In February 2017 Chudleigh Writer, Anne Chinneck, was due to take a cruise up the coast of Norway. Various obstacles stood in her way at the time, and the trip was postponed for two years, finally taking place earlier this year. Today she brings us a flavour of her travels.
“Suffice to say it was a miracle to persuade husband Andy to go on any sort of a cruise whatsoever. An ex Master Mariner with P&O he had no wish to spend time or mingle with those beneath the bridge deck.
With a lot of cajoling we finally settled for a cruise up the coast of Norway with Hurtigruten, the Norwegian postal service which has been operating since the middle of the 19th century. Their ships accommodate about 350 passengers, as well as the mail and make regular voyages up the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes, very close to the Russian border, well above the Arctic Circle. On a blistering bitterly cold day we visited the North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe. As we battled to remain upright, and we struggled out to the monument I was reminded of what Explorers such as Scott had to face with none of the technology we have today.
I suppose my enduring memories of the voyage will be the stunning scenery in the depths of winter. In between ports we learnt about Norwegian customs, the indigenous northern Sami people as well as sampling plenty of locally sourced, Norwegian food which was nothing like the ‘soused herrings’ I had been expecting.
Apart from the wonderful scenery we experienced every day of the voyage, I think the highlight for me was our dog sledding experience. This I thought was magical and something I shall always remember. The bright young woman who was the ‘musher’ or driver on our sledge kept us regaled with stories of the dogs, their characteristics, and history of the area as we bowled along in bright sunshine. We also visited the Ice Hotel although I must admit that once inside I could not imagine paying good money to stay there. There is no accounting for taste!
Most stops in the little ports were very short so we weren’t always able to go ashore. We learnt that Norway was decimated by the German army as they retreated towards the end of the 2nd World War. Consequently, many small ports along the coast have grown up since then with mostly utilitarian and industrial buildings, built to withstand severe winter weather. Trondheim, Norway’s third largest city, is an exception. We saw many traditional tall wooden houses, while any newly built must be constructed in the same style. Trondheim cathedral survived, its origins going back to Olav, the first king of Norway. Much further north we visited Tromso cathedral , an excursion in the middle of the night! A midnight concert had been laid on for us by the local cathedral choir in a modern building with the most stunning architecture and acoustics.
I haven’t mentioned the Northern lights which unfortunately were a bit of a disappointment. On three occasions we received the ‘Northern lights’ alert, but I only managed to see anything at all through the viewfinder of my camera. Why this happens I have no idea! Would I do the same trip again? In the summer, I think, when everything is transformed for that short time. I can well understand why the Norwegian people make the most of every minute and the small coastal cabins come alive with laughter and entertainment.”