming white whirlpools of water, some up to 10 metres across, that suck in fish from the sea and excites anglers in their droves. To sit on the terrace of the nearby café and watch this creaming mass of turbulence is like sitting on top of the noisiest, most dangerous, giant cappuccino machine nature has devised.
 
From Bodø it's easy to escape into the countryside to walk, hike or cycle around the local lakes, where ever-hopeful fisherman fish for trout and salmon.
 
East of Bodø is Fauske, and the main north-south highway that parallels the mountains and borderland of Sweden. North of Fauska lies the Kjelvik farmstead, an idyllic spot in summer as it nestles in a green wooded valley. However, imagine the 2km trek to the ferry jetty asyour only means of communication, no electricity, no running water, and it's easy to see why the last occupants bailed out in the late 1960s.
 
South of Bodø lies the Saltfjette National Park, and the impressive driving route Highway 17; for more, see our article on R17 south of Bodø.
 
© 2009 Kirsty Young
 
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