Now that all of us are at home participating in our national attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19, it is very easy to forget that there is a wider world waiting just outside our windows. We have to firmly believe that we will all get back there soon.
In the meanwhile, we can still visit the world outside our doors. In different ways we can visit parts of the US that we haven’t seen and other parts of the world we want to visit in the future. Where should we start?
How about Norway? I was on a ship traveling along the Norwegian coast when the virus crisis erupted. Fortunately, is was at the end of an interesting trip that took me from Bergen up the entire coast to Kirkenes where the borders of Norway, Finland and Russia meet. When be disembarked in Bergen our trip home became more of an adventure than any of us expected. However, it introduced me to health and temperature checks, re-scheduled and canceled international flights, country border closings, a 350-passenger plane with only 50 of us passengers, and more uniformed “greeters” at Newark airport than there were passengers to greet and process.
But, back to Norway. Norway is stunningly beautiful with almost 1600 miles of coastline and 70% of it’s land covered by mountains with glaciers and lakes. Only 4% of Norway is arable land. All the major towns hug the coastline or the shoreline of a fjord.
Our trip started out in Bergen, Norway's second largest city, with it's historic and much photographed Bryggen - a row of historic warehouses dating from the era of the Hanseatic League. In Bergen we boarded our ship - - one of Hurtigruten’s fleet of ships that regularly sail up and down the coast carrying passengers, cargo, and serving as ferries to connect the towns along the coast. We sailed north stopping at towns along the way. We left the ship to visit museums, attend concerts, hike and take walking tours, or just wander through town until it was time to re-board and sail on.
We passed beautiful scenery along the way - snow covered mountains, small towns and villages with bright red and yellow buildings, we crossed the Arctic Circle. Ouf final stops were in Kirkennes, where the borders of Norway, Finland and Russia meet and the spectacular North Cape.
We also had the opportunity to see spectacular displays of the Northern Lights on two nights. I take no credit for these photos - I was too busy watching the multi-colored lights dance across the sky.
Northern Lights come in many colors but the most common is green.
One of the evening we saw them exploded into swirls and spirals and then curtains of various shades of green and pinks as the display moved and danced across the sky.
Auroras are especially spectacular against the winter landscape. They are most likely to be seen around the Spring and Autumnal equinoxes. Generally in September - October and February - March.
As you can see I got to see Norway in winter. Since I've miss having winter here at home for the past several years, it was refreshing to see snow covered landscapes, walking through small towns with streets covered in snow, and sailing through a fjord during a snow squall.
It was a wonderful and unique trip that ended just in enough time to get us all home before the virus exploded and made travel very difficult if not impossible. Unfortunately some Americans did not or could not leave early enough and were stranded for periods of time before they could make new travel arrangements.
All of us are now in a "wait and see" planning mode so plan and dream. It is both relaxing, educational, and just fun to think about travel even if you don't end up going. So have fun.