Was it you who asked about why you should take a trip to Ny-Hellesund?
Yes, I should be able to answer that since I have been a guide here for over 50 years!
By: Jostein Andreassen
Ny-Hellesund is undoubtedly the most beautiful and well-known outport on the Southern Norwegian coast. It is after all a mirror of the region.
Hellesund is even protected due to its environment and all of its beautiful buildings. People who settled here in the age of sailing ships built huge houses at the water’s edge in order to run guesthouses for all of the sailors. Oh, and the saloon bars! The port’s many pilots brought their ships in anticipation of better weather. They came from all over northern Europe, so it was a very international place. The Danish king even ordained a separate chapel for the sailors – well, if this was gift, they expected that the Lord would ensure their safety at sea. Sailors at that time had a dangerous occupation with no weather forecasts, bad maps, few lighthouses and no GPS.
There was a huge amount of traffic. From on top of the islands one could easily see over 100 ships on the way, eastwards and westwards, to and from the Baltic Sea. Inside the harbor as many as 70 ships could be anchored, waiting. During horrible weather in 1712, Tordenskjold himself came with his warship Løvendahl Galley. Oh, how we should have been there! Or 500 years before when King Sverre came to spend the night with his whole fleet. Think about that – 6,000 men. And when the Danish kings came with pomp and circumstance – most of it pomp.
It was in places such as this that new impulses came to this country.
The buildings in Ny-Hellesund grace the beautiful and wild landscape, which has been praised for several hundred years. Von Buch, a great German geologist, was here during the Napoleonic Wars and characterized the outport as a narrow and crooked canal[rm2] . He said that the buildings were suspended on the cliffs and they were mainly painted red. The poet Vilhelm Krag, the person who coined the term ‘Sørlandet’ for the region in 1902, also loved the place. Kapelløya, which forms the protection against the open sea, was called “a lovely endless grey stone in the middle of the sea” by Krag. He wrote that such a genuine archipelago atmosphere did not exist anywhere else.
Later on, he got his paradise on one of the other islands – who hasn’t heard about Havbukta? In his writing room there Nordahl Grieg wrote his ever-topical poem “For the Youth”. Here near Helgøya is also the Olavsundet Strait, a lagoon with very steep passageways. Not without reason it is famous throughout Scandinavia, named after St. Olaf (Olaf II), the one who got the mountains to part. Well done, if you ask me.
And wouldn’t you know that the German occupying forces made a huge fort with canons, trenches and all sorts of stuff (now restored and easily accessible) up at the top of the same island during the war. Then they blew up the two cairns that were there. It’s a shame. Peder Claussøn, who translated the sagas 400 years ago, wrote that these were the biggest and most well known in all of Norway. Now, the Hellevardene have been put up again and form the outport’s hallmark towards the sea.
At Monsøya, previously there were shops, a customs office and a school. The last of these is now a cultural center and hosts both summer theater and many exciting events. And don’t forget the beautiful hiking trails!
A few years ago, a separate coastal path was made on Kapelløya. It goes from the Verftet on the far western side of the island, which you can get to by ferry, and across the heath to the Olavsundet Strait. It’s a spectacular hike! During the course of many years, I was so fortunate to be a guide for the many visitors here, too. It was an adventure. You can only imagine what people from Brazil, Gudbrandsdalen, and Bavaria had to say. They had never seen or experienced anything like it before. I told them about the outport and what they saw, out towards the sea, in towards land and down through beautiful Ny-Hellesund. They were overwhelmed. Actually, I didn’t need to brag about anything.
But now I don’t want to say anything more. There is a lot left that you have to see for yourself.
So, go ahead and take a trip yourself to Ny-Hellesund!