Sing a song of Norway
In early March, I arrived in Norway as the world biathlon (skiing and shooting) competition began in Oslo. I took a train from Oslo to Bergen to board the Hurtigruten ferry, MS Nordlys, for a round-trip coastal voyage above the Arctic Circle, to see the aurora borealis (northern lights).
When the train halted prematurely in Haugastol because powerlines were down in a tunnel, we transferred to a minibus. We waited while a snow plough cleared 25km of road, then joined a convoy of vehicles to cross the mountain plateau. It was no inconvenience as I marvelled at Norwegian engineering in the long road tunnels, replete with roundabouts, and we eventually arrived in Bergen after dark, about four hours later. Above the Arctic Circle, the aurora borealis was visible on consecutive nights from the vessel’s observation deck. When the ship arrived at Kirkenes, near the Russian border, at the end of the northbound journey, we went ashore in spring sunshine and mild, above-zero temperatures.
Naturally, passengers made the most of this weather, enjoying a sled ride pulled by huskies as well as tobogganing on the snow mounds near a remarkable ice hotel. After reboarding the ship for the southbound journey, three of us elected to take an exhilarating Arctic dip in the ocean at the next port of call, Vardo. It was an easy choice, although the majority elected to visit the Steilneset Memorial, dedicated to 91 people who were tried and executed in the 17th century for witchcraft.
It was surprising to see orchids and other tropical flowers blooming in florist shops and on windowsills. Classic candelabras were another feature in the windows of hotels and homes, so I smiled at the rainbow of coloured candles in a candelabra at a church in Bronnoysund. The Norwegian people are ingenious. The town of Harstad has an underground waterpark, the Grottebadet, in a large cave under the city, and residents enjoy aquatic sports in tropical conditions all year. Outside in winter the temperature is below freezing and it’s dark.
After returning home, I was reimbursed $80 by the Norwegian State Railways for the delay to my schedule. Why was I not surprised? What a joyful experience is Nordic travel. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: firstname.lastname@example.org. Columnists will receive L’Occitane his-and-her treats of Cedrat AfterShave Cream Gel with notes of bergamot, nutmeg and cedar; and a limited edition Rose Shea Handcream soon to be released to mark L’Occitane’s 40th anniversary this year; $82. More: au.loccitane.com