Tag Archives: Hurtigruten

Hunting the Light Continued … Part 8

Day 9 of our journey and it was hard to wake up.  After our midnight concert the night before and staying up to watch us leave Tromsø and search for the Northern Lights, it was after 2 o’clock in the morning before I finally fell into bed.  It was a good thing that they served breakfast until 10am or I would have starved…as if it is even possible to starve on a cruise ship! All of my devices needed recharging.  I don’t know if you knew or even thought about the fact that electrical outlets look different in Europe.  In order to plug in your stuff, you need to have an adapter or adapters.  Norway is no different and the ship was no different, either.  I did know about this ahead of time and brought along my handy-dandy adapter kit. 100_4649In Norway, the outlet is a round, recessed receptacle with two round holes.  The little gadget at the top right fits into that port and then the larger, square voltage thing plugs into that and finally you can plug the charger for your Kindle or MP3 or tablet or phone or whatever right into the voltage thing.  It’s a little awkward with all this jumble of stuff plugged into each other and hanging out of the outlet, but it works!  Within just a short time I was all recharged and ready to go. 100_4508At about 10:45 we arrived in the little village of Risøyhamn, with a population of 211.  Risøhamn is connected by a beautiful bridge to the island of Andøya, which is closest to some of the best fishing banks on this coast.  The fish are transported to Risøyhamn by truck and then transferred to the Hurtigruten ships for delivery. 100_4517I got out to take a quick walk up and down the main street, to stretch my legs and get a feel for the place.  You can see the moon up in the sky and our ship docked at the quay.  In about fifteen minutes we were once again on our way.

100_4524Our next port of call, just after lunch, was Sortland, (pronounced SOTE-lan), the main town in Vesterålen, (pronounced VES-ter-RONE), with a population of about 4,600.  Sortland is the headquarters for Norway’s Coastguard, patrolling the vast area of the North Atlantic.  Lots of houses in town are painted blue, so it is sometimes referred to as the “blue city”.

100_4528Lots of people got off and on the ship at this port, although we were scheduled to be here for just half-an-hour.

100_4532Some ship passengers took the opportunity to try out using a kicksled, which is very common in Norway, especially where roads are not plowed.  We saw people everywhere using them.

100_4537This poor guy was digging out his car.  I think he was one of those who got off the ship.  I hope he didn’t have plans to get anywhere soon!

100_4539I was intrigued by this church, which was visible from the ship, peeping through the trees.  I found out that it was built in 1902 and if I ever visit again, I will go visit it.

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On our way once more, our next stop was in Stokmarknes, (pronounced STOCK-mark-NESS) where we arrived a little after 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  This is the home of the Museum of the Coastal Express, where it all began for Hurtigruten.  Those who were on the full voyage were treated to free tickets to the museum.  The centerpiece of the museum, is being able to go aboard the Finnmarken, built in 1956 and which is now being restored.

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I found the museum to be very interesting.  It told the history of the Vesteraalen Steamship Company, founded by Richard With in Stockmarknes in 1881.  He piloted the first ship along the west and north coast of Norway in 1893, opening up communications and trade along the remote coast, even in the winter.

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A gingerbread village created by the town’s children, depicting Stockmarknes, greeted visitors to the museum.

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One of my favorite photos in the museum showed how they used to lift automobiles onto and off of the ship, using cranes.  Today, cars and trucks just drive right onto the ship.

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This is the lobby area leading to the Finnmarken, built in 1956 and being restored to her original beauty.  This is the other part of the museum.

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This is one of the ship’s dining rooms being restored.  Notice the turquoise and pink color scheme so popular in the 50’s.

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The cabins were still in the process of being renovated.  They looked very similar to the cabins on our modern ship.  The ceilings throughout the ship seemed much lower, however.

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The outside decks were interesting, with beautiful wooden deck chairs for the passengers.

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The ship’s bridge looked small and almost primitive compared to the bridge on today’s modern ships.

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Saying Good-bye to Stokmarknes, we continue south where it looks like we are sailing straight into a mountain.  Then, we enter a narrow channel where we wind our way through, with mountains on either side it seems like you can reach out and touch them.  This is Raftsundet (raf-SOON-ah), a 12-mile long passage.  The ful moon was out illuminating the snow on the mountains, when there they appeared again — the Northern Lights!

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It was quite exciting!  Almost everyone was out on deck to witness the magical scenery.

We arrived in Svolvær (slow-VARE), in the heart of Lofoten (low-FOE-den) and the world’s largest cod fishery, after dinner, where I went ashore for a tour.  Our first stop was the cod drying racks, which would soon be filled with fish.  We then visited one of the fishing shacks at the shoreline, where several fisherman would live together during cod season between January and April.  Today many of those shacks have now been converted into lodging for tourists.

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Next we visited a replica of an old fashioned Lofoten country store.

