WE'RE GOING TO NORWAY....IN FEBRUARY, NO LESS.
This was written prior to the next trip – and all of which was triggered by the idea of Norway.
Norway, in February, no less.
The following is from my Japan Journal.
FEBRUARY; I had just finished writing up our previous trip, and as usual, I was a bit at loose ends when RJ glanced at a travel pamphlet that had just arrived in the mail and announced “Viking goes to Norway in February”. Now, it’s true I had been expressing at least a vague interest in seeing “Bergen in the snow”, but it was nothing more than a vague dream. Even knowing this, and surely not the least bit interested in going to Norway in February, you’d think he would have quickly dumped the pamphlet in the trash.
But, he didn’t… So, we’re going to Norway – in February.
The offering of Norway was the original objective. The trip to Japan just happened to appear in the same pamphlet: The result of this , even more off hand than usual, was that Japan just simply became part of the package.
The trip to Japan with Viking proved to be rather unsatisfactory; the result was that we cancelled our reservation to Norway. Not however, before I hastily readdressed my earlier research on Hurtegruten – I was still determined to go to Norway.
We knew very little about Hurtegruten; just what we experienced on a brief encounter with them 15 years earlier - as part of a Viking tour - to Norway. I had no idea what kind of cruise facilities or accommodations it had to offer; was there a bar, gin, an acceptable restaurant arrangement, comfortable cabins, Important things like that. I was just a bit concerned about the latter, as our earlier encounter involved an aggressively efficient cabin – maybe 10x10 bathroom included, and a covered porthole; -not exactly one in which I cared to spend two weeks.
It looked promising enough. So: NO to VIKING/YES to HURTEGRUTEN.
WE COULDN’T HAVE MADE A BETTER CHOICE…
The objective of “BERGEN IN THE SNOW”…..has been joined (actually considering the fact that I’ve decided snow in Bergen may be unlikely) by a few other desirables: LOFOTEN has been added (inspired by a flurry of active photographic interest including photos hung along the passageway outside our cabin on Viking), and, how about “just plain snow”?
NORWEGIAN COASTAL VOYAGES
BERGEN TO KIRKENESS AND RETURN –
A moment of further introduction: Bergen in the snow, Lofoten and all that is fine, but I must confess to a far earlier predilection to the likes of Scandinavia, in particular Norway.
A basic element in this story is the fact that I lived in Sweden for what I guess might be considered formative years – ages 12 -14 three years I guess. Of course this had to have made a big impression on me.
And further - Let me count the ways: starting from the first possible connection, at the age of 11, I had a crush on a Norwegian who was a coworker of my father’s in Germany, then we lived in Sweden and had two au pairs from Norway, Inga and Grace from Stavanger, and we visited Norway while we were living in Sweden maybe 1950 (I remember seeing the Olympics ski jump in Oslo – I’m a bit confused about this. The Olympics were in 1952 - this was so early after the war imagine- and by then we were in Greece). Don’t know?? We advance a few years to 1967 or so when I painted a very large oil painting of a Sami/Lapplander (I’m ashamed to admit copied from the NatGeo- we “professional artists” don’t do that, but that was long ago). And finally, we visited with Viking – River Cruises - yes we did - in August 2006. They did a trial run and we were lucky enough to hop on it. This trip involved one week of bus crossing mountains and boating down fjords, and one week on Hurtegruten from Trondheim to Kirkenes, and a flight to Oslo. The trip only attracted 20 participants, so it’s not surprising that Viking never did it again. Could it be that the interest level had not yet started to develop? What ever it was, weren’t we lucky.
There may very well be more to this equation that I’ve simply forgotten, but you can’t of course miss the fact that I have a Norwegian husband. (just look at the name) – that’s just got to be the ultimate expression of Scandi - appreciation.
I could of course go one step further and add to this my intense admiration for England: You’d have to be a REAL ROMANTIC to think I am responding to my ROOTS, that it’s a genetic thing, but it really could be. I’m 100% Brit and Brits are very much Viking. Yeh, man!!
And now I’m going to clutter up the narrative and add another OBJECTIVE. This is one I’ve just recently discovered and adopted thanks to the Japan trip. I am ditching DESTINATION, I’ve never been happy with that one, and I’ve replaced it with the idea of encountering ADVENTURE. Norway could be a real test. for one thing, I have no winter clothes, NONE- and a quick glance at the offered excursions: dog sledding, snow- mobiling, arctic swimming….. well, they do do those things in winter.
