Friday, 13 April 2012

Norway Notebook

I booked online, early one morning, several months ago, on impulse, in response to an unsolicited email to travel on the Norway 'Fast Route' (Hurtigruten) mailboat service that plies daily from Bergen in the south to a port in the Arctic circle near the Russian border. About a week ago I got cold feet about the trip. What on earth was I thinking? I hate snow. At this time of year, my heart leaps at the sight of daffodils, leaves appearing on trees and every prospect of spring. I realised with a sinking heart that I was actually going to be travelling backwards through the seasons into late winter. I wondered out loud if the company would give me a rain check to - say - June. But a combination of fatalism and inertia led me to board a plane yesterday for Bergen. At the last minute I put my insulated winter boots in the case. We boarded the mailboat yesterday afternoon and the news is: I'm glad I came. The scenery is spectacular, the weather is fine and the route is wonderful. Like the west coast of North America and Scotland, there are islands that we weave among, as well as fjords that penetrate extraordinarily far into the interior. The boat - one of a fleet of twelve vessels of varying ages and sizes, is named after the founder, in 1893, of the fast marine mail service, Richard With. Like on a plane, there are screens dotted around the ship showing where we have got to. For a small outlay, you can buy an insulated mug that you can refill at any time with coffee or tea from dispensers on every deck. This morning at 6.30am they were opening up the jacuzzis at the stern on my deck, and I regret not bringing my bathing suit. The food suits my taste: Scandanavian, healthy, buffet-style. In a moment of madness, last night I bought a wine deal that entitles me to a different wine every day to go with the dinner menu. This afternoon we dock in Alesund, rebuilt entirely in 1904, following a fire, in the Art Nouveau style. Time for a coffee....

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