Reine

Norway 8 - The Rorbuer

Our Norwegian home was a rorbu - a cabin;  refurbished from raw, working, fisherman's hut to tourist cottage.

Some of the robuer where we stayed in Reine, the right most rorbu is on stilts. Those are fish (drying) racks in the foreground.

Some of the robuer where we stayed in Reine, the right most rorbu is on stilts. Those are fish (drying) racks in the foreground.

Traditionally, rorbuer (plural) consisted of just a couple rooms; a working / storage area and sleeping quarters. Fishermen often stayed 2 or 3 to a cabin, perhaps sleeping head-to-toe to maximize sleeping space. 

In this rainy view, you can still make out the stilts on which this rorbu has been built

In this rainy view, you can still make out the stilts on which this rorbu has been built

Nice views even at night

Nice views even at night

The basic layout of a rorbu hasn't really changed too much in probably hundreds of years. Even today, they're typically refurbished without the level of luxury one might expect of a nice hotel room. The one we occupied was well furnished; simply, yet beautifully, in wood - wooden floors, wooden walls and otherwise rustic wooden furnishings. It was simple and functional in an attractively and uniquely Scandinavian way.  It was fundamentally cozy, comfortable, traditional (I suspect they all are) and offered stunning views around Reine Harbor.

 
Drying racks and walkways to the stilted rorbuer

Drying racks and walkways to the stilted rorbuer

Rorbuer are usually situated partly on the rocky shore and partly on stilts in the water, the latter to enable docking of the fishermen's row boats. Many of them are covered with two kinds of roofing materials; slate shingles and grass. The latter is so traditional, I even noticed one local guy had gone to the trouble of constructing a tiny little grass roof over his mailbox. 

 
Sod roofs and slate shingles are the norm

Sod roofs and slate shingles are the norm

What about this word, Rorbu?   It seems bu is Norwegian for little house, though it may also be an alteration of the word bo - to live.  The word is used in similar contexts, such as redskabpsbu -  tool shed.   

 
Our domicile in Reine

Our domicile in Reine

As for the first syllable, it's ro as in rowing, a reference to the fact that all early fishing was conducted from rowboats. Apparently in Norwegian there is the concept of 'rowing fish', which is present in modern Norwegian in the phrase 'ro fiske' - I heard locals might even use a phrase like 'Lets go row some fish,' even though they may indeed head out in a motorized boat. 

 

But why fishing cabins built for overnights?  Why not just return home in the evening? 

Apparently, the winter fishing in the Lofotens is so rich with Cod and other species, that fisherman would travel from far away to participate.  They'd supposedly row their open boats for weeks to get to the islands and Lofoten became a destination.  

Fish drying racks are not old-fashioned relics, but are in use today and found everywhere you find rorbuer

Fish drying racks are not old-fashioned relics, but are in use today and found everywhere you find rorbuer

It's said that in an effort to support the burgeoning fishing industry in the early 1100s, King Øystein Magnusson had cabins built in Kabelvåg (formerly Vågar)  for the migrant fishermen. I suppose this is some sort of an indication of just how long rorbuer have been around and how important fishing was to the Lofoten.

The rowboats are beautiful.  We saw them stowed underneath many rorbuer.

The rowboats are beautiful.  We saw them stowed underneath many rorbuer.

Why does it seem all of the cabins are red?  National color of Norway?  No, apparently red fish oil paint was the least expensive and therefore the most used color.  At some point the burnt yellow (ochre?) came into use as well.  Today, it seems all rorbuer are either red or yellow and I'm guessing the colorations represent more of an upholding of tradition, than a need to paint inexpensively. 

Gorgeous wood work on these rowboats.  Hard to imagine putting out to sea, The North Sea, in these little things.

Gorgeous wood work on these rowboats.  Hard to imagine putting out to sea, The North Sea, in these little things.

As we drove around, it seemed every village, no matter how small, offered tourist rorbuer. For those wishing to stay in The Lofoten, it seems picking the village / area where you'd like to stay is the defining factor, not the availability of rorbuer. 

 

Our time in Norway and especially in Reine was so delightful, we're already scheming about going back.

 

Some Links about rorbuer

Norway 6 - Ferry To Moskenes

Nothing says adventure like putting out to sea.  Monday afternoon was that time and we were finally ready for the final leg to our actual destination. 

