Hunting the Aurora Borealis V: Lofoten Islands

Eric Anderson, MD

,
Nancy Anderson, RN

The Andersons are now in island-and-fjord country with a thick fog, the Lofoten Islands and an ice bar for spirits.

Photography by the authors

MS Trollfjord

Our passes some of the most exciting scenery in Scandinavia. We are in island-and-fjord country. The land is a sunken submerged coastline — as if Switzerland had been drowned by global warming and now the mountain tops have become islands.

There is considerable fog, which is frustrating for the camera buffs on board — there are plenty of those, many standing in front of you with their big tripods. But tripods won’t help you shoot the Lofoten Islands if the fog is thick; for that you might need X-ray film!

Our ship pulls in to Svolvaer. We can’t pronounce it. We can’t see it, either. It’s 6:30 p.m. in winter, so it’s dark. And we’re so deep in winter that some of the brief shore excursions (such as searching for the sea eagles) are not offered. But in summer the Lofoten Islands must be a marvelous place — one of the loveliest spots in what has to be the most beautiful country in Scandinavia.

Less than 5,000 residents live here, but the town gets about 200,000 visitors a year. They come for the area’s history: it was established around the year 800 and one of the first churches in north Norway rose up here probably about the year 900.

They come for the gorgeous scenery: submerged mountains clambering up from the sea — and if they are artists or photographers, they come for that special light the way France’s Provence attracted Van Gogh. We presume that would be the summer.

There are other attractions: a Viking House museum open twice weekly in winter and every day in summer. A War Memorial museum and a Fishing Village museum have been developed here. And a local museum and an aquarium stand on a nearby island Austvagoya, all with varying opening hours in winter.

Goat Mountain, with two “horns” about five feet apart at its top, overlooks the town and it’s a form of passage for intrepid souls to jump from one pinnacle to the other. There is, however, one attraction available in winter — especially in winter — that is a lot safer for visitors who don’t want to jump on Goat Mountain but would rather find their footing on the icy streets: the Magic Ice Bar. The bar is about five minutes from the dock so you can wander in its cold comforts for an hour before you need to go back to the ship.

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In the ice bar you can marvel at and photograph statues of clear ice where “seven artists from different parts of the world have created art below zero.” But more important, if a mouthful of vodka in a glass of ice would warm your spirits, is also immediately available.

Meanw

hile, back on the ship, dinner is already starting with what might be the best soups of any cruise line. They will warm you more than any Magic Ice Bar cocktail.

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The Andersons, who live in San Diego, are the resident travel & cruise columnists for Physician's Money Digest. Nancy is a former nursing educator, Eric a retired MD. The one-time president of the NH Academy of Family Practice, Eric is the only physician in the Society of American Travel Writers. He has also written five books, the last called