Expertly hidden around two and a half hours drive south of Oslo, is Kragerø, a small seaside town nestled in amongst one of the little fjords that fray the coast from Oslo to Vest-Agder. On discovering this little secret, you will quickly realize that there is a little more beneath the surface here.
Looking at the town from a distance you can see little white houses, gathered together on rocky outcrops, they fill the hills and surround the naturally carved harbors. This time of year the water is either covered in broad ice sheets or a fascinating milky snow. It was the latter on this occasion, making the fjord look like a vast expanse of marzipan.
The reason we were on the winding and icy road through the Norwegian hills, was was to find a place to recharge batteries after a grueling year. Which brought us to the Kragerø spa resort, we could see it resting sleepily on its side of the fjord opposite the town, as if stationed there to keep an eye on a younger brother. On entering you are greeted by fountains, fire and a calming architectural design. The high reaching ceilings and sand colored walls give the place a feeling of spaciousness. The highlight of the resort, however, has to be the luxurious pool and spa area. It features an automatic door, through which you can swim outside and view the fjord from your choice of the heated infinity pool, a spa bath and a sauna with a glass front wall.
After you've had enough soaking, you can wonder through the town and delve into its history. The main events revolve around a forgotten industry and a slow evolution into a modern, tucked away tourist attraction. At the turn of the eighteenth century in Kragerø, the Napoleonic War drew in both Norway and Denmark resulting in the once rich logging industry slowly falling apart. During the middle of the eighteen hundreds, the city began exporting ice to other European areas as their shipping industry expanded. Modern day Kragerø, you will discover, hosts historic buildings, paved streets and a small 'glass-blowing' museum.
Hidden by the cloak of winter, is a summer town ripe for boat trips and festivals. Sometimes referred to as 'The Pearl of the Norwegian Coast,' Kragerø it seems, is also steeped in art and culture. Guided tours offer the chance to retrace the paces of Edvard Munch up and down the hillside where he admired the landscape for creative inspiration. He lived in Kragerø for around six years, a time that some consider his most 'productive' period. It was during this time that he painted 'The Sun' and 'The History.' For the moment, the summer side of Kragerø will remain a mystery.
Daylight fades at around four o'clock and you can see the lights of the snow-covered town across the fjord. The temperature often hovers at around minus ten, making the air cold but decidedly fresh. It's eerily quiet and incredibly peaceful during the winter.
"Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye . . . It also includes the inner pictures of the soul" - Edvard Munch.
Contributed by Sean Melrose-Eukema