The Norway Trip

We were promised internet access so I thought I would be writing this as we went along.  But (like all other ships of various lines I have been on) the internet was down….

I have just arrived home after a trip to Norway.  This was Nigel’s holiday and as he loves good food and boats, a cruise is his idea of the perfect holiday!  Three years ago Steve took him on this trip and this year they were going again, and asked me to go with them as extra help.  (Nigel does need 2 folk away from home.)

Hurtigruten run fast ferries all the way up the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes, right up by the Russian boarder.  The boats are basically ferries, but they also take passengers for the ‘cruise’.  The timetable is et by the demands of the freight, not the passengers, but they do lay on various optional excursions most days, depending on our posts of call and the time spent there.

The boat we were on is the Nordkapp.  She isn’t very big, taking about 350 passengers, and I am not sure I would have wanted to cross the Pond on her, but she was ideal for the job she was doing.

The top deck is given over entirely to a huge viewing salon at the front, an big bar with plenty of seating in the middle, and open deck at the back (an area which, incidentally, doubles as the helipad).  There was also plenty of public space on one of the other decks, so there was always somewhere to sit and watch the coast go by.

A lot of the time we were running in and out of fjords or between small islands, so there was always plenty to see, and usually on both sides at once!  This particular departure had a special programme of lectures and demos of Norwegian folk culture, from music and dance to food and costume.  There were a selection of musicians on board, and on afternoons when we were sailing they tended to jam up in the top bar, so I was able to sit with my knitting watching the scenery and listening to a variety of styles of Norwegian folk music.  There seemed to be three fiddles, a recorder, an accordion and a double bass.  Sometimes all six were there, other times there were just two or three.  At times they were teaching each other tunes, at times there all knew what they were playing.  In other words, informal live music at its best!

I was, of course, on the look out for knitwear!  The costumes are mainly woven with hand embroidery, but the men wore Socks!!  At Alusund a dance group came on board and the one man of the party was wearing fascinating socks, with a pattern of holes very similar to Old Shale but all in stocking stitch.  The shaping was clever – at times up the leg fewer decreases than yarn overs were made, so that the diameter of the sock increased while keeping the pattern.

One of the resident musicians was a Hardanger fiddle maker, and he wore colourwork socks made for him by his grandmother.  These were black and white, and the calf increases on these were made by putting an additional pattern in the ‘back seam’.

He played the fiddle, as well as making them, and his touch was fabulous – I was sorry that I was not able to get a video of him playing.  One interesting thing to note – he uses the Selabu rose in the patterning on some of his fiddles.  (For those unfamiliar with this motif, it is found in many forms of art in Norway as an eight pointed star, or rose.  It is named after the town of Selabu where its used in Scandinavia was thought to have originated.)

As we went North, the weather got colder and the landscape more sparse.  The tree line came down to the water even well within the Arctic Circle, and there were plenty of trees, except on the far western islands which take the brunt of the winds.  On Sunday we came across the first new snow of the winter, on the tops of hills near Ornes.  Fellow passengers also provided photo opportunites!

I first went ashore in Tromso, where the ship docked right in the centre of town.  Of course I was after a wool shop – I even had ‘garn butikk?’ ready!  But I didn’t need it, because there, close to the harbour, was a ‘sweater studio’ and inside the door a notice pointing down to the basement and the word GARN.  It wasn’t just A wool shop – it was a BIG wool shop.  Or, at least, the space was crammed full of all sorts of different types of yarn.  As well as things like Norro and Debbie Bliss, there were umpteen Norwegian brands, including those such as Dale, Pierre Gynt  and Sandgarn known in the UK and US.  But there were several others I had not heard of too, including one which was using pure Norwegian wool.  and another which also had a 20% nylon range, presumably for socks.  Once I get home with decent light I will do a separate stash post!

I was spoiled for choice.  I knew I wanted to get wool for a sweater for Nigel (I had already done some of the designing) and we finally settled on the Dale Falk in a very dark navy blue with a pale blue for the pattern and a dark red for the highlights.  Black and white is traditional, but these days they come in all sorts of colours, and anyway, we had just bought Nigel a windproof lined black and white jacket and I wanted something different.

We had another dance troop on board that evening.  They were excellent, and had beautifully embroidered costumes, but the socks were a disappointment – knitted in Trekking – exactly the same colourway Aileen is knitting as we speak…!  Then there was a fascinating lecture by a designer who is into rare breeds.  She has had Norwegian cattle for many years and been a designer for many years, but only recently, as she put it, the two came together.  When the cows and sheep are slaughtered for meat, she takes the hides and has them processed to make very soft skins, which she then tailors into garments.  They really were very, very beautiful…

On Tuesday the main stop was at Honningvag, where most of the passengers went on a trip to the North Cape, the most northerly part of the European landmass.  We had been before, so as the boat again docked right in the town centre, we went in search of yarn.  The timing was such that we were able to do a recce before coming back for lunch, then a proper trip after lunch.  On that first trip I found the yarn shop, less than 2 minutes walk from the boat.  So over lunch I was able to decided what I might want to get.  (I had been kicking myself for not getting more in Tromso!)  So after lunch I went out and explored the shop at a leisurely pace.  They again had several Norwegian brands and I was able to make good the mistakes from Tromso.  It is good to put money into the pockets of geographically isolated communities…

As we are in Sami country, there was a display of Sami crafts on board.  I was hoping to be able to get a book with their mitten patterns in, but no luck.  I was able to leaf through copies of a couple, and to take pix of some of the things on display.  The knitting was very traditional, but the spinning was not – the spinner wasn’t there, but she was using Icelandic cakes on a very modern design of wheel!