And I come up with a distinct impression that you can overdo ADVENTURE, and this could possibly end up being more of an “adventure” than I had bargained for. At the very least I may freeze to death.
Encountering the Norwegian winter offers me an excellent opportunity for testing my new approach: a good helping of “suspense of the unknown”.
And isn’t this exciting
So now we’re back and for some unknown reason I’m not in the least bit motivated to start writing up this journal. I don’t know what it is. Could it be that it was JUST TOO WONDERFUL an experience to bear ruining it by pinning it down and putting it into words?
Or could it possibly be the result of having lost the notes capturing the euphoria I felt the first part of the trip? More about that later – hopefully.
Now it’s March and my writing time is almost up; April and glorious weather… and i just can’t stay inside. The sun comes out and the weather is demanding to be enjoyed.
FUSS, FUSS, FUSS;;; and when you get right down to it, I don’t really t need to say a word: I’VE GOT 500+ PHOTOS WHICH SHOULD COVER ALL THE BASES QUITE SATISFACTORILY. YES? Well, I guess not quite –
I’ll try priming the pump and maybe that will get me inspired.
MY FAVORITE SHIP
PERMIT ME TO INTRODUCE YOU:
MY NEW FAVORITE SHIP
She is the smallest of the Hurtegruten fleet, and is named for the capital of SVALBARD which is an archipelago north of the mainland of Norway. I could quote tonnage at this point to better establish size, but I’m much happier quoting number of beds or passengers (a modest and I gather flexible) 335 because that’s what is meaningful to me.
The Spitzbergen was specifically designed as an expedition ship. This explains the presence of a particularly beguiling feature:; a roof deck which spans the entire dimension of the ship. Deck space on the other ships of the fleet are lower and more restrictive. My first reaction to the thought of going on the roof was that of horror, but thanks to a questionable excursion to the roof at midnight – to see the Trollfjord, a major objective on this trip - I dumped the fear and became a huge fan of THE ROOF. You might actually say: I JUST LOVED THE ROOF.
What I loved most about this SHIP is that it has so much personality and it enthusiastically shares that with us: Chump, chump, chump, throb throb slap slap slap lots of neat sound effects….and boy did it bounce when the sea was rough. Whee! You are totally aware of all this l because you are so very much integrated into your surroundings. Furthermore, it is literally small enough to see end to end; – this is a real big deal when you have mobility issues – I could easily get around without having to think twice about it or having to plan the best route.
The Spitzbergen and the very few remaining of her ilk are able to offer conditions so different, so special and so agreeable; she is unpretentious, laid back, uncomplicated, casual ETCETC… totally agreeable.
THIS WAS THE BEST TRIP I’VE EVER BEEN ON!!! READ ON AND YOU’LL FIND OUT WHY……….
** my first ship love was the “PRIDE” a mini-ship owned by Seabourne. Unfortunately “Pride” was sold and has suffered an unfortunate indignity: it’s been cut in half and a whole new midriff has been inserted – I find this to be a real insult to the dignity of any ship; but when you are out for the money, who cares about such things. unreal. That’s how things are going with the smaller ships – so sad.
LET'S GET STARTED
Well, that seems to have worked: SO
LET’S GET STARTED.
Before I embark on this delightful subject, I’d like to clarify a few situations that have an undeniable effect on the outcome of any of my trips. There’s nothing new here if you’ve read my earlier papers, but I think a reminder is a desirable thing as it certainly effects my opinions.
First of all; I’ve gotten older….and you absolutely cannot deny that age has a huge effect on any trip. I am no longer a reasonably hale and hearty age. And I’ve been hampered by pinched nerves in my legs – walking is doable but with some discomfort; It makes doing any excursion a distinct challenge.
this isn’t much of a detriment, as I actually prefer being selective if possible, without it meaning I’m stuck sitting on the ship. I don’t really like being at the mercy of a tour; shuffled along at the whim of a tour guide. and I’ve generally ceased being particularly excited about a tourist spiel – especially not the kind filtered through earplugs. My preference is a ride around the area: I prefer bus rides past scenic routes or a taxi for a more limited type of visit.
This trip was the direct antithesis to our last – Japan – for more reasons than one; travel time alone. This trip was a breeze; virtually seamless; and what a relief. The ease and efficiency of the wheelchair brigades alone was relief enough; this particular element has become a REAL HASSLE.