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Lofoten was home to the famous artist Gunnar Berg . (1863-1893).  Here we got to see his famous painting Trollfjordslaget (The Battle at Trollfjord) as well as many of his other paintings of daily life in Lofoten.

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It was all so very interesting, but unfortunately, I was so tired from our late night last night that I could hardly stay awake, and kept nodding off during the lecture.  Wah!

Arriving back to the ship I fell into bed and was immediately asleep, after our long and busy day.  We made the bumpy crossing between Bodø and Ørnes during the night, so I didn’t even notice it this time.  Sweet dreams!!

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Hunting the Light … Part 4

Day 5 on the ship and we had settled into sort of a routine.  I was usually up fairly early, as I am a morning person.  I love to be part of the quiet and slow stirrings of another new day, full of promise.  I would immediately head out to deck 6 and after watching the scenery for awhile would make a few trips around the deck, nodding hello to fellow morning people doing the very same thing.

Most mornings breakfast was served open seating, between 7am and 10am.  Breakfast was always buffet style, and one could choose from:

  • Fresh loaves of bread, still warm from the oven that you slice yourself
  • Bowls of raspberry jam, strawberry jam and orange marmalade
  • Corn flakes or granola or oatmeal with little dishes of prunes, nuts, dried apricots, etc. to sprinkle on top
  • Liquid yogurt or buttermilk to top your cereal with
  • A selection of sliced cheeses and thinly sliced meats and sausage
  • A variety of raw, smoked or pickled fish
  • Pork & beans
  • Soft boiled eggs with egg cups and special little spoons
  • Crepes, freshly made while you wait, or sometimes waffles
  • Little sausages
  • Occasionally there were scrambled eggs or a fried egg, sunny side up with a piece of crisp bacon
  • A fruit platter with grapes, sliced apples, sliced melons, strawberries and orange slices
  • A milk machine with skim or 1% milk, apple juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, hot chocolate, coffee or tea

hurtigruten-midnatsol-restaurantYou did NOT find doughnuts or sweet rolls or omelets or pancakes or any kind of cereal besides corn flakes or granola.  Everything was delicious, freshly made and beautifully presented.  In the morning, we often chose one of the tables on the left, opposite the gentleman in the photo who is helping himself to some oatmeal.  In the evening, we had an assigned table, where we sat every night with the same companions, who happened to be from Australia.  Our table was the one on the right, that you see in the immediate foreground.

100_4385After breakfast we stopped in Harstad, a town with a population of about 23,000.  Harstad is the headquarters for oil exploration in the area.  It also has dairy farming , the most northernmost strawberry fields in Norway and sheep, as well as a sheltered harbor.  The immense candle, lit up in the distance, caught everyone’s eye and was a unique holiday decoration.

As we continued north, the next stop, just before lunch, was Finnsnes (FINCE-ness), a little trading center with a population of about 5,000.  This photo is a good illustration of what polar night is like.  We arrived here a little after 11am and you can see that it is light enough to walk around, but street lights are still on.  The day was overcast, so if the clouds cleared off, it might get just a bit lighter than this.  In the polar night, this is referred to as “blue twilight” and it is beautiful.100_4388100_4389Notice the little candelabrum in the windows.  Nearly every house in Norway had these in their windows, casting a cheerful, welcoming light to all passersby.

We arrived in Tromsø (TRUME-suh) about 3pm, and as this was New Year’s Eve, the schedule was adjusted so that we could stay here until midnight, to ring in the New Year, before resuming our voyage north.

Tromsø, with a population of about 69,000 is the capital of arctic Norway and the gateway to the Arctic Ocean.  It is a vibrant, lively town with a busy airport and bustling university and is one of the most accessible places to find the Northern Lights.

As far north as we were, it was already full dark when we went ashore.  The streets and shops were still decked out in their holiday decorations.100_4404100_4401???????????100_4406In the middle of the town square was the Tromsø Lutheran Cathedral, Norway’s only wooden cathedral.  Inside, it was also still decorated for Christmas.100_4391100_4411On the ship, they served a special four-course dinner and the mood was very festive.  Around 11pm people began to gather out on Deck 9, with a panoramic view of the city, spread before us on both sides of the watertromso-new-year and the restaurant lit up on Mount Storsteinen, which is accessible by cable car.  Sporadic bursts of fireworks turned into an unending display in all directions, as it neared midnight.  Out on deck, waiters passed out glasses of champagne in preparation for the finale.  At midnight the ships sounded their horns and all pandemonium broke loose with fireworks bursting in the air in every direction.  Fireworks burst from the top of our ship and our sister ship, the Trollfjord, and everyone toasting each other and the New Year.    It was the most memorable New Years Eve I have ever experienced.

