Sunday, 18 November 2012

Kirkenes and Homeward Bound

We arrived in Kirkenes after breakfast and left the ship for the final time. We boarded a coach and were taken to a viewing point above the town. There had been snow over night so it was really lovely to be travelling through a fresh snowfall up through the mountains to a great vantage point. It was still only half light, so many of the houses had their welcome lights shining in the windows – I really love this Norwegian tradition of hanging small lights or candles in the windows and am hoping to do the same in our house when I get home – it just looks so lovely and I was busy peering into all the houses on our journey and planning how I might be able to apply the same scheme to our home without it looking a bit naff!

We had another knowledgeable guide in the shape of Thomas – he told us all about the roles of both tin mining and the tourism trade in the area and took us to the Russian border where we took photos and looked at the lovely babushka dolls in the small gift shop. The image below was taken from Norway looking across to Russia.

Coming back towards the town of Kirkenes, Thomas told us about the recent history of the town, explaining that it was taken over by Nazi soldiers during WW2 due to its proximity to Russia. The soldiers virtually destroyed the town during their occupation and the locals hid out in the tin mines. It was the Russians who liberated them towards the end of the War and to whom there is a memorial of thanks within the town.

At lunch time we went to the Gabba restaurant which is situated a couple of kilometres outside of Kirkenes. The restaurant is shaped like a Sami tent, but built in a Russian style of pine and timber. The restaurant is cicular and surrounds a central open fire where the cooking is done. We had home made soup and fresh bread followed by rum laced chocolate cake – one thing this trip hasn’t been kind on is my waistline! Thomas (our guide) also runs the restaurant and owns some lovely reindeer, including a rare white one who we got to see. Apparently seeing a white reindeer is bad luck so I guess we are all in for a tough time – perhaps the bad luck is that we have to go home tomorrow!

Back at the hotel the group continued to knit, whilst others made the most of the reliable wifi connection (which has been more than a bit sporadic on the ship) and updated their emails and messages.

The skies are not clear tonight and it looks like we may have a bit more snow. The likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights again tonight is slim – but we were treated to such an amazing show last night that we don’t really mind. Our wonderful Norwegian Lights trip is all but over and within the next few days we all have to sort out our body clocks and get them used to a bit more daylight. Debra is travelling back to Australia at the end of the week so she will be catapulted into the heat of summer down under and so will be faced with huge amounts of sunshine! Spending the week living in so much darkness has had a soporific effect on many of us and we have even found ourselves discussing bed time from lunch time onwards. In fact we had a good laugh at my proposal that one of my blog posts could have simply been ‘Had breakfast and watched the sun go down!’