WITH ALL THAT CLARIFIED, it’s TIME TO TAKE TO THE ROAD::
To get there we flew KLM – this airline rates tops with me for accommodation - from Dulles to Amsterdam very easy (6 hours or so compared to even once 24 – please) and a mini plane to Bergen….seamless. As expected no snow in Bergen, but there it was up on the mountains. There was very little wait and very few steps in the Hurtegruten terminal…… and equally few steps up the mini gangway before we were in our Suite. And what a Suite is was! Huge bed facing one of two wall- sized glass panes one of which was a slider, couch, chairs, desk and just my very favorite sized bathroom – small with lovely uptodate glass showers (can’t wait). Nice small veranda with very clever wall- hung, pull -down chairs and table. All things admirable. There were no drawers: just shelves (and a closet) - impressively efficient, no unpacking. My method of packing – a plastic bag for each category – proved perfect. Very shortly thereafter there was a quick and modest safety meeting in the BAR- cum- lecture meeting room so, with just a slight shift in gears, and it was my hugely anticipated first MARTINI of the trip… Tanqueray Gin no less, imagine that. I couldn’t have been more pleased. The ship left Bergen and we went to dinner -buffet for this evening. I was a bit uncertain about the idea of buffet - they’re tough on my legs - but the spread was so splendid and so very hard to resist that I made it through with nary a pang. (I’m often amazed at what I’m capable of doing given the right impetus or objective – ie food for one). And by then we were well ready for that much earned bedtime.
The first stop the next morning was a very respectable and passenger- friendly decent time of 10:00 AM, and length – around two hours. Alesund renowned for its art deco architecture – (we were here in summer 2006 so we could readily and happily forgo the ship’s offered excursions and with ease we found a cab. we were so impressed by the driver…. (I think basically we have a shellshocked apprehension going here – we’re not used to phenomenal cab experiences.… fluent English and totally anxious to show us the best. And, hallelujah, I did not freeze – not even close. Temperature? 0o Celsius – 32oFehrenheit - about like at home. But the air was CRISPY, CLEAR, FRESH and so agreeable, -and the sun shone and it was just a beautiful day. I think this was the day I announced unequivocally the first time: “I’M CRAZY ABOUT NORWAY”. Back to the ship – which leaves at 1:30 - for - lunch followed by our first expedition team program on the major physical feature of Norway - the glaciers, and finally the first appearance of a snowy landscape with the ubiquitous red barns dotting the landscape.
The next day we were in Trondheim with its Cathedral – running from 10:00 to 1:00 - and two more unbelievably gracious cab drivers – And it is here I feel compelled/it is best to relate my Trondheim story –
Trondheim was where our Viking bus tour transferred us to the Hurtegruten ship. We only had time for a quick drive through town and a short visit to the Cathedral. This time we had enough time to be driven around this absolutely delightful city/town (I think this would be a wonderful place to live) with time left over for the Cathedral….just happened to be Noon, church bells, short period of meditation and a very appreciated (I don’t do praying but contemplating the mess at home I was very pleased for the opportunity even if it was in Norwegian – the thought is the same.
Time for a purchase – I saw a Viking chessman in the gift shop – I love them… I asked of the salesperson, who may or may not have been a Friar according to his dress, and being perhaps overly polite: “may I buy a Viking”? oh, yes… I was in good form. On the way out I was so ecstatic with the scene, I thanked him and meant to tell him how much I loved his city: the air was so clear… instead of no pollution it came out no, no…I meant pollution- not corruption. I sat on the wall across from the door and pondered that…. had to go back and tell him /assure him, I meant I meant I meant …no pollution, of course…we’re the ones with the corruption. (well, it’s true, isn’t it?).
The next day we indulged in a purchased excursion, this expressly arranged mostly to check out Hurtegruten’s “excursion” quality. We’d been to Saltstrummen – but in August when the tour was by pontoon boat right down on the water ) Saltstrummen/Maelstrom – BIG FAST TIDE.12:40 TO 3:00 (another very reasonable start time, but somewhat of a stress on lunch). This evening– thanks to the earliness of dinner – we were able to see the final moments of the Impeachment Trial that we had been following assiduously at home. That helped keep us up and alert for the BIG ACTIVITY of the day – Trollfjord - at the ungodly hour of midnight. So there we were up on the roof verifying the effectiveness of our cold weather layering/gear. Unfortunately we could not enter the fjord due to the hazard of avalanche, but that’s ok – I’ve proven that both the gear and the roof are just fine. And as I said earlier, the roof became an integral part of my day, and of the trip as a whole – I ended up” I JUST LOVE THE ROOF”!!!!
