‘The ocean is so rich, so fertile. If you throw out a line, even if you do so from the quay, you risk catching your own dinner.’

Svein Inge Fosse smiles from ear to ear. He is host at Knutholmen, the tourism gem of Kalvåg – said to be the biggest and best preserved fishing village in Fjord Norway. When he turned the five rooms above his little café into accommodation for visitors in 1985, it heralded the start of a fantastic development and restoration process in what has been a hub throughout history for fishermen along the coast of Fjord Norway. Kalvåg is now a gem out at the ocean’s edge for visitors looking for recreation, in summer and winter alike, and it is well worth a visit whether you like fish or not.

© Fjord Norway

‘A bit like Lofoten and a bit like Southern Norway at the same time,’ Svein Inge says about his kingdom on the island of Frøya in Bremanger municipality.

‘When you come to us here in Kalvåg, you get to sample the very best Western Norway has to offer. You get to experience the fantastic atmosphere and the delicious food, and you get to be part of the charming coastal environment,’ he says temptingly.

Ocean banquet

Over the course of the last four decades, Svein Inge, together with a handful of other passionate industrious people, have invested a huge amount of work in preserving this part of our cultural heritage.

‘It was in ruins when I started. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, but I realised I could really be onto something when people started queuing out of the door of the café to order the monkfish in cream sauce.’

The industrious owner filled in 10,000 cubic metres of rock towards the little islet where Knut Øvrebotten once lived. ‘New’ Kalvåg was thus formed. Now, the area features a restaurant and hotel, with around 130 rooms. In the maritime restaurant, people can quench their thirst or fill their rumbling tummies with all kinds of beautifully prepared seafood.

‘Good food is important, and here in Kalvåg, we have fantastic access to fresh fish,’ Svein Inge points out.

‘Like pollock and tusk. These fish used to be considered inedible, but they are in fact delicious, and our chefs are brilliant at making traditional fish dishes taste heavenly.’

He has also attracted award-winning chefs to Kalvåg. Even into his own family, as his son-in-law Martin gets to grips with the pots in the kitchen, makes delicious seaweed crisps, and insists on supplementing the supply by freediving for scallops for guests.

If you’re the type who prefers a good piece of meat, the restaurant also serves locally produced organic lamb or venison from the area, but Svein Inge swears by seafood.

‘There’s loads of crabs in the waters here, and crawfish and prawns, and lobster when you’re allowed to harvest it. Seafood and fish make you feel full in a different way.I never get tired of fish,’ Svein Inge claims, quickly adding:

‘Apart from dried salt herring that is. I had enough of that growing up.’

Cultural history

The restaurant building is an old salting shed that was moved to Kalvåg from Sandviken in Bergen in 1864. Svein Inge is proud to show guests the axe-hewn timber walls. Telling people about the area’s history is important to him.

‘When I give talks, I start by saying that when Jesus fished in the Sea of Galilee, people had already been fishing there for 5,000 years. Ancient tools dating back 7,000 years have been found at Liseth, a beautiful little village nearby.'

It was important to stay near the fishing grounds in the olden days. Further to the west, in an area called Geitholmen, there were up to 70 salting sheds. The invention of the steam engine, however, meant that getting around on the sea was no longer difficult. All of the boathouses were then moved to the sheltered eastern side of the island, to Kalvåg, where there was excellent access to fresh water.

‘There have always been upturns in the herring fisheries. The boom in the 1860s turned Kalvåg into a large fishing village where between 10,000 and 12,000 men and women worked. It was common for 150 people to sleep in one loft. Just imagine what that must have smelled like,’ Svein Inge chuckles.

© Fjord Norway

Friendly locals

Today, around 500 people live in what used to be called ‘matlandet’ (literally ‘food land’ in Norwegian).

‘The people who live here are open, outgoing and inquisitive,’ says Svein Inge.

To underline his point, he turns his head first one way and then the other.

‘They wonder who you are and what you are doing in Kalvåg. They nod and smile to everyone, and our guests say that they appreciate the locals being so friendly and forthcoming.'

This is so much part of his own make-up that he nods and smiles to strangers when he passes then on the street in cities.

‘Historically, strangers have often been perceived as undesirable vagabonds. Here, visitors have always been viewed as something positive, a resource. That’s probably a result of its past as a fisheries port,’ he reasons.

© Fjord Norway

Experience Kalvåg

A range of experiences await within a radius of just a few minutes’ walk in Kalvåg, from shopping for art and utility articles made by local and select national artists, unique spa experiences in a bracing maritime environment, to a guided tour of a meticulously restored salting shed or Nikolai Astrup’s birthplace. Astrup, a well-known Norwegian artist, was born here in Kalvåg, Svein Inge tells us.

You can bring the children on the coastal association’s pirate raid in an old sailing ship. Make your own confectionary in Kalvåg’s very own chocolate factory, join a beer tasting session, or just relax on the quay with a glass of wine. If you would like to look out across the area, the short walk up to the top of Flona is recommended, where you can enjoy expansive views of the centre of Kalvåg and the surrounding Frøyskjæra archipelago.

‘There are lots of great walking trails too,’ our host tells us.

‘The day trip cabin Dosabu offers fantastic views, built into the cliffs 300 metres above the sea. It’s open to everyone who would like to sit in shelter and watch the sun set through the floor-to-ceiling window. Or to watch eagles glide past on the breeze, or the tempestuous sea in a storm. The ocean is so wild. Watching the incredible forces of the breakers out at sea is fascinating.'

He also organises fishing trips on his fishing boat and historical sightseeing cruises.

‘You can also hire bikes or kayaks. You can paddle for hours in shallow waters between the 700 islets and skerries on the west side of the island.'

When night falls, you can get a good night’s sleep in restored wharfside warehouses such as Margitbua or Einahuset and get up refreshed for more coastal experiences the following day. Or maybe stay in a historical room in the building that used to house the bank Bremanger Spareforening. There are lots of varied accommodation options and charming signs lead you to accommodation such as ‘prylestova’ and ‘gamleskulen’. The boutique hotel Sjøholt is a good option for those looking for exclusive accommodation.

Exotic well-being

‘My roots are out here at the ocean’s edge. If I spend too long in the fjords, I feel like the mountains and forests start closing in on me. I have to see the horizon, the sky, smell the sea air and be in the open landscape.'

Svein Inge gesticulates wildly. He likes to communicate, he like to talk, and he emphasises what he says using his hands and arms. Although the father of five has now taken a step back and handed the reins to his son Jan Fredrik, he is still involved in the work seven days a week.

‘I consider myself a caretaker of sorts. My wife and I do the breakfast shift every morning, and I’m sometimes host, and I’m happy to work as a guide.’

He particularly enjoys guiding boat trips for families with children who don’t have much experience of boating life.

‘Going fishing in a boat is an exotic experience for many visitors. Filling a box with fish you’ve caught in the space of just a few minutes is an incredible experience for them. I feel like I’m doing something right when I see how grateful guests are. Seeing the children so happy makes me happy too. The meter isn’t constantly running out here. The extra service we provide pays off in the guests’ enjoyment.'

‘Those who come here will have a great time. That’s a promise.’

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