The last week of my trip I boarded the motor ship Lofoten to cruise up the west coast of Norway and around the North Cape. The ship was built in 1964 and is 287 feet long, 43 feet beam, and 22 feet draft. It can carry up to 400 passengers (although I don’t think we ever had more than a 100) and can travel 17.5 knots. It is the oldest in the Hurtigruten fleet, which is a company started in 1893 to provide transportation and freight service along almost the entire coast of Norway (the name translates to “express route”). Even though they focus on providing tourist cruises, the ships still call on 35 ports in 7 days. Locals use the ships as ferries and large amount of freight and mail is moved around the country by these ships.
Most of the stops made are for 15 to 30 minutes as they unload passengers and freight, but each day we spent 3-5 hours in at least one town. The first town was actually before I boarded the vessel. I had 6 hours in Bergen and was able to see the famous wooden houses along the wharf called Bryggen. A quarter of these date from 1702 and some of the cellars are from the 15th century. At the museum you can find the burned remains of the 11th century original buildings.
Alesund was completely burned down in 1904 (common to Norwegian towns since they were usually build of wood). It was rebuilt in stone in the art nouveau style that was popular at the time, so you can walk around and see some beautiful buildings. Later the same day we visited Urke at the end of a fjord and let me tell you it was breath taking. I have a photo to show you on Wednesday that you will want to come back for.
Over in Trondheim I visited Nidaros Cathedral which was built between 1070 and 1300. It is the traditional location for the consecration of the king of Norway. I also wanted to visit a small island less than a mile away called Munkholmen, but the ferry going to it was shut down for the season (missed it by a week!!!!). This island has been a fortress, monastery, prison, anti aircraft embankment, and more.
The fourth day’s adventure was the wildest as I took a bus from Bodo to Saltstraumen, which is the strongest tidal current in the world. It can flow up to 22 knots (remember the ship I was on only went 17.5 knots) and formed some awesome whirlpools. I was suppose to take a RIB ride to play in the whirlpools, but the winds were way to high to get the boats out. If you can imagine Homer describing the whirlpools in the Odyssey then you have a sense of what I saw. I like everything I saw on this cruise, but this was the top one.
It seemed Tromso had the most to do from the Arctic Cathedral (pictured) to the national beer, Mack, brewery. I also recommend the Polar Museum (lots of displays on arctic animals, life, adventures, and more), the oldest wooden cathedral in Norway, and Polaria (a museum with live seals, a showing of the Northern Lights, and more).
The day before I disembarked from the boat we pulled into Honningsvag, which is near the North Cape (the farthest north on the European continent. While several people took the $100 excursion I walked to blocks and was out of town. I continued my hike and actually came across another fishing village below a cliff. There are almost no trees here, since we were almost 500 miles into the Arctic Circle and the tundra did not allow for trees to grow. It was still a wonderful and rewarding hike as I enjoyed the scenery all to myself. I keep having to reminding myself that I was less than 1200 miles from the North Pole.
It was not as cold as I would have though that far north in September. Even at the North end of the country I was wearing a t-shirt, sweatshirt, and a fake fur gilet. With that said, when a friend texted me they were cold in Colorado I responded back “I AM IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE :)”. They decided to not complain to much. Haha.
The one thing that I did not get to see was the Northern Lights, because there was a storm at seas that caused lots of cloud cover. That would have put the candle on top of an already frosted cake. This was absolutely the way to see the country of Norway and some of my Norwegian friends were jealous because they have not done it yet.