Category Archives: Norway

Day 11: Longyearbyen

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We were in bed far too late last night. It was after ten that the kids finally got to sleep and closer to 11:30 for me. It made getting up in time for breakfast and our tour a bit of a challenge. I had a more difficult time sleeping for some reason. There were no blackout curtains and it was brighter than it had been thus far. There didn’t seem to be much differentiation between day and night. At least further south the sun dipped behind the mountains so the light wasn’t as direct.

We had breakfast and then waited for our Maxi Taxi to pick us up at 10am. It was a 2 hour tour around the city pointing out all of the buildings, mines, some facts and some humour.

There was so much to learn about Svalbard and so much to see in 2 hours.

Here are a few interesting facts:
* The town was founded by an American, John Longyear.

* The buildings are built on stilts. Due to the permafrost everything has to be built up on stilts. If you were to build on the permafrost the heat from the building would melt the ground and cause it to move.

* Snowmobiles (snow scooters) are widely used here when there is snow. There are more snowmobiles than people, something like 4000 of them for a population of around 2300. There is no road network between settlements and it is by far the easiest way to get around.

* The sun sets on 25 October and rises again on 8 March for total darkness. On the flip side, there is midnight sun from late April to late August.

* You can’t have a cat as a pet due to the fragile birdlife in Svalbard. You also can’t keep your polar dogs at home, you have to keep them at the dog center on the edge of town.

* Polar bears. Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land share a Polar Bear population of 3000. If you leave the outskirts of town you must carry a rifle and know how to use it. But if you are in the town with your guns you must check them at the door of shops.

* Arctic Terns nest on the ground and will attack you. You must carry a long orange pole above your head if you are going past the breeding grounds and even then they will try to attack the sticks and your head and poo on you! We know this from experience.

* There is a hospital in Svalbard but they don’t have specialized services, those have to be done in Tromsø, a flight away from Svalbard. They do have fiber optic wire and specialists available in case of emergency. Also, pregnant women fly to Tromsø a few weeks before they are due, but can deliver in Longyearbyen in case of early birth.

We drove all around the town then up into the mountains near the operating mine. There were several times we got out to take in the views. We also stopped at the church but didn’t stay inside long because there was a Sunday service happening.

Once we were done with the tour we asked the driver to recommend a good place for lunch and then to drop us there rather than at the hotel. He recommended Kroa. We were the first people in for lunch. The kids shared a burger and fries, Tom had the same and I ordered a chicken sandwich. After lunch we had a wander through the town into some shops and around. The kids and Tom got new shirts. We also picked up a couple of little souvenirs.

We wandered our way back to the hotel discussing trying to join an afternoon activity. The kids just weren’t going to make it, especially Alex who seems very tired today. We went back to our room and rested for a while, organized bags and when the kids started fighting too much we decided to go back out. Our first stop was the Svalbard Museum just out the door from our hotel. This was an unexpected delight. It was very well done, so colorful and with displays the kids enjoyed. There were displays about animals, mining, weather, glaciers, Svalbard history, old artifacts, and so on. In the true Svalbard tradition we either had to remove our shoes or wear protectors over the top. No wonder the wood floors are still beautiful. This was a option in the hotel as well but it seemed that a majority of people ignored it.

Early the same morning Tom had gone for a walk on the outskirts of the city only to be attacked by some birds but didn’t really know why. The tour guide explained to us that Arctic Terns nested down there and that we needed to carry the poles above our heads and that the birds would only attack the sticks. We returned to that same area to have a walk and carried the poles but the birds persisted. Several of them were flying at us. One flew right into Tom’s head and pooed on him. Same thing happened to Sofia! At that point we aborted our walk and headed back up toward the hotel.

The kids had peanut butter sandwiches and carrots for dinner and then off to bed. Alex was so tired he fell asleep at 7:30, Sofia didn’t get to sleep until much later. She finally got settled into bed and then had a bloody nose which ate up more time. Our flight leaves at 4:40am. The airport shuttle bus comes to the hotel at 3:00am and breakfast is served at 2:30am. Tom and I plan to get up at 1:30 and then get the kids up at 2.

Let’s see how this goes. Two flights. Longyearbyen to Oslo then on to Hamburg, Germany.

