Aboard at the Azamara Quest
Following our wet, cool and sunless cruise around the British Isles, our first day was spent transiting the North Sea on our way to Bergen, Norway. Awaking on our arrival, we found the weather has not changed and we look out our window to see the same gloom and dreariness as has been much of the preceding past two weeks. Not deterred, we walk the tourist infested, shop-lined harbor to relieve the boredom of our weather-bound imprisonment. (News Flash! The sun revealed itself in the afternoon enabling a pleasant walk through the Torget (Market), also known as the Kisketorvet (Fish Square), and a ride on the funicular to the top of Mount Floyen to view a panorama of Bergen. Perhaps as we sail further north towards the Arctic, we will be rewarded with clear skies to view the renowned Norway fiord beauty.
And now, the real trip begins with the exploration of the Norwegian coast with its many fjords and spectacular seascapes. Upon cruising the Aurlandsfjord surrounded by soaring waterfalls and majestic snowcapped mountain peaks we anchor off Flam to take the fabled Flam/Myrdal train which travels only 12 miles through 20 tunnels, rising over 2845 feet, an amazing engineering feat.
After a night of cruising further north, we stop briefly at Geiranger, the crowning glory among Norway’s fjords, illustrated by majestic snow-capped mountains, wild rushing waterfalls, and lush green vegetation, truly one of natures most beautiful panoramas.
After a day of cruising northward above the Arctic Circle, we again turn eastward to the coast and touch land at Svolvaer in the Lofoten Islands. The town, nestled below a mountain peak, has been home to hearty fisherman for hundreds of years and most recently as a destination for summer tourists. Lining the harbor entrance are former fishing huts, known as rob, now converted into cozy guest cabins. In scene from yesteryear, giant rocks are evident where cod and haddock were hung to air dry, a natural process free of any chemicals or salt.
Cruising ever further North above the Arctic Circle, to Tromso, the “Paris of the North”, this vibrant community lays claim to the northernmost university, cable car and brewery. Nestled on an island surrounded by spectacular fjords, green forests, and snow-capped jagged peaked mountains, this outpost of vibrant humanity must inspire a spirituality to all who feast their eyes on such beauty. Walking the streets, it is evident that this is not some remote outpost, but a vibrant economic and cultural centre blessed with a moderate climate to encourage both Norwegian and visitor to spend time here and at least during the summer months, enjoy the Midnight Sun, when the sun never disappears below the horizon.
Our last stop before turning south again, we dock at Honningsvag, the world’s northernmost village, only 18 miles from the North Cape, where Europe’s mainland ends. From here there is only the wild land of the Arctic where reindeer, walrus, polar bears, whales and many unique birds species roam. The only wildlife seen on this cold and windy day, were the stuffed reindeer and polar bear seen in the gift shop adjacent to the pier. As is always the case, the following two sea days were beautiful with sun and billowing clouds kissing the mountain tops.
Finally, our last port, Olden, situated along the innermost arm of the Nordfjord, is a picturesque village of western Norway. Surrounded by some of Scandinavia’s most captivating scenery, the green fields, serene lakes and cascading waterfalls are simply breathtaking.
Sadly, as we end this cruise, these land and seascapes will long be impressed in our memory for their beauty, tranquility, serenity, and most of all, the people who have settled this rugged land.