From Bergen to Kirkenes with the Hurtigruten ship MS Richard With
On the present and the following pages, Rudi Kronenberger from Munich (Garching) will tell us about his 8-day dream trip with his wife Rita on the Hurtigruten-ship in the year 2007. Rudi and Rita made a one way tour from Bergen to Kirkenes (without return trip by vessel).
A dream came true! This dream already begun in the year 1989 with my first trip to Norway, at that time by bus and the St. Severin chorus; At that time, I started to love this gorgeous country. It slowly continued growing, carefully cultivated by the exchange of letters with our friends Eva and Svein in the partner community Lørenskog near Oslo. Many a calendars have been sent to us since
in the beginning of new years in order to entice us to the high north. In the year 2002, it was the time: we explored with the caravan the south west of the country, the mountains and the fjords between Oslo, Kristiansund and Bergen. And it was decided: we had to come back! In the year 2007, the next big journey should take place, but things changed.
At the beginning of March, there was a brochure of Hurtigurten included in the newspaper (Süddeutschen Zeitung). Of course, I immediately jumped at it, but then I put it aside, as the trip by mailboat was a long standing wish, but planed to be somewhen in the future. But then it came over me: why shouldn't I give myself this trip as a present for my 60th birthday? I do not like big celebrations anyway, so, are there any reasons why I shouldn't?
Indeed, Rita had lots of doubts due to the prices, but it was also appealing to her. Thus, it was just a matter of the dates. Unfortunaltely, the desired date between the concert trip to Aachen and pentecost was not possible, as the vessel was already booked up. But a week earlier was no problem. Only the concert trip had to be cancelled. The choice of the excursions in the country, the booking in the "Flight Stock Market", it was all rapidly arranged. At beginning of April, everything was ready. The anticipation pleasure started and the time went by more and more fast.
End of April / Beginning of May 2007
There is a stable high pressure area over the north atlantic; This brings a dreamy early summer weather to us in Bavaria. But I am critical about the weather card of Norway, as the anticyclone over Spitzbergen carries cold and humid air from the north to Norway, and the webcams from Bergen to Hammerfest show, in the best case, a closed cloud cover, otherwise rain, fog and snow. But the weather situation changes, the anticyclone disappears in eastern direction, a north sea cyclone slowly takes place and then warm air flows from the south alongside the Norwegian west coast and the webcams deliver some joyful pictures.
Only the temperatures make me shiver and to come to the decision to take the winter coats out of the cupboard, as from Tromsø, the temperatures go straight to cero. Rita does not fully believe me, but we do pack the winter coats. At the very last minute I pack my winter gloves in the rucksack, but then Rita refuses to do the same. But this will have consequences! And then, the time had come!
Day 1: Arrival, Overnight-Stay in Bergen
Shortly before 9.00 a.m., we depart with Andreas to the airport, terminal 2. First, we queued at the wrong counter, but then we rapidly check in. I quickly change some euro into Norwegian crowns and after a short exploration walk through the terminal, we pass the security control. This is annoying but neccessary. In my case, everything goes fine, not even the belt causes some beeping. In case of Rita it gets more difficult, somewhere there is always a piece of metal. Also the underwire of the bra is thoroughly checked. But we make it. Then, the usual waiting until the machine is ready; We are driven by bus to the movement area where a modern A320-400 stands.
The flight starts shortly after 11.00 a.m. The weather is fantastic, at the beginning, the climb flight is a little bumpy, but once above the clowds, the plane slides to Oslo as it was on rails; At Lufthansa, there is even a remaining bit of service: for lunch, we had the choice between three sandwiches! Turkey or cheese, we take one each, and due to the reason that in the end some were remaining, we get a third one. We were not supposed to be that fine later again!
We are in Oslo-Gardermoen around 1 p.m. A very modern terminal, wide extended, but it doesn't matter after having sat so long. We take our luggage from the conveyor belt, as now we are in a foreign customs country. We pass the customes without any stop, apparently, they are having lunch. Then we check in again at Scandinavian Airlines. Done. Dozens of service people are running through the whole airport and distribute these important plastic bags for the liquid stuff in the hand luggage. Rita also takes one, puts obediently her little cosmetic bottles inside and then no one is interested in that! What a nonsense!
Around 2:30 p.m. we take off in western direction to Bergen. Soon, we recognize the first snow fields that merge into a closed snow cover over the western highland. For the first time, Rita guesses that my concerns in relation to heat and coldness were probably justified: down there, there is still winter! But the closer we get to the North Atlantic, the first fjords are below us, the greener it gets. The approach to Bergen from the south takes place over hundreds of little islands, the archipielago, many streets and bridges are recognizable and soon also the coloured houses that are so typical for Scandinavia. A real patchwork expands below us. Then, it rumbles, were are on the ground . It is half past three.