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Day 10: Tromsø to Longyearbyen, Svalbard

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Today was more of a relaxation/regrouping day. We have been on the go nearly non-stop for days now. We got up in the morning and lazed about a bit before going down to breakfast. This was followed by a walk around town. Our flight to Svalbard is at 6:40pm so we asked for a 4pm checkout. We returned to the room and sorted our bags for our flights. Because it is a few degrees cooler up on Svalbard so we needed to make sure we had some warmer things in our carry-on luggage. We had a late lunch at Pastafabrikken–pizza and lasagne.

After lunch we checked out and stored our bags before walking over to get the car in the underground parking area. We picked up our luggage and drove over the bridge to see the Arctic Cathedral, the cable car (passed on this one today due to the outflow of money) and then just a quick tour around town before heading to the airport.

At Tromsø Airport we returned the car and checked in our bags. The kids played in the children’s area and then snacked on carrots and Icelandic Skyr.

We flew from Tromsø to Longyearbyen on SAS. It took 1.5 hours. Sofia and I sat together and Alex and Tom sat together in the row behind us.

We landed in Longyearbyen and collected our bags and then boarded the shuttle bus to the Radisson SAS for 60kr per adult. We found out an interesting tidbit about our hotel. It was built for the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. When the Olympics were over they dismantled the hotel, shipped it here and rebuilt it.

After checking into the hotel we had a little walk around town. A man was walking two polar dogs (Husky or Malamute?) and stopped for a chat. He was a miner who had come to Svalbard only one month ago. Sofia loved giving the dogs attention. Because it was getting very late we decided to call it a night and get the kids to bed since we had a10am Maxi Taxi tour scheduled. Tom slept on the pull-out bed, I slept on the top bunk and the kids slept together on the larger bottom bunk. There were no blackout shades/curtains and it was brighter here than it had been anywhere so far in Norway.

We are looking forward to having a look around tomorrow and already wishing we had more time here!

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Day 9: Tennevoll to Tromsø

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Today we travel from our little cabin near Tennevoll to Tromsø, the second largest city north of the Arctic Circle. Because we are not far from our destination we decided to take a detour and drive out to the island of Senja, the second largest island in Norway. It is meant to be diverse and beautiful. Why not? It did not disappoint! The fjords, mountains and rivers were as magnificent as any we have seen so far.

World’s Largest Troll (we didn’t pay to go inside $$$$):

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Bergsbotn:

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Lunch in Hamn i Senja:

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A lake with ice:

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Tungeneset:

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There were deserted beaches, craggy rocks, waterfalls and on and on. I don’t even know where the day went. So much to take in. We had to catch a ferry from Botnhamm to Brensholmen or drive all the way around. We missed the 3:15 ferry but made the 5:00 one.

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This would take us to the island of Kvaløya. Part of Tromsø sits on this island. The rest of it on Tromsøya (øya is the ending for island). The ferry was a pleasant ride. We didn’t see any sea life aside from the usual birds. We had a quick bite to eat before heading over to our hotel. We debated whether or not to take the cable car but the kids were done for the day so off to our hotel. Trims has an interesting underground system of roads with roundabouts and even car parks. Love it. We checked into the Radisson Blu in the city centre. Tom went to park the car and I took the kids up to get ready for bed.

Tom went out late last night to watch the Hurtigruten ferry come in (this is part of the coastal ferry system we took last year) and to catch the sun at midnight.

Tomorrow we will spend the day exploring Tromsø and then take an evening flight from here to Longyearbyen up on Svalbard .

Day 8: Nyvågar to Tennevoll

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Today was another of those days that it didn’t seem like we did much. There was a bit of driving (so we don’t have to do so much tomorrow). Let me back up. We packed up our bags this morning and said goodbye to our cottage at Nyvågar Rorbuhotell and its majestic surroundings. We didn’t drive away until 11am. Our journey today will take us back on to the mainland after being on the Lofoten Islands. The area is remote with very little in the way of towns. What made up for that was the waterfalls, mountains, snow-covered mountainsides, fjords, lakes and so on. We made one stop along a beach with snow-covered mountains in the distance. We skipped rocks and picked up sea urchins, scallop shells and all sorts of other treasures. The kids loved it! Our next stop was to use the toilet and have a snack. The moment we stepped in the shop Sofia had a strange look on her face and it was all I could do to get her outside to be sick. Car sickness. We sat in the grass on the edge of a river taking in the fresh air. She was fine to get back in the car and had no trouble the rest of the way.

