Norway’s roads less traveled: A pleasant stop in the town of Larvik
Christine Foster Meloni
In this continuing series, we ask ordinary travelers about their favorite lesser-known corners of Norway.
The author of this article is George Edwards, an American interested in Norway and particularly in Norwegian boats. He has written about his visit to Larvik:
I am a boat nut, and I had read about the Wooden Boat Festival in Risør in boat magazines over the years. I had been to Norway on business but didn’t get to see very much. Three years after my last visit, I was beginning to think of traveling back but didn’t have a goal. One day I was reading an online Norwegian paper and came across an article about the festival with an impressive picture of a group of Colin Archer rescue boats. That’s when it clicked: I had a real reason to go back to Norway.
I flew to Oslo and decided to stop in Larvik on my way to the boat festival. Why Larvik? I was attracted to this small town for two reasons. First of all, I had a growing interest in the naval architect and boat builder Colin Archer, who had lived and worked in Larvik. Secondly, I had been reading, in Norwegian, the crime novels of Jørn Lier Horst, which are set in Larvik and Stavern.
Larvik is located in Vestfold County and has approximately 40,000 inhabitants. It lies at the end of the rather short and wide Larviksfjorden.
The train station in Larvik is on the waterfront near the piers where steamboats once docked. There are two hotels and a guesthouse in Larvik, all within walking distance of the train station. I was lucky to get a room at the Hotel Farris Bad, a spa hotel that extends over the fjord. The walk from the train station took me past the new cultural center and along a quay where a replica of Kon-Tiki, built for the film of the same name, was tied up. I crossed the river on a footbridge and found my hotel next to a shopping center.
This side of the river is called Langestrand. Here stand the little wooden homes built for the men who worked in the local ironworks and other industries. Along the river is the old Fritzøe ironworks, which now houses the Larvik Museum.
The museum was my first stop. It had an exhibit on the history of the harbor and another on life in the homes of the Danish noblemen who once ruled the area. When Norway was under Danish rule, a count resided at the Herregården estate, now a part of Larvik museum. After visiting the exhibits, I ate in the museum’s cozy restaurant.
As I retraced my steps, I saw Kon-Tiki leaving the harbor under tow. I suspected that she was bound for Risør, and in fact I did meet up with her again there.
I then headed back past the train station to Tollerodden, a small peninsula where the customs officers lived. Colin Archer’s parents were Scots who moved to Larvik and settled here. Archer taught himself naval architecture and had a boat shop behind the family home. He designed and built pilot boats, rescue boats, and yachts. Perhaps his most famous creation was Fram, which both Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen used in their polar expeditions.
I strolled the grounds of the Archer family home, where he was born, and saw his bust. Not too far from this home stands a monument to Thor Heyerdahl, who was also born in Larvik. His boyhood home is now on display.
From Tollerodden I hiked up the hill to the town center. The town has a pleasant market square and quaint hilly streets. A pedestrian street has several nice shops. All over town, poetry and literary quotes are on display on curbs, stairs, walls, and rocks. This collection of dozens of installations is called Poesiparken.
Just one block from the market square is the Larvik police station. This is a key location in the novels written by Jørn Lier Horst, who, until recently, worked at the station as a detective. He is one of Norway’s most successful crime novelists, and six of his novels are now available in English.
I then stopped at the Maritime Museum but was very disappointed to find it closed for renovation. Today the museum has an exhibition of ship paintings and will be gradually adding more exhibits.
Late that evening the air was warm and the moon was full so I decided to go out walking. I headed across the street from my hotel into Langestrand. I had a pleasant walk along the little houses in the moonlight with the lights of Larvik across the fjord. This is probably the best memory I have from my visits to Norway.
The next morning, however, the skies opened up and rain poured down. When the rain eased up, I donned my rain gear for a walk through Langestrand in the daylight. I visited the Langestrand church—a small, unusual church in an octagon shape. The bell is in a separate tower in the front churchyard. There are many grave markers of cast iron, certainly a result of the close relationship with the ironworks. Langestrand and the churchyard are important locations in Horst’s novel Den Eneste Ene.
Then it was time to leave Larvik and head for Tvedestrand and Risør, the start of another adventure.
George Edwards lived around water for the first half of his life and developed a deep interest in boats of all sorts. For the second half of his life he has resided in Springfield, Virginia, working as a naval architect but with less contact with the watery world. He had studied traditional Norwegian boats and by chance was sent to Norway on a job. That sparked his interest in Norway and the language that he is still wrestling with. His heritage is English and not Norwegian.
Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.
To read all nine of the previous articles in this series, visit www.norwegianamerican.com/?s=roads+less+traveled.
This article originally appeared in the May 5, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.