We take our luggage and try to follow the lady of Hurtigruten. The bus that drives to the city centre is already waiting. The drive is quite long, I hear something about 20 km and it is the evening rush hour. Occasionally, there is an extra track for buses, then it goes faster, otherwise traffic jams like at home in Munich. But there is something to see: Troldhaugen, this way leads to the house of Edvard Grieg, then the castle of the Norwegian royal family, then a a long and low building: the ropewalk of Bergen! In former times, ropes and dews we made here. Through the city tunnel, passing the university and we arivve at the Hurtigruten terminal were the first passengers get out. We continue one station to the hotel "Neptun" in that we will spend one night. We want to see Bergen again, as in the last visit some things were left open. We get a little isolated room, very quiet, clean, everything O.K.
The most neccessary things are soon unpacked and we make tracks, as the weather is fine, a thing that is not common in Bergen. After a few steps we are already at the harbour and walk over to the old wood houses of the Hanse-Brygge. Then we continue in direction of the cathedral. There we find a little local in which we have a fish soup. The beer is unenjoyable, too cold and too expensive. We look for the shortest way from the hotel to the terminal, as we want to get there on foot with our luggage. And it isn't a problem, just over the mountain, then about 200 m and then one already arrives at the harbour. This makes us save 150 crowns, more than 20 euro transfer costs. From the ridge of the old town, we watch shortly after 8.00 p.m. the port leaving of the "MS Lyngen" and look forward to tomorrow, beacause then we will be in!
We are really tired and have a bath in order to relax. It is 9.30 p.m., outside still daylight, but we go to bed and are soon asleep!
Day 2: Sightseeing Bergen, Departure
It is already past 9.00 a.m. when we finally wake up. Sharp's the word, we have to go for breakfast! On the stairs, an older lady befalled us with the news that her journey had to be rebooked, as a Hurtigruten-vessel ran aground. After it does not affect us, we sit down at the table where a nice married couple is sitting and help ourselves decently with the goodies of the buffet. Obviously, the veesek that should depart a day after ours, had touched the ground somewhere and the passengers of tomorrow will then depart to the north with us this evening. They will surely have enough space!
After the hearty breakfast, we prepare our luggage to be ready for travelling, deposit it at the reception and start our way down to the harbour, as there are still some touristical gaps since our visit in the year 2002, and they will be filled today. First, the fish market. But the fresh catch does not really attract today, as we were stuffed by our breakfast. But here, there are very chic and warm knitted caps for which there was an immediate need for Rita, as the wind blows strongly bit by bit, it is getting clear for her that up here, winter is not that far yet in May.
Passing the old wood houses of Brygge, our first destination is the Marien Church that is still closed. Thus, we have a little walk at the harbour, go quickly into a supermarket in order to buy what we had forgotten. Then it is half past twelve. The Marien Church is the oldest church in Bergen, from the 12th century, and despite a few baroque fixtures still purely conserved in gothic style. Here, the holy mass was held in german language up to the 19th century, as long as the influence of the trade families of the Hanseatic period could be kept. The church is a real treasure, and it was worth the effort to do several trials for visiting it, as it is only opened at noon for a short period of time.
Until the Håkonshalle opens, we decide to drive first up to Fløyen, the local mountain. The view from the new panorama terrace in Bergen is great, and specially today, as the weather is really acting in our favour; We take the hiking path downwards through the thin forest and arrive in time to the harbour at the old fortification.
The Håkonshalle is the oldest conserved building of Bergen and was built in 1261 by the King Håkon for the coronation of is son. It had a changeful destiny. When it was not needed any more for representtive matters, it noticably deteriorated, was misused as a warehouse and burned down completely afterwards in the year 1944 after an explosion of an munition ship.
It was not opened to the public until 1961 after its reconstruction and today it serves as a concert hall and for official festivities. A very impressive gothic building, built according to the antetype of English halls. The ceiling of the hall is open, a massive roof truss is visible that reminds on the construction of a turned vessel. In the arches of the basement, there are cozy rooms arranged for the catering.
Due to some building works, the rosary tower beside is not accessible, thus we keep it in mind for our next visit in Bergen. This is why we start our way into the city centre, as we want to visit the museum of applied arts. We have a short break in the city park and recover ourselves with some cookies. Sitting on a park bank at the sun, we watch the poeple and the birds; Amidst, there is a monument of Edvard Grieg, it primary serves as a landing and toilet place for the seagulls. Poor him.
