Wednesday, October 18, 2017

STORMY SEAS

We were lucky we enjoyed such spectacular weather in Oct.........but all good things come to an end. The last two days we found ourselves away from the coastal shelter and into the Atlantic Ocean for some rocking and rolling. Anyone that reads my blog...knows one thing.....I am susceptible to motion sickness, which is really the pits for anyone who loves to travel. We finally hit some stormy seas, and while most other shipmates were tolerating the swells....I was not. After an embarrassing incident 
at dinner (where I had to bolt from our dinner companions), I had a rough evening, but made sure I took my pills until we reached land.




There is a joke about Bergen...It is always raining in Bergen! The Norski's say that,and with 242 days a year where rain is recorded...it is likely one will encounter rain at some point. We docked on a rainy afternoon, and I noticed that EVERYONE CARRIES UMBRELLAS. Not like Seattle, when it rains but not many people use an umbrella.
Even tho the trip had been spectacular and fun, I was glad to have my feet on land.......well, until we flew out the next day. Iceland Air was our trip home......and it went smoothly....with free WiFi in the air! 
But I just couldn't eat anymore fish 🐟..........



TROLLFJORD

There is an awesome fjord along the coast that all the ferries try to squeeze into. On the way N , it was a late evening adventure and they served Troll grog and goodies, and shone lights from the ferry onto the rocky cliff, that are basically straight up and down. The first time we did the "Trollfjord" it was our first trip to Norway and it was midnight in the summer and the sun was still out.    We partied hearty on the outside deck until after midnight. Lots of fun. 
This time around we reached the Fjord at night again, but it was cold and dark. After the southern turnaround we entered the Fjord on a sunny, but cool afternoon and really got to see it up close. Once in a while there is another ship at the end, but it is small quarters. Some people ran and got into the 2 outside hot tubs on board. We stood around and took pictures, ate waffles that they were cooking and drank hot toddies.  Going into the Fjord is such a tight squeeze, one can almost reach out and touch the rock cliffs. It is one of the many fun parts of sailing on the ferries. The scenery is gorgeous no matter what time of year or weather. The ferries are designed with huge windows and viewing areas with comfy seats and cozy areas to curl up and read, snooze, or have a bit of wine. This time we had something we never had before: WiFi ! It was totally worth the $$ one had to pay extra to get it. We had fast good internet the whole sail, and we were happy to have it.




Tuesday, October 17, 2017

HAMMERFEST AND NORTHERN LIGHTS

As we meander back to Bergen we get to see ports that were docked in at inconvenient times on the Northern sail. Steve and I always tried to get off the ferry for a quick look/see or a longer hike. It was always easy to get off and back on. Trondheim and Tromso were two towns we really liked and explored. The last big town above the Arctic Circle was Hammerfest. Another museum there explained how the Townsfolk survived the war by hiding in underground caves or fleeing to the Mts. Hammerfest claims to be the Northernmost town in the world. They also have a fun club there called the "POLAR BEAR SOCIETY" showing the strength and will power it takes to live in the Arctic...just like the polar bear.  Anyone can join, so we did. They have members all over the world.

That night. Right after dinner, the captain announced that there were "lights" out in the dark black sky. Almost everyone grabbed coats and found a cozy spot to watch the Northern lights dance around the sky for almost an hour. The Captain slowed the ferry down so we wouldn't be buffeted by the cold wind, and cameras and cell phones were in full use. It was our first time to see these lights and we were NOT disappointed. What a spectacle. It is so dark out in the Northern Norwegian sea and it was a perfect viewing. If that wasn't good enough....the universe decided to do a repeat the next evening! It was even better the 2nd night. My camera just could not do it justice, but at some point, one just has to put down the lens and enjoy!


