The road trip in our camper van along the Helgelandskysten which follows the Norwegian Coast from Holm to Godøystraumen was truly spectacular.
The longest of the 18 Norwegian national Scenic Routes, the 433 kilometre journey took us through such breathtaking scenery that at times we felt as though we were on a movie set.
The fact that this route includes taking six ferries was – for us two old salts – a particular draw although we ended up only taking four of these as we started the route further north, at Trondheim.
The second of these ferry trips – from Jektvik to Kilboghamn – we crossed the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees northern latitude (see my last blog “Crossing the Arctic Circle by boat”.)
There were some real “wow factor” moments along the way including seeing Svartisen – Northern Norway‘s largest glacier (and the country’s second biggest).
The sight of this 400 square kilometres glacier was breathtaking. Even under the dull skies that day this massive natural wonder glowed in a profusion of colour shades and tones – marvellous whites, turquoises, blues and even greens.
The maximum thickness of Svartisen is an awesome 600 metres and it moves up to two metres in 24 Hours. In one section the glacial mass plunges from a height of 1200 metres. Unfortunately my iPhone photos just don’t capture this wonderful phenomenon in all its magnificence but you will have to take my word for it, seeing it was a fantastic experience!
The route took us through many tunnels – one of them eight kilometres long which was followed after only a few hundred metres, by two additional two-kilometre tunnels!
Considering it was summer, driving through the mountain tunnels was quite chilly. Some of them had unclad walls of which meant that they looked and smelt like caves.
We spent a beautiful night just outside Bodo – a small town about 40 km beyond the end of the Helgelandskysten. We parked on the side of a fjord with a gorgeous view.
Because of the Midnight Sun, we enjoyed the view late into the night. Up in the Arctic Circle it never really got completely dark – there was a kind of twilight around midnight but in the very early hours it was completely light again. This played havoc with our body clocks for a few days but we had good blinds for our windows and of course we soon became used to constant light.
Bodø wasn’t especially interesting architecturally but we found out that most of the town was destroyed during a Luftwaffe attack on 27 May 1940. The main town was rebuilt after the War and was finally completed in 1959 with the building of a new town hall.
Six thousand people were living in Bodø, and 3500 people lost their homes in the bombing. Miraculously only 15 people lost their lives (including two British soldiers).
After the attack the Swedish Government stepped in and helped build 107 apartments in the winter of 1941. These houses were built tightly together just outside the town. This small area, today in the heart of Bodø, is still called Svenskebyen (“the Swedish Town”).
From Bodo we pushed on northwards heading for the port town of Narvik. The town first came to prominence in the 1890’s because it had a large ice-free natural harbour which was suitable for exporting iron from Swedish mines. Today the port is still used for this purpose and around 25 million tons of iron ore is shipped from there every year.
We enjoyed our stop here and were impressed with its very fine war museum. Previously we knew very little about how badly Norway, who had remained neutral, had suffered during the German occupation in WWII.
The museum tells many agonising stories of WWII in North Norway and the dramatic fight for Narvik in 1940. We were particularly impressed with the section that is devoted to universal questions relating to war and human rights.