Author's note: Last month found me teaching a four-day seminar on Travel Writing at a “folk school” in Toten, Norway. On the final day, some of the students and I walked around the town of Lena, where the school is located, where we collected bits of information to be used for a short article I'd proposed to talk about the town as a travel writer might. What follows is the collaborative effort of the dozen or so students who took part in the exercise.
Welcome to Lena, Bellybutton of Norway
With a population just above a thousand, the town of Lena hardly seems like a likely candidate to experience a tourism explosion and is thus unlikely to warrant a multi-page guidebook feature anytime in the near future.
This isn't to say Lena isn't without its bucolic charms. Located in the Østre Toten municipality of Norway, The town sits on the western side of Mjøsa, which is either Norway's largest lake or it's longest inland fjord (depending on who you ask). Surrounding Lena are rolling hills, pastoral farmland and the occasional interesting find for those who take the time to explore.
Should you wish to get a closer look at Mjøsa, the Paddle Steamer Skibladner (built in 1856 and named after Norse Goddess Frey) takes visitors on the lake (or inland Fjord). There's also an excellent restaurant on board. Tickets are 180 KR per person, children 12 and under free. Click here for more details
What to Eat:
A small town with only a handful of restaurants (Lena Grill and Restaurant is on the town's main street, while a few smaller take-out places are popular with students on a budget), you'll not find much in the way of culinary variety in Lena. For that, you'll want to head to Oslo.
|A traditional Norwegian meal with Lutefisk|
It's possible to get a traditional Norwegian meal in Lena, just not in a restaurant.
In order to really experience a meal featuring Lutefisk (dried codfish that's been boiled in lye, rinsed, and turned into a fishy, jelly like substance - it's actually quite tasty, especially when served with bacon) or lapsskaus ( a stew made with vegetable, meat, and whatever else is on hand), you'll want to get yourself invited to a family's house for dinner.
Failing this, the restaurant at the Silongen Resort (see below) sometimes serves some of these – and other - quintessentially Norwegian dishes.
Where to stay:
Locals speak highly of the Sillongen resort, which offers offers not merely respite to weary travelers but also amenities such as golf, massage & great meals. Click here for more information (in Norwegian only, alas!):
Spending Your Crowns in Lena
For a small town, Lena is a pretty good place to shop (especially when one is already used to the ridiculously high prices found in Norway). The town has many small stores, including antique shops and secondhand places. Couples traveling together should check out a place called Nyli. It's a small boutique with lovely clothing and a cozy little café, allowing ladies to shop for clothing while their men hang out and read over coffee.
Skapeglede (Silogata 17) is run by two crafty women who produce about half of the shop's content in their workshop at the back of the store. Selling everything from cups to syrups to decorating-items, tea and woodwork, nearly all the items in Skapeglede (even those not made by the owners) are locally produced. Norwegian People's Aid is a secondhand shop carrying everything from books and toys to shoes and clothing. The shop is run by volunteers, and prices aren't set so bargaining is possible. Some proceeds from the shop go to help people in need in Estonia. The shop is open 10am-3pm on most weekdays, 9:30am-2:30pm on Tuesdays.
If you're looking to get some body art done, check out Lena's only Tattoo Shop (61169766 / Kinogata 10). Owner Ingunn Holte has been doing tattoos for 13 years in addition to running a skin care business in the same location for 26 years. Holte works with two other tattoo artists in the studio, each of whom have their own individual style of tattooing. The owner's specialty is black ink line art style tattoos and shading.
An Afternoon's Wander Outside Town
Wandering the hills outside of Lena on a snowy winter's afternoon, I came across the workshop of Mesterstuen Henning, a carver of wooden figures of characters from Norse mythology, including Thor, Odin, Loki and Freya, as well as trolls of both genders.
Having exhausted the day's discretionary budget on elk-jerky earlier, I made no purchases but instead walked over the hill and down again until I reached the Hoff Stone Church, which dates back to the Eleventh Century.
Though built originally as a house of prayer and quiet reflection, something else was afoot on the day of my visit, as there was a small band setting up for what they told me would be a performance later that evening. Whether they wound up incorporating the church's massive pipe organ in their act I never learned, as the sun was setting and it seemed prudent to mosey on to the home of my host family or risk freezing to death.
|Trolls (and Floyd)|
I never did come across the pile of rocks by the church that a student at the school in which I'd been brought to Norway to teach later told me had been hurled by trolls to prevent the church's construction.
I knew those trolls were up to no good!
Getting There and Away
Lena's lovely and centrally located train station is alas only for show, the tracks having been removed decades ago. But several daily busses do the 115 mile trip between Lena and Oslo, stopping at the airport on the way.
|This project's authors / researchers / participants, December 2014|