We’d just settled into our room back in Bergen when Pegs arrived. Woo hoo! After sharing a pizza for lunch, she and I made a beeline for Bryggen and spent the afternoon poking around the old buildings and souvenir shops and soaking it in over cider and beer.
Pegs arranged a tour of Troldhaugen, the summer home of Edvard Grieg, on the outskirts of Bergen. Our tour included a short piano recital of works by Grieg. The pianist presented a program of compositions from different stages of Grieg’s career, and told the audience a little bit about the evolution of the composer’s style between each set. Very enjoyable!
In the late afternoon, we boarded a Hurtigruten ferry, the Polarlys, for our journey north along the coast of Norway. The 11 Hurtigruten ferries run daily all season from Bergen to Kirkenes on the west coast. They also run in the winter. Hurtigruten was established in 1893. The name means “The Fast Route.” The boats are an unusual combination of workhorse and luxury liner, carrying cargo and automobiles, but also tourists (and in the old days, workers), and stopping at all “major” ports along the way. By major, I mean towns of several hundred people or more. I think the smaller settlements can signal the ferry if they want it to stop.
Before the days of highway and jet travel, Hurtigruten was the lifeline that connected the rich fisheries of the far north with the markets in the south. To this day, the ferries are beloved by the coastal communities and are regarded as a national treasure. Once or twice during our journey, we deviated from the main route just to salute a little fishing village. When that happened, we’d be joined by a flotilla of motorboats that would race along beside us for several kilometers.
These days, the ships go at a fairly leisurely pace and let people off for excursions such as whale watching, glacier tours, and Viking feasts. We’ve mentioned slow food and slow travel in previous posts. Let us now introduce you to slow TV. The entire 8040-minute (6-day) journey from south to north was broadcast live on Norway national TV. Here is the sped-up version (I guess that makes it the opposite of slow TV) in 37 minutes (we disembarked at Harstad, which is minute 25:
There’s plenty of time to enjoy the remarkable scenery from the lounges and decks. The cabins feel quite spacious compared to our accommodations on the Juno. The food onboard is very expensive, even by Norwegian standards. A small bottle of water (half liter) costs 40 Norwegian krone, which Karel calculated works out to $48/gallon. Luckily, the tap water is potable and tastes fine.
We’re far enough north that it doesn’t get fully dark at night. Sometime after 10 p.m., the sun touches the horizon. It rolls along it for more than an hour before disappearing at last into a puddle of molten red. And, lucky us, the weather has been clearing and warming progressively the further north we go. As the Norwegians aboard assured us, “the weather isn’t always like this.”
Late on our fourth and last evening aboard, we entered the spectacular Trollfjord. We had a nice vantage point at the front, out on the promenade deck, where we chatted with other passengers and snapped photos. At the head of the fjord, the ship negotiated a tight 180. As we left the fjord, a magnificent sea eagle flew past. It was a little too sudden and fast for good photos in the twilight, but Karel did manage to catch it soaring overhead.
We lingered until after midnight, as this was one of the most scenic stretches of our journey, but at last we had to tear ourselves away for a few hours of sleep. The Polarlys would arrive at our destination, Harstad, at 6:30 a.m.
With three of us taking pictures, and so much great scenery, we ended up with a whopping 3500 pictures. Karel has picked the best of them, including many by Peggy Beal. Enjoy the gallery!