In the museum of applied arts we find, beside a significant Chinese collection, gold and silver smithery works, but also some modern design and Norwegian handcrafts.
Now we relly feel very hungry and we find a local at the harbour. Rita grants herself a fish soup and I take a solid stuffed potato. Well recovered, we pick up around 5 p.m. our baggage at the hotel and walk with it up over the hill to the dock of Hurtigruten. Soon we check in, as no one else is there yet. Until it is time to get on board, we have a little walk into the oldtown in front of the landing stage and enjoy the sun on a park bank.
At 6 p.m. we join the people who are waiting and choose a nice table at the window for dinner on board. The married couple that was sitting behind us in the plane, Christel and Christian, joins us. Finally, the queue starts moving. We get our cabin cards at the reception and also find soon our mini home for the next days. Our luggage also arrives, thus we can unpack and move in.
After putting our empty suitcases in the closet, we went to the restaurant, as the buffet dinner was waiting for us. We were really stunned: fish goodies ad infinitum! I don't think anymore on my delicate stomach and try everything what looks good. Rita also gets her gluten-free bread without any problem! The married couple from the breakfast, Renate and Erich, joins us. We start to have a pleasant time together. And the food is fantastic!
We leave the restaurant around 8.00 p.m. to get to the upper deck, as it is time to have a walk and no one can do it for one. It is a quarter past eight when we finally cast off. Slowly, the "MS Richard With" starts to move and soon, it has 15 bends that are equivalent to nearly 30 kilometres/hour through the skerries to the north. Slowly, Bergen disappears behind us with its city mountains Fløyen and Ulriken, at the portside we leave the Askøy bridge behind and nearly soundless, the ship slides along. It is hard to believe: our long standing wish starts to be true! And the weather is picture-perfect: a blue sky, little white clowds and a north sea flat as a pancake. And I am absolutely sure that we will take this nice weather throughout the whole trip with us!
At 21:15 p.m. we are asked to come to the panorama saloon at the very top in deck no. 7 in order to get the security information. Half of the crew is represented and informs us about the escape routes, thermo suits and life vests. But one certainly pays limited attention, as one has repeatedely to look outside in order to enjoy the landscape. Here in the panorama saloon, one does not listen to anything about the ship and the vessel at all. Maybe the quite air noise of the air conditioner. As gliding in rails, we pass the islands in the sunset. We go again outside, at deck no. 5 one can walk around the whole ship and, of course, the nicest place is at the very front at the bow, underneath the command bridge. There, it is nearly windless. A dream!
Around 11.00 p.m., the fatigue overcomes us and we leave to the cabin to spend our first night there. The beds are equaly arranged, one is only stroke down, the other one is a bench during the day, only the back is to be pushed down in order to convert it to a common bed. Although the pillow is very soft, lying there is quite pleasant, but it is only too warm and we did not discover the little lever for the graduation of the temperature until next day. The noises are still unusual, sometimes, there is a vibration in the ship, and also a light sea disturbance appears that makes Rita grab a "superpep"-chewing gum. Somewhen I take a sleeping pill, as I am deadbeat but still can't sleep. But then I do and it is already 9.00 a.m. when we wake up.
Day 3: Alesund, Geirangerfjord, Molde
We are already in Ålesund! Unperceived, the ship land this night at the harbours Florø, Måloy and Torvik and we also nearly missed Ålesund! Sharp's the word! We go for breakfast; We watch the cast off from the railing. Today, the ship leaves the actual route getting a little back the stretch and then through Storfjord and Sunnylvsfjord into the Geirangerfjord, the most beautiful of all Norwegian fjords.
It is the third time for us and it is repeatedely nice to us to see the known waterfalls, the "Freier" and the "Seven Sisters", the abandonned farms, the face in the rock face, then the serpentines of the "Ørneveien" at the left, the Eagle's Path, and then the Geiranger with the view to the Dalsnibba, the mountain heighted 1400 m to which we already went by car.
A Group of excursionists are released here. They will go by bus through the Eagle's Path and go back to Ålesund alongside the Norddalsfjords. We make the same way by ship. In that time, I go through all decks with the camera, starting at the sun terrace of deck no. 7 up to the sauna downstairs at deck no. 2
Around 6.00 p.m., Ålesund reappears and right after landing we go to the restaurant in order to have dinner. From today, there will be no buffet but a three-course-menue at fixed seats. But it is not that easy, as an older couple already sits at our places and we firmly defend them. But the missunderstanding
can be easily solved to our favour so that nothing can stop our enjoyment any more. Our table mates, Christel and Christian, are a very nice couple, and we have the feeling that we will cope very well together during the next days. Today, the main course is a tender lamb loin, very tender with an excellent taste; A little salat as a starter, then a fine dessert. Fantastic if we continue this way! And the sea seems to promise to stay calmly, so that everything stays were it should be!
The next habour is Molde, the city of roses. There is already the sister ship "MS Kong Harald" waiting at the dock and shortly afterwards we can watch it leaving into southern direction. The ship glides in a very elegant way passing the shining mountains of the Trollheimen in the sunset. After half an hour, shortly past 10.00 p.m., our ship also continues its route through the skerries out to the north sea. We enjoy the sunset from the panorama saloon and after we left the last brightly iluminated island behind us, we feel like going to bed. We miss the harbour of Kristiansund.
Day 4: Trondheim, Trondheimfjord, Stokksund, Rørvik
We ordered a wake up call at 7.00 a.m., as we have to be ready at 8.30 a.m. for the land excursion; When we have our first view through the window, we are already passing through the Trondheimfjord and the city is in front of us. There is the "MS Nordlys" that is going in southern direction, at the harbour, and our captain has to park the ship backwards. He seems to do this regularly, as he does it in a jiffy.
Today, the weather is not so fine. It is grey and it slightly rains. But this doesn't matter in the bus and we surely will survive the short ways outside. Several buses are ready, one with a german travel guide and one Norwegian/English.
We drive a little criss-cross through Trondheim to Nidarosdom. The biggest church of Scandinavia and the most northern gothic cathedral, as everything here is the biggest and located at the most northern point. But this church construction is really impressive, nearly purely gothic, only the transept was already initiated in the Romanesque. Unfortunately, this church has a very eventful past and numerous burnings and the reformation highly afflicted it, so that until the beginning of the reconstruction in 1869, only a ruin was left. The massive west portal reminds on the French cathedrals. Numerous monuments of Norwegian Kings, bishops and biblical figures and a massive rosette are visible; At first, the interior seems to be very gloomy, only after the eyes get used to the light conditions, the details are recognizable. The colourful church windows divulge a festive atmosphere, specially the rosette over the new Steinmeyer-organ unfolds from the interior a thumping effect.
The bus is waiting. We drive through the city, pass the old trade houses and the modern office buildings. At the most north eastern edge of the city we drive up the mountain side to the Ringve Gård Museum. In the 20ies, the landholder married a russian woman both loved the music and started to collect music instruments. Also, they arranged some rooms of their house in the style of the time of the famous composers. Thus, there is a Mozart-, Beethoven-, Chopin- und Grieg-room. The collection of music instruments is from historical up to modern instruments. There is even one moog-synthesizer built by Roland and a Hammond organ. The young lady that showed us all this is only perfect at the classic keyboard instruments, as in fact she only can switch on the synthy. What a pity.
The whole estate is located in a little botanical garden that we only can see from the bus, as we had to be back. The demurrages are just limited. We have to come again. It still drizzles while we watch how a range of new Toyotas disappear in lightning-speed in the belly of our ship. It is around 12:30 p.m. when we cast off. This is half an hour later as planned, and we were supposed not to recuperate this time any more for long.
When we pass the island Munkholmen, a former convent and prision, we continue in western direction. After each kilometer, the weather gets better and at the end of the Trondheimfjord the usual weather is back, blue sky, some little clowds and no waves. Neptun is really nice to us, as we read in the weather reports that the opposite is possible.
After an hour we are again in the north sea. Again the usual environment, islands ad infinitum, face granded by the glaciers of the ice age, occasionally a light house as the one of Kjeungskjaer (a lovely word, pronounced as "Cheungschjär"), many orientative signals, nicely painted red and white. On the most flat islands, there is sometimes at the top a stone mountain as a flowerpot that is upside down, it looks like a submarine and it ptobably served to confuse the enemies.
Around 4.00 p.m.Morten, our tour guide, adverts us per announcement to the coming Stokksund. All photographers swarm at the bow in order not to miss anything. In the Stokksund, the ship goes pretty tightly between the islands in slalom, sometimes the waterway has a width of only 40 m, considering that the width of the ship is of 19,2 m, it is nearly possible to pick up some flowers at the right and the left side by passing. There is also an history of the King William II., who was a big fan of Norway and came each year to this place with his yacht, as people say, he lost his head here and took the rudder off the pilot.
