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The Coastal Express

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S: The world's most beautiful voyage

FC: The world's most beautiful voyage

3: Hurtigruten: “The world’s most beautiful voyage”. It was Captain Richard With of the shipping company Vesteraalske Dampskibsselskab who initiated the Coastal Express amid much controversy. It was thought that it wouldn’t be possible to operate an express route all year round, least of all during the dark days of winter as only poor maps existed of the treacherous Norwegian coast. However a contract was signed between With and the government in May 1893. Initially there were weekly sailings to nine ports between Trondheim and Hammerfest in summer. In winter the ships stopped at Tromso. The Coastal Express became a lifeline for the communities along the route. Today Hurtigruten operates 11 ships with daily northbound and southbound departures. The cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes, calling at 34 ports, has been called “The world’s most beautiful voyage”. This book is a brief personal record of the 4,000 kilometre, 12 day journey from Bergen to Kirkenes and back again on the MS Nordnorge.

4: Day 1. Leaving Bergen through the Islands Bergen is Norway’s second city with a population of c240,000. The timing of the flight to Bergen left no time to tour the city; however Bergen being a key shipping port for trade and cruises meant there was still a lot to see. Our route took us past Askoy Island and the Oygarden chain of islands.

8: Day 2. Floro, Maloy, Torvik, Alesund, Geiranger, Alesund & Molde Our first excursion was to see the Geiranger Fjord, 100km long and known as “The pearl of the Norwegian fjords”. Queen Sonja and King Harold celebrated their silver wedding at one of the fjord's farms. The fjord is a UNESCO world heritage site.

12: Alesund: (Pop c40,000) was destroyed by fire in 1904 and rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style, it is now an important fishing port. Alesund spans several islands linked by bridges.

15: Day 3. Kristiansund, Trondheim & Rorvik

16: Kjeungsaer lighthouse

20: Trondheim: (Pop c160,000) An organised walk gave us a great insight to Norway’s third largest town. Trondheim sits at the mouth of the river Nid. The islet of Munkholmen housing a monastery and a small fort is now a popular leisure and bathing destination.

25: Day 4. Bronnoysund, Sandnessjoen, Nesna, Ornes, Bodo, Stamsund, & Svolaer Crossed the Arctic Circle today! An excursion to the Svartisen glacier by boat, Norway’s second largest glacier, set in the Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park. Beautiful scenery. We sighted a number of sea eagles and a rainbow too.

28: MS Trollfjord

29: Bodo: (Pop c45,000) Capital of Nordland, a centre for trade and communication with a strong fishing industry and an engine factory.

30: Svolaer: (Pop c4,200) The capital of Lofoten has a significant fishing industry with annual catches of up to 50 million kilos of cod. | Stamsund: (Pop c1,000) One of Lofoton’s largest fishing villages with excellent quay facilities.

32: Trollfjord: is 2km long and only 100 metres wide, with sheer sides rising 1,000 meters on each side. We celebrated with a drink of “Trollfjordknert” as many of the passengers and crew celebrated into the early hours.

33: Day 5. Stockmarknes, Sortland, Risoyhamn, Harstad, Finnsnes, Tromso & Skjervoy

34: Harstad: (Pop c23,000) is the main town of the Vesteralen Islands. It flourished during the herring years, developed ship building and equipment manufacturing and is now the regional headquarters for oil exploration. Harstad hosts northern Norway’s cultural festival. | Trondenes medieval stone church c1250.

35: Arctic Circle Baptism: For those of us crossing into the Arctic for the first time we were subject to icy water down our back, applied by the captain and king Neptune. | From yesterday

36: Finnsnes: (Pop c5,000) The ship was met by children from the local kindergarten in preparation for tomorrow’s National Day celebrations. The town is known for its fishing equipment industry and shipyards.

37: Tromso: “The Paris of the North” (Pop c63,500) is the largest town in the polar region of Scandinavia. Tromso is a major junction for land sea and air traffic and is also an educational centre of the region with over 13,000 students and its culture reflects its predominantly young population. | The ship’s RIB was out today, filming the MS Nordnorge to update the Hurtigruten web site.

38: Tromsdalen church, known as the "Arctic Cathedral"

41: The land of the midnight sun.

42: Day 6: National Day Oksfjord, Hammerfest, Havoysund, Honningsvag, Kjllerfjord, Mehamn & Berlevag | National Day: The Norwegians are deeply patriotic and celebrate their national day in traditional folk costume and parade through the streets. Norway gained independence from Sweden in 1905. We celebrated National Day with the ship’s crew and the residents of the towns we visited. We also had a demonstration of how to prepare cod’s tongue, a Norwegian delicacy. | Finnkjerka cathedral, nature's architecture.

44: Hammerfest: (Pop c7,000) Hammerfest is regarded as the world’s most northerly town at 70 39’ 48” and was the first town in Norway to have electric street lighting and its own power station.

45: Havoysund: (Pop c1,400) is a traditional fishing village and the ship was greeted by the town’s brass band. | Honningsvag: (Pop c2,800) is the capital of the North Cape. Between 4,000 and 5,000 ships enter the harbour each year. The town invited the crew and passengers of MS Nordnorge to take part in its National Day parade.

