I promised you more tales of Nordic adventure…well, here we go! Last week was the second full-week study break at DIS, and since I wasn’t traveling with my class this time, I had the whole week free. I spent the first few days of the break in Copenhagen getting work done, and then I headed off to Norway!
When the plane arrived in Tromsø, it was around 2 p.m., but the sun was already setting! I got a window seat, so I saw some breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains as we landed.
I had a few hours to spend wandering around Tromsø, so I visited a beautiful church, an incredible public library, and the Polar Museum. Tromsø is a gorgeous city, with snow-covered mountains towering all around it. I wished I had more time to spend there, but I was glad I fit in so many things in a couple of hours.
Soon, it was time to board the MS Richard With, which would be my home for the next day and a half! This was my first time going on a real cruise. The boat was so luxurious! I balanced out the luxury by eating instant noodles instead of fancy cruise food, to save money.
I slept in the cozy cabin pictured above, and woke up in the morning ready to spend a whole day on the ship. As it turned out, though, I was lucky enough to get to disembark for a while to go on a hike! The ship stopped for a couple of hours in a town called Honningsvåg, way up at pretty much the northernmost point of Europe. The town was gorgeous!
Even better, the stop was during the rare daylight hours, so I could actually see my beautiful surroundings!
I checked the AllTrails app to find a nearby trail, and off I went! The trail took me up above Honningsvåg to an amazing view of the town and the surrounding ocean, and then it took me back down to a small lake. It felt so refreshing to be completely alone, in the cold mountain air, surrounded by beauty. I’d definitely say that this hike was my favorite part of the whole trip to Norway.
When I got back on the ship, I was ready for a cozy afternoon and evening doing absolutely nothing. I made myself a cup of tea and sat and crocheted for hours and hours, occasionally watching an episode of a TV show on my phone (it was too dark to see anything outside, unfortunately). It was lovely to crochet and listen to all of the conversations going on around me, many of which were in French, German, and Spanish. I even had a short conversation with a fellow passenger in German, and I was proud of how well I was able to speak!
After a while, I was ready to move around a little bit, so I worked up the courage to go outside in the freezing wind wearing only shorts, and I got into the hot tub! Yes, there was a hot tub on deck!
I had a great time enjoying the contrast between the icy air and the soothing, warm water. It was so nice, though, that I stayed in the tub too long and made myself dizzy. That’s when I knew it was time to get out and go to bed in my cozy cabin.
In the morning, the ship arrived at its final destination: Kirkenes. It was snowing when we got there, and everything looked magical. Here’s what the MS Richard With looked like:
I won’t bore you with too many details of my time in Kirkenes…in fact, I was pretty bored for some of my time there. It’s a small-ish town (though much bigger than I had expected!) and there’s not too much to do. I’ll share a few highlights, though.
The first day I was there, I really enjoyed spending some time in the public library. It was too cold and snowy to be outside for very long, so the library was a great place to curl up and finish the book I’d brought with me: Wuthering Heights.
On my second day in Kirkenes, I used the first hour or so of daylight to walk around and see the town. I met an adorable cat which seemed to love the snow! It was very friendly and even let me pick it up!
After walking around for a bit, I visited the Borderland Museum. This town is really close to both the Russian and the Finnish borders, so there’s a lot of interesting history about how Norwegians, Sámi, Russians, and Finns have interacted in the past. Due to its apparently strategic location, Kirkenes was also bombed heavily during WWII. The museum has exhibits about all of this, as well as an exhibit of the work of Sámi artist John Savio. I loved Savio’s work, especially his woodcuts, and have added him to my mental list of artists I admire.
The museum also had a small café where I got waffles and hot chocolate!
Unfortunately, I was starting to feel pretty sick at this point. I’m not sure if it was a stomach bug, poor diet, or a combination of both, but I ended up feeling icky for my last few days in Norway.
Finally, I took a taxi to my coolest (literally!) destination of the trip: the Kirkenes Snowhotel! This is a hotel where you can sleep in a room entirely made of ice. It was awesome! Luckily, though, they also had some nice lounge areas connected to the hotel’s restaurant, where I was able to rest, enjoy limitless tea and hot chocolate, and read. And that’s pretty much what I did for a day and a half, since I wasn’t feeling up to much else! Alas, though…with Wuthering Heights finished, and no other books available, I read the hotel’s copy of New Moon from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, from start to finish. It was…entertaining, I guess?
The hotel served a fancy dinner, which I tried my best to enjoy despite an upset stomach. Then I went to bed in my ice room, tucked inside a warm sleeping bag!
Though I spent most of the next day lying around and reading, I did manage to go on a short walk near the hotel. The 1:30-ish sunset over the water was gorgeous, especially with the moon already hanging low in the sky.
Plus, I got to see the hotel’s husky team and two reindeer!
One last pleasant thing happened on this trip before I left Kirkenes. I had given up hope of seeing the Northern Lights, since it had been pretty cloudy most of the nights I’d been in Norway. But when I was on the way to the airport with one other Snowhotel guest, the aurora borealis appeared in the sky! The driver stopped so that we could get out, look at the lights, and take some pictures. I saw the Northern Lights for such a brief time, but they were truly beautiful, and I’m so glad that the driver stopped for us. This is my favorite photo I took, since I got both the Northern Lights and the Big Dipper in the same shot!
The rest of the trip wasn’t quite so pleasant; I had to sleep overnight in the Oslo airport, and I got sick on the plane from Oslo to Copenhagen. Somehow, I made it back to my apartment here in Copenhagen, where I basically just lay in bed for the next 2 days. Now that I’m feeling healthy again, though, it’s nice to look back on the positive parts of my trip to Norway. Though I was admittedly pretty miserable for a good portion of the trip, I did get to do and see some amazing things, so I’m glad I went. This trip definitely used up all of my travel energy, though…so I don’t think I’ll be taking any more big trips anytime soon!
Thanks for reading!