Tag Archives: tromso

Hunting the Light Continued … Part 7

Day 8 on our journey on the Midnatsol and we were still in Finnmark, in the most northeastern part of Norway. Around 10:45am we arrived at the port of Hammerfest (HAWMER-fest), one of the oldest settlements in Northern Norway, which also claims to be the northernmost city in the world, as opposed to Honningsvåg, which we visited yesterday.  Hammerfest claims this distinction because it has a population of over 5,000 as compared to Honningsvåg’s population of 2,415.  However, in 1996 Honningsvåg was officially declared a city, despite their lower population, and Honningsvåg is actually further north than Hammerfest, so the debate continues.  Barrow, Alaska is actually further north than both, but they have seemingly declined to join the fray.  Nevertheless, we are very, very far north in the land of the Polar Night and the Midnight Sun. 100_4486Both Jack and I opted for a bus tour of this interesting city, which despite it’s far northern location, has an ice-free harbor and a climate very similar to Anchorage, Alaska.  For this reason, it has always been a very busy fishing and trade center.  In 1881, Hammerfest was the first urban settlement in Europe to get electric lights. The city receives heavy snowfall in the winter, so one sees avalanche fences all along the hillsides to help protect the homes below.640px-Hauen_Chapel_in_Hammerfest Hammerfest was used as an important base for German operations in World War II.  After the war it was subjected to the German’s “scorched earth policy”, as was all of Finnmark, and was looted and burned to the ground.  The only building left standing was the chapel, pictured above.

100_4477 From up on this hillside we had a nice view of the surrounding area and the large liquified natural gas site on the adjacent island of Melkøya, which opened in 2007 and has provided an economic boom to the area.  The bus passed lots of people hiking up to this viewpoint.  Hiking is a favorite activity of many in Norway and hiking paths are lit up so people can hike in the winter, as well.100_4489Our tour continued around to the other side of the harbor where we were treated to another beautiful view of the city and our ship in the harbor.  The building you see lit up on the hillside is a restaurant and the viewpoint from where the previous photographs were taken.100_4495Here we visited the Struve Geodetic Arc, one of a series of meridian markers that were established by German-Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, between 1816 and 1855 to measure the exact size and shape of the earth.  Years later, when we had more exact measuring devices, it was found that this marker was only off by a teeny amount.  How somebody in that period of time with very primitive methods of calculating could figure this out is just mind-boggling to me!   This guy was ‘way smarter than I am, to even think something like this up.  These monuments are now included on the World Heritage List.100_4494100_4498The bus returned us to the quay, but I had one last place I wanted to visit before we left Hammerfest — The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society museum!  The Polar Bear Club is a small, historical museum featuring the hunting and trapping past, with a good collection of stuffed animals and birds that live in the area.  One can only join the Polar Bear Club in person, by paying a small fee, as proof of visiting their only location, in Hammerfest.

100_4499Leaving Hammerfest, we made brief stops in Øksfjord and Skjervøy before arriving back in Tromsø, the city where we had spent New Year’s Eve, with the fireworks.  Tonight, we were being treated to a midnight concert in the Tromsøysund Church, also known as the Arctic Cathedral.Arctic cathedral

I did not take this photograph, but it shows exactly how it looked that night.  We crossed the snowy bridge and from the bus, walked up to the brilliantly lit cathedral.

100_4501My camera did not like the cold, so this photograph is not as crisp as I would have hoped.  This church is beautiful inside, with dazzling stained glass and chandeliers that look like illuminated icicles.  The acoustics were fabulous, making for a magical evening of entertainment.  360px-Norwegen_tromso_eismeerkathedraleAfter the concert, we returned to the ship and I took up my place on deck 9, hoping for one last glimpse of the Northern Lights.  But it was not to be….the sky was overcast and still, as we cast off and silently slipped away, under the bridge and past sleeping houses, saying good-bye to Tromsø.100_4505

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