A view  from the ferry  in a roughly southern direction, having left Bodo 20 minutes ago

A view from the ferry in a roughly southern direction, having left Bodo 20 minutes ago

From Bodo, a 3+ hour ferry ride brought us to Moskenes, the southernmost ferry port on the main chain of the Lofoten Islands.

Yellow dots show Moskenen, the southern Lofoten ferry port. Topo overview from Apple Maps, detailed map from Norgeskart.no

Yellow dots show Moskenen, the southern Lofoten ferry port. Topo overview from Apple Maps, detailed map from Norgeskart.no

There is actually ferry service to some outlying, inhabited islands, such as Sørland, not connected by road to the main island chain.

Just leaving the port of Bodo, the ferry sailed past this hamlet, a tiny enclave called Kvalvika

Just leaving the port of Bodo, the ferry sailed past this hamlet, a tiny enclave called Kvalvika

Immediately upon entering the passenger area of the ferry, we got a sense of just how cold North Atlantic travel is, compared our more southern latitudes. Rescue gear on these ferries is quite a bit more serious than the life vests or even rescue rings we're used to seeing.  

On break.  I wonder if that's his dry-suit hanging over the railing?

On break.  I wonder if that's his dry-suit hanging over the railing?

Instead, we were greeted by full-body, dry, survival suits.  I guess the idea is that, as the ship is sinking, you need to allocate time to get yourself completely zipped into one of those things!  I just read where the waters in the Bering Straits was 12º F, so I wouldn't necessarily want to test the temperatures around Norway.

Rocky desolation - the ferry leaves Bodø harbor passing right by many, seemingly uninhabited, rocky islands.  

Rocky desolation - the ferry leaves Bodø harbor passing right by many, seemingly uninhabited, rocky islands.  

While the ferry ride itself is pretty average, the departure from Bodo is scenic and the view arriving in the Lofotens is spectacular

A classic and beautifully simple Norwegian scene - this house on the rocky bluff overlooking the fjord.

A classic and beautifully simple Norwegian scene - this house on the rocky bluff overlooking the fjord.

Given a late evening arrival in early September, we figured the sun would be setting at a similar time to our native New England.  We were wrong.  This far north of the Arctic Circle, early September sunrise & sunset times are more like New England summer time sunsets.  Although the ferry didn't arrive until 9pm, the sun was just setting behind the mountain chain which makes up the Lofoten Islands.  

Sunset over the the mountains which comprise the Lofoten Island chain - this was the view from the ferry as we approached Moskenes.

Sunset over the the mountains which comprise the Lofoten Island chain - this was the view from the ferry as we approached Moskenes.

As the ferry got closer the islands, this produced dramatic silhouettes of the mountains.  Despite a bitingly cold, north sea wind, many people were on deck taking photos.  What a great way to celebrate our first arrival in the Lofotens; beautiful sunset,  shadows hiding much of the detail, leaving us with tantalizing glimpses of what was to be enjoyed the next day.

Norway 1 - Oslo Bound

 

The Lofoten Island archipelago is wildly raw and breathtakingly beautiful. The islands have been rated one of the most desirable areas to visit in the world and the town of Reine rated the most beautiful village in the world.  

Looking from Tind back across the town of Å towards (lake) Ågvatnet behind the hill

Looking from Tind back across the town of Å towards (lake) Ågvatnet behind the hill

I'm not one to act on ratings.  In fact, my desire to visit stemmed from a travel article & photo I saw years ago.  This trip was a fulfillment of that desire, the realization of a bucket list item.  ...and whether or not you choose to believe ratings, The Lofoten Archipelago is magical.

Our ultimate destination was far north of the arctic circle.  Therefore, traveling to the Lofotens is more than a one-day travel affair, especially coming from outside of Europe. 

Arctic map view from CIA World maps online; Lofoten Islands and Arctic Circle markings added

Arctic map view from CIA World maps online; Lofoten Islands and Arctic Circle markings added

We landed in the fog at Amsterdam's Schipol, before transferring to the Oslo flight.  This had us arriving at our Oslo hotel about 24 hours after leaving our house on the east coast of the U.S.

Landing at Amsterdam Schipol

Landing at Amsterdam Schipol

Whenever getting to a destination involves multiple days, it's worth making the journey itself interesting, not focus just on the destination.  My wife & I did this with our journey to the Lofotens.  This is part of the reason we stopped over in Oslo;  it's a chance to see a new city and acclimate to the new time zone.

More on Oslo in the next post...