Norway: A Voyage of the Northern Lights   16 comments


Norway:  A Voyage of the Northern Lights

Dec. 4 – 18, 2013


Jim & I have wondered what it would be like to be in the northern most town in the world during some of the shortest days of the year.  We have wondered what it would be like north of the Arctic Circle for almost a week in the dead of winter.  We have wondered what it would be like to have less than 2 hours of “twilight” daily.  We have wondered what it would be like to see the Northern Lights.  We have wondered what it would be like to cruise along the 1,560 miles of the Norwegian coastline, then turn around and go back the other way.  However, we hadn’t wondered what it would be like to be in Hurricane force winds of 115 mph while cruising above the Arctic Circle.  Well, we found the answers to all these quandaries on our trip with Vantage Deluxe World Travel aboard the Hurtigruten’s MS Nordkapp.  The trip was exciting and delightful!


 The Grand Norwegian Coastal Voyage, was just that….grand.  Our 15 day trip began with a day and night in Bergen, Norway.  Then we boarded the MS Nordkapp for a complete 11-night north and south voyage, with over 30 ports of call along the 1,560 miles of the Norwegian coastline.  After returning back to Bergen, we spent another night in the lovely town before flying home just in time for Christmas.  Karin was our excellent tour director, and she made sure our trip was perfect.  

Bergen, Norway:  Founded in 1070, Bergen has a unique harbor setting and ancient medieval streets, plus a modern vibrant city.  The Greater Bergen Region had a population of 398,800, making Bergen the second-largest city in Norway.  It is ideally located on the Western coast, surrounded by 7 mountains, in the middle of Fjord Norway, with easy access to the Norwegian fjords.  The waterfront is really the heart of Bergen, with the Fish Market and the picturesque old wooden Bryggen wharf – a UNESCO World Heritage site. 


To me the highlight of Bergen is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bryggen.  Bryggen, (Norwegian for the Wharf), is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings (warehouses) lining the eastern side of the fjord coming into Bergen.  In the early days  when the town developed into an important trading center, the Hanseatic merchants filled these warehouses with goods, particularly fish from northern Norway, and cereal from Europe.  Some 62 buildings remain of this former townscape.  Today, the Bryggen houses tourist, souvenir, and gift shops, in addition to restaurants, pubs and museums.


Our outstandingly located hotel, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel was right in the scenic Bryggen UNESCO historic area.  Coming out from the hotel was the harbor, and turning left was the historic warehouse area. 


Karin suggested we take the Funicular and see the beautiful snow covered city from above.  A great idea!  The starting point of the the Funicular is centrally located, just a short walk from our hotel. The Funicular takes you to the top of mount Floyen, offering a marvelous view of the city. 


To the fish market we did go. 


Next it was time for a nice stroll in the driving snow.


Saw lots of places with Lutefisk on the menu.  Remembering the Lutefisk that my family helped prepare for our churches annual “Lutefisk Supper” at Vilas Lutheran church in Kansas.


Edvard Hagerup Grieg is a famous Norwegian composer and pianist.  We toured the picturesque wooden villa “Troldhaugen”, which was Nina and Edvard Grieg’s home, and built in 1885. The villa is located in the outskirts of Bergen, surrounded by a garden by the Nordasvannet lake. The couple lived there the last 22 summers of Edvard Grieg’s life. Troldhaugen became a museum in May 1928.  (I recognize The Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg.)


The boarded a Hurtigruten Ship, the MS Nordkapp:  (I copied the following info & the ship picture from the Hurtigruten web site.)

Hurtigruten’s Norwegian Coastal Voyage along the scenic coast and fjords of Norway has often been praised as being one of the  most beautiful voyages in the world.  The service was founded 120 years ago as a way of ferrying passengers and supplies between the isolated communities along the rugged coastline.  It is still considered a “working” ship.  With daily departures, the Hurtigruten journey begins in Bergen and travels north across the Arctic Circle and beyond as it meanders through the dramatic splendours of the Norwegian coast. As you weave in and out of narrow inlets, you will sail along some of the world’s most beautiful coastline, nearly always in sight of land, and discover what makes this voyage unique.


