“Oppmerksomhet!” The purser’s voice known as out urgently in Norwegian. He then switched to English, “Consideration, consideration!” I used to be within the eating room, a forkful of baked salmon halfway to my mouth. Dropping it to my plate, I dashed to my cabin, grabbed a coat and nipped out to the ship’s chilly deck.
Everybody was lined alongside the guardrails, staring into the inky sky the place greenish trails undulated like waves on the seashore. We have been up previous the Arctic Circle, the air was crisp and clear, and nature was gracing us with a wonderful efficiency of the northern lights. Swirling and dancing, the playful lights shone brightly for a second after which poof, all that remained was a smoky vapor.
It was early March, and I used to be crusing north up the coast of Norway on the 600-passenger Finnmarken, one of many Hurtigruten expedition/ferry fleet.
I took this seven-day journey a number of years in the past and checking the web site just lately I noticed the ship had been refurbished and renamed MS Otto Sverdrup (hurtigruten.com). However the identical itinerary was out there – embarking from the World Heritage city of Bergen and ending in Kirkenes, 240 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the border of Russia.
Previous to boarding, I spent a few days exploring Bergen’s sweater retailers, using the funicular for a shocking harbor view, and skimming the fish market the place cod tongues have been stacked in a bowl (they’re fried and eaten as snacks), and glistening slabs of smoked salmon lined the counters. Different highlights have been the Hanseatic Museum (Hanseatics have been German fish exporters who got here to Bergen in 1360), in addition to composer Edvard Grieg’s home positioned on the highest of close by Trollhogen, or “hill of the trolls.”
Trolls are integral to Norse mythology and the reward retailers have been stocked with them in each form and measurement. I kept away from shopping for one, however I did choose up a recording of Grieg’s “March of the Trolls.”
I selected this journey for the Northern Lights, but in addition as a result of the ship docked at round 20 ports. The cities included Trondheim, the place Norwegian kings have been topped, Bodo well-known for the lethal saltstraumen maelstrom (a two-way tidal present included in terrifying tales by Jules Vern and Edgar Allan Poe), Hammerfest, and The North Cape, the northernmost level of mainland Europe. Among the stops have been six hours, some have been quarter-hour.
The ship was stuffed not solely with vacationers, but in addition locals who used it as a ferry within the winter when the roads have been impassable. Together with snug berths, have been lounges, eating places and extensive home windows for sundown viewing.
The climate was gentle, a number of levels beneath freezing due to the Gulf Stream. We passed by craggy factors and islands, blanketed in snow. It was too harmful to enterprise into the fjords, so as a substitute we took excursions to go to historic websites like Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, and the Aviation Museum in Bodo.
In Svolvaer, I joined a number of different passengers for a drink within the Magic Ice bar (made totally of ice) the place we have been issued jackets to maintain heat. A spotlight in Tromso was Polaria’s Arctic exhibit with six bearded seals. These are the one bearded seals in captivity and the attendant advised me one kissed the Norwegian Queen when she visited. I leaned over the tank to see if he’d do the identical with me, however no luck.
Our tour to North Cape, the northernmost level in Europe, was chilly, round -20C with the windchill. Buses took us up a winding highway as a snowplow cleared the way in which. On the level we climbed on the iron globe sculpture for photos then hurried out of the biting wind to heat up within the customer’s centre for Norwegian waffles with bitter cream and strawberry jam.
On the last cease in Kirkenes I took a day tour known as Arctic Journey. At a lakefront property simply outdoors of city we have been zipped into enormous snowsuits hopped on snowmobiles for a spin. Lars, the tour operator, had a particular deal with for us. Turning into diving gear, he slipped into the frigid water and moments later got here up greedy a king crab, its physique as huge as a pumpkin. Half an hour later we have been seated in Lars’ sunny entrance room feasting on it together with recent baked bread and melted butter.
A reindeer safari park beckoned within the afternoon. Solely the Sami (Norway’s Indigenous individuals) are allowed to personal reindeer, so the animals have been on mortgage to the park proprietor. Tempting Rudolph with handfuls of moss, I used to be in a position to sneak in a number of images.
Sledding again to our bus, we have been able to eat once more – Sami-style. At Neiden Mountain Lodge, 28 miles from Kirkenes, we pulled into the car parking zone to a refrain of barking. Not solely a Sami restaurant and cultural centre, it was additionally the check-in level for the Finnmarkslopet, a 1,000 km dogsled race that had attracted 27 groups from 10 nations together with america, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Germany.
Strolling previous the canine and into the restaurant, we sat down for a meal of reindeer bone marrow bouillon, roast reindeer with a darkish wine gravy, boiled potatoes and inexperienced beans. Lean, and moist, it jogged my memory of venison. Dessert was cloudberries. They tasted like bitter yellow raspberries, and have been complimented with candy whipped cream.
After dinner, a few of the native Sami residents wearing colourful clothes together with felt boots and complicated head items, sang conventional songs, shared tales of their previous and allow us to take photos.
As we headed out the door, I might hear the canine yipping, determined to take off into the black evening. A couple of flood lights lit the monitor and we lined as much as see them off, the air thick with frosty puffs of canine breath.
After watching them disappear, I appeared up. The sky was alive with inexperienced swirling waves rippling and leaping. It appeared as if two giants have been tossing bolts of wavy material backwards and forwards throughout the heavens. I caught my breath and stood very nonetheless. The spectacle made me wish to sing, or shout with happiness.
It was a farewell reward like no different. Thanks Norway.
This put up can also be out there in: