Norway - January 2010


This is the diary of a 7-day trip to Norway which started on 22 January 2010 and ended on 28 January 2010.  It was organised by John via Taber Holidays (more...) and Hurtigruten (more...) - the Coastal Express. The rate of exchange was £1 = 9.4 Norwegian Krone. Click here for the itinerary and interactive maps. If you just want to see all the photos as a slideshow click here. So now read on...

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SummaryNext day Friday, 22nd January - Home to Bergen

We are picked up by Felix at 6:15am and travel with Garry and Amanda to Heathrow where we arrive at 7:30. We have a coffee in the departure lounge. We buy some wine as it is going to cost £32 a bottle on the boat. The wine is put in sealed bags and is not to be opened till we reach our destination. Amanda searches in vain to buy some shoelaces. The plane departs for Copenhagen on time at 9:55am. When we land we are met by John and Fiona who have flown in from Edinburgh. We get on the 3pm flight to Bergen . Outside the airport we look for the taxi to take us to the boat. The company have no knowledge of our booking and so we get on a minibus which takes us to the terminal. John pays and will reclaim the fare from the travel company. That was agreed at the airport. We are guided to the boat, MS Midnatsol(more...), which is like a glorified ferry boat and sleeps 1000 passengers. As we enter the boat we have to wash our hands with anti-bacterial wash. Our room is on the 8th deck looking seawards. John and Fiona's cabin is on the deck below and faces the land. We wander around the boat. At 6pm we meet in a secluded area and drink our imported wine. A member of staff informs us that we can only consume our own drinks in our rooms. After cleansing our hands with anti-bacterial foam we enter the dining room and are allocated a table for six. We eat a buffet of a wondrous assortment of fish and cold meats followed by cheese and ice cream. At 9pm the English gather in the theatre and introduced to the crew and the all enveloping thermal survival suit. We book tomorrow's excursion and retire to bed to unpack our bags which have been left outside our rooms.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Saturday, 23rd January - Alesund and Molde

After a good night's sleep we get up and have breakfast at 9am. It is overcast outside. After the buffet breakfast we wander around the boat. At 10am it docks at Torvik for 20 minutes. At noon it docks at Alesund and we join an English excursion. There are 15 of us. Our tour guide is Jonny, an elderly Norwegian. He speaks good English. We are lucky as today is the 106th anniversary of the day when Alesund had a fire which burnt 10,000 houses and only one person died. Following the fire all houses in the middle of towns had to be built of stone. Alesund was rebuilt in a couple of years in the Jungenstil or as we know it, Art Nouveau. We walk down a pedestrian street (only in Summer) which is lined with Art Nouveau houses. These were amazing. In most countries you get to see one or two buildings around the town. Here you see whole streets of them as they were all completed in a 2 year period. The decorations on the houses are attractive, flowers , fish and owls to mention a few. The street is kept clear of snow by sea water being pumped under the street. The town has a lot of statues including deer and an old lady salting herrings. We walk to the Jungenstil Centre which is a museum occupying what used to be the Swan Pharmacy. We walk into a time machine which takes us back to 1904 and the rebuilding of the town. The place was declared a town in 1948 which meant it could export its salted fish rather than send it to Bergen. On the way back to the boat we pass some fire engines who are celebrating the anniversary. A boat on the sound is firing a jet of water. We re-board the boat, spray foam on our hands and partake of liquid refreshments in our room. We are joined by the resident artist and photographer from Sydney, Leeanna (more...). Half the party leave at 4pm to go and spend an hour painting with Leanna. Jane returns with a creditable water colour at 5pm. The boat docks at Molde and we wander round the town but find nothing of interest as the church is closed. We return to the boat. We have an excellent three course meal followed by a dip in the jacuzzi on the 9th deck under the stars. The water is very warm and the air is a lot cooler. There is a red glow in the cloudy sky which we think may be the Northern Lights. The men have a sauna but the ladies don't as theirs is turned off. We take a nightcap in room 776 and retire to bed.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Sunday, 24th January - Trondheim

We dock in Trondheim and, after breakfast, stroll into the city centre. It takes us about 20 minutes to reach the church of Var Frue. The roads are quiet and the shops are closed. In fact the city of 150,000 people is deserted apart from foreign boat people wandering through its snow sided streets. We enter the church which is opposite a statue of a speed skater and decline to take coffee with a bunch of locals. We leave the church and make our way to the cathedral which is closed to sight seers on a Sunday. We go inside. At one end a small choir has gathered and singing. We are left to admire the dark stained windows and the long tall aisles. Outside we notice parents are bringing their children in to be baptised. Some of the relatives are wearing national costumes. We take photos of the huge front of the cathedral which was built over the grave of St Olaf. A lady shows her national costume to us. On the way back to the boat we pass the Stiftsgarden which is the largest wooden palace in Scandinavia. It does look impressive. It's closed but should open at 1pm by which time we will have left. The boat departs at noon. We pass a small island ,Munkhulmen, once used as a prison. Shortly afterwards we pass a very pretty lighthouse , the subject of Jane's painting. There is a short precipitation of sleet, the first weather disturbance we have had. We have a quiet afternoon. We try and guess what time we'll cross the Arctic Circle in the morning. There are only 260 passengers on the boat and only 125 are doing the full 12 days trip. After the evening meal we take a quick trip in the rain to the Polarlys, a sister boat to this. We host the party in our cabin. Leeanna joins us. We retire at 10:30pm.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Monday, 25th January - Bodo