  Some ports of call would only be a few minutes, while supplies and passengers were quickly loaded and unloaded.  Other times we were docked long enough to walk around town.  The ship was usually docked on main street of the small towns so it was easy to get out and about.  Sometimes we were at a port of call for a few hours and had plenty of time to look around.  We were very pleased with the ship, crew and meals.  The following are pictures inside the ship.

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Dec. 7, 2013, the first morning aboard the ship, cruising, somewhere between Maley & Torvik.  That is a little house on the little island below.  Talk about a long way from Walmart. 


A quick stop at Maley to unload supplies and off we went. 


Jim is standing in front of our cabin window.  While we were out on our deck we noticed this little farm.  I can’t imagine living so remotely. 


Alesund, Norway:  After it was destroyed by fire in 1904, this pretty little town was rebuilt in the fashionable Art Nouveau style of the era.  Alesund has a population of approximately 40,000.  The town in surrounded by water.  I think it was the prettiest town that we visited. 


Trondheim:  Was founded in 997.  It is Norway’s third largest city with a population of almost 180,000.  A coach tour of the city was provided.  We visited a viewpoint with a great view of the city.  We saw the Nidaros Cathedral which is the religious center of Norway.  The best thing was the Old Town Draw Bridge of Trondheim which was built in 1684.

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Cruising between Trondheim & Rorvik on Dec. 8, 2013:  The time as per my camera on the first photo is 2:09 pm and the sun is setting.  The days are definitely getting shorter.  The second photo is the  Lighthouse Kjeungskuaer which was built in 1880.


Rorvik:  Located approximately 120 miles north of the city of Trondheim.   The 430 acre village has a population (2011) of 2,721. 


Ornes, Norway:  Dec. 9, 2013, 9:35 a.m., a 30 minute stop for loading & unloading supplies.  Ornes is a port of call along the Hurtigruten ferry route between Nesna and Bodø. The 450-acre village has a population (2011) of 1,623.


Crossed the Arctic Circle around 7:20 this morning, Dec. 9, 2013.   This is the little lighted marker that marks the spot.

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Standing on the deck in front of our cabin window and looking at the small farms on the shoreline.   We are now cruising within the Arctic Circle. 


Crossing the Arctic Circle Ceremony:  If you let them pour ice & water down your neck you could have a free shot of liquor.  I wasn’t that thirsty. haha


 The route map with a focus on the Arctic Circle area. 


Boda, Norway:  The town lies just north of the Arctic Circle and has a population of approximately 50,000.  It is the second-largest town in North Norway.   It was completely rebuilt after WWII.  The sun is not visible from the city from early December to early January.  Thus the twilight.  We were in Boda for 2 1/2 hours. 


As per the lighted sign by the Christmas tree it was –4C (28 degrees) and 1:15 p.m.  We saw lots of ladies using sleds (below) just as we would use a skate board.  Pretty nifty way to get around on solid ice. 


Svolvaer, Norway:  This 540-acre town has a population (2011) of 4,185.  We made a one hour stop here.  It was 3:30 in the afternoon when we arrived and completely dark. 


We saw the Northern Lights.  (Definition) An aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere.   Thank you, to a couple of friends in our group for sharing these pictures.  It was a struggle getting decent photos considering the rocking & rolling of the ship.  The Northern Lights were actually spotted twice by some people and three times by others. 

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The following group of Northern Lights photos were taken in Sweden (on land) the same night that we saw the Aurora from the ship.  The people that took them were later on our ship and shared them with members of our group.  Aren’t they beautiful?

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Finnsnes, Norway:  The municipality is well provided with kindergartens, primary and secondary level schools, and studies on university level   Fishing and agriculture is still very important, and fish farming is of increasing importance for the employment of people.  The population of Finnsnes in 2012 was 4,250.  It was a 30 minute stop at 11:15 in the morning.  It was a twilight, with snow, type of morning. 


  Tromso, Norway:  Tromso describes itself as being the Paris of the North.  It is familiar to filmgoers as the starting point for so many Polar expeditions.  It is northern Norway’s largest city with approximately 73,000 inhabitants (2012).  We did a coach tour of Tromso going to the Tromso Museum for “Embrace the Aurora”, and then visited the Arctic Cathedral.  Our ship docked in the city center about 3 p.m. and were there about 4 hours.

