If the Norwegians like one thing, it’s definitely a burger. In the first part of our trip, I unwillingly ate three burgers in as many days. In Svalbard, some of the menus were limited where you could choose from multiple types of burgers but not much else. We also had limited choices at the restaurants paid for by Norwegian Air due to our flight cancellation. We could choose from the regular burger or the veggie burger. So many choices to choose from! Thankfully at our last lunch paid for by the airlines, the restaurant allowed us to get anything off the menu under a certain price. It was between a burger or pizza. I gladly chose the pizza instead of having a burger for the fourth consecutive day in a row. Jordan ordered a pizza that included pineapple and asked the waiter for no pineapple on it. When the waiter brought out the pizza, he said, “double pineapple pizza, here you go.” Jordan did not find the waiter’s joke funny, but I sure did!
When we first arrived in mainland Norway, it was clear they were just as jazzed about burgers as they were in Svalbard. There were multiple burger options along our way to the Lofoten islands that claimed to be the best burger, and some restaurants were even named “best burger.” I wanted nothing more than to eat anything other than a burger, but luck was not on our side. We stopped for lunch as we were driving from Tromso to Leknes in the Lofoten islands, and you wouldn’t believe it, but the only option was to eat a burger! Five days, four burgers. No salads in sight!
After swearing off burgers for the rest of the trip, and maybe for a long time after, we went to a seaside restaurant in the small fishing village of Å. Jordan was so excited to get seafood since he will only eat fish when he knows it’s fresh. We had looked at the menu online, and there were plenty of fish options available to choose from. I joked with Jordan before we got the menus when we arrived and asked him, “are you going to get the fish or the fish?”. I must have jinxed it because the restaurant menu was minimal and different than what was online. There weren’t any fish options other than the fish soup, so Jordan was forced to order another burger!
We’ve since had to eat burgers two additional times on this trip, and I actually am swearing off burgers now.
In addition to burgers, the Norwegians also love their fish and chips, fish soup, and pizza. At many restaurants we look at, these are our main four options. And their portions are huge — larger than American portions at restaurants! Behind eating burgers, fish and chips have been the second-most meal we have consumed on our trip. Most restaurants also typically have a catch of the day option for a premium, of course, but I’ve started getting this option most nights because I don’t think I can handle much more fried fish.
In the Coronavirus age, we’ve found it difficult to use the usually trusty Google to determine what restaurants are open or what they are serving. Many restaurants say that they are open online but actually haven’t reopened yet from the Coronavirus. Or their websites say that they are still closed, but they’ve actually reopened. Or they are open, but the kitchen is closed. I find myself sleuthing on their website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and recent tags on Instagram to determine if they are open or not. It’s like solving a mystery! We’ve got a 50/50 chance of being right, though.
We haven’t seen the typical American fast food joints in northern Norway, as we see everywhere else. There have been a few Burger Kings in larger towns, but rarely any McDonalds in sight! They probably don’t want any outside competition for the “best burgers” in town. In western Norway, we saw many McDonalds near Oslo, but Burger King still seems to reign as the fast-food king in Norway.
Our itinerary for the Lofoten islands was completely sidetracked due to staying an extra night in Svalbard. We had loosely planned to follow an itinerary we found on stunningoutdoors.com that would allow us to explore and check out many of the small towns throughout the islands. We also had two planned hikes that we weren’t able to do, but luckily our new travel friend Elisabeth recommended a shorter hike close to where we were staying in Leknes.
When we finally arrived in the Lofoten islands, we met stunning landscapes of teal blue pockets in the water against sky-high mountains. We loved driving through them! The roads were extremely narrow and hugged the coastline on many of the islands. There’s typically only one road in and out, and we stayed on the E10 most of our journey. Some parts of the roads or bridges were too narrow for two cars to pass side-by-side, and we would have to pull over and let the cars pass before we continued. It definitely made me nervous, and I am glad that Jordan is driving on this trip, not me!
On our way through the islands, we found ourselves stopped for over two hours due to an accident where a truck with sea shipping containers had tipped over and blocked both lanes. With nothing to do and no alternative route to take, we took walks along the road to pass the time. We took our walks separately so that one person would be near the car if the road opened again. If we didn’t stop for those two hours, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this amazing scenery!
The highlight of our time in northern Norway was our whale safari in Andenes. We originally planned this for our first day in the area but had to push it back to the last day in northern Norway once our travel plans changed unexpectedly. The whale safari started with a 45-minute museum tour that educated us on sperm whales, how they have evolved, and challenges to their population. The sperm whales started as land animals that looked similar to dogs, and I am shocked at how they have evolved. One day they decided they liked the water better and are now one of the largest creatures in the ocean!
Only male sperm whales are located in Andenes, whereas the females and their children stay together and are located much further south. The male sperm whales don’t jump out of the water as the females do; we were told they are lazy! They like the area of Andenes because of its easy access to food due to the upwelling and how deep the water gets so quickly. With our history lesson over, we headed towards the ship to set sail in hopes of spotting a sperm whale or more!
For those that know me, you know that I get motion-sick pretty easily. It’s typically in the car as a passenger (even in the front seat), but sometimes on boats as well. The last time I have been motion-sick on a boat was senior year in college when I went on a cruise with my friends for spring break – over ten years ago! The whale safari company passed out ginger tablets, but I had come prepared with Dramamine, the non-drowsy kind. Typically, I take one dose and never have any problems on a boat, but I took two as an extra precaution this time.
Let me say this. The Dramamine did not work. The water was so rough, and the waves were crashing into the boat as we headed towards the deep sea. I kept my eyes on the horizon, hoping that my body would realize I’m actually fine. But then the person sitting next to me ran to the side of the boat and let it go. I tried so hard not to get sick — I was willing myself to be fine. But when I looked down at the wood floor on the boat, the wood grain was moving even though the wood was staying in place. When I closed my eyes, hoping to feel better, a rush of dizziness came over me. People all over the boat were using sick bags, which I initially refused because I wasn’t going to get sick. The captain came over the boat and said the waves would get less rough as they got out to sea, but they didn’t. I’ll spare the details, but three sick bags later, I actually started to feel better.
The whale safari trip was absolutely worth it in the end, even if I will never do it again. We saw a pod of pilot whales, a sperm whale, and a large pod of orcas! Orcas are Jordan’s favorite animal, and it was so cool to see our favorite animals for the first time (in the wild) in the same week. The captain came over the intercom again and said it had been their best trip of the week. They typically don’t see both pilot whales and sperm whales in the same area since they compete for the same food. A guide told Jordan that the pilot whales are bullies to the sperm whale and will nibble on the sperm whale’s tail. The whales got so close to our boat, and it was amazing to see orcas (and their babies!) in the wild. It was a memorable experience, and I’m so glad our week got sidetracked so that we could see these amazing creatures in the wild on our trip.
We spent this week of our trip in western Norway. We were welcomed with beautiful fjords, car ferries (yes, I got back on a boat), and lots of waterfalls. There are more tourists in this part of the country than in northern Norway, but we still have many places to ourselves. Our trip is coming to an end, and we only have a few days left to enjoy this amazing country. I have a lot to write about and will share more next Friday!