"Mang en søvnløs nat drar mine tanker og drømme til Kragerø. Mine daglige ture over heia bak byen. Der oppe blæste vinden fra havet, bak var granluften. Der ute mellom skjærene brøt sjøen" Edvard Munch
Many a sleepless night my thoughts and dreams go to Kragerø. My daily walks over the heath behind the town. There the wind blows from the ocean, and from the hills the smell of the spruce. Out between the reefs breaking up the sea. Edvard Munch
Munch was as much in love with the southern Norwegian coast as the rest of us. It is Norwegian coastal beauty personified. Gentle grassy hills dotted with smooth grey granite roll down to the sparkling blue sea. And all along the coast are dotted small towns and villages so unexpectedly Nordic that you simply have to explore. You find yourself enchanted and drawn in and constantly reaching for your camera to take yet another photo of what could be something straight out of a tourist brochure.
If you can imagine a classic Norwegian seaside town with white and coloured wooden buildings strung along the harbour then you are imagining the southern Norwegian coast from Vestfold through Telemark to Agder. It's smart and clean but in a very Nordic understated and modest way. Modern businesses coexist with family businesses that have been running for generations without much changing. Antique and bric-a-brac shops sit side by side with internet cafes. It's all very calm and pleasing and reminds us that we can exist with the traditional and modern.
This beautiful region for my family is just a short drive down the coast and that drive is interspersed with the charming fairytale villages that are begging to be explored.
Villages like Lyngør. Lyngør is somewhere that will capture your heart on the first visit. You arrive at the village along a winding road through forests and fields and it seems like you may have taken a wrong turn because the road goes on for what feels like forever. But suddenly it appears appears; the village of Lyngør.
What you arrive through looks like simply a hotel and ferry port, but step out of your car and walk past the tiny ferry terminal and you are greeted by a magical sight of beautifully restored wooded fishing cottages nestling amongst the rocky islets. A winding path invites you to take one of the wooden bridges and explore, and you find yourself wandering through tiny paths along the sea, past drooping plum trees and grassy squares.
With a wide expanse of sea and tiny islands and plenty of opportunity to escape anyone else who might be around and sit quietly on a rock gazing across the sea, or take a dip in the cool clear sea.
For many in Norway, and indeed in Scandinavia, the southern Norwegian coast is the very last word in Norwegian summer holiday location. Any visit to the area in July or August will confirm this. It's bustling with eager tourists soaking up the sun, strolling along seaside promendades with ice creams in hand and cruising from tiny island to tiny island in their little boats. It brings to mind a more peaceful version of the French Riviera perhaps from a time when it was less expensive and more accessible to everyone.
My favourite town along the coast is Kragerø. It's bigger than villages like Lyngør but small enough to feel intimate and rustic. There are always events taking place and bustling little markets. If you are looking for local produce from suppliers who have been around for decades Kragerø is the place to be with fishmongers, artisan shops and a wonderful butcher. It's easy to find local produce, seasonal ingredients and items that have either been produced on site, or harvested from a few miles away. It was also a favourite of Edvard Munch and another famous Norwegian painter, Kittelson who lived in the town. Kittelson painted images of Norwegian fairytales and you can easily imagine how he might have been influenced by the fairytale like villages and coastline where he lived.
So I hope you've enjoyed this brief journey through some of my favourite places on the southern Norwegian coast and maybe I've inspired you plan your own trip to explore the fairytale magic and endless charm of southern Norway.
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