Alesund from above- August 2006
The canal in Alesund
Trondheim in August 2006
Canal and bridge Trondheim
SNOW ++ SNOW ++ SNOW
Finally SNOW -
Day 5 - FINNSNES
And it’s DAY 5 on the itinerary
I woke up declaring “this is just plain heavenly” – a rather uncommon sentiment for me actually pretty much ever.
I suspect part of this euphoria was caused by the revelation that I was in a positively superlative place; and my personal daily schedule of preference has slowly taken shape and emerged: nothing real complicated: breakfast, check the roof, short lecture, check the roof, lunch, short lecture and check the roof often for a program and definitely for stops of some sort/cocktail hour/ dinner/ bar/ and roof if there are stops/ and bed. Isn’t that the most perfect day ever?
Day 5 and the honeymoon was in full swing – I was flying high; I was very much taken by the ship, by Norway, by basically the whole shooting match capped by a fine snowy photo op in the morning.
We arrived in Tromso 2:00 and I confronted by my dream of a perfect winter wonderland: here was snow and lots of it We engaged a taxi and set off to enjoy this beautiful gift of nature; ostensibly in search of some suburban landscape/neighborhood local color. 5 pm , getting dark, and the lights of the town were glittering off the banks of snow and I was swept away by the beauty, the memory of how Xmas should be, and just plain deja vu and an interesting form of comfort food (comfort “environment”?) in the form of shades of my youth. I was totally blown away…ecstatic.
Spitzbergen on left dwarfed by its neighbor.
We returned to the ship, sat down on the couch, I reached to my left for my bag and +++ IT WASN’T THERE!!!!! OH, I’M IN TROUBLE….my bag is missing….**
And CRASH – an enormous one exacerbated especially I presume by the heights at which I had been sailing. my bubble was burst, end of honeymoon (but actually, not if I could help it) was over.
I went tearing to the other end of the ship to the reception desk HELP HELP. And I’ll tell you, it was right then that I discovered how very small this ship was indeed. They put out an all cab notice – we had no receipt (we were saving paper) so didn’t know the name of the cab company. small city. All we can do is hope that by the time we return through here in four days someone will have brought it in to a terminal – which actually probably doesn’t exist.
**THE BAG and what exactly had just happened. MY JOURNAL (and incidentally a pair of binoculars) were in that bag….MY JOURNAL; relating my feelings and impressions of the beginning of the honeymoon WERE GONE> all those ecstatic words. All the little sparks of excitement ; insights encouraged by encountering the unfamiliar / and unknown…all gone. The unfettered pure Joy, JOY. The words certainly are retrievable- the memories are all safely in my head; but the enormous outburst of raw emotion….NO. and i had just come to the decision that this material was so good I would probably copy it verbatum… an act I am loathe to do FOR BORING. …
It was actually very fortunately indeed that my other strategic tool, my camera, was hanging around my neck and my ship card was in my pocket.
+++++++++++++++++ I tried very hard not to think about it;
I’ve always had a particularly strong attachment to any thing I’ve written, often pulling apart trash to recover…so this was really a gruesome very unfortunate experience, just six days into the trip…( reading this – thank got it was ONLY 6 days and not the whole shooting match – sure puts a whole perspective on the situation. But this is now ++ and that was then) all the emotion and excitement =
I say: =============================RECAPTURE THE JOY…..memory is more meaningful, notes will become mere artifacts dumped in a file. I don’t believe anything is actually “lost” …and the environment I had lost them so assertively copacetic, friendly. A let down. Must not “let this momentary glitch disturb my oh so positive impressions.
I had to forget – I didn’t want it ruining the rest of the super trip…..
AND YES, IT WAS SUGGESTED THAT I WAS PROBABLY DISTRACTED:::: ARE YOU KIDDING?? me distracted???i WAS GONZO, FOR SURE. Oh well, I had the experience and that’s what counts. YES?
I have ALL 500 PLUS PHOTOGRAPHS …. words are one thing, can’t replace images – but they are in your head - that’s saying enough. AMEN.
I’LL PICK UP THE PIECES AND CARRY ON –
I'LL PICK UP THE PIECES AND CARRY ON ...