After ten days of hard partying in Croatia I was ready for a couple of weeks of relaxing holiday in Norway. My brother and I are half Norwegian on my mother’s side and we both spent many summers here when we were growing up.
Our family has a summer house on Søndre Sandøy (Southern Sand Island) a small, beautiful and very quiet island that is part of the Hvaler archipelago in the Oslo Fjord in the south of Norway. Google map here.
It’s an idyllic spot; a log cabin surrounded by real natural pine forest, bursting with berries, mushrooms and many kinds of wildlife including foxes, squirrels and birds that will eat out of your hand. If you’re lucky you might see wild deer or elk that become stranded on the island over the Winter.
Ant hills, always a sign of a healthy forest, are everywhere.
No surprise that wood is the fuel of choice in people’s houses here.
Very few cars are allowed on the island and to get there you have to catch the small ferry that runs from Skjaerhalden on the mainland out to Hvaler.
There are no shops on Søndre Sandøy so we have to take all our supplies with us which is quite an operation.
We get off the ferry at Nedgården which is one of two ferry stops on Søndre Sandøy. Usually we’d load everything onto a wheelbarrow here for the twenty-minute walk to the summerhouse.
On this occasion though we were fortunate to bump into Svein; the husband of my mum and auntie Gro’s cousin Eva. As one of the fifty or so permanent residents on the island he’s one of the very few people who are allowed to use motorised transport and he kindly gave us a lift in his van with all our bags and boxes.
Once we’d stowed all the provisions, we could finally get into relaxation mode. There’s very little to do on the island other than reading, cooking, swimming and walking, but that’s completely fine by me.
There are a few small beaches, the nicest being Stuevika about thirty minutes walk on the other side of the island. There’s a campsite here should you want to come and stay.
The water is warm enough to swim as its heated by the gulf stream from Mexico in the summer months. Pepsi the elkhound is always up for a paddle.
Just along the shoreline from Stuevika is a diving spot that I used to come to in my youth. The views across the fjord are fantastic from here. In this photo the coastline opposite us is Sweden.
On another day we went for a nature walk with Svein and Eva’s family.
Wildflowers are everywhere.
Svein’s children are my second cousins and we spent a lot of time together in the summer holidays when I was growing up. Our cousin Monika works in conservation and she knows the island and its nature like the back of her hand.
The whole of Norway was glaciated during the Ice Age and a few features can still be seen from this time. In this picture Svein is standing in a cylindrical pot hole called a Trollgryte (troll pot) that was bored out over time by melting water and rotating gravel and stones from the bottom of the glacier. This is a big one, they are usually much smaller.
We were also shown a couple of archaeological sites on the island that we had never known about. First the ancient walls of temporary shelters for viking fisherman who would come to catch and dry fish in the summer months.
There’s also a Bronze Age cairn; a pile of rocks on a high outcrop of rock overlooking the fjord. No one is sure whether it was a burial or whether it was meant to demonstrate ownership of the island.
Either way it’s a good spot to stop for a picnic.
The sandwich topping of choice in Norway brunost, a brown goat’s cheese that has a sweet caramel flavour (you can get it in Waitrose now if you want to try it). Brunost is a quintessential Scandinavian foodstuff that you can find in every family fridge. Typically the cheese is eaten on knekkebrød (crispbread ie Ryvita) but we had it on some nice crusty homemade bread. In this photo it’s paired with strawberry jam, Don’t knock it till you try it!
Something else that can’t be beat is fresh honey, still in the comb. You can eat the wax, just spread it with the honey.
We also found some wild strawberries along the way. As kids we’d thread these on long stalks of grass, along with blueberries and cranberries, and pull the stalks through our mouths so we got a gobfull of berries all at once!
More about food in the next post. Ta ta for now…