After the Stokksund, we slowly also leave the island area and enter the open sea for the next hours. The stretch up to Rørvik runs through the "Folda", an area that is not safe in which many vessels, including one of Hurtigruten, got lost. But surely not in the case of such a calmed sea as we have today.
Our dinner menue of today: as a starter, asparagus on (elk-)ham, fish and vegetables, again excellent! We feel good. For our digestion, we have the usual walk around the deck no. 5. We enjoy the sunset and watch the inlet into the harbour of Rørvik. Here, we meet the next ship of Hurtigruten, the "MS Midnatsol". These ships, 11 in total, run up and down the norwegian coast like a string of pearls; Every day at 8.00 p.m., one starts in Bergen to the direction of Kirkenes and is back after 12 days. Inevitably, one comes across to all ships in the course of the trip, but sometimes one oversleeps the passing, as also some harbours.
In Rørvik, people hurry during onloading and offloading, but we keep the delay of 30 minutes. Today, the sunset is specially nice, one can't stop watching it and make pictures of it. But shortly before midnight we drawback and disappear in our cabin. We miss the "reward of the night", a circumnavigation of the "Torghatten", the mountain with the whole in the middle, as we already sleep then.
Day 5: Artic Circle, Bodø, Fishing Island, Lofoten, Raftsund
This night was a little agitated, we somehow noticed the three landings at Brønnøysund, Sandnessjøen and Nesna. Deeply underneath us in the bilge, there are both bow thrusters needed to maneuver the ship at the landing stage and do become noticable by the vibrations; We get up at 6.45 a.m. and hurry up in order to have our breakfast, as around 7.15 a.m. we will cross the Arctic, but when the time has come, we finished our breakfast long time ago, as we are still half an hour delayed.
By sitting at our table we look to the island Hestmannøy where the monument of the Artic Circle is standing, a stylized globe made of metal on a stone base that glistens in the morning sun. At 7.52 a.m. we cross the invisible latitude of 66°33'. Here, the empire of the midnight sun begins, from here onwards, there is no sunset any more for some days or weeks, as it runs in the north over the horizon to the east and then rises again.
Around 8.30 a.m., a Hurtigruten-oldtimer comes towards us, the "MS Vesterålen" from the year 1983 in southern direction. The greeting to each other is a three-times hoot with the foghorn and the tempered waving with handkerchiefs and table cloths. Our excursion to the Svartisen glacier starts a little delayed, but therefore our excursion boat is the faster. It is a catamaran with a jet drive with a speed of 30 bends (approximately 55 km/h) and that takes us away from the ship to the Holand fjord in lightning-speed.
A short walk leads us in 20 minutes to the melt water lake underneath the Engabreen, an anabranch of the Svartisen. The many birchs are still in winter sleep, the dreaded cones with the pollen are still tihtly closed! Thus, we can fully enjoy the calmness, the good air and the sun. It is realy a gorgeos place and we let sink our impressions thoroughly. In the area of the end moraine we find some interesting stones for our collection at home. There is coffee and cake in the tourist centre, we try some wafers and we send the coffee and the champain with ice from the glacier to Conventry.
On the way to Bodø, where meanwhile our ship arrived, we stop at the fishing island Støtt. During the first half of the 20th century, up to 1000 fisher families lived here, but therefrom only 47 are left due to the industrialization of the fishing. Somehow, the deteriorated houses leave a blue impression, many things are really scruffy. But at the mom-and-pop shop at the dock there is still everything available what is needed in this island: from pants to fishing equipment up to food, everything is available. But we kindly refused the sweets made of dried fish and take a "Daim" instead.
We are pleased about the fact that we continue full steam ahead to Bodø. The tour guide informs us in four languages about everything worth knowing of the area. This man is a real linguistic genius; After an hour, we reach the offshoots of Bodø, at the right, the civil and military airport, at the left, a fortification, then the voluminous port facilities. Bodø is an important trade centre in the north of Norway. Our ship is already waiting for us, at the starboard side, shortly above the water line, a gate is opened and through the car deck, we access back to our swimming home.
Shortly after 3.00 p.m. we leave Bodø and an hour later, we head for the open sea to the Lofoten, an offshore archipielago in the North Atlantic. This passage also does not offerus any frights, the water is flat as the Lake of Starnberg during the calm at noon time and the sun keeps spoiling us.
We get to the first harbour of the Lofoten during dinner and land shortly in Stamsund. Alongside the mountain chain of the Lofoten we continue then in northern direction. The sun is slowly going down behind the mountains, a fantastic ambience of photography. At 8.30 p.m., the "MS Nordkapp" glides beside us. Slightly delayed (as usual) we reach Svolvær, but nevertheless we stay there for an hour that we use to visit the "Magic-Ice" galery. In a warehouse, some artists made stunning sculptures of ice all about fishing. To conclude the event , we have an ice cocktail in an ice goblet at the ice bar.
