Finding the Northern Lights
Finding the Northern Lights depends on many things - Sun activity, how far north you are, how bright the sky is at night and the weather. My friend and I have just returned from a fabulous trip from Bergen to Kirkenes on the Nordnorge. Before booking the trip we did our homework as to the likelihood of seeing the lights, therefore chose to go when the moon was at its most minimal and the sun was forecast to be at its most active re sun spots. The weather, as always is in the hands of the Gods. We also discovered that we brought far too much cold weather gear - forgetting that most of the time we would be on a very warm and pleasant ship. You definitely will need a top layer that is wind and waterproof with layers underneath - natural wool if you have it, wind and waterproof mittens and a good pair of rubber soled waterproof boots, woollen socks and a pair of spikes for walking on the ice - they sell the spikes on the ship. Consider clothes you can put on at short notice as the Lights can appear at any time during the night. The ship is informal so comfy cloths are the norm. So did we find the Northern Lights - We set off from Leeds Bradford and flew to Bergen via Amsterdam on KLM flights. We arrived at Bergen airport where there is signage to the Hurtigruten Bus (the timetable is in the information that is sent out by Hurtigruten). Our bus went straight to the ship, the Nordnorge - we arrived with German and French passengers as well as other Brits and English speakers. Check in was straight forward and we watched the safety film before getting on the ship. Hand luggage in not checked on entry to the ship at any point off the journey. We found our cabin (suite 636); to our consternation it was a fixed double bed - great if you are a couple but not if you aren't. Non of the suites have the capacity to be twins apparently at present (the ship is going of refit later this year - not sure if that will change the sleeping arrangements though). We had been reassured by our TA that there would be twin beds. Luckily we have been friends for a long time but it could have been awkward. A bottle of prosecco was awaiting us with an excellent complimentary pack including dressing gown, eye and ear masks, slippers, binoculars, sewing ket and our own blanket - all to take home so leave space in your suitcase if you are staying in a suite - we had also chosen the option of a wine package as the price of alcohol is very expensive in Norway - some excellent wines were included in the package. the package included 2 bottles of water. Table water is available if you ask for it and all the water on the ship is potable. We had an expedition team onboard led by Peter and Bjorn - both excellent. Frederik provided insight into the geography and wild life and Svenka insights int the folk lore, myths and legends of Norway - I found out much more about the Vikings - a key part of the heritage of York my home city. The journey between Bergen and Kirkenes is about 2500 nautical miles and most of it is through the inside passage so the sea state for the most part is very calm with scenery on both sides. Our cabin was on the Starboard side so on the Northern journey it is always nearest to the mainland. The port side is always the side that the passengers disembark along with the cars, lorries etc. There are about 7 stops per day and night - usually only for 15 minutes, and then a long stop 2-3 hours at key places. In our case Alesund, Trondheim, Bodo, Tromso, Honningvag and Kirkenes. A quick review about the main stops. Alesund - a lovely town build in bricks in the Art Deco style. well worth looking around - there are organised trips. I have visited previously on the Queen Victoria in June so it was interesting to see it in its winter clothes - though the gulf stream protect it from the most severe weather. Trondheim - what a beautiful place with the amazing Nidaros Cathedral where St Olaf, the patron saint of Norway is buried. The Cathedral was started in 1070 and is in Gothic style. It remains a place of pilgramage and is where the Kings of Norway are crowned. It is about a 20 min walk from the ship near the River Nid. Bodo in the Arctic circle is a large town of 45000 inhabitants - we didn't get off as the weather was poor Tromso - this town looks lovely and is well worth a visit - we went dog sledding so didn't get the chance to look around Honninfsvag - a small fishing town, quite picturesque and very popular in summer as close to the North Cape Excursions. We chose 2 - the dog sledding at Tromso and the Viking Fest on the Lofoten Islands The Viking Fest is held at Lofotr, the Viking Museum at Borg. The re constructed Long House is an amazing piece of craftsman ship that really gives you some sense of what is was like in a viking community. The lord and lady invite you, the Gods and the ancestors to join them for a Yul fest, The Yul fest (associated with the Yule Log) happened around the winter solstice and was to encourage the sun to return. God Yul is the Norwegian equivalent of Happy Christmas. A great evening with even a bit of song and dance - Viking Style. and to cap it all on a wonderful still evening with a clear sky there appeared a green glow that turned into a stream of green light - wonderful. The lights stayed with us as the ship approach Trollersfjord and then again at 2.30 in the morning for a better show still. Tromso Dog Sledding - A 20 minute drive from Tromso. The dogs are so keen to pull the sledges - they are well looked after. You can pat them and fuss them and often see the puppies who are socialised as soon as possible. The 10 dogs run a 6KM track pulling and sledge with 2 people and a musher. It is fantastic. The dogs genuinely seem to love it. All followed by tea/coffee and cake in a large scandanavian hut with a big log fire. - Great fun We didn't do the North Cape but those that did really enjoyed it. We also took part in crossing the arctic circle ceremony - good fun and very chilly when the ice water and cubes run down your back and the varies tastings held on deck. Cabin - we lashed out and had a suite and apart from the bed being a double it was very comfortable. Large flat screen TV ( rubbish reception though) also a DVD play if you have any as well as tea and coffee making facilities. Food - I hate buffets and breakfast and lunch and the first and last night were buffets. There was a good selection of traditional Norwegian food though it did get a bit repetitive. Reindeer is very tasty. Things to do - There were regular lectures in the conference room and point of interest meeting out on deck. we were fully occupied and enjoyed the gathering and getting to know the Exploration team. Found out so much more about Norway than if we had done it ourselves. Would I do it again - yes maybe in October when there is more light to see the lovely islands or June to see the Midnight sun. I would probably get on on Trondheim and return to Bergen so more nights in the Arctic Circle If you go - don't moan about the price of everything. Norway is more expensive than the UK especially for alcohol. Most people traveling for the lights are 50+ Go and enjoy the experience - its not a cruise but you will come home relaxed, more informed and hopefully have seen the lights there is a
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