47: More filming of the ship, this time by helicopter

48: Kjollefjord: (Pop c1,400) Another traditional fishing village and here too the ship was greeted by the town’s brass band.

49: Mehamn: (Pop 1,200) is a small fishing village which boasts mainland Europe’s northernmost hotel room (Room number 301).

51: Day 7. Batsfjord, Vardo, Vadso, Kirkenes, Vardo, Batsfjord & Berlevag Today we drove to the Russian border on Quad bikes, we donned our coveralls and helmets, had our instructions and off we went. It was great fun and an informative excursion.

53: Vardo: (Pop c2,700). Fishing and fish processing have been the town’s staple industries. Vardo also hosted NATO’s early warning systems during the cold war. | Kirkenes: (Pop c5,000) is located at the mouth of the Pasvikelva river which forms part of the border with Russia. Ice breakers are often used to open up the harbour. Kirkenes was a mining town but now the most important industries are trade with Russia, ship repairs and tourism.

54: Willem Barrent

56: Batsfjord: (Pop c2,400) has a sheltered harbour in the fjord and is one of the major catch landing centres for the Norwegian fishing industry.

57: Berlevag: (Pop c1,200) has several fishing industry plants and a ship building operation.

60: Day 8. Mehamn, Kjollerfjord, Honningsvag, Havoysund, Hammerfest, Oksfjord, Skjervoy & Tromso An early start as we ventured off to the North Cape, at 1,000ft above the Arctic Ocean it is at the very top of Europe. We were met by 50mph winds and lashing rain. We then visited a traditional Sami home.

62: The “Children of the World” monument exhibits themes of friendship, hope, joy, and working together; contributed by children from seven different countries. (Tanzania, Brazil, USA, Japan, Thailand, Italy and Russia).

64: Oksfjord: (Pop c800), the area has fish processing plants and a shipyard.

65: Skjervoy: (Pop c2,900) is a natural harbour situated between the mountains and deep fjords and is dependant upon the fishing industry.

66: Day 9. Finnsnes, Harstad, Risoyhamn, Sortland, Stockmarknes, Svolaer & Stamsund. Risoyhamn: (Pop c200) was a prosperous trading post in the 18th century.

67: Sortland: (Pop c4,600) is the main town of Vesteralen and is the headquarters of Norway’s coastguard.

68: Stockmarknes: (Pop c3,500) has fish and shrimp processing industries and is home to the Coastal Express Museum. This is where Richard With, the Coastal Express’ founding father established Vesteraalske Dampskibsselskab in 1881. | Richard With

70: The Lofoten Islands: Lofoten comprises of five large and many small islands and is known for its precipitous mountains which shelter the islands. We visited Henningsaer fishing village (Pop c750) to view a wonderful presentation of photographs of the area.

72: Day 10. Bodo, Ornes, Nesna, Sandnessjoen, Bronnoysund & Rorvik | Leaving the Arctic Circle ceremony: We each received a dose of cod liver oil followed by a sweet alcoholic shot to help wash it down.

73: Torghatten, the mountain with the hole, one of Norway’s best known natural phenomena.

74: Nesna: (Pop c950) A short stop at this former trading post.

75: Sandnessjoen: (Pop c7,500) has a variety of industries such as fishing, agriculture, trade and administration and bustling ferry traffic.

76: Bronnoysund: (Pop c5,000) A narrow and strategically situated harbour catering for all trade and fishing.

77: Rorvik: (Pop c3,800) Capital of the Vikna island group. A busy trading and shopping centre with services linked to shipping and sea life.

79: Day 11. Trondheim, Kristiansund, Molde & Alesund Breakfast was accompanied by four a cappella singers, yodelling and singing Norwegian folk songs. | Kristiansund: (Pop 17,000) is spread over three islands. The town has relied on various industries and is now the base for oil and gas development and operations.

82: The Atlantic Road: The Atlantic road is over 8km long and built on eight bridges and won the “Engineering Feat of the Century” in 2005. We visited Kvernes Stave church.

83: We sampled the traditional fish dish Bacalao and fresh bread.

84: Molde: (Pop 24,000) is home to many industries including furniture manufacturing. Molde is known locally as “the city of roses” and hosts an annual jazz festival and part of the town is known as little Dubai. | Alesund: Visited at midnight on the return journey.

86: Day 12. Torvik, Maloy, Floro & Bergen

87: Floro: (Pop 11,000) A relatively young town (founded 1860), involved in fish farming and is a supply base for the oil industry.

88: Bergen: Our journey ends here, where it started, at Bergen with our transfer to the airport for our flight home.

89: We have been stunned by the amazing scenery and seen the midnight sun, experienced exceptional Norwegian hospitality, celebrated Norway’s National Day and seen sea eagles and whales; all as part of the Hurtigruten Coastal Express.

90: Some of the friendly and helpful crew

91: MS Nordnorge: Gross tonnage: 11,386 Length: 123.3 mtrs Width:19.2 mtrs Pax: 691 12th to 23rd May 2012.

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  • By: Steve B.
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  • Title: The Coastal Express
  • A holiday to remember
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  • Published: about 4 years ago

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