11.00. We’re three-quarters of the way up the Norwegian coast now, and that twilight period is short. We moored for 30 minutes at Finnsnes, and I first took some pictures from deck 8, behind glass. I’ve managed to crop some of the reflections from the last two.
The remainder were taken from outside, on deck 9. Minus 3° C.
The English-speaking briefing was held at 11.30. It included details about the four excursions for the following day. I was booked on to the first, a trip to the very northernmost part of the country, the North Cape.
I can’t now recall why they were so in advance about one excursion for two days on, a visit to a snow hotel and to huskies. Perhaps they were short of bookings.
This was followed by a short talk on the Sami people, which I found a very informative supplement to what I had learned when I had spent the New Year 2004/5 in northern Finland, aka Lapland, when a Sami called Sepo was one of our guides.
14.15 we pulled into Tromsø, 69.6°N. With four hours available I reckoned I couldn’t go wrong. There was only one excursion, a husky tour, but I just went for a walk. I needed a focal point, so I decided to make for the ‘Arctic Cathedral’. A midnight concert there had been scheduled for the return trip, but I now knew it would not be happening, and I wanted to see the building. It would mean going across the kilometre-long Tromsø Bridge, the city itself being on an island, so I assumed that there would be strong winds and dressed accordingly. In fact there was no wind, and I was plenty warm enough.
The Arctic Cathedral is not actually a cathedral, but a parish church seating 600 people, built in 1965 in the ‘long church‘ style. Sadly it was closed.
Has it been open, it would have been lit, and this magnificent stained glass window occupying the whole of the west end would have been visible from the outside. I took this picture of it from a very small backlit display panel.
As I walked back across the bridge, I turned round to take this. The light top centre is of the cable car terminal.
Back on the island. It was a real pleasure to walk in these conditions, with crunchy crisp snow underfoot.
I arrived at a small square and was just wondering what this sculpture represented, when I noticed a couple of people looking up to the sky… through their phones…
After the previous day’s talk I knew what that probably meant. Yes, there was some wispy ‘cloud’, and through my phone it gave this.
My first definite Northern Lights. And without being summoned on deck to see them, though no doubt those on board had been informed.
I continued making my way back towards MS Trollfjord.
I still had two hours in hand so allowed myself a slight deviation to the main, pedestrianised, shopping street.
I watched these two having fun for a couple of minutes.
Back on the boat, at 17.30 we were invited up on deck to see the Lights.
Not brilliant pictures, nor indeed a great manifestation of the Northern Lights, but mine own.
As mentioned previously, our stop in Ålesund was by far the longest of the entire trip. We didn’t move off until 20.00. After lunch, I declined the suggestion of the morning’s guide that I could go back into town and climb up to a viewpoint, and chose instead to explore the vessel that would be my home for the next 11 days. I started by walking all round the boat on the promenade deck, deck 6, and there and then resolved never to choose a cabin on such a deck, for reasons of privacy. Of course I didn’t actually look through the generous portholes there, and I guess non-one did, but I would not like people walking so close past my bedroom.
It was this dark at 13.45, though, as all week, my camera did not record light conditions exactly. It was just beginning to rain.
Here the camera records blue which it wasn’t. As the trip went on, I tried to play, with occasional success, with its settings to adjust for this phenomenon.
Then I went up to deck 9. Most of this was open to the elements, which I didn’t brave in the rain. Much of the rest of the deck consisted of the upper part of a panoramic lounge, which seemed through the voyage by common consent to be respected as a space for just very quiet conversation or silence, as people read, knit, etc.
Deck 8 had some cabins, and, in addition to its panoramic lounge, the bar,
a small library, and the excursions team’s domain, of which this is part. Each afternoon they put out a printed bulletin about the next day’s programme of activities and excursions, including instructions as to when to leave the ship for the latter.
On the wall were various reference posters, identifying birds, fish and marine mammals, and here one showing the types of ships used by Hurtigruten since its foundation in 1893. MS Trollfjord was constructed in 2002.
Decks 7 and 6 (apart from the external promenade, and lifeboats) were entirely composed of cabins. Deck 5 had none, and was where most of the essentials of daily living took place.
For a while I could not understand the need for a bistro on board, given all the wonderfully copious food available in the main restaurant. But I came to realise that those using the line for pure transport purposes, who might not even have a cabin, did not eat in Torget.
Deck 4 had many cabins, including mine. It may not have had the prestige of the upper decks, but I thought it was perfect. It was on the same level as Reception and the passenger exit, and my cabin was near but not too near a lift and stairs, and about 30 seconds via the latter to the restaurant on deck 5.
In reception was a list of those top ship people we had met at the initial welcome meeting.
The briefing in English was at 17.30. Some days we were told about the likely state of the swell to come in the next 24 hours or so. The redder on the map, the greater the forecast swell. Most of the time we were sailing between islands and the coast, so we were generally protected from the worst. But here we were warned that as we passed along the Hustadvika to expect 3.5 metres of swell. In the event, I found the gentle rocking as I lay in my bed to be quite soothing. What they didn’t tell us was that (to quote the Wikipedia article), ” This is considered one of the most dangerous parts of the Norwegian coast, and many ships have been wrecked along it.” I’m glad they didn’t.
We were told of two excursions, one on foot and one in a bus, to explore Trondheim the following day. Having booked all my excursions in advance, I decided to explore the town on my own, on foot. All I definitely wanted to see was the cathedral. (The excursions team provided a map for every place we stopped at for any length of time.) Perhaps I should have gone with a group…
Everyone was allocated one of five times for dinner from this evening on, and a table number. In my explorations I had identified my table, and that it was for two. I was a little worried about this, wondering who I might be stuck with for the rest of the voyage. It could be great, it could be disastrous. In the event, I found I was sharing with … no-one. Perhaps even worse. Or a blessing.
Two possibilities were available at 21.00. A showing of ‘Dinner for One‘, ” traditional viewing on New Year’s Eve in European countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Estonia, or on 23 December in Norway, and, as of 1995, was the most frequently repeated television programme in Germany ever. ” or a meeting for those travelling alone. Having seen the short classic once some years back, that was enough for me.
Only about 15 turned up for the solo travellers’ meeting, though judging from the number of people sitting alone when it was free seating (that is, at breakfast and lunch) I would say that there were many more than that travelling alone. Sigmund, the hotel manager, got us to say where we all came from. It turned out that there were 10 or so different nationalities atb the meeting, and he told us there were 42 nationalities on board.
We had already found ourselves in language groups. I was with four others: J, a South African of British heritage who had run a B and B in Wales and who was now living in Spain; A, a Brit who had lived in Australia for 35 years; H, an long retired Indian doctor who had practised in New York from the time he had qualified in India; and B, a Swedish businessman/engineer (I think) who had worked in both Denmark and the Netherlands (he was on his fourth Christmas Hurtigruten trip). And of course I a Brit, had lived in France for 17 years. We arranged with the staff to put us on a dinner table together for the rest of the trip. J and I agreed to walk together into Trondheim the following morning at 09.00…