Our accommodation tonight is one of the more rustic places we will stay. There isn’t much choice around this area so Tom booked us a cabin at a camper park. It is actually really cute and has beautiful mountains all around. But it is also one of those places that doesn’t even supply you with a bar of soap and you have to hire sheets and towels.

I took the kids to play at the playground for a while and then we all decided to find some dinner. After driving through some villages we realised we better stick to dinner at our place…nothing else around us. Tom and I ordered salmon, potatoes and salad. Alex and Sofia shared a hamburger. Sofia ordered meatballs. When it arrived she wanted to know where was the spaghetti?! She did try a few bites but skipped the stewed (mushy) peas, cranberries and potato. I shared some salmon with the kids since I got so much of it. Ice cream for dessert.

The kids showered while Tom made up the bunk beds for everyone. They got ready for bed and went to sleep around 10. It is now 10:20 and I am looking out the window at the snow-covered mountains across the highway. The sun is still shining brightly and we don’t have blackout curtains tonight.

Day 7: Storvågar, Nyvågar, Kabelvåg and around

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Epic sleep for us all. Tom struggled to stay asleep, getting up several times this morning. The kids and I slept until almost 9am! That was 11 hours of sleep for them and 9.5 for me. Wow. That doesn’t mean their behavior has improved. Perhaps some time apart might help? We are not used to all spending so much time together coupled with jet lag, lack of sleep and whatever else.

After breakfast Tom went into Svolvær to see about an adapter (success) and something for Alex’s birthday. I took the kids to the Lofoten Aquarium right next to the hotel. It is a small aquarium but nice for the kids to have a look around without losing interest. We saw seals, salmon farming, tanks of local fish, starfish, anemones, crabs and so on. There was also a display about co-existing, people with animals and industry, etc.

We met back at the cottage and had a little party for Alex’s 4th birthday. Tom got some little cupcakes and a card and gift (model ambulance) for Alex. It must be hard to have a birthday without friends, a party or gifts. He will have a party and some gifts when we get back home next month.

After getting organized and getting everyone in the car Alex declared, “I am sick!” Tom left with Sofia and I took Alex back to the cottage for some relaxation. He has a really runny nose and some red spots in his mouth. No idea what is wrong with him. He is sitting on the sofa playing the iPad with a sick bag near him but now doesn’t feel sick anymore. Naturally. I was happy to sot and finish up a book I had started.

Alex and I were feeling bored and decided to go out for a walk. We walked past the aquarium and stopped near the museum to look at the pretty horse that wanders in the field there. After a little pat we continued on down the road which has very little to see and do. Alex asked me to call daddy since it had been three hours since he left with Sofia. They were on their way back and said they would be only about 10-15 minutes so we waited by the side of the road. Alex was happy to watch a few cars go by and just chat. They picked us up and we made a quick stop back at the cottage before heading out for a couple of hours again.

We drove through the little village of Kabelvåg to have a look around since it is the closest little area. There weren’t many eating choices so we went up the road to the larger Svolvær. This was a great little place for dinner. Things stay open later in these villages. The Hurtigruten ferries come in day and evening which, I imagine, brings extra business. In the square was a stall set up selling Norwegian sweaters so we let the kids each pick one for themselves. Sofia chose red and white and Alex chose white and black (what was I thinking?)

After dinner we stopped back into the Coop in Kabelvåg for a few supplies and headed back to our cottage since it was already past 8pm. The kids didn’t end up in bed until almost 9:30 again! I want to stay out and enjoy the perfect sunshine at 10pm. In fact, it is 11pm now and I am sitting at the table looking at the beautiful mountains and water out in front of here. The sun barely dips behind the mountains so it isn’t providing as much heat as much as it is providing bright light still. I find myself feeling so awake and resisting bedtime like a little child.

I have just washed up the last load of dirty clothes at 50NOK/load. I don’t even want to talk about what that costs in $$$. At least we have clean clothes for the next week and more. Tomorrow will be about three and a half hours of driving with many stops along the way to get to our next hotel. I stayed up to get our bags organized so we aren’t messing around in the morning trying to get ready. Sleeping in is really a bad thing for us right now. In the wee wee hours of Monday morning we have a 4:40am flight. I don’t even want to think about that. And it is a tricky day having to connect in Oslo going on to Hamburg. The connection will require us to pick up our bags in Oslo and then go all the way to check-in and start over again. In one hour.

I am working on getting some photo to put up here hopefully in the next few days.