Monday, October 9, 2017

HEROS OF WWII

We have learned so much about Norway during WWII.  The declared themselves neutral, but were invaded and scorched anyway. The RED army was given credit for liberating Norway, and there are many monuments, statues, and left over bunkers and battlement memorials left as tribute to Russian troops. There is one quite unbelievable museum dedicated to Nazi memorabilia, not as a tribute, but as a reminder of the evil in that German sector. The Northern part of Norway has never forgotten the devastation they suffered.  But, the light was the resistance of Norwegian heroes which, without much training or organization dealt blow after blow to the Nazis.
As we sail the coast we heard some great presentations of "Norway,  neutral and Invaded". We learned about the very real Norwegian heroes and saw documentaries on the guts it took to defy the Nazi regime. All this while seeing some of the most beautiful barren Arctic scenery.

TURN AROUND


We reach Kirkenes and did some exploring in this most Northern of towns. So close to the Russian Boarder, that we COULD actually step on Russian soil.
The ferry does a turn around and we head back on a southerly course to Bergen. We stop at many of the same ports on the return trip, but the times are different and we can get out and explore some that we missed. We are also through with the formal "Viking History" lectures and movies, and are starting the WWII phase of our experience.
A great and moving experience was walking to a bomb shelter cave made by the people of Kirkenes. A local man, who's parents had fled to the cave 100's of times durning the bombing raids by the Russians who were trying to rid the area of the Germans. It was creepy and inspiring to enter part of this dank dark cave that held hundreds of the towns people. The residents slept in their clothes because the raids would come at any time and sometimes 5-6 times in a 24 hr period. Our local guide had much passion in his delivery and made us feel how terrorized the local people became. The cave worked to save many many lives, but the devastation the Germans played, left the town a "scorched earth". Before the Germans fled, they  leveled the entire town by burning it down. The feelings still run long and deep in this town against the Nazis. There is nothing "old" left in Kirkenes, as it was rebuilt completely since the war, and is now inhabited by  a mixture of Russian and Norwegians.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

WITCHES CHAIR

For about a 100 years....year 1600-1700......Norway burned "witches" at the stake or threw them into the bay with their hands and feet bound.(If they floated, they were guilty and left to drown...everyone floated)
We were in a far Northern town called Vardo, and there was a profound and moving monument to the 121 people who were burnt in that region. We set off on a hike across some fields and came upon a very moving monument of every person recorded whom was put to death for sorcery. A very long building on the shore of an inlet. There were small windows with a lightbulb hanging for each person killed. Also, their names and ages, and the crimes that they were accused. Somber. A few yards away was the "witches" chair......inside a large hut. The flame 🔥 never goes out. They were tied to a chair...ie...the witches chair on a bonfire pile, then lit on fire.   Very profound monument. The light of day was fading, and we walked in the strange Arctic twilight to a grave yard.  To think when someone was accused, they were probably also killed without proof or jury was creepy. Most, but not all, of the people burned were the indigenous people of Northern Norway, the Sami's, (called Laps in years past, and now considered a racist term). They held to their pagan beliefs that were threatening to the invading population who were jumping on board with a form of Christianity. 
As moving as it was, it was one of my favorite things we did....and to think they kept such complete records. I have a small booklet that describes each person's "crimes" and manner of and even descriptions of their death 💀. 




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

NORDKAPP

Nordkapp or Northcape in Finmark area of Northern Norway is the most Northwest point and North of the Arctic Circle. Our ferry docked in Kireness, then in Vardo. Some of us elected to board a bus and travel almost an hour more to the very most Northern spot. It was so foggy or cloudy as we climbed the windy road, I could believe the bus driver could see the road. As we approached the actual cape, we climbed above the clouds and there was a sunny, but cool day of exploring. 
Along the way we stopped at a small Sami village. Samis are the indigenous people of Northern Norway and speak their own language which is nothing at all like Norwegian. They are more like people of the  Arctic. They herd Reindeer and fish, but are slowly incorporating into the general population.
Once at the cape, we had plenty of places to walk and experience this barren and harsh landscape. Most people complain about the wind and fog, which rolls in, bit we hit a perfect day of no wind and cloud, which were beautiful.