Wednesday, 28 November 2012

12 days with Hurtigruten: Day 7

Hurtigruten MAP_0009

Turning around at Kirkenes

Another seven ports today which is also the day we turn around at Kirkenes and become the South Bound Hurtigruten instead of the North Bound Hurtigruten.

We have got used to the fact that every time we leave a port, a message comes over the tannoy in three languages announcing that we are the North Bound Hurtigruten and welcoming new passengers on board and that will soon reverse.

At our penultimate north bound port we take on a large number of passengers heading for Kirkenes and its airport and hear the northbound announcement for the last time.

We will be in Vadso this afternoon at 1600 when (during our 1 hour stop), ice dipping in the Barents Sea is on offer. Luckily neither of us brought our swimming costumes with us! So we are going to spend in hour in the Vardohus Fortress if we have time.

We are now in the official area of 24 hour darkness and it is dark but not totally so. On one side of the horizon there is

Half Dawn at Vadso

a touch of lighter black than on the other and as we pull into

Dawn at Kirkenes

Kirkenes, there is the most beautiful failed sunrise we have

Heading into town

seen for a long time – I use the word “failed” because

Snowy Kirkenes

although it gets lighter, the sun never actually appears and by the time we are having lunch at 1 pm, it is totally dark again.

Around town, all of the street lights are on and you could never describe it as daylight in any shape or form. It is also

minus 10 is cold

very cold and this is the temperature out of the wind.


Kirkenes Map

What do you do with three hours in Kirkenes? TripAdvisor says there are only five things to do in Kirkenes: visit Reindeer; Crabs; Huskies, the Ice Hotel; and the Grenseland Museet which is about 1km from the town centre. No doubt this dearth of activity is a somewhat pessimistic view but we are here in late November and Reindeer, Crabs and Huskies are either closed or have not opened yet and the building of the Ice Hotel is behind schedule because there is not enough Ice!

The main option Hurtigruten offers at this time of the year is “a drive through the town, then a drive to the Norwegian – Russian border for coffee/tea and muffins, returning via a viewpoint from which you can see the town and the ship” for £36 per person (2012 prices).

We cannot see the point of driving to a border crossing and purchasing souvenir dolls and other things we do not need (although those that went said they enjoyed their visit) so we make our own alternative excursion (and £72 cheaper) of walking for about 10 minutes into town and seeking wifi access so we can catch up on emails.

End of the E6 sign

One noteworthy information item about the area which few people know is that close to where the Hurtigruten ferry moors at Kirkenes is the end (or start) of the European Route E6 which goes from Kirkenes to Rome (about 4200 kms). At Kirkenes, the next town up the road is Murmansk in Russia (the border is 7kms away) and Murmansk is 3 hours driving away.

The port is about 15 minutes easy walk from town

Port Area

and on the way in, you can choose to take a route which passes a number of modern but nicely traditional looking Norwegian houses.

Kirkenes House-2

We were particularly taken with this house

Kirkenes House

which has a model of the house (absolutely identical even

Kirkenes House-1

down to the light fittings) on the front porch. Maybe it is used as a bird house or a home for the house cat.

Kirkenes House and Snow

Kirkenes was severely damaged in WWII and hence all of the houses are either plain post WWII or traditionally nice modern.

Kirkenes House-3

The town was liberated by the Russian Army in 1944,

Russian War Memorial

hence there is a war memorial to the Army, a large air raid



shelter (which was not open as we passed it) and a number of other war related memorials such as


this one which is dedicated to those who were Mothers at home during the war.

The town centre itself is fairly unremarkable

Kirkenes Town-1

Kirkenes Town

although I found it quite interesting to walk around on streets I had seen through the town webcam when researching this trip.

Kirkenes Town-2

Christmas is of course coming, and so the Christmas Tree is going up and lights are being attached to it as we leave

Free Internet

the library where free access to the internet was willingly given. It was interesting to see the range of materials they had there including a lot of books in Russian and also a children’s section related to the Sami culture.

On the way back to the port, Pat got the chance to try out

Pat and Toboggan

one of the toboggan sledge walking frames of which we have seen quite a few about the town. The owner said that she puts her grandchildren or shopping on the seat and

Child on Toboggan

within a few minutes we see just that.

Lofoten awaiting south

And so, it is back to the port where the Lofoten waits to take us south

Gang plank goes

the gang plank disappears

Cast Off

we are cast off

Heading South

we leave the quayside

Port Mouth South

Kirkenes Port Map

and head for the mouth of the sound, initially going north before turning west and then south,

Postal Flag

with the postal flag flying of course because we are still called the mail boat even though it no longer carries mail having had this taken away by air and lorry – people are now no longer prepared to wait a week or so for the mail to arrive..

There are only 16 passengers on the southbound trip and 32 crew.

Heading south we arrive at Vardo again, but we are running about 15 minutes late and because the boat uses its “waiting at the bus stop” time to keep to its schedule, we decide that 45 minutes is not long enough to find the Fortress, see it and get back. In addition, the roads are very icy and there is a tempting supermarket opposite the boat. Tempting because we want to note the prices of some  goods in common to compare with those back home.

So, whilst this is not comparing like shops with like, it at least gives an impression of the cost difference (December 2012):





UL Fuel / ltr

15.40 NoKr



Dolmio Pasta Sauce

23.50 NoKr



HP Sauce

27.90 NoKr



6 large free range Eggs

24.90 NoKr



1 Ltr Milk

14.00 NoKr



Philadelphia Light

29.50 NoKr



18 Omo Wash Tabs

69.50 NoKr



Dr Oertker Pizza

36.00 NoKr



Basket Price

240.20 NoKr £27.03 £17.35
or to put it another way, this unrepresentative shopping basket costs 55% more in Norway that in the UK. Fuel prices varied a lot in Norway being most expensive in the north and we saw it as low as 14.40 NoKr a litre in Bergen

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