We had a slow start this morning after staying up so late. It seems half the ship was on the same schedule so breakfast required crowd control. Fortunately we snagged the Captain’s Table sans the captain. After a few lattes in the canteen, we were ready for the day.
At 2:15, we jumped ship and started our own excursion through Tromso, the largest town north of the Arctic Circle, surrounded by mountains. It has a rich history in hunting (seal, polar bears, etc), trade with the Rusians, timber transport down the river, trade with local communities, and coal mining. The city is more lively than most we have visited along the coast with a university enriching its cultural and academic focus. A number of restaurants and bars attest to this outward existence.
We first visited Polaria Centre inclusive of an Artic Aquarium housing examples of Arctic sea life including seals, fish and other creatures of the sea. Returning to the center of town, the library is a modern building situated above the city with a view across the water to the Arctic Cathedral and its tram up the facing mountain.
Wandering down the road we arrive at the Polar Museum, located in the old customs house of the 1830s. Exhibits include historical artifacts from hunting and exploratory expeditions in the polar region. In addition to personal items such as clothing, journals, and weapons, there were stuffed animals (dogs, seals, polar bears).
Although we did not stop for a “Mack”, beer from the world’s northernmost brewery, Olhallen, we found a trendy little bar/restaurant for a glass of wine. In preparation for a private party, the chef was carving a pork leg with hoof, similar to parchutta in the Spanish culture.
Although it was tempting to take an excursion to the Tromso Wilderness Centre on Kvaloya Island where we would visit with the 250 resident huskies, we resisted since it would not be that long before we were reunited with our own sled team.
Saturday, we are awakened by early port of Hammerfest. However, our shore escape today is in the town of Honningsvag. We cross the 71st parallel and stop on on our way to the North Cape, the northernmost point on the continent. This small town supports a mining and fishing community. Although it’s buildings were almost all destroyed during WWII, a church survived its devastation.
Although the gastronomic scene was not as developed as Tromso, we did have lunch off the ship in a pizza parlor. The first non-Norwegian food in 6 days. Since we arrive in Kirkenes tomorrow, we will enjoy a final night buffet including reindeer. Then we need complete packing as our luggage must be picked up the night prior to embarking.