We have just arrived in Stamsund, Norway, having spent a full afternoon traveling past towering fjords and across the open waters (the Vestfjorden in case you were wondering) that lie between the Lofoten Islands and Bodo (pronounced Boo-dah, not Bow-doe, as I have been saying since Tuesday).
We have accomplished this feat, traveling on board the modern Hurtigruten Ferry – the “Richard What.” The ferry travels the coast of Norway, carrying her cargo of automobiles and passengers between the city of Bergen in the south all the way to the northern most reaches of Norway’s coast, at the city of Kirkenes near the Russian border.
Having voyaged but a brief portion of this route today and visited only the city of Bodo since arriving Tuesday night, I am ill-prepared to form much of an opinion about Norway. And yet, I am left with the overriding impression that Norway is an untamed and foreign land. “Wild” is the word that has settled in my mind. Wild in the sense which Jack London used to describe Alaska. Untamed, unclaimed, and immense: this is how I have felt about my surroundings on this journey, so far. Even as I strolled down the tree-lined, manicured city of Bodo yesterday, I could feel the wildness of Norway oozing from the cracks of the street.
There is a primitive, original sense of nature that penetrates almost everything, here, and it has left me feeling weak, by comparison. Weak, and almost tiny in my association with it. I cannot remember when I ever felt so temporary and impermanent as I have since arriving here.
Everywhere one looks, giant, craggy rocks thrust themselves straight up out the sea as if they were newly born into this world, yet ancient at the same time. Everything is cold and blue and clear, and the magnificent landscape forms a vortex that is completely hypnotic, as if some mischievous troll had placed you in a rune-like trance. Primal-ness pervades the air, even within the perimeter of city life. There exists a natural struggle between all that man is attempting to do in Norway and the power of nature, who never lets you forget she is really in charge. At any moment, I would not be surprised to see a wild beast roaming the sidewalks.
Don’t get me wrong. Man makes his presence known here. There are old buildings still standing, and modern architecture that celebrates the Norwegian intellect, which has found a solution to succeed in this harsh environment. Yet these new edifices leave me feeling a bit queasy, as if their very existence is too bold a claim to be made in the face of the powerful god Odin. The Norwegians, however, are superb stewards of the land. It is possible that their language is so incredibly hard to grasp because they use it to communicate directly with their Norse spirits, and bypass us mere mortal beings from other lands.