My first ever trip to Norway involved a visit to Mandal, the most southerly point of the country. It was certainly a novel place as most of the houses in the town centre were all white.
January was the timing of my visit so I was greeted by snow and freezing temperatures yet the totally white scenery was very picturesque, even suitable for many a Christmas card front.
The Mandalselva river runs through the heart of this small urbanisation yet helps provide a gentle beauty on the eye. Frozen waters of the river were all around at the start of my trip so it was with novel amusement that I admired boats trapped in ice for the winter months.
Stunningly calm and peaceful, the views took away my breath before the cold temperatures could.
Mandal was established on 1st January 1838 and retained its quaintness ever since with a recent census population of around 15,000. Even this seems large as the town centre is very compact and easy to walk around in a few minutes.
In the winter the main appeal would be some shopping in various clothing and novelty stores. Or maybe just a meal or drink at around a choice of about a dozen eateries.
I’m told that the place comes alive in the summer with many tourists flocking to the town for the beautiful scenery and the most popular beaches in all of Norway. I’m not quite sure where they will all stay though as there are only two hotels in the town.
Aware of the visiting tourists the town seems to take advantage of this with lots and lots of paid parking areas, even paid parking to go to the local corner shop. Parking restrictions are also in place for some of the local residential streets in the town. The council even took parking to the next level by seeing a small mountain in the town and thinking “Hey, we could put a car park inside of that”; and so they did.
New appeal is added to the town with a recently built Arts Centre. This can host musical concerts as well as provide a multi-screen cinema. Not without controversy there is a footbridge (still under construction at the time of my visit) linking one side of the river to the Centre. This supposed simple construction has been delayed from completion by around a year due to not receiving the appropriate parts to allow the river traffic to pass by the bridge.
Mandal Kirke is the largest wooden church in Norway. An impressive and beautiful sight had even more curiosity for me. As I looked around I was amazed at how large the graveyard was! It seemed to go on and on yet it is a town with such a relatively small population.
The small town full of white houses which we know of as Mandal is famous in Norway for being home for some historically famous artists as well as shipbuilding and engineering.
The river and waters to the sea are also thriving waters for salmon fishing. By the beaches and mouth of the river are red huts which act as look out points to identify schools of salmon. From this vantage point fishermen can decide when is a good time to put their nets out.
At around an hour’s drive from Kristiansand, I found Mandal a truly delightful place with the most friendly of people. The place in winter was sleepy, soothing and comforting at the same time. I dare say in summer it will heave with activity and trying to eat out could involve patient queuing.
If I chose to visit as a leisure traveller I would choose to stay maybe just the one night unless I wanted to totally unwind. The town of white houses was a beautiful place to see and explore but options were limited and pretty soon you’ve seen all there is to see. However it is still worth seeing.