In New Zealand, when there’s sunny weather, regardless of season, people go to the beach.
In Norway, there aren’t too many beaches, on account of the majority of the coastline rising near vertically 1000m out of the North Sea. That and it’s freezing.
But, there are lakes.
Lots and lots of lakes.
And when the sun’s out and Norwegians aren’t skiing, or climbing mountains, they go to the lakes.
There’s a good one not far from our new house.
Greeted by a beautifully clear winter day, we decided to check it out.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that any lake this time of year, will likely be a frozen white plain.
So, we set off for our first ice lake traverse, and soon found we were not alone.
People were out and about barbecuing ice skating, walking their dogs (or more like the dogs walking their people, excitedly pulling them along), sledding, and generally just enjoying the sunshine.
The lake had been given the official clearance by the Bergen kommune, meaning it had reached an average required thickness of 15cm, the official guidelines for all foot traffic.
Any unsafe areas by inlets were marked with branches.
We spotted the key drilling points where they had checked for thickness.
This intrigued us.
As far as we could tell, ice safety was verified by sending someone out to strategic points and manually drilling to measure thickness. In times where it’s possible to get a 3d ultrasound of a 7cm fetus with enough resolution to determine the size and content of his stomach, and which parent’s facial features he has, ice analysis technology appears to have some catching up to do.
We had warm weather forecast for the next few weeks, and we pondered whether there was an intern being sent out to walk across the lake every day, checking thickness, until a) they fell in, or b) thickness dropped below 15cm. Or did they rely on temperatures models, and a basic knowledge of lake depth to evaluate general safeness before sending someone out?
We had to go back for another visit, once we’d moved house.
Two weeks later after consistent temperatures above 0, it was time to go back.
To our surprise the lake was still frozen and seemed ok to walk on, but was now marked by Bergen Kommune as ikke trygg (unsafe). (How did they know?) And, much like last time, there were plenty of people about enjoying the sunny lakeside, but now, instead of traversing the lake, they were dutifully adhering to the signage and rambling around it instead, or setting up beach chairs at the lake ice front rather than in the middle.
With the sun beating down, people sunbathing and playing beach badminton, you could be mistaken for thinking you were lying on a white sandy NZ beach. I almost felt a little bit like being back home, but at the same time also so Norwegian.
Ice safety aside, going to the lake is a great way to spend a sunny Sunday Norsk afternoon.
Full album below.