Going down under, Norwegian style
Europe’s first underwater restaurant to open in 2019 in Lindesnes, “the end of Norway”
Mona Anita K. Olsen, PhD
Going down under is a phrase I have heard since childhood. My dad’s job in the oil industry took us to Sydney, Australia, to live for a chapter of my life, and the expression used when people were coming to visit us was that they would be going down under.
The reference has recently been on my mind. In 2019, you will be able to not only continue to go down under in Australia, but also quite literally in Norway. The international architectural firm Snøhetta is building the first European underwater restaurant in Båly, a small village near Lindesnes, the southernmost point of Norway. The restaurant will be half-sunken into the sea with its building breaking the water’s surface to lie against a craggy coastline and so become part of its marine environment directly on the seabed below. The firm writes that it began as a “collaborative architectural and landscape workshop and has remained true to its trans-disciplinary way of thinking. Our work strives to enhance our sense of place, identity and relationship to others and the physical spaces we inhabit.”
The project description on Snøhetta’s website indicates that the name of the new restaurant “Under” has a double meaning, noting that the word under could just as well be translated from Norwegian into wonder (under.no). It will be a unique culinary experience with seafood and local specialties from woods, garden, and beach on the menu.
As an entrepreneurship professor who has a tremendous passion for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Norway and teaches hospitality entrepreneurship in the Hotel School at Cornell, I am very excited about the future opening of Under from a number of perspectives, namely service, hospitality, architecture, entrepreneurship, and tourism. As a granddaughter of two Norwegians born in Lindesnes, Mary (Gabrielsen) and Arnold Olsen, and great-granddaughter to Jonni Gabrielsen, an entrepreneur from Lindesnes in the fishing and canning industries, I am even more excited that the region will be further highlighting its very natural entrepreneurial ecosystem and its natural connection to the sea.
The Lindesnes area is one of my favorite places to visit and also an area that gets tremendous tourist traffic, which will officially kick off again with the Easter (Påske) break. For anyone who has been to Norway during the Påskefeire season, it is a tremendous time for travel and reconnecting with family and nature. Easter is my favorite holiday, and being able to celebrate in southern Norway is always a delight.The Lindesnes Fyr (lighthouse; lindesnesfyr.no) in southern Norway is an iconic gem. Symbolizing the southernmost tip of the relatively long country, the lighthouse is a tourist attraction in most marketing brochures that I have seen for southern Norway. I have fond memories of childhood drives, stopping at my grandma’s friend’s house, known as Ruth på Fyren, for delicious fresh waffles. At the Lindesnes Fyr, there is a recently updated museum where thoughtful displays explore subjects such as the symbolism of light and local industry. An informative video plays in a theater built into the rocks. There is a gift shop, a café, and places to grab food nearby. Summer has the most options. Besides exploring the lighthouse itself, my favorite experience is to visit the art installation housed within the rock formations. I have also heard it is quite the experience to sleep overnight in the lighthouse.
If you are driving between Kristiansand and Stavanger, Lindesnes is on the route (though about a 40-minute drive off of E39 each way). A beautiful drive with majestic curves for the southern part of the country, there are many attractions to explore en route to the Lindesnes Fyr.
Spangereidkanale (Spangered Canal) is directly on the way to the lighthouse. Spangereid was home to many Viking chieftains. Excavations revealed that in the Viking era there was a canal that went through what is now the center of Spangereid. Probably the Vikings built the canal so that they could avoid the rough seas off Lindesnes, and no doubt the canal provided income and some control over seafarers traveling between east and west. Reconstructed in 2007, the replica of the Viking canal once again makes it possible to take a boat from east to west without having to travel around Lindesnes.
Lindesnes Kystkultursenter (Lindesnes Coastal Culteral Center; kystkultursenter.no) is also directly on the way to the lighthouse (about five minutes away) and located on the water. This is a special place not only for my family but also for artists and the community. The Lindesnes Kystkultursenter is partly an educational experience on the fishing manufacturing process with hands-on activities to help re-create the experience of a factory that was once an economic driver of the area. In the summer, there are also events and artists who demonstrate hands-on crafts. I have worked on raku, a type of Japanese pottery, and tested machines that produce barrels to hold fish. The barrel production, mainly half barrels for salting herring and mackerel, started in the 1960s in this building. Both experiences were a lot harder than I thought, but it certainly helped my appreciation of the hard work that went into these trades. Maybe when I finish the curriculum for my Yogibana concept (a mix of Yoga and Ikebana, Japanese floral design), you will see me there in the summer embracing my inner Jonni.
If you are looking for a place to stay to enjoy the area or to explore other lighthouses in the area such as Lista Fyr in Borhaug (listafyr.no), there are several options to consider for lodging, including a relatively new property called Lindesnes Havhotel (havhotellet.no). If camping and exploring nature is appealing, check out Lindesnes Camping og Hytteutleie (lindesnescamping.no).
Either way, I challenge you to explore the area on your next visit and if you have the opportunity, soak up either a sunset or sunrise at Lindesnes Fyr. I have captured some of the most amazing pink skies in my mind and on camera and done some of my best reflecting there. Some call it the end of Norway, but for me, it is the beginning.
This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.