leah's stupid life, travel

Leah’s Norway adventure

If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed that I’ve been posting some pretty amazing landscapes recently because I’ve been hanging out on the MS Vesteralen cruising around Norway! This is very photo heavy, so apologies!

Last year I made a list of things I’d like to do before I turned thirty and honestly, most of the list was pretty impossible, but a girl’s gotta dream right? Anyway, one of the things on the list was that I wanted to see the Northern Lights, turns out so did my mum so off we went!

If you’ve ever looked into a trip to the northern end of Europe, you’ll know it is an expensive place to visit and after some research, we found that doing a 6 day voyage on the Hurtigruten around Norway was the same cost as spending three days in Iceland and there was more chance of actually seeing those lights, so off we went!

I’ve never been on a cruise before, so I didn’t really know what to expect, while Hurtigurten do have cruise shops, the MS Vesteralen is more of a ferry, it’s a small boat, there are no tvs and no entertainment, the scenery outside the boat is all the entertainment you need, that might not be everyone’s idea of a great holiday, but I loved it! It was a unique way to visit the country and I got to see so many beautiful places and scenery and of course, the northern lights!

Let’s start from the beginning:
We flew from Heathrow to Oslo and then to Bergen, some of the other people we met on the ship told us that they had flown to Oslo and then gotten the train to Bergen and that sounded like a much more picturesque journey – so if you decide to do something similar and get the option to ride the train – do it! As we had assisted boarding, the lovely lady helping us pointed out some Norwegian celebs that were hanging out at our gate – so that was pretty exciting!

Anyway, the adventure actually started in Bergen, where we boarded the ship. Bergen was a very wet and grey place, I would love to see it in the summer! The little houses around the port were beautiful!

The ship left at 10.30 in the evening and being someone that had previously suffered from sea sickness, my mum made me wait up until we disembarked and I’m so glad she did! The scenery as we were pulling out of Bergen was incredible!

The following morning I stood on deck and watched the sun come up, it was amazing!

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One of the great things about travelling on the Hurtigurten is that because it is more of a ferry than a cruise, it docks several times during the day, giving you plenty of chances to see and explore the different ports, we saw so much of Norway by doing it this way! Our long stop was at Alesund which was such a pretty place! I wish I could have seen it during sunshine! After the city burnt down, it was rebuilt in an art deco style leaving some incredible buildings!

We also visited Molde, which had some fabulous Christmas lights and later that night, we had a trip to Kristiansund. The town was named after the Danish King at the time, it was originally named after a waterfall even though it didn’t have one until 1992, by which time it had a completely different name!

One thing I noticed throughout the trip was that there were trolls everywhere! These guys were so strange! But also seeking them out at every port became a game that I took a little too seriously!

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Our third day on the voyage was the day of our first excursion – the Hurtigurten offers excursions at all their longer port stops which can be booked before you set sail or on the boat. We booked two prior to boarding, but if I were to go on a trip with them again, I’d wait until I was on the ship, not only are they cheaper on board, but you also get much better information. Our first excursion was a city walk around Trondheim (apparently one of Europe’s best destinations!), when we booked up, we selected the city walk, which was listed as a level 2 excursion, over the tour and cathedral trip. When we disembarked, we found that the excursion we were on was a two hour walk around the city, plus entrance to the cathedral, the other tour was the same thing but on a bus – as my mum has mobility issues, it would have been better. That’s not to say we didn’t have a great time – Trondheim is beautiful!

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While we were there, a NATO exercise was going on which was a bit exciting though also a little disconcerting – what do they need to practice?! Our tour included a visit to the royal residents (which the royals apparently can’t afford to live in), a trip across a lucky bridge and entrance into the most incredible cathedral. While we were there choir practice was going on – it was such a special thing to experience! Later in the day, we were invited to sit on deck or hot mussels and had the chance to see Norway’s most beautiful lighthouse! I didn’t partake in any mussles for vegan reasons, but everyone else seemed to love them!

The very next morning, we crossed the Arctic Circle, which is marked by a globe – it was 7 am so super dark, but the crew shone some lights on it so I couldn’t not photograph the moment!

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How crazy is it that I was in the Arctic Circle and it was 10 degrees – that’s warmer than it was at home! There was no snow, they had to cancel a load of the excursions because you really can’t sled without snow!
When the snow came up a few hours later, we stopped in Ornes, which was so picturesque I’d have loved some more time there! Later in the day, the crew held an Arctic Crossing ceremony for the passengers which included ‘King Neptune’ and the Captain visiting us. The ceremony was King Neptune throwing ice over people, giving them alcohol and giving out certificates, it was very random!