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 Honningsvag, Norway:  Hammerfest claims to be the northernmost city in the world, although the title is disputed by Honningsvåg, Norway.  Even though Honningsvag is located at the northernmost extreme of Europe, it has a subarctic climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream.  The 300 acre town has a population (2012) of 2,436.  A young lady from the local newspaper took Bill, Jim & my picture and was surprised to learn that we were from Tenn. & Ks.   FYI:  We were walking around Honningsvag about noon.  Please note, that it is completely dark.  


King Crab from the area.   Demand is high for the delicacy and it has long been the most lucrative harvest in the Norwegian fishing industry.


Storm Certificate:  “It is hereby announced that the Passenger…Marilyn Farmer (Jim got a certificate also)… was on board the MS “Nordkapp” during a storm, along the coast of Finnmark, with winds up to 115 m.p.h. or 54m/sec on December 11, 2013.”  What a ride at 3 o’clock in the morning.  Can’t say that we’ve even been in a hurricane before, and don’t care to be in one again.  The google map below shows the approximate location of our scary hurricane ride. 

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Kirkenes, Norway:  Kirkenes is located in the extreme northeastern part of Norway.  The 510-acre town has a population (2012) of 3,444.  When the neighboring suburban villages of Hesseng, Sandnes, and Bjørnevatn are all included with Kirkenes, the urban area reaches a total population of almost 8,000 people.  We left Kirkenes by coach and drove to the Russian Border, it was about a 30 minute drive.  We were curious about the 4 back-packers who were hiking across the frozen lake to the border. 


The Russian Border crossing complete with a sled to play with and an outdoor toilet.  We were out and about from around 9:30 a.m. until noon.  It was a clear twilight day, no sun of course in the Arctic Circle area. 

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During the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany, Kirkenes was one of the many bases for the German’s.  Reportedly, Kirkenes is second after Malta on a list of European towns experiencing air-raid alarms and attacks, with more than 1,000 alarms and 320 air attacks.  Then, the town was taken over by the Red Army on Oct. 25, 1944 when the German Wehrmacht was pushed out and fled the area after having destroyed most of the remaining infrastructure.

Bjornevatn, Norway:  This is a memorial to the 2,500 people took shelter in the mines in 1945 for 2 months, until the Russians liberated the area from the Germans. 


Hammerfest, Norway:  Hammerfest, population 9,000, claims to be the northernmost city in the world, although the title is disputed by Honningsvag, Norway.   The validity of the claim depends upon one’s definition of a city; although Hammerfest is further south than Honningsvag it has a population over 5,000, which is required by Norwegian law to achieve town status.  Honningsvag, population about 2,500 is actually the northernmost in Norway. Barrow, Alaska, population 4,000, is further north than both the Norwegian towns, but does not lay claim to the title of northernmost town.

However, I will say as per this Bing Map is appears that Honningsvag, Norway is further north than Hammerfest, Norway, regardless of the population.  But, I have a photo of the “Northern Most Town in the World” sign from Hammerfest. 

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Hammerfest:  Dec. 13, 2013.   We arrived around 10 in the morning, and had about 3 hours to explore the town.  It would snow like crazy for awhile then quit for awhile. 


Built in 1961, Hammerfest Church is the main parish church in Hammerfest.


Tradition in Norway is to decorate with lots of red hearts at Christmas.


Even though it is one of the northern most towns in the world it is largely ice-free because of the offshore Gulf Stream. 


We decided to have a donut.  They seemed pretty dry for as expensive as they were. 


Stokmarknes, Norway:  At lot of people getting on and off the ship in Stokmarknes.  This town, population 3,500, is the birthplace of the Hurtigruten shipping company.  We visited the Hurtigruten Museum to explore its history.  The first Hertigruten voyage departed in 1893.The original MS Finnmarken, dating back to the 1950’s, rests in dry dock here and we toured it as part of the museum.  We were there from about 2 – 3:30 p.m. (completely dark.) 


Svolvaer, Norway:    This 540-acre town has a massive fishing industry and a population (2011) of 4,185.  Jim visited the WWII Museum and I walked around with some others.  I didn’t sit in the lighted ice chair very long!


Dec. 15, 2013, we crossed the Arctic Circle again, this time headed in a southerly direction.  The ceremony was spoonful of cod liver oil, and a shot of wine.  The best part, was we got to keep the neat spoons the oil was in. 


