Our trip to the Norwegian Fijord started in Kirkenes, where we flew in from Oslo. It is located in the Northern part of Norway, only fifteen miles from the Russian Border. What most surprised us when we got there were the signs written in Russian. Kirkenes is located close to Murmansk and there is a visa-free zone between Russia and Norway where people can visit each other. When we lived in Riga, Latvia was part of the former Soviet Union. We were taught in the Russian language in school and learned that Murmansk was a place where political prisoners were sent to camps. If we had more time in Kirkenes, we would take a bus ride to see Murmansk. But we came here just for a day.
The next morning, we boarded the ship belonging to the Hurtigruten Cruise Line, to begin our journey from Kirkenes to Bergen along the Norwegian Fjords. The same company can take you on Arctic and Antarctic Expeditions. In Wikipedia I found out that “Geologically, a fjord or fiord in English is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created by glacial erosion.” (I also learned that as a first name, Fjord translates to a very idealistic and generous person, with a strong desire to uplift humanity leading to the expression to serve others). Until 1926, Kirkenes was jointly occupied by Norway and Russia when the borders among Russia, Finland and Norway were set. It was the place that was most bombed by the Russians during World War Two. One of the local tourist attractions is a visit to the vast underground bunker built during World War Two, which provided shelters to the town’s residents.
Today the town is a tourist destination all year round, for those who want to take a cruise, see The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), or take a dog led sled drive in the winter, when you can visit the Kirkenes Snowhotel, the coolest hotel in the world. We stayed at the Thon Hotel Kirkenes, located on the bank of the river with very calming water and the view of the entrance into the Fjord. The food in town was very good. In our hotel’s restaurant there were two specials: jumbo crab, which is five times bigger than the one you can get in San Francisco (one of the local attractions is the “Jumbo Crab Safari” where you can catch your own crab monster) and reindeer meat. Reindeer are owned and herded by the local Sami people. Since I did not eat either of those local specialties, my choice was the Norwegian salmon, which for obvious reasons was much fresher and tastier than the ones we buy at Costco. In the next few weeks you will be able to read more stories about our journeys through Norway.
P.S. We were in Kirkenes during the “white nights”. The sunset started at about 8pm, and after 10pm it was still light out, as you can see from the gorgeous sunset I photographed through our hotel window. When I woke up at about 3am, the sky was already lit and covered with clouds. In the morning, the drizzling rain made the scenery look even more dramatic. Soon we bordered our ship, which you can see approaching Kirkenes. Five beautiful panoramic images, which I am sharing with you, were a good start for our journey.
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