by Asia Pasko
Traveling by bus has advantages and disadvantages, but it would be nearly impossible to tour the roadways of Finland, Norway, and Sweden – 6,000 km (or about 3,700 miles) in all, including a stop by the Arctic Circle – in 12 days traveling on your own. Adhering to a bus-tour travel program can limit the time allotted for enjoying meals as you travel, but there were several outstanding food experiences I have to share.
There is an abundance of seafood in the waters in and around Norway, which you readily notice in restaurants. You could order the most delicious soup with stock fish, cod and vegetables at Bacalao restaurant in Svolvaer, on Vesteralen Islands in Nordland County, which has a very relaxed atmosphere, where you can pick a seat or a sofa to dine.
A stock fish is an unsalted fish dried in the open air by the sun and wind on a wooden rack, or “hjell,” in Norway. Most of the stock fish is exported to Portugal, Italy and Croatia. Due to the excellent climate for stock fish production, the stock fish from the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway is regarded as the best.
Traveling in far northern Norway, you experience an entirely different culture – that of the Sami people, whose culture has been developing for the past 11,000 years. Reindeer herding is still central to Sami culture and crucial to their livelihood. It’s very common to meet Sami people in roadside tents, where they sell their own products such as colorful local costumes, shoes and hats, reindeer skins, leather and wooden handicrafts. You can also try their reindeer soup, which is quite delicious and has the leanest meat you could ever imagine.
I enjoyed an absolutely exquisite vegetarian dish with smoked shiitake mushroom, quinoa, and onion, prepared to perfection with excellent presentation, at Sky Ounasvaara restaurant in Rovaniemi, in the Lapland region of Finland, a city also known for its Santa Claus Village.
The Arctic Circle is not a common destination for most Americans, but this bus trip from my hometown in Poland was not so unusual. While there was a slight trade-off of missing the beautiful weather on the East End of Long Island in July and August, the experience — and especially the food — might have inspired KK&P to expand its horizons.