Shortly before 11.00 p.m. we reach Raftsund with a length of 26 km, an interesting passage between the Lofoten Islands. Meanwhile, the mountains got a fantastic afterglow, one just can't get enough from gazing. After the weather brought us completely calmed sea, our crew risks a tour into the Troll fjord that is only 100 m wide and 2 km long, and it is shortly to midnight! Very carefully, the ship slowly fells its way ahead, it is an incredible atmosphere, the water in the penumbral, the mountain peaks above in the last afterglow. The gag of the event is the the Trollfjord soup at deck no. 7. We prefer to abstain from the mixed drink offered, as we know our heads! After leaving the fjord, it is past midnight, we disppear into our cabin and a long day ends.
Day 6: Raftsund, Trollfjord, Tromsø, Artic Circle Baptism
We slept away the passage of the Lofoten as also the harbours Stokmarknes, Sortland and Risøyhamn; While we are still in the shower, the ship leaves the harour of Harstad. On the way to our breakfast, we do the obligatory check of the weather. It is clowdy today, but the sun appears between the gaps, thus, it doesn't look bad. The sea condition is also harmless, thus, everything is perfect! During the further way to Finnsnes, the weather is increasingly loosening. In the east, at the mainland, we see massive mountains covered with snow. At the lower area, everything is verdant green and it looks like there is some agricultural productivity.
After the relativly openend Vågs fjord,we continue to the Tranøy fjord that is more narow. Soon we are in Finnsnes. This time, we come off the ship and watch the loading activities from the land. After half an hour, the ship already casts off again and majestically glides under the big bridge to the island Senja, the second biggest of Norway, through to the Gisund. The ship always goes close to the country, so that there is much to see. The next "attraction" is the passage through the Straums fjord, where in former times, a current dependant of the tides, the "Rystraumen", caused significant problems to the shipping through strong whirlpools. I do not notice much about it, at most that the ship turns a little away form the back side to the left and the right. Rita does not notice anything, as she is having an afternoon nap.
Tromsø appears. The two bridges are already visible from a distance. These two bridges connect the mainland with the city on an island and the other islands at the west and in the mainland, in Tromsdalen, the famous Arctic Sea Cathedral. During our city tour we will also visit this Cathedral. It is 02.50 p.m., we land. The buses are already waiting and a communicative female tour guide greets us. First, we go to the "Polaria", an adventure aquarium with a panorama cinema (film about Spitzbergen) and a seal show. Then the bus starts the city tour. We quickly pass the cathedral, one of the biggest wood churches of the country, the most northern located brewery of the world (Mack), the university with an hospital and then we finally cross the 1000 m long and 43 m high Tromsøbrua (Tromsø bridge) in order to get to the Artic Sea Cathedral.
The triangular shape of the church segments should remind on the dry fish skeleton. But I also think of ice floes that pile up on each other. We feel really comfortable in the interior, the shape of a tent ceiling is somehow protective. The church is accessed through the west portal and one looks at the huge glass window behind the altar at the east gable . The glass mosaic of 140 m² represents the Parusia of Christ. The light effect of the narrow glass windows between each of the concrete segments is also interesting. The only thing that is bothersome for the visitor are the "candelabrums" that are hanging amidst; An interesting church, and we both agree that we have to come back again to this place in order to visit the midnight concert.
After the bus brought us back to the harbour, we have still a little time to have a walk and we visit the oldtown. Between the common new buildings there are still some old wood houses and buildings of Art Nouveau, all carefully restored. In the Storgata, the pedestrian area, there are shops as at home.
We cast off during dinner. We continue our way between the islands. At the starboard, the mountains heighted up to 1800 m covered with snow of the Lyngen Alps slowly appear. But from 08.30 p.m. we are distracted, as then our "Arctic Circle Baptism" takes place.
First, it is heatedly sent for King Neptun, then all are sequentially baptized, with a dipper of water with ice cubes into the collar of the shirt. In case of the ladies, it goes sometimes also into the neck line! The female tour guide of a little group is hit the hardest, as she gets the whole rest of the bucker poured into. As documentation, everybody gets a certificate of baptism and as consolation and reheat a little drink; Everything is good fun and also the only arranged animation. It is bearable. But in the course of the time, the wet clothes become increasingly uncomfortable and getting changed can't be avoided.