Our happy group of 32 Vantage Travelers, along with our great tour leader, Karin.

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Bergen, Norway:  Back to Bergen again, and this time without snow.  Pizza with friends, and a last look at the pretty town all lighted for Christmas.


A wonderful time, with memories galore!!


Posted January 4, 2014 by marilynfarmer in Travel

16 responses to “Norway: A Voyage of the Northern Lights

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  1. What a wonderful set of pictures. I would never have thought taking a cruise to the Arctic would be a good idea until I saw your pictures. I was surprised when you said the temperature in the afternoon was 28f in one of the cities. It must have had something to do with the Gulf Stream. Also a big surprise was when you got back to Bergen, all the snow was gone. Thanks for being so adventurous taking such a cruise in the winter and sharing your great pictures with us.

    The people in the pictures all seemed quite happy, so apparently they enjoy the snow and cold.

    • Thank you Frank for your kind words. It was an extremely interesting experience. We experienced things that were only thoughts in the back of our minds before. One often wonders what it is like to be in almost complete darkness all day long and now we know what it is like. And it was interesting how the water isn’t frozen because of the Gulf Stream. I’d never given that a thought before. And we had such a nice group of fellow travelers which makes it great. We never counted but bet there weren’t many over a 100 on the ship most of the time. Great, great trip. Thanks again.

  2. Wow what a great job on your blog Marilyn and Jim! It really sums up what a fabulous trip we had. For sure with the Northern Light sightings, all the snow, the closeness of our group, and of course surviving the hurricane, it truly was a very memorable time. It was great to meet you guys!

    • Hi Bob, long time no see. Miss you guys after being with you all for two weeks. I must tell you, that Jim does nothing concerning my travel blog but look at it when I finish it. And indeed it was a memorable trip and so nice getting to know you. We were good neighbors don’t you think?

  3. Thank you Marilyn and Jim for sharing the beautiful pictures. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. So glad you are traveling and seeing the things you want to see while the health of both of you is still good. Keep it up as long as you can.

  4. Marilyn
    Great presentation of a great trip. we are enjoying a high of 9 and a low of 3 in Martin today. we did escape the snow and freezing rain however.
    Happy New Year

    • Thank you Bill, it was a great trip wasn’t it? Sounds like you are having the horrible cold also. We had a low of -8 and a high of around 11 today. Glad it wasn’t that cold while we were in the Arctic. Keep on traveling and having fun. So nice to have met you two.

  5. Beautiful pictures and well presented! Thank you for bringing back our memorable journey.
    Wow, you did much research and put much time into this project. Not only did we enjoy viewing the
    Lovely photos and reading your write-up, we will share them with friends too.
    Thank You very much. Have another successful year of travels, health and luck.

    Gim & Kong Oh

    • Thank you Gim & Kong. I actually did spend a little more time then I intended to getting the time sequence etc. With the time recorded on all of our pictures it made it fun to see exactly how much daylight we had in particular towns. It was a memorable journey and it was such a nice group of travelers to get acquainted with. And happy travels to you two.

  6. Wow! Great job with the blog, Mom! My favorite pics are of the northern lights, and the architecture of the little towns. I’m glad you kept your certificate to prove you were in hurricane winds too!

    • Thank you dearest daughter. Yes, I must always keep the hurricane certificate because I don’t want to earn another one. Haha I agree there was some pretty interesting architecture. You like to ski, you could have had a ball on the streets of solid ice.

  7. I had totally forgotten about visiting Greigs house. The sleds are taken to town and then used to haul home the groceries and or tired children. I remember having great fun with them one night after an evening of dancing and drinking. Good Times!!!!

    • Cindy, I’m glad you checked out my blog so it could bring back memories of when you were in Scandinavia. With many of the streets in the towns completely ice packed, I tell you for a fact that if I lived there, I’d have one of those sleds. It was cute the way the little old ladies would buzz around on their sleds and then several would stop right in the middle of the street to visit. The cars were very patient.

  8. awesome trip, marilyn! now this is on my wish list! thx!

    • Yes, I think you must do the Norway voyage. However, you might want to send in a request for NO HURRICANE on the particular date that you select. That really was a grand trip. Doing it during the shortest days of the year made it extra special.

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