Tuesday, 12 July 2011
UP IN THE ARCTIC
So that you can see where we actually went on our cruise, I have doctored a map, and put a red line to show you our route. Hopefully the map will enlarge when you click on it and you can see it properly. I'm afraid my hand wobbled a bit doing the route, but you can get the general idea!
Tromso is well above the Arctic Circle, and is a pleasant town, with lots to see. We didn't get across to see the Arctic Cathedral, as it was a long way, but we did get to some interesting museums. The Polar Museum had some fascinating accounts of explorations across the Arctic, and to the North Pole, but there was also a lot about trapping and hunting, which I found rather distressing. Killing for food and clothing for the local people, yes, but there were so many seals and land animals killed for their skins which were exported across the world. I suppose it was just that way of life, but it all got too much for me and I found a chair to sit on and look at other things! Tromso market, like other markets in Norway, major in woolly sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves etc. I bought a lovely woolly hat for the winter.
We sailed from Tromso and headed for Honningsweg, very close to North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe. The scenery here was just bare plains. We took an excursion across the big island plains to two very isolated fishing village. The big industry here is dried fish, of which an enormous amount is exported to Portugal and Spain. (I really do not know what those countries do with such a lot of dried fish!) On the way we saw several family groups of reindeer, grazing on what lichens and grass they could find.
On our coach trip we had a really splendid guide, a Norwegian woman who had lived all her life in Honningsweg, and loved the freedom from crime there, the friendliness and the pure fresh air. They made the most of the summer months, as they have 4 or 5 months with very little daylight, of course.
We left Honningsweg harbour just before midnight, and the photo above was taken, I assure you, at midnight!
The next day we sailed across a very rough Arctic Sea, so rough they put tape across the doors to the Promenade deck so no one could go out, as the winds were so great, and the waves so high it would have been dangerous.
Early the following morning, Mr.G woke me and said "You must come and see this!" which I did and there were these fantastic snowy mountains gliding by in the distance. The sea was blue, the sky was a lighter blue and the mountains were dark blue and white with snow. It was truly magical.
We followed the snowy mountains and glaciers all the way to the little town of Longyearbyen. This town formed round the coal mines, which are still very active, and coal is a major export. There really isn't much that is beautiful about Longyearbyen......
However, there is an excellent Museaum and Tourist Information place there. Quite the best Museum I have been in. We were rather amused, though, as we all had to put blue plastic covers over out shoes! It turned out shoes would have damaged the floor and the way the exhibits were arranged - very touchy-feely!
As we left, the sun sparkled on the sea, which was much calmer than when we came! We felt sad, though, to leave those mountains, and to feel we were now on the way home (even if we had 6 days left!)