We get up early at 6:45am to get ready to go onto deck 9 to watch the crossing of the Arctic Circle. We see the Northern Lights - a small patch of green directly above the boat. A globe is mounted on a small island and is lit. The boat sounds its horn as it crosses at about 7:16am. After breakfast we have a short rest and all congregate on the 9th deck to witness the ceremony of crossing the Arctic circle . King Neptune pays us a visit and the winner of the Arctic competition is announced after Jane is declared as the runner up for which she wins a small present and the opportunity to have ice cubes poured down her back. We all have ice-cubes pushed down our backs and are rewarded with a small swig of cloudberry wine. We adjourn to our room and partake of stronger drinks and open Jane's present – an out-sized T-shirt. At noon we dock at Bodo after having seen lots of sea-eagles soaring above. Four of us get on a sight-seeing coach which takes us into the centre of the city of 40.000 people. There is an English commentary spoken by a Norwegian with a Geordie accent and a very good sense of humour. Bodo is the end of the northern end of the railway line in Norway. The organisation which employs the most people in the city is the civil/military airport. We are asked not to take photographs. We are driven east inland along the promontory. The roads outside the city are covered in snow. We travel for about 20 miles till we come to a very tall bridge that spans a stretch of water along which rushes the fastest tidal race in the world. We have reached Saltstraum. We cross the bridge turn round and return over the bridge and park under it. We wander down the snow-covered track to the water's edge. A whole mass of eider ducks gather together on the surface then all of a sudden disappear en masse below the waves. We return to the boat at dusk, 3pm. The boat leaves as soon as we are on board. At 4pm we go to the theatre and watch a collection of Antarctic photographs and paintings by Leeanna. They are very intriguing especially the photos of ice windows, holes in the ice through which the other side can be seen. Shortly afterwards we watch a DVD of the Northern Lights in all their splendour. After an excellent evening meal of carre of lamb we get off the boat at Svolvaer and walk a few hundred yards on the wet and icy surface to the Magic Ice centre. It's a converted fish warehouse and contains a lot of enormous ice sculptures. Amanda has a drink out of the conical ice glasses. We return to the boat and wait in our cabins for the next event. At 11pm we clamber up one flight of stairs to deck 9 where it is snowing. The boat stops at the mouth of a narrow fjord, Troll Fjord, in the middle of the Raftsund. We have a rather rubbery true Norwegian fish cake. It is not as good as the restaurant cooking. We see little evidence of the Northern Lights and retire to our cabins.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Tuesday 26th January - Tromso

We get up at 9am and have breakfast. At 10am Jane goes to art class, reluctantly, joined by John and Amanda. Graham reads a book. At 11:30 the boat docks at Finnsnes and Graham surveys the artists. The boat arrives at Tromso at 2:30pm. We depart but it's blowing a gale, the rain is horizontal, and it is very icy on the ground. Both Fiona and Graham lose their hats. They are now drifting in the North Sea. The Rica hotel is just 200 yards away. We book in and go to our rooms . BBC World is on the television and wireless connections are free – yippee. We all gather to celebrate Murray's win over Nadal in the Australian Open. Our husky ride is cancelled because it is too windy and there is not enough snow. We discuss where we should eat tonight and decide to eat in the hotel. It is a very good meal.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Wednesday, 27th January

We have breakfast at 9am, having had not such a good night's sleep. The room was too warm. The bed was too soft and it kept rocking, but we had a good view. At 11am we leave the hotel and walk southwards to the Polaria sea-life museum. We pass a wooden church which was the main cathedral for the city. It is snowing and cold. We get to the Polaria to find out it does not open till noon but a girl takes pity on us and says we can stay in the shop till it opens. It is dusk already. We go in and are fascinated by the panoramic film which shows wild life in the Arctic and beautiful views of the Svalbard and Spitzbergen. We watch three bearded seals being fed. They also perform some tricks with balls and rings. We leave and walk northwards towards the bridge to the mainland. We fail to get a bus and visit the Polar Museum instead. It is housed in two red wooden buildings by the water's edge. In it are relics of polar explorations. We walk to the market place and on to a café where we have some local Mack beer. It is dark and only 3pm. We return towards the market square and get a bus which takes us over the bridge to the Arctic Cathedral. It is a magnificent modern building almost like a white block of compacted Toblerone. A pianist is practising for a concert tonight. We walk back over the bridge to the hotel. At 6:45pm we walk to Emma's Dream Kitchen which is by the wooden church. We go up to the first floor and sit at a round table. We start with a Norwegian Kir, followed by a small prawn cocktail, cod's tongue, cods loin and a cinnamon and fruit sorbet. This is followed by very succulent lamb. We wash it all down with expensive wine. The pudding is a trio of chocolate. We end the excellent meal with a coffee. We have been in the restaurant for four hours. We walk back to the hotel. It's not snowing but is very icy.

Previous DaySummary Thursday, 28th January - Tromso to Home

We have breakfast. The hotel provides a very good buffet. Some go wandering the streets, some read their books and others go to sleep or take photos. We check out at noon and board the Flybussen which stops outside the hotel. We go through a tunnel to the west part of the island. Part of the way through the tunnel we come to a roundabout. We have never seen a roundabout in a tunnel before. The Norwegians enjoying tunnelling. We emerge close to the airport and check in using modern technology. All it requires is a reference number. Our passports are scanned and boarding passes and sticky labels for our baggage are produced. Graham has a fingerprint taken which will enable him to pass through the departure gate after putting his finger on a reader. We wait an hour and board the plane to Oslo. At Oslo we have expensive beers - £7 for 400ml and say goodbye to John and Fiona who will fly to Copenhagen and then to Edinburgh. We depart on time and land at Heathrow on time. Felix is waiting and whisks us home. We've had a jolly good time and it's not even seven days since we started the holiday.

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