Guest Post by Alison Bailey
The voyage to Hurtigruten is already quite an adventure, but there are many other wonderful things to do in Norway. Enhancing any visit to this wonderful, hospitable country.
My trip included a stopover in TromsØ, my hotel, the Rica Ishavshotel, is conveniently situated right on the quayside. I therefore, had a short walk with my bags. Leaving these at reception, gave me the opportunity to explore TromsØ, before embarking on the MS Richard With
The town is the gateway to the Arctic, and the major town in Arctic Norway. A communication hub, an administrative centre, and historically also the departure point for Polar expeditions, sealing, and whaling vessels en route to the seasonal hunting grounds. Hunters and trappers also embarked here on isolated winter expeditions in the Spitzbergen archipelago.
Today, Tromsø is a thriving modern town, with over 70,000 inhabitants, supplemented by about 9,000 students. In addition to the university, it has a modern university hospital, and home to a number of other research institutions, most notably the Norwegian Polar Institute.
It is a fairly easy morning walk around the town centre, and the architecture is fascinating, cosy wooden fronted houses, and shops, interspersed with modern office buildings. The library is particularly striking, with a curved roofline that stopped me in my tracks.
Depending on the time of year there are plenty of activities, and places to go from TromsØ, from dog sledding to cycle tours, kayaking, and snowmobile safaris. Enough to keep anybody occupied for a while.
The statues in TromsØ tell of its history as a centre for hunting and exploration.
The turning point of the voyage is at Kirkenes, which at 30 degrees East, is actually further East than Istanbul, and St Petersburg. We took the opportunity for a morning off the ship, and went to see the Kirkenes Snow Hotel, and take part in a husky sledge adventure.
The huskies in particular are fab!
We met some of the huskies, and discovered they like to cuddle, once they were all hugged out, we took a 5km sledge ride around the “long lake”.
It is a magnificent way to travel, it’s quick, efficient, and surprisingly quiet. Our huskies are wore little boots on their back paws, this is because the two rearmost dogs actually pull the most weight and their back paws need protecting as this is where they get their real drive from; rear paw drive sledding! Crossing the lake on foot would take all day in the snow, on a sledge with these magnificent creatures, it takes about an hour.
We also had time for a quick visit to the Kirkenes snow hotel. Built each year from scratch, from manufactured snow. That’s right, in a land full of snow, they make it specially! The reason for this is the moisture content. The lovely soft powdery snow outside isn’t any use for construction, so they make snow from water from the nearest lake. It has 9 times the moisture content, and is dense enough to build with. The solid ice is also taken from the local lake once it has frozen and the carvers get to work on it. It takes the team of Chinese carvers a week of flat-out work to carve the designs in the walls and the ice sculptures within.
The interior of the Snow Hotel stays at -4 degrees Celsius as a constant temperature no matter what the temperature outside is. That is until May when it all gets too warm, and the Ice Hotel returns to where it came from until the lake freezes once more. It is possible to stay here; one couple from Australia who did just that got engaged under the Aurora the night before, that’s doing it in style!
There are excursions to the North Cape, Snowmobile safaris, reindeer sled rides, snowmobile trips in the Polar night, husky sledding, and a trip in the footsteps of Amundsen. There is a whole range of activities, and wonders to explore in Northern Norway so wrap up warm, and enjoy them.
I started as a photographer at the tender age of three when my Dad gave me my first camera, a Kodak Brownie. I crawled around ‘taking pictures’ of everything, even though there wasn’t any film, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since.
I’ve worked as a Lab Technician specialising in Pathology to the promised land of Olympus cameras, and even a spell in law enforcement. I’ve returned to my first love now however, specialising in wedding photography. I predominantly use digital today, but the traditionalist in me still loves film, and the skills required to develop it.
*All photography by Alison Bailey, © Copyright of BaileyPhotography 2014