When I tell my family and friends in Cyprus that I have been sunbathing or swimming in the sea in Norway I sense the puzzlement in their voices – ”Really? In Norway?” Having spent my teenage years on Cyprus with the warm, calm waters of the Mediterranean sea and average temperatures of 30 plus I know why they are puzzled.
I admit I used to associate Norway with snow, dark and cold but my first summer as a Norwegian resident has been in full appreciation of summer living. Long lazy summer days of the July shutdown are the best. Guilt-free relaxation because you know everyone else is doing the exact same thing.
One of the highlights of my Norwegian summer holiday was my first proper multi-day sailing trip. I visited a small group of islands in the Oslo fjord off the coast of Larvik called Svenner. I was told that this place is the kind of place you can only get to by boat, only really in the summer and that the weather conditions need to be just right. I love an adventure so my reaction was – let’s go!
With some planning and good timing of wind and lots of other important sailing considerations one makes when they know what they are doing (i.e. not me), we set off. Svenner is well known amongst sailing folk as a fair-weather place, accessible only when the wind is not too strong because of the narrow passage into the bay, the harsh weather and the difficult underwater terrain.
As we approached the islands I understood their point. The wind was strong and the journey was rocky. Not for the faint hearted or stomached for that matter.
In the main bay we were surrounded by stone islands and boat folk all happily docked along the small pier or metal mooring rings dotted along the stone walls of the island. Docking was an adventure for me. I had the job of hopping onto land with the rope. Easier said than done when land is a vertical wall of rock! I also learned a valuable lesson – avoid the wet rocks, they are slippery (ouch!).
Once nicely docked and anchored it was then two days of sitting back, enjoying the view and soaking up the magic of the place. With a weekend of good weather predicted, the place was unusually busy so watching boats come in and try to find a docking spot was a favourable pastime.
Apparently among boat folk it is permissible to stare and comment when other people are trying to dock (think parallel parking in a car).
The Svenner lighthouse is the first thing that catches the eye. It stands tall overlooking the islands. It has been there since 1874 and was originally manually operated so it is surrounded by several buildings where families that operated the lighthouse once lived. These buildings are now available for rent during the summer season. The lighthouse became a listed cultural heritage building in 1997.
In 2002 it was fully automatised so there are no longer any permanent residents on the islands and unfortunately the lighthouse is closed to the public so climbing the tower is not permitted. You can, however, easily walk up to where the lighthouse is located. The view is stunning on a sunny day.
If you are up for some time away from the buzz of the world and are a lover of the simple life with limited facilities, visiting Svenner is a must. It was a little paradise of families barbecuing and chatting the long summer evenings away. The children had lots to do too. There was plenty of hopping into the sea for a mandatory swim, hanging out at the sandy beach, fishing for crabs at the rocky shore and buzzing around the bay in dinghys with friends. It was a fest of screen free activity!
Luckily enough you can get to Svenner even if you do not own or have access to a boat. There are daily boat trips in June and July that run from Stavern. Trips by boat and overnight stays must all be booked in advance so this is not a spontaneous trip, but definitely a worthy one.