First Experience of Norway
Our first trip to Norway has been hugely positive experience; we found the Norwegians hospitable, friendly, endlessly helpful and hugely efficient and organised. But it was their unique individualism which we found so refreshing. Our memories will be of wonderful healthy food, walls of colourful knitting wool in small boutique shops, small children who happily walk everywhere chattering away contently amongst themselves and in no particular hurry. There was the warm atmosphere created by ‘real’ candles burning on café tables and crackling open fires, the dry but biting Arctic wind, and the ship’s hooter greeting sister Hurtigruten ships heading south.
We spent 6 days on a Hurtigruten ferry sailing up the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkeness inside the Arctic Circle and close to the Russian border.
This service, which stops at more than 30 ports, not only enables visitors to see the remarkable Norwegian coastline but also provides a regular service to the Norwegian coastal communities.
Stopping throughout the day and night, we were lucky enough to have a cabin on a lower deck on the side always up against the dock. Throughout the night we could watch the comings and goings in each port sometimes manned by just a single person who tied the boat up and drove the “busy” forklift (the most photographed thing on these trips according to one of the captains!!!). Cargo was unloaded and loaded, passengers disembarked and embarked. Families, young people and businessmen, the whole spectrum of Norwegian societies. During a couple of day stops small groups of colourfully dressed young children walked to the port and watched the ferry as if it was an integral part of their school curriculum. Cars waited in the dark, passengers disembarked got into the cars and drove away into the cold, white night whlst others locked up their cars and boarded for the trip to the next town further north. Amazing, such an interesting insight into their everyday lives.
There were opportunities to disembark where the ferry stopped for 2-3 hours. Activities included visiting the Arctic Cathedral, a beautiful Lutheran church in Tromso, husky sled rides, guided walks, even kayaking which even in late November appeared popular. Next time we would stay a couple of nights in Bergen before embarking, stop in the Lofoten Islands and also in Kirkeness before travelling south, who knows maybe even travel overland to Finnish Lapland which apparently now has direct flights back to the UK from Ivalo.
The Expedition team on board taught us so much, even how the polar lights (they don’t call them the Northern Lights) are formed. Sadly they were all over Canada during our week in Norway!! Never mind we’ll be going back so next time!
We left the boat in Kirkennes after 7 days and flew south from Kirkennes, spending a day in Stavanger a beautiful, relaxed town, so we could connect with a direct flight back to our nearest airport. Nowhere was communicating a problem, as all Norwegians seem to speak beautiful English. We will be going back this summer. It was a fantastic experience and such a refreshing attitude about so much. The service on board was first class, friendly, patient and informative. Well done Norway! No wonder you’ve just been voted the happiest place to live!
Written by Mrs Judy E, November 2018