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The journey onwards was very rough which meant dinner was a bit grim, sadly the weather took a turn for the worst which was a shame because we ended the day at Trollfjord, but it was pissing down which meant we couldn’t go down the fjord and we couldn’t really see it. I was looking forward to seeing it – it is a really imposing sight!

Luckily, the weather picked up for the next day when we visited Tromso which was easily my favourite place! Our second excursion was booked for Tromso and luckily, this one was on a bus! The trip included taking a cable car up a mountain giving a bird’s eye view of this beautiful city!

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Fun fact, the top of the cable car was a gym in pokemon go and I held it for a whole day!
Nerdery aside, I hadn’t expected to climb a mountain and have such a gorgeous view (like I said, the information we were given for booking the excursions was a bit rubbish – book them on the ship instead!). Once we were back on level ground, we were taken to the Arctic Cathedral which is a beautiful building, it would have looked incredible had there been snow on the ground! We also headed to Polaris, which is an exhibition of the scientific research that goes on in the Arctic. It was devastating seeing first hand the effects of global warming – I don’t want to get political here, I want to tell you about my trip – but the Polaris centre highlighted the plight of the polar bears, seals and more. Their research has shown that the world only needs to heat up by another two degrees for the whole of Greenland to melt. The fact that I was in the Arctic and didn’t need any of the thermal or winter wear that I had bought for the trip was so sad. It was eye opening and a sobering place to visit.

Later that night, the big event happened!
The whole trip was booked because we wanted to see the Northern Lights and sure enough at 11pm that night, the stars started shining, the sky cleared up and the Northern Lights appeared!

The whole sky didn’t go green like I thought it would but it was still one of the most mesmerising things I have ever seen! There were so many stars and I saw the Milky Way! I went to bed so very happy!!

Our final full day was to the North Cape – we chose not to do the trip because it was super expensive and again, it hadn’t snowed and visiting the actual arctic with no snow seemed a bit sad, especially after what we’d learned in Tromso. Another bittersweet moment happened that morning, the sun was shining – apparently, that is unheard of even in the summer.

We docked in Honnersvag, which is 71 degrees north so some of the other passengers could go to the North Cape. Honningsvag was very picturesque, especially as the sun started setting at 1.30 pm casting some absolutely gorgeous light over the place.

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The sun setting on deck was one of the most incredible things I had ever seen!

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After dark, we hit open sea which was AWFUL!
The sea was so rough we couldn’t actually stand up, things were falling over, dinner didn’t happen for me because lying down in the dark was pretty much the only thing I could do that afternoon. It was a shame because that night the Northern Lights were amazing, but it was too scary being out on deck and my mum, being the brave soul she is, was the only person who sat up on deck, she managed to grab this shot! I’m sad I missed it!

 

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Sadly, we were leaving the day after having reached the Russian border. We disembarked at Kirkenes and headed to the airport. It was the first time we saw proper snow for the first time!

I absolutely loved my time in Norway! It was so beautiful, I want to go back and do it again! Seeing the Northern Lights was such a moment and getting to go to places like Trondheim, Tromso and Alesund was amazing. I’d happily recommend doing the Hurtigurten as a way to get around the country – I’m going to have to start saving now!

Tips for travellers…

If you fancy going on a Hurtigurten ship, here are some things I’ve learned:

  • Don’t bother spending the extra on the tea and coffee package, you get free hot drinks at every meal and they are happy for you to bring your own travel kettles and make your own hot drinks in your cabin.
  • It is incredible expensive to eat and drink in Norway, so be prepared.
  • Onboard breakfast and lunch are buffet, you don’t get a choice for dinner, it is whatever it is, one night the options were reindeer and cod’s tongue. I ordered vegan food, but again you only get what they give you, one day I got served cold tofu which hadn’t even been seasoned. So, if you’re worried about the menus, fill up at lunch and breakfast!
  • Book your excursions on the ship, they’re cheaper and you get better information about what the trips actually are.
  • Stay on deck as much as possible – the scenery is amazing!
  • Explore everywhere

Norway is an amazing country, the Hurtigurten are a great company and this was one of the best trips I have ever been on!

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