Guest Author - Ann Carroll Burgess
Are you ready for breath-taking fjords? Summer nights filled with sunshine? A true taste of Norway? Then book yourself aboard one of the ships of the Hurtigruten fleet and prepare to be immersed in the experience known as Norway.
Kirkenes, Honningsvag, Tromso, Lofoten and Trondheim are a few of the distant ports at which our ship will call along the coast of Norway. The Nordnorge (Northern Norway), a member of the historic Hurtigruten fleet, plies the Norwegian coast carrying a mix of tourists, residents, automobiles and assorted cargo. This is not your average cruise ship. This is an adventure. The Hurtigruten fleet is an essential part of life along the far reaching Norwegian coast. No matter what the weather or sea conditions, the coastal fleet sails without fail.
My journey begins in Kirkenes, the only town in Norway where east meets west, bordering with neighbor Russia. Originally established as a mining center, those operations are now closed and the city makes a living by doing ship repairs and servicing tourists. Kirkenes was of great strategic importance during World War II and suffered mightily. For two months residents were forced to live in a mine tunnel until Russian forces rescued them.
The first night aboard the Nordnorge is spent in traditional cruising fashion – finding my cabin, settling in and that all important first dinner. The coastal vessels of the Hurtigruten line offer good size cabins with modern amenities. There is a dining room, bar, snack bar and souvenir shop. Okay, maybe this ship isn’t quite what Amundsen used for his explorations, but had it been available I think he might have given it a chance. Who says you can’t adventure in style?
From Kirkenes the ship sails further north to the town of Honningsvag and Nordkapp, the northernmost point of Europe. Remote and windswept, Nordkapp is typical arctic landscape. In summer, herds of caribou (reindeer) range freely over the terrain feasting on grasses and small alpine flowers. There is something very otherworldly about this barren plain and pale light.
Nordkapp is also home to the Sami, a nomadic people that live in the northern regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Most Sami make a living from keeping herds of the reindeer and will follow them across the northern landscape.
Over the next few days the Nordnorge sailed south stopping next in Tromso, which likes to call itself ‘the Paris of the North.’ This city was once an outpost of culture and sophistication along the Norwegian coast. Today it is still a thriving and lively community, famous for its Arctic Cathedral.
Unforgettable were the Lofoten Islands. These barrier islands along the Norwegian coast are hauntingly beautiful, particularly when seen in the pale light of the late summer sun. It is here you will find the archetypical Norwegian fishing villages.
The coastal ships of Norway are a delightful way to experience the history, adventure, charm, sophistication and warmth that typifies one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
And, oh yes, you will find fjords, waterfalls, fishing boats, fantastic seafood, and, if you are really lucky, a troll or two. One thing for sure is that you will find this cruise to be an adventure for your heart and mind.