Ryfylke National Tourist Highway stretches from Tau to Roldal, through Norway’s fjord country and past waterfalls, zinc mines, and wooden churches. Every few kilometers there are brown signs with a white-knotted squares, indicating tourist stops. They pop up and quickly disappear, though nothing in this country is truly quick, the roads weaving and narrow with tunnels that go on and on until you wonder if the end is ever going to come until, finally, a tiny dot of light can be seen far ahead.
For us, the Ryfylke Highway meant one thing more than all the others – salmon. In the tiny town of Sand we stopped at the Fossheim Bed and Breakfast, designed by famous Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg, the same man who designed the Oslo city hall and UN convention center. The house has an interesting past -most of which I have admittedly forgotten writing this now many months later – but tidbits remain logged in my brain, such as how it was a former house for the disabled and later owned by the city of Sand. The bed and breakfast is now run by a charming couple who live across the street, the husband, a musician-turned-engineer-turned-musician and his Dutch wife who returned to Norway after many years of living in the Netherlands to find more peace and security. We had the place to ourselves, which meant we were able to cook up a meal of spaghetti and salad and enjoy a very restful night, warm shower, and hearty breakfast.
The B&B is located mere steps away from the Suldalslågen river, one of Norway’s top salmon rivers where tens of thousands of salmon swim upstream each year so thick that one can nearly simply stretch out a net and is always guaranteed to catch a prize. Here, above the hotel is a salmon run, a river step-ladder to help the salmon jump from the rushing waters below the falls to the calm above where they can breed. The river was originally a prime fishing spot for the religious men who lived along the fjord, but, in the late 1800s its fishing rights were commercially claimed, and the privilege to fish the river just once during the season now costs groups many thousands of euros, payable to one of Norway’s hydroelectric companies. Unhappy about being usurped from their historic livelihood, the monks have continued the battle to win back the right to fish the land until today.
Spanning the river is the Høsebrua or horse bridge, the 2014 “Bridge of the Year” by Travel and Leisure magazine. It is a short, pedestrian-only bridge made from metal grating that allows you to see the river and salmon below. To be honest, it is rather shaky and feels more like an art piece than a safe bridge. For those not interested in paying for the chance to catch a salmon, there is also the opportunity for a “salmon safari,” a snorkel trip in the river. Like all things Norway, we learned that late May/early June is not the season for the salmon and saw only one lonely trout caught in the salmon ladder. Thankfully, there are grocery stores, and, as I write this, I am thinking of the smoked Norwegian salmon sitting in the fridge.