Friday, February 20, 2015

Visiting Norway's west coast -- Fedje

Only a few times in my life have I really experienced "the elements" of nature.  Obviously, the elements are present every day of our lives, but what I mean is when their potential strength to overtake or destroy you can be felt. Visiting the island of Fedje was one of those times. 

Fedje (pronounced "fay-eh") is the name of a 7.4 square kilometer island,  a village on the island, and the approximately 125 islands and rocks mostly north of the island in the sea northwest of Bergen. Fedje is the most western independent community in Norway.   Its location in the North Atlantic provides it with very little shelter from the wind and the sea. One of Sten's colleagues lives there and invited us to visit him and his wife when we came to Bergen.  

We first drove north by car for an hour along the coast, taking the slower, winding, local roads because, as our host said, "You can take your soul with you." Arriving at the ferry landing to catch the boat to Fedje -- a half-hour trip into the Atlantic -- we began to feel the weather we were to experience most of our time on the island.  Strong winds were blowing and the rain beat against the windows when we left; however, by the time we were nearing the island, a rainbow appeared. The boat was tossed about as it made its way through many rocky islands, a salmon farm, and choppy waters. The two "old salts," Sten and our friend Kåre, spent some time seeing the views from the deck outside.  I found it almost difficult to stand upright in the strong wind.

Approaching the ferry landing on the island, your view of the main village is dominated by the church with its steeple.  There are less than 600 people living on the island. We learned that when any islander dies, the bells on the church steeple toll the next day for an hour to let everyone know the sad news. The island has an elementary and middle school (which houses a movie theater twice a week), a medical doctor, a helicopter, a grocery store, and no police force. It also is home to an important traffic-station for ocean-going boats or all sizes.

After a delicious comfort-food lunch of risgrot (rice porridge), our hosts took us by car to see around the island and the lighthouse, which is on the opposite side from the village of Fedje.  The lighthouse is on a tiny island of its own, right next to the main one. The winds were blowing incredibly hard and there were some hints of rain.  I was sure my hat was going to be blown off. Though it was cold and stormy, I found it rather exhilarating to be out in the weather.

Driving back from the other side of the island, we had another view of the church, this time lit up for the night.

Coming home to a warm house with a wood fire in the stove and a delicious supper on the table was more of a treat than usual after being outside. The sunset was like a flaming fire -- matching the wild outdoors.  After supper, we enjoyed good conversation, some knitting, and a new table game.

The next morning we planned to take a walk around the village.  Outside, the rain was again coming down hard, propelled by the same strong winds as the day before. However, our hosts had plenty of  protective, waterproof clothes so our plans weren't thwarted.  I've been for walks in the rain, but this was an on-steroids version of what I'd experienced before.  Any body parts or garments not under the rain clothes immediately became thoroughly soaked. The rain pelted your face head on, driven by the wind. Taking photos under these conditions isn't the easiest task, but here are the few shots I got.

Next to the church is a statue in honor of "the seaman's wife."  She held the family, home, and community together alone while her man was out fishing for their livelihood, often battered by the elements at great risk. Fishing was the reason people first lived on this island; however, there are almost none living there who make their living that way anymore. It mustn't have been an easy life.

Too soon, it was time to catch the ferry back to the mainland and the drive back to Bergen to catch our train home to Oslo. Visiting Fedje will be a special memory for years to come. Thank you, Kåre and Tone, for your wonderful hospitality and warm friendship.  We loved seeing this place so special to both of you.

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