Thursday, 10 December 2015

(almost) to Russia with love

Norway Wednesday 2 December 2015

Fabulous sleep last night - cabin bed super comfy and the rolling waves rocked me into a sound sleep
So here we are at the top of the world!  Well of Europe anyway - and just 7 short miles from the Russian border having ventured into the Barents Sea.
This is Kirkenes and off we go on the slippery slope to explore . . .
under a sky leaden with snow
and loads of prettily lit houses all decorated for Christmas
 on we trudge towards the Sentrum of town
 and loving the local transport
 We enjoy a walk about the local streets
finally huddled for warmth in the churchyard
 but no chance to see inside, all locked up
 although this was a welcome sign
and we only hit on THE most fabulous bakery, the Amundsen Cafe with amazingly good coffee
 but it was soon back to the snow and ice 
 to reach the boat before sailing time
 safely aboard

while we were all wrapped up we took a turn around the open air swimming pool - steamy from the hot air from the heated water hitting the freezing air from the sea
 no way are we venturing in though
beautifully elegant 
 so it's farewell to Kirkenes
It had been getting darker as we walked back to the boat and by the time we sailed at 12.45pm it was dark
And it was snowing softly and the sky was still heavy with snow so not expecting any lights tonight . . .
 a soft hoot from the funnel and off we go. . .
Our next port of call (ha ha, literally) was Vardo - a small town with a perfectly in tact star shaped fort
Vardohus Festning and as we have an hour here, we wrapped up again and walked out to see it.  Someone's done a great blog post on the history of the fort, which is far better than any Wiki summary: The World's Northernmost Fortress - Vardøhus Festning

 a fabulously hairy grass roof
Back on the boat we had some tasty soup and watched an interesting film on the Pomor trade in northern Norway (Russian settlers in Finnmark).
But no sooner had we started to relax then we had another call to arms - 5pm and the aurora was visible again.  So it was a quick tog up again into warm clothes and out on deck, amid much excitement.  All the stars were visible right down to the horizon and the milky way was incredible.  Mike even saw a huge shooting star - appearing right between the Northern lights and the Milky Way! 
So I kept my coat and warm stuff with me at the dinner table, in case it returned.
Dinner tonight was Russian themed and I'm afraid to say the reindeer steaks were amazing!!  Sorry Rudolf!
Then bang on 9pm, as we were finishing off - it was an aurora alert again and out we shot into the night for another hour and a half - marvelling at all we saw. Not as distinctive as Monday night, but still incredible.  And again, those bright stars in the blackness of the sky.
Very windy and cold tonight  - but what a night - blackness, stars, aurora and snow capped mountains on all sides.  Totally amazing and beautiful.

If you want to read on to our return along the coast to Hammerfest and Tromsø - click here

Or if you've missed the start of our sea adventure - then just click here to go back to Monday

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