Shortly after 09.00 p.m. we pass the next ship of the line, thr "MS Polarlys". At 10.22 p.m. we are in Skjervøy where we only have the usual short stop. We continue further in direction to the Øks fjord over the open sea and for the first time, we can watch the sun "not setting down" at mignight, accompanied by an endless red and golden coloured afterglow! We stand at the bow on deck no. 5 and gaze fascinated at this incredible atmosphere until late after midnight.
Day 7: North Cape, Mehamn, Barents Sea
Today, we can sleep a little longer as the next excursion, the trip to the North Cape, does not begin until noon time. Thus, we start the day slowly. The nice weather seems to leave us. The clowds are low, although the blue sky and also the sun is visible in between, the trend is not that good. Around 09.00 a.m. we are supposed to come across the "MS Lofoten" and everybody is waiting at the larboard. But no ship appears; When all of a sudden there is a loud hoot, everybody runs to the starboard and there it is! They made a little joke and pass the wrong side, what a Bande!
Meanwhile, the islands strongly changed their character. It is over with the trees and bushes, only moss and lichens cover the cliffs. It got cold and here, it is still winter. We circumnavigate the peninsula Måsøy and land in Havøysund. Is the weather going to change positively? In between, it looks like that. But unfortunaltely, this definetely was the last blue spot in the sky. The further we get to the east, the darker, misty and colder it gets. In the passage at the south of the North Cap island Magerøya it starts to drizzle. Rita makes a preventive visit to the board boutique and buys a pair of fleece gloves (I expected this).
Shortly before 12 o'clock we land in Honningsvåg. The last country visit is waiting, the trip over the island to the North Cape. The sky is grey through and through. The landscape fits to it. Here, there is still late winter. Dirty snow remainings, frozen lakes and clowds and mist above. But we have to be happy and thankful, as it could have been since several days this way! On the way to the plateau of Magerøya, we see the first rentiers, shortly afterwards we do a little stop at the camp of Nils, the touristical model Sami people. He stands in his traditional costume with a rentier and lets readily take pictures of him. Beside, he built a tent in order to show how the Sami (in former times they were called Lappen) normally live. In a souvernir shop it is possible to buy all the things one does not need, thus we leave it.
We continue the last curves and kilometres up to the North Cape. It rains. The North Cape centre is lonesomely located in the mist. We are the only visitors, a thing that is really positive, as during the travel time, hundreds of tourists swarm here. We of course walks the last metres to the North Cape monument, the pyramide with the globe on it; General foto shooting, everybody makes pictures of everybody,as people want to keep records of having been there; A funny scene in the blue rain and mist weather. As nothing else is worth seeing, we do our unavoidable obligations in the tourist centre and inform our children per SMS about our current position, 71°10'21". Due to the special stamp, we write a postcard to ourselves.
The we descend into the panorama cinema and enjoy the worth seeing film about the North Cape in the course of the seasons. After that, we go down the alleyway to the rocks to the view hall (today with no view), passing the little museum and dioramas with historical scenes and visit straight the little ecumenical chapel. Now we feel like having a coffee and something to eat.
Meanwhile, the mist moved in order to give space to the rain, a thing that causes a better sight. I get outside again, I am on my own on the rocks and make some nice pictures of the view to the sea and the neighboured tongue of land with the really most northern point of europe, the Knivskjellodden, 71°11'08"; Now I have really enough, it strongly rains. Thus, back to the bus and we rapidly make the slalom auto stretch back to the ship. We have still some time left to have a look in the souvernir shop, elk socks for Samira, espresso cups for us, then back to the ship.
Here, there is a little snack for us excursionists, a zesty little tart, it tastes very good. Rita looks sad, as it is not gluten-free, but the cook is mercefully and makes a gluten-free zesty omelette with a salad! This is what I call service! Thus, we can kill the time up to the buffet at the evening without any problem.
The sea gets rougher. We are not in the North Atlantic any more but in the Barents Sea. The clowds are low, the wind is refreshing and drives the waves against us. We, or better said Rita, slowly notice the sea condition. It is still ok and the fresh air is nice. At the side of the starboard, there is the bird island Svaertholtklubben, but unfortunately there are no birds visible except the seagulls and the storm-petrels that continuously escort us. After a further hour on the open sea we approximate Kjøllefjord. At the side of the starboard, there are some peculiar rocks, the "Finnkirka", here, the sanctuary of the sami people should have been. Kjølleford is a pure sifhing harbour, there is a fisher boat at the dock and is surrounded by seagulls, there is obviously some waste. Here, we are are at the right end of the world, everything looks very bald and desolated.
