Denmark, Norway, Finland and Svalbard
On the 17th June 2011 we continued our travels, heading through Germany, Denmark, Norway and Finland. We stayed overnight on the aire at Gravelines, then drove through France, Belgium and Luxemburg before stopping at Mettlach in Germany, one of our favourite places. The stellplatz is on the brewery car park and the food and beer are wonderful! After a visit to the motorhome centre at St. Wendel for repairs to Nicolle's leaking water tank, we spent the next few days parked in a muddy field at the Arbenteur and Allrad show in Bad Kissingham. Sue had to make do with Bratwurst and Pommes standing in the pouring rain for her birthday tea but I did promise to buy her a Landrover for her birthday present! I made it up to her by treating her to a nice meal in a restaurant on Luneburg Heath a few days later. The sun was shining and we had a lovely walk. Leaving Germany we took the ferry, drove through Denmark and then took another ferry to get to Sweden. Stayed overnight on the stellplatz by the Gota Canal in Trollhatten.
Crossed over the border into Norway. Visited Kongsvoll with its restored barns and store houses. Throughout Norway we found many delightful places to stay overnight, one of the earliest being Store Svenning Lake. Our route to the Arctic Circle took us past the Laksforsen waterfalls and the waterfront trading post of Mosjoen.
Heading north we visited the Nordlandmuseet at Rognan, the Saltstraumen Tidal Race and the Kjerringoy Trading Post.
We took the ferry to the Lofoten Isles. When I was 14, on school camp in Wales, I was taught how to pronounce the name of the town Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This may be the longest place name in Europe but Lofoten boasts the shortest, the tiny fishing village of A. We spent a day exploring A museum, the mansion, fisherman's house, cod liver oil factory, storehouse and bakery and wandered around the rest of the village.
We spent the next few days exploring the Lofoten Islands, discovering some lovely villages, deserted beaches and idyllic overnight stops.
From Vik we had a lovely walk over the Himmeltinden Mountain to Utakleiv, following the old coach road built in 1880 (children walked this track to school everyday), then back around the headland following the old motor road built in 1940. We ended our walk with a quick dip in a very cold sea!
Visited Nusfjord, Henningsvaer and Kabelvag and sailed down the Raftsundet sound and into Trollfjord before crossing back to the mainland at Narvik.
We continued up the coast towards Tromso, crossing fjords on ferries and driving over fells. At Gildatun we visited a Sami encampment.
We spent a few days at Tromso, visiting the cathedral, catholic church, town hall and the ultra modern arctic cathedral. Strolled along the waterfront and visited the Botanical Gardens and the Polar Museum.
We left Nicolle in the airport car park for a couple of weeks and flew to Longyearbyen for our cruise around Svalbard. The first two nights were spent in Mary Anne's Polarigg, (formerly a miner's lodge), very basic but very expensive accommodation! We spent 2 days wandering around Longyearbyan, visiting the Arctic Museum and taking a dog sledge ride. A truly amazing place. We soon got used to seeing the locals carrying guns everywhere they went - a necessary precaution, the previous week sea ice had blown into the harbour and polar bears were strolling around the streets.
Boarded our ship, MS Expedition and set sail. Our first zodiac expedition was Hornsund. We then stopped at Edgeoya Island for a tundra walk. We saw polar bears feasting on a whale carcass.
At Nordauslandet we had a much closer polar bear encounter.
The ship sailed through pack ice and close up to the Ice shelf. We had good views of the midnight sun.
Visited a walrus colony at Torellneset, Hinlopenstretet and the Thick Billed Murres colonies on the Alkefjellet Cliffs.
We reached our most northerly point. We were lucky. This year the sea ice had receded enough, enabling us to circumnavigate Svalbard, a phenomenon which doesn't always happen.
Sailed into Magdalenfjorden for a zodiac landing to visit the Police Post and the remains of the blubber ovens and whaler's graves. A few brave souls went for a swim. We then headed to Krossfjorden and the 14th of July Glacier.
We visited Ny Alesund, the world's northernmost permanent settlement. Once a mining community, it is now an international centre for arctic research and environmental monitoring. Between 1925 and 1928, four attempts were made to reach the North Pole by air from Ny-Ålesund. One involved flying boats led by Roald Amundsen.
We returned to Tromso and continued north. Visited the Kafjord and the Tirpitz museum before heading to the Hjemmeluft prehistoric rock carvings.
Hammerfest, the world's most northerly town, was also the first European town to have electric street lighting. We wandered the town and visited the cathedral, the museum of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society and the Struve Geodetic Arc, the first in a chain of survey triangulations stretching to the Black Sea through ten countries and over 2,820 km long. The chain was established and used by the German-born Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve in the years 1816 to 1855 to establish the exact size and shape of the earth.
We had been disappointed so far in not seeing the midnight sun. We'd seen midnight cloud, midnight fog and midnight rain! On fine evenings we'd not been parked in the right place. At last, in Forsol, we had the ideal opportunity.
We finally reached North Cape, our ultimate destination.
The true top of Norway, however, is at Knivskjelodden. To reach there involves a gruelling seven hour walk over bogs, streams and ice covered rocks. Once there, you are honoured with the opportunity of signing the visitors book. We walked there and back and saw no one, there were hundreds of people at North Cape!
Visited Bugoynes village, 500 km north of the arctic circle and close to the Russia, Neiden Waterfall and Kirkenes. At Grense Jakobselv we reached the Arctic Ocean and the Russian Border.
We turned back towards home, driving through Finland. Our journey south took us through endless forests and lakes.We visited the Siida Museum and the Sami Parliament in Inari.
Having seen the midnight sun we decided our journey would not be complete until we had seen the Northern Lights. We decided that we would have to return in the winter!
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