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Published: October 28th 2009
The ship takes six days to go from Bergen to Kirkenes. Along the way it crosses the Arctic Circle at 67degrees N and passes Nordkapp or North Cape, a point in past days known equally as the end of the Earth or the beginning thereof and a part of the territory occupied by the only indigenous peoples left in Europe.
MS Nordkapp stopped at Honningsvaag. From here the tour bus travelled north in latitude and up in altitude to 71 10' 21", a distance of 34km and passed thru Sami territory .
Samiland, formerly called Lapland, stretches across the northern reaches of Russia, Finland, Sweeden and Norway. Evidence of ten thousand years of settlement have been discovered.
An attempt had been made to obliterate this culture, forbidding the speaking of the language and burning the drums used by Shamans ... sound familiar?
In total 80,000 Sami remain. Once again they nurture their own language, music, art and handicrafts. There are 35,000 Sami in Norway and ½ of these still herd reindeer and eat a concentration of reindeer and salmon. Lavvus is the name of the Sami tent made out of reindeer skin. Also the britches the men wear
are made of leather.
Before reaching the ultimate goal of Nordkapp the bus stopped at a Sami tent. Beside the tent was tethered an albino reindeer, its antlers molting and looking most painful. Who knew there would be dripping blood? Inside the tent a fire burned. A Sami man in traditional dress which is worn at all times stood patiently beside his moss/lichen eating reindeer enduring the many cameras pointed at him, his reindeer and the tent. A little ways away a wooden rectangle housed a souvenir shop containing some old time clothes and kitchen utensils, handmade felt slippers, knitted hats and mittens and the inevitable made in china 'stuff'.
Once reaching that elusive most northern point and descending from the bus we were assaulted by a fierce wind. An Englishman,Richard Chancellor drifted around the point in 1533 and named it. OscarII, king of Norway and Sweeden climbed from his boat, up the scraggy cliff to the top plateau in 1873. Today the buses come and deposit tourists in relative comfort to see sculptures designed by children, have their picture taken under the steel globe and drink cocoa in Cafe Kompasset.The North Cape Hall has been blasted into
the interior of the plateau ... from the cliffs edge I am thinking. The bus stops at a surface entrance and then one descends into the exhibition halls and movie theatre. A lovely chapel is housed in a cave under the restaurant.
After being tossed and hurled about by the wind, covered in wet snow and rained upon by ice pellets and rainbow rays we leave to return to Honningsvaag.
This town, as well as others along the coast of Norway, suffered terribly during WWII. Every house and building in every settlement in North Norway was destroyed in 1944/45 as Hitler's pulled back from the Russian Front. Pre war structures area almost non-existant. Some replicas have been built to give people an idea how it may have looked before the destruction.
Forced evacuation of whole towns left areas desolate. Some refused to evacuate and livedin mine tunnels and caves. 3.000 lived in iron ore mine tunnels in Kirkenes. Here the last stop of the MS Nordkapp,Norway touches the Russian border for 122km. Kirkenes was bombed 300 timesand totally destroyed..
Today Kirkenes is once again thriving. After the mine closure in 1996 the town depended on tourism
and ship repair. The mine has been bought and reopened by an Argentinian firm.
Some passengers left the boat here and new passengers came on board. All along the way people used the easy method of travelling from place to place ... put the are in the hold, book a cabin and relax. One woman I spoke with would have had to undertake a 10 hour journey to visit her new grandchild. By taking the MS Nordkapp she only had to drive two hours to reach her home inland from the coast.
The coast of Norway is 21.347kms long and could stretch from 0degrees N to 0degrees S ... North Pole to South Pole. The fjords were carved and gauged out by a series of 30 ice ages that slid over this part of the Earth.
The big ship only covered 6.262kms in distance ...times two...wonder if anyone has ever gone in and out of the whole 21.347 kms of fjords in a small sailboat or kajak or canoe? Wonder how long it would take?
At 11:45 the ship docked and the participants in the excursion to Nordkapp were chaffing at the bit to
get out and over the gangway to the buses that would take us all to our destination.
The bus ride was to be 34km. We all had to have our swipe card read. Each time anyone leaves or comes back to the ship the same security measure is employed. Even the local traffic passengers who may only travel from one stop to another have a similar card.
Two buses waited for us around the corner and a ways from the ship. I chose the German bus so that i would get more of a story and not have to listen to the same shorter info twice.
Protected on the sides by tall staves that will be visible in the deep snow to come, the road to the top winds around high rock outcroppings, trapped fresh water ponds, the tip of fjords, the occasional collection of summer cottages and a group of Sami homes.
Here the bus stopped. A molting reindeer with antlers bleeding (normal) was tied up beside a tent. A Soumi man in traditional dress which is worn every day stood quietly beside the beast. The two busloads of camera totting tourist descended
upon man and beast and the shutters clicked and the beast continued munching on lichen/moss. The man wore smooth leather pants a blue woven shirt and a four cornered hat. The two women in the shop also wore traditional clothes and they had on a red four cornered hat mush decorated with embroidered pattrerns in contrasting colours.
A representative tent had a fire burning inside and beside this scene was built a wooden hut within which could be found the souvenirs. There were some interesting letter openers made of deer leg bones, furry rabbit hats, felt slippers for exhorbitant prices and masses of other kitsch like plastic moose and reindeer.
Escaping without the urge to buy it was back on the bus for the last 20km to the top of Europe.
The Sami were ever nomads. Efforts to 'control' them included disallowing the use of their language and burning ceremonial drums used by the Shaman. Sami live in Norway, Finland and Russia. Today their number has been reduced to 80,000.
The Northern Lights were a bridge between the real and spirit world . People have been living here since the stone age. Stone drawings have been found
in the vicinity.
It was believed that the Earth ended ...or began here. In the 1800 visitors were already drawn to this 300m steep cliff rising up out of the sea. In the beginning the approach could only be made by sea. Once landed the visitors had to climb up 'stairs' that led to the top.
Today the road makes access much easier.
A very well done film shows the Nordkapp in all seasons. A unique christian chapel hewen out of the rock and fronted by a lovely blue mosaic can be visited. Candles burn on the rock shelves. A blue glass ceiling lends a spectre of cool calm. Once outside the chapel a descending walkway leads past dioramas which depict important early visitors ( kings and explorers).
It is possible to step outside and view the fjord as King Someone or Other saw it. The ever present gift shop offers it all including a copy of the fantastic film for $60. The restaurant offers hot drinks, cakes and a great view. The space can apparently be rented for important occasions!
Once outside a walk to the metal globe is a must. The wind was so strong
and the ice crystals so sherp that it felt like a thousand needles were penetrating the jean material. My face had to be hidden in the hood of my jacket. Love my Anarcrtyx! Gortex
In the two and a half hour the excursion took to complete, every possible weather condition described by the weather person on the evening news was encountered ... rain, fog, sleet, frigid wind, extremely strong wind, sun, rainbow, snow, hail ... everything but extreme heat!
On the way back the roads were coveredin snow. During the winter the people living here have spikes on their tires and if they doo not put spikes on their shoes they do the famous Norwegian sideways three step ... in other words walk on eggs because it is all slippery. Have already fallen once so I will be doing that dance too.
Tot: 4.549s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 11; qc: 59; dbt: 0.0738s; 3; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
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