At last we cast off and the ship sailed slowly past the Arctic cathedral and under the bridge as we continued our journey north between islands and skerries.  Clouds had moved in and ice pellets stung our cheeks.  There would be no Northern Lights to be seen tonight, but what a fabulous start to 2015.Tromso by night A&A

Hunting the Light continued … Part 3

Early on the morning of Day 3 we arrived in Trondheim, a city of 175,000 inhabitants, situated on the River Nid, which winds right through the town.

100_4356I signed up for a city tour of Trondheim and a visit to one of the most famous sights in town — Nidaros Cathedral, built over the burial site of Saint Olaf, king of Norway in the 11th century, and patron saint of Norway.  100_4365My picture of the cathedral did not turn out very well, as it was still pretty dark and the batteries in my camera were not liking the snow and cold weather.  But you can still get a sense of how gigantic this place was by looking at the size of the people walking in front.  We had a tour of the inside which was just as spectacular.

After leaving Trondheim we traversed a stretch of open ocean and it suddenly got very rough.  It was right when dinner was being called and I had to hurry back to the cabin — quick!  We tossed and bucked and I ended up puking my guts out into the wastebasket, which was lined with a plastic bag, thank goodness!  Then both Jack and I fell asleep and when we woke again, everything was calm.  Later, we bought an ice cream bar for dinner, as it took quite a while to feel hungry again.

It was raining when later that evening we stopped in Rorvik.  Supplies were being loaded on board and a couple cars drove onto the ship, as well.100_4367???????????????????????????????????Our sister ship Polarlys was in port at the same time we were.??????????????????????????????????This trip was made more special because we were visiting at Christmas time.  There were decorations h100_4352ere and there all over the ship, adding to the festive atmosphere.100_4350

Since we had taken naps instead of eating dinner, we were ready to stay up late.  The sky was overcast, so there would be no Northern Lights tonight.  A piano player in one of the lounges was very good, so we decided to splurge and have a drink, while enjoying the music, until everyone headed to bed.

100_4378On day 4 we crossed the Arctic Circle, an occasion which always begs for some sort of silly celebration.  Those who were game were “initiated” by having cold water and ice cubes poured down their back.

A surprising number of people, including myself, volunteered for this bit of madness.  The last guy in line got the remainder of the bucket dumped over his head, while old King Neptune reigned over all.

Our next stop was Bodø (pronounced BOW-duh), with a population of about 48,000 ~ making it the second largest city in Northern Norway.  I was very interested in exploring here, as this is where my great-grandfather was born.

One had to be pretty determined to leave the ship on this day, as a stiff wind was blowing the drenching rain sideways.  I put on long underwear, a thick sweater, a scarf, gloves, mittens, boots, a hat and a raincoat.  Within one block I was soaked through to my underwear.  Luckily, it wasn’t that cold.  I would guess that it was about 39 degrees or so.  It was a good thing that I had my spikes on my boots because there was still ice and snow on the ground and the rain on top of that made it quite treacherous.  I wanted to visit the Bodø domkirke, or Cathedral, while getting a chance to walk through the center of town.

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Again, being here at Christmas time and getting to see the decorations and nativity scenes in the churches, made it a very special time to visit.  At the rear of the church was a huge pipe organ illuminated by a beautiful rose window.100_4384

By the time I got back to the ship, I was ready for the sauna and the hot tub.  They had separate saunas for men and women.  Now, I had never been in a sauna before, so I wasn’t quite sure of sauna etiquette.  Luckily, someone was coming out of the sauna just as I was entering the changing room, so she clued me in.   You go in naked and sit on a towel.  When you can’t stand it anymore, you come out and take a cold shower!

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So… I tip-toed into this beautiful room and luckily I was the only one in there!  I relaxed and warmed up and gazed out the floor-to-ceiling windows, totally stress-free.  When I was as hot and sweaty as I could stand, I walked into the shower room, but just couldn’t bring myself to stand under the cold water.  Instead, I pulled on my swimsuit and walked outside, which WAS cold, and made my way across the deck to the hot tubs.  ????????????????????????????

There were two outdoor showers, with colored lights on them that made them look like the Northern Lights.  The domed building was a changing cabana, and then there were two jetted hot tubs.  I thought for about three seconds about using the outdoor shower, but permanently changed my mind and quickly made my way to the hot, steaming hot tub and slipped beneath the water.  Ahhhh, it felt so good!  ?????????????????????????????????

The rain had stopped and the sky had cleared and a bright moon was out.  As I was lying back, staring up at the sky, I thought I saw a stripe of pale green and gasped to myself, wondering if that was the Northern Lights.  It lasted for about a minute or so and then was gone.  Nobody else was around that I could ask, so I couldn’t be sure…but I was pretty sure that that was what it was.  Later, after seeing the Northern Lights, I knew for sure that that was what I had seen.