Today, there is again an abundant buffet for the farewell, of course with lots of meat, fish, but also nice meat and vegetable dishes. Despite of the sea condition, it still tastes good and Rita can barely get her dessert to the table without loosing anything on the way.
At 08.00 p.m. we are in Mehamn, the place is more picturesque, coloured houses, amidst a big church, it seems to be a nice place when the sun shines.
On the way to Berlevåg it gets really stormy. The wind blows the waves to a height of 4 m and our ship bravely continues its way against the wind. It is slowly getting critical for Rita and she grabs the first superpep chewing gum in order to keep the stomach calmed. At the bar of deck no. 7 the storm is the easiest to bear, as the deck is located in the centre of the ship and this is the reason why it doesn't go so strongly up and down. But then a tray with dinnerware slips and everything gets broken. The service staff distributes some antislide mats for the tables so that the glasses are firm. In between, we try to pack our suitcases in the cabin, as they should be ready in front of the cabin until mignight for the pick up by the staff. But we can't even think on packing. Thus we wait until it is after 11.00 p.m. until getting to the harbour of Berlevåg. During this 30 minutes demurrage time we stowe everything what we do not need any more in the big suitcase and put it in front of the door.
We spend the further trip either up at the bar or warmly wrapped at the bow at the front of deck no. 5. In the fresh air, it is easier to bear the sea condition. Then we warm up again in the arm chairs of the bar and watch the storm petrels how they jet absolute accurately over the waves with a damned speed. They are obviously having fun. When do they sleep? There is still daylight, or is it daytime again?
It is late after midnight when we dare to go to our cabin and try to sleep. We lay with our heads in direction to the course, so that we can bear the up and down. But this feeling of relieving when the ship is descending from a wave and then the pressure in the matress when the ship goes up again, this is realy something one needs to get used to. Rita is laboriously chewing her gums against sickness and I doze around. We land a couple of times, in Båtsfjord, Vardø and Vadsø, but we notice this only casually. At 4.00 a.m., I look at the watch for the last time, then I finally fall asleep.
Day 8: Arrival at Kirkenes, Return Flight
At 7.30 a.m., the alarm clock gently wakes us up. The cabin has to be emptied until 08.00 a.m., as at noon time, the next guests already get on board in Kirkenes. It is not a problem, it goes in no time. For the last time, we enjoy the breakfast buffet. It really offers anything that can be desired. There is even porridge for the many english people on board; We really enjoy our tasty breakfst, as the sea calmed down and the stomach is recuperated.
We spend the last hour in the fresh air and watch the entry into the harbour of Kirkenes. Unfortunately, the nice weather definetely left us, it is clowdy but it doesn't rain. During the landing we are greeted by the Norwegian national anthem played by brass instruments and a children and teenage delegation performs a formation dance. It is clear: today is the national bank holiday of the Norwegians, the day of the constitution of Eidsvoll.
Then we are standing in the crowd of deck no. 3 and wait to the gates to get open. After 6 eventful days we leave our "MS Richard With" and are back on solid ground . Our suitcases are also already waiting, thus a short "bye" and "Thank you" to Morten, our active Norwegian tour guide, a last look back, into the bus and to the airport. Kirkenes is a dusky place, apparently this is due to the winter and the cloudy weather. Everywhere dirty snow remainings, far and wide nothing green, everything is so miserable. In summer time it is probably nicer here.
At the airport the usual things, check-in, a specially thorough control up to the shoes, then waiting. In between, the whole building swings, was that an earth quake or the aftereffects of the sea condition? There is sun is above the clouds! The route runs straight over Finnland and Sweden to Oslo-Gardermoen. Here, there is nice weather again, and it is warm! First I take off my ski-underwear that I really needed until then. We wait for the flight to Copenhagen. Unfortunately, we have to change there. Once we are in the plane, we already arrive. Here, it is raining, but we
do not have to get outside; A big and clearly arranged airport. Our gate of departure is not determined yet, thus we walk the terminal up and down, have a piece of pizza to eat in between and then we finally start again in direction to Munich. The MD 87 is rather a little plane but damn fast and we arrive 20 minutes earlier in Munich. Unfortunately, there is no service at all, even the mineral water is charged!
Munich has us back! We take our luggage from the conveyor belt and start our long way to the rapid-transit railway. We get through the customs withour any problem, the gate opens and who sits there amidst with a flower in hand: our grandma! And then our children also appear! What a surprise! Of course, the last kilometres home are more comfortable by car. 20.30 p.m., the floor swings, it was lovely! We will come back!
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Author: Rudi Kronenberger; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz