postcards from Norway…Trondheim to the Arctic Circle

Postcards from Norway

I have wanted to to see the beautiful fjords of Norway and the Northern Lights for as long as I can remember. So when a dear friends ‘Scandinavian Birthday’ required us to land in Norway I knew I had to sneak in a photography trip!

Below is a photo journal of this breathtaking trip and please do take a look at the gallery for the full set of photos (p.s. there is a little treat for those who read all the way to the end, please do forward if you like it!!)

The journey began on Valentines day with a rather memorable flight from Gatwick, just as the worst storms in years hit mainland UK. It felt like we were in a roller coaster and I ‘calmly’ grasped the arm rests and turned white 🙂  Thankfully the gifted pilots got us safely to our destination in one piece (emotional scarring aside!).

We rose early morning to take a walk through the city of Trondheim (or TronDONheim as I kept calling it!). Its the third largest city in Norway, with a Population of 180,000 and was the capital of Norway through the Viking era until 1217. I loved the old warehouses by the docks and we spent some time taking pictures and enjoying the fresh air. My friend noted how the old town reminded her of Westerns. We asked ‘Did the cowboys take after the Vikings?’ Hmm… surely there is potential for an 80’s action movie here!

Trondheim Old Town

At the main square there was a food market with local offerings from the farms and fisheries. I tested my luck with freebies from the different stalls, one could have a full lunch this way!

Trondheim town sqaure

Feeling too tired to venture Trondheim night life (saving myself for the birthday celebrations in Sweden later that week) I revisited the Itinerary for the coming days. A friend suggested I take a Hurtigruten cruise along the coast. A three day voyage from Trondheim up through the Arctic circle to Tromso. My schedule allowed for a night in Tromso before flying off to Are in Sweden.

I confess that after watching BBCs ‘Johanna Lumley in the land of the Northern lights’ years ago I was pining to see them myself. But i dared not to get my hopes up and told myself to be grateful just to see the beautiful coastline glide by. I was booked into the MS Vesteralen, a 108m long cruise ship built in 1984 with a top speed of 15kph and 510 person capacity.

Morning arrived and I sat calmly at the lobby waiting for my taxi and impressed with myself for being early. Until… a kind lady at hotel pointed out the LOCAL time/ that I had forgotten to adjust my watch! Thank heavens for Norwegian taxi drivers disregard for the speed limit 🙂

Travel Docs

After a hasty check in the ship left port and I made my way to the viewing deck to spend the next five hours mesmerised by the scenery. With my 5D II at hand and thermals keeping me nice and warm… it was perfect. The ship set course west through Trondheimfjords, up north the North Sea and eventually the Norwegian Sea. I would love to know how many islands there are and more importantly how does the Norwegian Post office address system work?! Impressive when you consider the vast sprawl of islands and fjords. Thank goodness for GPS!

Trondheimsfjord

We crossed the Arctic circle at 0705am the next day (the captain held a competition the night prior for passengers to guess the time). Apparently there was a lone buoy and the ship sounded its horns to mark the moment, but I am ashamed to say I was fast asleep! It was a holiday after all.

My first stroll onto the deck revealed a spectacular change of scenery. Something from an epic Hollywood film. The ships captain hosted a ceremony to mark our crossing into the Arctic Circle… by pouring ice cubes down passengers backs! It certainly woke us up and we were each presented with a certificate to record the moment.

Above the arctic circle

The main attraction of this cruise (compared to car or train) is the ease of access to the fjords and vast archipelago of islands.  The ship regularly docks into the major ports along the way (for an hour to half a day depending on the the schedule). I was able disembark to explore several towns prior to Tromso, including Bodo, Stamsud, Svolvaer, Hastard. One of the most memorable was the Ice Museum at Svolvaer. The carvings were fantastic and I tried to spend as much time as I could inside the ‘fridge’ before my hands and face froze. The ‘short’ walk to the lighthouse gates at Bodo was also fun and on the way back we took a detour to see the modern chapel whose spire was situated adjacent to the body of the church itself. I have jumped ahead here and added the beautiful Tromso Cathedral despite it coming at the end of the journey (third row from the top, on the right)!

Mainland Excursions

By the third day we were quite far up into the Arctic Circle and the weather had got much colder with the occasional snow showers. I tried my best to stay out on the viewing deck and take pictures and make the most of my last few hours on the ship (we were due to dock at Tromso at 2pm).

At the beginning of the cruise the captain stated that they don’t provide in house entertainment on the ship, because the real entertainment was outside. Pretty much everyone I met agreed with this and was braving the winds to soak up the views and atmosphere up on the ‘Sun deck’. As the ship rolled into the port of Tromso I felt sad that this leg of the Journey was over.  Three days was not enough and I would have loved to spend more time on board (from Bergen to Kirkenes).

Destination Tromso

Despite spending several hours at night on the deck of the ship staring up into the crisp cold sky, I had not seen the Northern Lights. Tromso is hailed as the city of the Northern Lights due to its proximity to magnetic north. However I just had one evening and  it being so cloudy was killing my chances 🙁 Well I had the city tour to join and maybe something good would come my way…

And a good thing here meant the fantastic folks at arcticguideservice! After seeing my seeing my sad face gazing into the sky during our city tour, the guide suggested I come along as a guest to their ‘Six hour Northern Lights Chase’ that eve 🙂 The cloud cover meant almost zero chance of seeing anything in Tromso but the tour often drove several hundred miles away from the city in search of clear skies thus maximising our chances. It was all very Hi-Tech, akin to scenes from the film Twister with radar maps and solar activity charts! If you ever find yourself in Tromso I would suggest dropping by their office (located behind the SAS Radison hotel, by the port). I will be forever grateful to their two ‘Light Guides: Dan & Nau’ for finding the perfect site in the middle of nowhere for us to see …

[ thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the little time lapse video I made below !!! ] 


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