My fingers were turning into prunes and my cheeks felt like they were getting frostbite, so it was time to reluctantly get up out of the tub and quickly make my way back across the deck and inside the ship.TrollfjordLater that night we entered a very narrow fjord, shown above.  It was dark, so my photo did not turn out.  I did want you to see where we were, though.

The sky had mostly cleared and the moon was illuminating the snow on the mountains,  towering on either side of us.  They were serving hot fishcakes out on deck and music was playing and they were searching for the entrance to Trollfjord.  Suddenly there was a collective gasp, as a band of clouds above us began to shimmer and glow and undulate and there they were, the Northern Lights, dancing in the sky above our heads.  The show went on for about half-an-hour.  As soon as one band would begin to fade, another wispy cloud would suddenly start to glow and ripple and unfold across the sky, leaving one speechless.100_4562100_4561

I just have a point and shoot camera, so of course my photos are really lame, but when I look at them, I remember how it really looked, and I am still amazed.

That was a magical night that will be forever in my memory.  And more magical nights were yet to come.

Hunting the Light continued…Part 2

100_4287It was snowing when we arrived in Florø at 4:30 in the morning on Day 2.  Florø is located on an island and has a population of about 11,000, about half of whom live in town.  The main industry is fish farming and producing food for the fish farming industry.  Florø also serves as a supply base for the nearby Statfjord oil field.  It was interesting to watch us tie up quayside and watch goods being loaded aboard the ship.  We cast off and were about to leave when suddenly they threw out the ropes and tied up once more.  Shortly thereafter an ambulance pulled up and after a while one of the passengers was trundled off the ship on a gurney, loaded into the ambulance and driven away.  Poor guy.  Imagine paying all that money and looking forward to a vacation and the first day having to leave the ship in an ambulance!  It made me doubly glad that I had purchased medical insurance that would have covered such an eventuality, should that have been Jack or I.

I went back inside the ship and was surprised to see Jack up and about as well.  He told me that he had found a man lying unresponsive on the floor and that he had alerted the crew who began first aid until the gentleman was taken away on a gurney.  I told him that I had been outside and saw the gentleman being loaded into an ambulance, not having any idea that it was Jack that had found him.

Computer desks We got our little coffee mugs and tried out the computers.  Beverages may have been expensive on the ship, but there were several computers with free internet access, as well as free wi-fi throughout the ship, which helped balance things out.  These computers were as fast as my computer at home, unlike any other computers I’d ever attempted to use at sea.  Occasionally the connection would go down if we were away from any towns, but most of the time things were great.100_4272 There were so many places to just settle into a comfy chair and look out the window and read or write or visit with people.  Everywhere in the ceiling were these little lights at the end of strings that moved gently back and forth with the very slight motion of the ship.  This was the library.  They had books one could borrow (some of them in English) and jigsaw puzzles to work, if you wanted to.100_4295Deck 6 had a covered promenade where you could walk completely around the ship.  This was a great place to take a walk while enjoying the scenery.  100_4300Most of the time we were quite near the shore, so there was always something interesting to look at.

About mid-day we arrived in Ålesund, pronounced (OH-la-SUN). a beautiful city that we had visited during our last trip to Norway, in the summer.  Ålesund has a population of about 40,000 with the main industry fishing in the Barents Sea.  I  signed up for a shore excursion to the Atlantershavsparken Aquarium and the Mount Aksla viewpoint.

100_4305It was a Saturday and the aquarium was very busy with many children and families visiting.  Inside the aquarium were multiple tanks, some of them touch tanks, filled with a wide variety of fish.  A diver, dressed as Santa Claus fed the fish in a huge viewing area, much to the delight of the children.  Outside there were penguins and seals, with underwater viewing areas for both.

The bus then wound through the narrow, curving road to the top of Mount Aksla and the Fjellstua viewpoint.  Twice, cars meeting us had to back up and pull off to the side to let us pass. Several people were also hiking to the top. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The view over the city, from the lookout, was spectacular!???????????????????????????????????????There was a restaurant at this viewpoint that was not open when we were there this time.  The hike up to this spectacular perch is a very popular in both summer and winter.100_4326As you can see, the ground was covered with compact ice and snow that was treacherously slippery.  How did everyone keep from falling down?  It was highly recommended that everyone wear spikes on their shoes when getting off the ship, and luckily we found ours at Costco before we left.100_4647They came two to a package, which was a good thing because I lost one of mine somewhere along the way!  They stretch to fit over your boot or shoe and then fasten with a velcro strap across the top of your shoe.  When in place, they are not even visible on your foot, but they provide sure footing on ice and snow like your wouldn’t believe.  I would highly recommend them for any time you encounter ice or snow, to avoid falls.???????????????????????????????????????????????

You can see the viewpoint we visited earlier in the day, up on the hillside on the top right, from where the previous photograph was taken.

Good-bye Ålesund, we must be now on our way.