The next day we left the boat in Kirkenes.  Although we were so far north, it wasn’t that cold (Gulf Stream!) and there were more trees than I had imagined there would be.  As well as the taiga-type scrub of dwarf birch, juniper, pines etc and berries, there was also a lot of larch, birch and other quite tall trees, many in their autumn colours.  As we flew south, we passed over Finland and Sweden as well as Norway – many, many lakes with ridges between, and in the distance higher mountains with fresh snow on the tops.  Most of the way the weather was glorious so we had a good view. I wasn’t expecting this, so the camera was in the hold!!

After a night in Oslo, we were up Far Too Early for my liking (04.15) yesterday, to start the long trek home.  We got back to Orkney early evening.

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25 thoughts on “The Norway Trip

  1. +1 for the Garn shop at Honningvag, (and many other places). Also an excellent Folk museum there.

    We had internet on the boat, but I actually ended up using my mobile phone (g3 coverage in even the smallest fishing village which would put coverage in a big city in the UK to shame). It turned out to be more convenient and not much more expensive than the provided Satellite Internet..

    1. I think September must be the ‘in-between-seasons month’ as in several places the museums etc were shut – open again in October. Steve was there 3 years ago in October and it was open then.

      My mobile phone makes phone calls. Period!! Oh, and texts!!

      Liz

    1. It was a good trip – I have just been photographing my stash and realising what ELSE I should have bought…!

      As to the dog – we couldn’t find anything to say – the inscription was in Norwegian (so Steve said!).

      Liz

      1. Too bad you didn’t copy the inscription and post it here. Someone among your readers might have been able to translate for us! The statue was in Tromso?– perhaps I can see it on a return trip to Scandinavia, whenever that may be. It’s much farther from me than from you, alas.

  2. What a fascinating and beautiful trip! Half my origins are Scandinavian (Swedish and Danish); I would LOVE to be able to go someday! I love GARNstudio’s website; they have LOTS of free, fabulous patterns.

  3. I love that first pair of socks. Inspirational!

    I’ll just try to not be jealous of the rest. The closest I’ve been to a boat lately was the cabin cruiser on a trailer I saw last night.

  4. I enjoy your blog tremendously! I am in awe of your beautiful knitting and look forward to having a peek into your life in Orkney. Since I am a dreamer, I feel as though I am there in your workshops, travels etc. Thank you so much for sharing.

    ConnieKay Kleiman-USA

  5. That wheel is most definitely a Kromski Sonata! That was my first wheel, now moved on to another loving home, replaced by a Jensen Tina II.

    It sounds like you had a great trip!!

  6. Great trip. I look forward to seeing the stash. I try to get Norwegian yarn whenever possible. There is a better choice here in Seattle compared with Dublin where there wasn’t any at all. My favourite is Dale’s Heilo.

  7. I thought at first that you’d devloped an obsession with men’s legs!! I love the socks though, especially the first pair.
    I love your blog, too, and the fabulous photos you take. Please keep them coming.

    Chris.

  8. I love your blog, Elizabeth. It is so interesting. I was in Tromsø in August and there are several “garn” shops there. I am going to have to look into this. Do you have the website to make the reservations? Thank you for your blog!

  9. This is a fascinating post, for the knit-wear and yarn shopping but also for the snippets of information about Kirkenes. My grandfather Ivor came from there, and his grandparents were the owners of the town’s main store at the turn of last century. Their son, Alfred, became a trader, and moved goods between Kirkenes and Aberdeen, where he eventually met my great-grandmother. They had three sons in all, and spent all the summer holidays there after settling in Glasgow, but owing to various circumstances my grandfather didn’t visit there again after the war – only his brother, my uncle Thor, has been there since it was so badly damaged, and has told me many times how terribly different it was to his earlier memories. I’m hoping to see it one day just as you describe here, having sailed from Bergen all along the fjords – thank you for reawakening thoughts of the possibility with this post.
    very best wishes, Kate.

    1. I was very sorry I had packed my camera away for the journey to the airport, as we went right through the town and quite a way out. It looked thriving now – quite a lot of new buildings and a general air of being well cared for. There were more trees than I expected – a mix of evergreen and deciduous like silver birch, along with plenty of the low growing blue and cloud berries, junipers and creeping pines. Fascinating…

      If you can get there it is well worth it.

      Liz

      1. It’s lovely to hear that – I shall tell my uncle when next I write to him. One day, hopefully soon, I’ll be able to see for myself 🙂

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