Norway’s roads less traveled: Hvaler highlights the sun and the sea
Christine Foster Meloni
This article is the fifth in our series of “Norway’s roads less traveled.” We asked Hilde Skorpen, Norway’s Consul General in San Francisco, to suggest a special place.
The previous articles are “Spitsbergen: A place out of the ordinary” by Ambassador Aas (April 15, 2016), “Ulvesund lighthouse is calm yet wild” by Elin Bergithe Rognlie (May 20, 2016), “Halden, an idyllic small border town” by Eivind Heiberg (July 1, 2016), and “Tree-top adventures at Høyt og Lavt” by Lise Kristiansen Falskow (July 29, 2016).
Consul General Hilde Skorpen suggests the archipelago of Hvaler:
There is nothing quite as enchanting as feeling one with the water as the kayak glides quietly past reefs and islets on an early July morning. This is the reason the archipelago of Hvaler, a two-hour drive southeast of Oslo, is one of my favorite spots in the world.
Originating from the archipelago of Solund, the easternmost island community of Norway—with its more than 800 islands, reefs, and islets—became an obvious destination when my husband Ole and I started looking to buy a cabin ten years ago. Since then, Hvaler has become the anchor in our rather nomadic life.
Hvaler is a wonderland for all sorts of water sports—sailing, swimming, and fishing. The archipelago has more sunny days than anywhere else in Norway. When water temperatures hit the high 70s, it is as close to heaven on earth as one could possibly imagine. It is, therefore, no mystery that the population easily increases to around 30,000 during the summer, compared to the approximately 4,000 people who live there permanently.
Norwegians love their seafood, and summertime is shrimp time. Hvaler boasts the largest shrimping fleet west of Lindesnes (the southernmost tip of Norway). Happiness to Norwegians is sharing a meal of freshly cooked shrimp, that we peel as we eat, with good friends and a nice white wine in the cooler.
In addition to being out in our kayaks as often as possible, we enjoy the many hikes around the islands. In 2009 much of Hvaler was designated a national park, ensuring that its unique ecosystem—both above and under the water—is protected, including the largest coral reef in Norway.
On the occasional rainy summer day, a great alternative to the outdoor activities at Hvaler is a trip to the city of Fredrikstad, founded in 1567 by Frederick II, the ruler of the dual monarchy of Denmark-Norway. Visiting the old town, with its fortifications and many original buildings from the mid-16th century still intact, is like going on a cultural and historic treasure hunt.
In addition to its breathtaking beauty, Hvaler is also a smart community, spearheading a greener future by doing its share in the transformation to a greener economy. Last year, Hvaler Solpark (Hvaler Solar Park) was awarded the prestigious “Best local climate measures” award at the Zero Conference 2015 in Oslo. Soon Hvaler will have the most advanced micro grid in Europe through the Smart Energi Hvaler project, developed in cooperation with Fredrikstad Energi and NCE Smart Energy Markets, a leading accelerator for entrepreneurship and innovation, research, and development.
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.
Hilde Janne Skorpen has held the position of Consul General in San Francisco since August 2013. Previously she has served as the Foreign Ministry’s Senior Advisor to the Norwegian National Defense College, Ambassador for Disarmament and Non-proliferation, and Deputy Head of the Norwegian Mission to the UN in Geneva. She has also been posted to the Norwegian delegation to NATO in Brussels and to the Norwegian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. She earned a PhD in Political Science at Boston University. She is accompanied by her husband, retired army Col. Ole K. Stubben.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 23, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.