It‘s a ritual 10000 years old… a miracle that repeats itself every winter. They leave the cold waters of the Barents Sea in millions to come to the Lofoten Islands more temperate shores to spawn. I‘m talking about the cods‘ migration, the reason why this remote group of islands located above the Arctic Circle saw the arrival of mankind.
Fishermen from all over Norway come to fish here from December to April then, slowly, over the centuries they built first turf-roofed huts and eventually tiny red cabins called Rorbu where they could live comfortable during the fishing season. The word Rorbu, in fact, derives from the combination of 2 words: ror (rowing a fishing boat) and bu (to live or to stay).
When spring came the fishermen left their Rorbus and moved to other fishing areas, only to return the following winter. Slowly people discovered the beauty of these islands, so in late spring summer flocks of tourists started to arrive, attracted by the nature and to watch the midnight sun, and they moved into those same Rorbus left unoccupied by the fishermen.
But what makes the Lofoten Islands a tourist destination? I believe it‘s the dramatic way the sea meets the mountains. The peaks are high, rugged and rocky, steep, barren, grey… Little grows on them, other than saxyphrage and the occasional patch of green grass. They are like solitary sentinels looking out towards the sea.
Where the mountains finish, the sea starts abruptly unexpected… The waters are crystal clear and painted in all possible hues of blue and green, interrupted only by the occasional deserted beaches or coves, of immaculate white sand. Beaches like one would not expect to see here… beaches that would look appropriate in the tropics only.
In between mountains and sea, humankind had to struggle to conquer a place to live on and to inhabit. Often people could find no appropriate ground and had to settle for the rocky shores, building their Rorbus on precarious stilts, like the racks where they used to hang their cod to dry before selling them as stockfish.