The Sea of Beauty

In the Norwegian archipelago of Hvaler, in the fishermen’s outpost at Utgårdskilen, you can wander along the shore. Here you can watch their boats, or you can look at the open sea of Skagerak. See the lighthouse on Torbjørnskjær on the horizon. Take a bath if you want or sunbathe on the cliffs. It’s a beautiful world.

Along the pier at Utgårdskilen, the fisher boats and their equipment lie, ready to take off to the sea. This safe harbour is next to the open ocean, and here they also deliver the Catch.
Photo: Tom Thowsen
Hvaler and Utgårdskilen are situated less than two hours’ drive by car from the capital Oslo. Hence many of the capital’s citizens come here in their spare time. Some even have cabins here, even the royals and the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. It’s well worth a visit if you visit Norway. Photo: Tom Thowsen
A sea of shells washed ashore. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Small fishes washed ashore as well, from the strong waves of the ocean, were now swimming in these shallow ponds. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Photo: Tom Thowsen
View to Skagerak. In the horizon, you can see these objects lined up from the left: Akerøya, Vesleøya—and the tiny little thing to the right is Torbjørnskjær lighthouse. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Photo: Tom Thowsen

As a silent witness, carved to last forever, and shrouded in the mists of time, is it there:

With its 4 x 1,5 meters, this is probably the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. Its location is in South-eastern Norway. Today the rock is lying in the farm fields. At the time the carving was created, around 3000 years ago, this was a coast.

Photo: Thomas M. Hansen

A ship like this was 20 meters long and crewed by 24 warriors. On calm water, it could do 8 knots, 3,5 on the open sea. A crossing from Denmark to Norway could take 18 hours.

At this time, 2000 years before the Vikings, our ancestors had horned helmets. The Vikings had none.

Photo: Tom Thowsen
The farm fields in Skjeberg, in the vicinity of the carving. Three thousand years ago, most of this was beneath the sea. Photo: Tom Thowsen

Norway — the land of light and shadows

With the low sun angle during wintertime, everything sparkles between the long shadows. Warm, beautiful colours against the cold ones. Here are some impressions from Svinesund, in the borderland towards Sweden, where two bridges span the Ringdalsfjord. The old and new Svinesund Bridge. Norway’s most south-eastern crossing point to Sweden and the European Union.

January 2020 has been quite warm all over Norway, and here in the Svinesund area, as for most of the coastal parts of the land, the snow is almost absent this winter. Day temperatures around five degrees Celsius. This has fooled nature to believe the spring has come. Hepatica and Coltsfoot blossoms. Butterfly larvae and flies has been seen, too.

Here is the view from the old Svinesund Bridge, towards the new bridge. In Sweden, on the left side, they call this fjord Idefjorden. In Norway its Ringdalsfjorden. Behind the new bridge, far out in the horizon, lies the archipelago of Hvaler. Photo: Tom Thowsen
There`s a marked trail along the Ringdalsfjord where you can walk for hours in the mountains and the forests. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Here is a view over the Ringdalsfjord. Halden town lies hidden behind the hills on the left side. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Bright moss. Photo: Tom Thowsen
A shady shed. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Here is a narrow road between the cliffs. In the background, you can see a glimpse of Berg farm fields, not far away from where they found the Gjellestad Viking Ship. Photo: Tom Thowsen
These frozen fields at Isebakke are Norwegian. The hills in the background are Swedish.
Photo: Tom Thowsen

Some small impressions from Norway

Oslo at sunset January 31, 2019. Photo: Tom Thowsen

New Year`s eve in Oslo can be stunning. It can be almost magical, even though you leave before the rockets. Since Norway lies so far north, the sunsets are awe-inspiring in the winter. With or without snow, perhaps even more without snow, when It`s dark around you.

On the harborside, where there are few cars, it’s quite relaxing to stroll around and look at the people and the various architecture, from the Akershus Castle to the Oslo Opera House. And everything in between.

The Oslo Opera House. Photo: Tom Thowsen

The Opera House is a highly recommended place to visit. Both its exterior and interior is distinctive, and you can view it from different angles. Or watch the opera performance as well.

View from inside the opera house. Photo: Tom Thowsen
The stage. Photo: Tom Thowsen

Due to the Gulf Stream, and the climate changes in general, the winter is often mild in the coastal parts of Norway. In Oslo, it`s not highly unusual to have almost no snow in centrum, and perfect ski conditions on the hills. But the warmest temperature at the beginning of 2020 was measured on the west coast of Norway.   

Here are two photos from an article in the newspaper Dagbladet

Photo: Tommy Fossum (Dagbladet)

IN SUMMER SHIRT: August Dale cycled in 19 degrees Celsius of heat on Sunndalsøra on Thursday 2 January 2020, while the mayor was wearing his summer shirt. – We are used to high temperatures on Sunndalsøra, and now we have the records all winter months, says Mayor Ståle Refstie.

Enjoyed the JANUARY HEAT: Lill Karin Bugge had fun outdoors with children at Sunndalsøra. Photo: Tommy Fossum (Dagbladet)

As you see, coastal Norway can be warm in the winter, and some climate experts predict that the temperatures will rise in the years to come. Only time will show. Anyway, this was a glimpse from Norway at the beginning of 2020.

Have you experienced a mental block?

In some situations, most of us have lost our memory. But this story from Norway is Extreme.

It is on 9 April 1940. Blücher, the second of five Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruisers of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine, had early in the morning been destroyed by an old fortress in the Oslo fjord. This event, along with adverse weather conditions for the German planes, slowed down the invaders, well known for their «blitzkrieg,» and gave the Norwegian government and the royal family precious time to evacuate.

Out of the capital Oslo, crowds of people were running for their lives in the traffic chaos on roads northward, seeking shelter inland, trying to escape. Many on foot, but some in cars. It wasn’t easy to move ahead. In this turmoil, there were 26 civilian lorries, which has a central part in this story.

They were trying to save the national gold reserves — 48,8 ton of gold was on these lorries.

Let`s turn back the time a little bit. The threat of war had forced the government to make some security preparations. Since 1936-1938, the central part of Norway’s gold reserves was safety in Great Britain and the United States of America. All new gold to the States.

Besides incoming shipping, which was on its way from Cape Town, there were 818 crates of 40 kg, 685 crates of 25 kg, and 39 barrels of gold coins, weighing 80 kg each: a total of 53 tons in the Norwegian banks headquarter in Oslo.

It was a race against time

The loading started from the main vault of the Norges Bank`s headquarters in Oslo already the previous day, the 8th of April, and they worked continuously all night long and into the following day. The last lorry left at 1.30 PM, about the same time as German troops came marching in the streets of the capital. Some were aiming for the gold reserves — others for the government and the king.

The gold transport was top secret. Few, besides of the chauffeurs, knew what cargo the 26 civil lorries had when they retreated north. But the invaders took up the chase, just a few hours behind.
In the evening, the precious cargo reached Lillehammer, where they stored it into a bank vault. Only the bank director, Andreas Lund, had the code. In his head. In his memory.

Nine days later, it’s time to load the gold on board a freight train for transportation to Åndalsnes on the West coast of Norway. According to the plan, the transit will be by ship, to bring the gold safe out of the country.

It’s a very stressful situation, the Germans are closing in, and when Andreas shall open the vault, he cannot remember the code. It’s blank, a mental block. It takes him thirty, sweaty, painful minutes before he gets his memory back.

Okay, I stop there. Mission accomplished, but only barely. It was bomb planes and soldiers everywhere. But they did make it, thank goodness.
Lucky it wasn’t me. Poor, Andreas.