It is time to sign off for the year – wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2018.
And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Approaching Honningsvåg, Norway – 23rd December 2014 on the Hurtigruten Ferry.
… and no further, from we here were heading south and back towards the light; I miss this dark place of snow, ice and the Merry Dancers. This is my diary entry from Christmas Day:
At 10:00am there is light on the horizon but the sun does not rise. The temperature is -20c and falling – everything crackles: the snow under your feet; the cars on white dusty roads; the air. A slight breeze makes your eyes ache and fingers stiffen in the search for the shutter release on an ice-cold camera. It is the perfect setting for a Christmas Day but it is strange nonetheless. By 11:30am the light on the horizon is beginning to fade; Kirkenes is returning to the dark. In truth, it does not really feel like one special day, just another in a series; Christmas started when the snow arrived in Trondheim.
All of these far northern towns have a certain similarity, particularly when seen by artificial light – life goes on despite the raw cold, the snow and the dark. There is industry and a sense of purpose which tourist destinations lack. The architecture is bright, clean, new and purposeful. It is the Alaska of my imagination.
On ship we have been celebrating Christmas since yesterday, Christmas Eve being the day of celebration and gift-giving for the Norwegians. There is no turkey but there is reindeer which is at odds with the story of Rudolph – it tastes good all the same. In the evening there is a service on the upper deck which I am dragged to like the reluctant schoolboy. It is entertaining – there is competitive carol singing as we are encouraged to sing in our own language – the Dutch tenor wins :D. This is followed by the story of Jesus in the ‘manga’ at which point we get a fit of the giggles. A joyous occasion, I am glad I did not miss it.
On Christmas Eve the northern lights appear again, right on cue.
The frozen boy is a detail from a monument to the mothers of Kirkenes.
The northern lights images have been pushed to within an inch of their lives – the first shows mist rising from the cold cold sea, the lights from a distant town and the aurora on the horizon.
We arrived in Bergen late on the 17th December all geared up for the cold weather – it was mild and raining a monsoon. The one thing we didn’t possess was an umbrella but we do now; it proudly bears the name Klosterhagen Hotel and was christened the next day when conditions had, if anything, deteriorated even more.
The alleyways around the hotel glistened not with frost but with rain:
The next morning was filled with another trip to the Bryggen, at this time of year, wonderfully devoid of the dreaded tourists – except us of course 🙂 Then came the dragging of cases down cobbled streets to the Hurtigruten terminal, a particularly noisy exercise made even more unpleasant by the realisation that not every item of clothing was watertight. It was a relief to escape the rain and finally board the MS Finnmarken late in the afternoon.
From hereon it was north and into the dark, the days becoming shorter with every nautical mile.
There will be more posts on this subject in the weeks to come (and no doubt some contrived photo challenges). The plan had been to post a diary of the trip as we progressed north along the Norwegian coast, if only for ourselves to look back on. However, the ship’s internal wifi connection to the Internet was unavailable throughout the voyage, only the very occasional 3G signal allowing the upload of some out-of-sequence Blips.
In the meantime I am in catch-up mode so a Happy New Year everyone!
(apologies to Mjollnir – the lack of access to WordPress and a late change to the timings for transfer to Flesland scuppered all plans to meet up. After this trip though, we are certain to be back very soon!)
This may be my last post for a while, much will depend on how good the Internet connection is on Hurtigruten MS Finnmarken. So, in case I cannot get connected, a very Merry Christmas to all my followers, many thanks for taking the time to like and comment on my increasingly random thoughts throughout the year and all the best for 2015. More importantly, many thanks for all the wonderful posts. The quality of television is in inverse proportion to the quantity i.e. the more channels there are the worse it gets – by contrast WordPress always entertains 🙂
Here’s hoping this is what we actually see: