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Nord Kapp

Reporting from Jyväskylä

overcast 6 °C
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We made it! We reached our destination. The goal for this driving holiday was to reach the most northern point of mainland Europe, and we did it.

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Actually we reached the most northern point of Europe which is accessible by car, there is a point which is 1.2km further north, but to reach it you need to do a 7 hour hike - which didn't sound like too much fun when you consider the wind chill factor and our two short people. Nord Kapp was named North Cape by Steven Burrough, a British Explorer in 1553 who was looking for the North East Passage, and later translated into Norwegian. Explorers have been passing by North Cape since then and the Tourist Centre there shows a range of scenes from when people have visited North Cape over the centuries. Due to the harsh conditions, with wild seas, cold temperatures and often ice, it must have been quite a challenge to get there and home again safely. Nord Kapp is on the 71st line of latitude, and is still over 1000km to the North Pole, but there is no land at the north pole.
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We saw a number of hikers and cyclists riding along the wind blown highway, struggling against the wind, and with nowhere to really get out of it. The landscape is quite desolate, and there are no trees, so shelter is limited. It was a 2 hour drive from where we were staying in Olderfjord, so still quite a long haul. We were pleased with ourselves for reaching this point, so I can only imagine the sense of achievement of doing it under your own steam. Hope they had somebody picking them up! We stopped by the side of the road for a bit, and here is a picture of the kids being held up by the wind!
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We bought a ticket to go into Nord Kapp, and it was valid for 24 hours. There were many campervans parked there, and some facilities. What we didn't realise beforehand is that people will go to Nord Kapp (eg on a tour bus) to be there for the midnight sun, so as we were driving up at 930am we were passing numerous buses returning after taking their tourists up for the night visit. During summer, the whole facility is open 24 hours, restaurants, galleries, and in a way, it has the transient feel of an airport, operating all day, and people doing things at 'funny' times. To do justice to all there is to see and do there, you need 3-4 hours, but because of the midnight sun, you could arrive at 10pm...

There is a lot of information about how life goes on in the Arctic Circle throughout the year. I think I have imagined winter there to have the constant need for safety lines and tying yourself down somewhat like the descriptions of Mawson's exploration of Antarctica, but in reality life goes on, and people are not living in temporary dwellings. If the weather is extreme, precautions are taken, and if not, people still catch buses, drive cars, go to school or work, councils clear the roads and so on.

There was an amazing sculpture that looked like seven coins standing on their sides, and they were the result of seven children coming to Nord Kapp from various places around the world and thinking about peace, and then using clay, created a design on a disc, which were then enlarged and made uniform in bronze. They stand reasonably isolated, and are visible from quite a distance and make quite an impact.

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After exploring Nord Kapp, we continued to explore the area, and were taken with Honningsvag, possibly the world's most northern fishing village, and bright and colourful in summer.

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Posted by aboo10 00:40 Archived in Norway Tagged adventure camping norway family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (0)

For the First Time in Forever...

Reporting from Bergen

sunny 14 °C
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Now, if you have an eight year old daughter, like we do, you would know that the title of this blog post comes from the Disney movie, Frozen.

So for the first time in forever, we are the furthest north we have ever been - we are 60 degrees north, and this is much further north than Harbin, China which was only 45 degrees north, almost level with Paris! We are even further north than the top of the United Kingdom!

But also for the first time in forever, Disney, when making Frozen, which is a computer generated movie, set what is otherwise a generic fairy tale (based on The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Anderson) in Norway. The developers visited Norway and drew inspiration for many parts of the movie from genuine Norwegian towns, costumes and forests.

When we were in the Historical Museum in Oslo, we came across a model of a Stave Church, which was not too far off the route we were heading along to get to Bergen... so we thought we'd stop by to have a look... And in the first time in forever, the Borgund Stave Church we visited was the inspiration for the castle in Arendelle...
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For the first time in forever, we drove along through the stunning fjords, which were also inspiration in the movie, and at one point, Elsa freezes them all! And saw snow capped mountains
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For the first time in forever, we drove through the world's longest tunnel - the Laerdel Tunnel - 24.51km long. It has 3 caves hollowed out along its length to give drivers a break from the claustrophobic feel of the tunnel, and you are allowed to stop in them! We didn't, but they are illuminated with blue lights and also give something to look forward to!
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For the first time in forever, we got to Bergen, which is a UNESCO Listed Heritage Site, and was originally one of the Hanseatic Trading Ports, and so like in the movie becoming trading partners would have been desirable. The wharf area of Bryggen (where we had lunch and dinner!) is just gorgeous, with brightly coloured timber buildings, just like the township of Arendelle...
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For the first time in forever, the whole family went on a hike! We got the venicular railway up to a view point to see a stunning view of Bergen, and then we started following a nature trail, complete with trolls, and streams and then realised that we could walk back to our AirBNB apartment... so we did...
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and had a beer in the sun in the front garden.
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Posted by aboo10 14:13 Archived in Norway Tagged landscapes mountains buildings children history norway ecotourism family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (2)

On to Oslo

Reporting from Bergen

rain 15 °C
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We arrived fresh and ready to hit Oslo after a night on the Ferry... amazingly smooth journey. We packed up our little cabin, and headed down to the car deck. Once our GPS booted up and realised it had moved to a different country we headed to meet the next key giver of the new AirBNB apartment - a lovely little space, I'm very taken with Scandanavian interiors!!
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Then once we had unloaded the car, we set off in the car - due to the short stay, we have not mastered the public transport system, and instead just visited three museums, all of which we drove to. The first was the Munch Museet. They were having an exhibition of Munch and Van Gogh, cohosted by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It was a terrific exhibition, and showed the parallels between the two artists, who came into painting around the same time, and had similar influences, however interestingly never met! I was fascinated because there were so many paintings by Van Gogh that I had never seen before, this one particularly grabbed me... Two figures in the undergrowth.
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The Munch Museet gave the kids a treasure hunt activity to do, where they had a map of the museum, and stickers with parts of the paintings. They had to match the stickers to the rooms, and (optionally) write the name of the painting and the year it was done. It was a terrific activity and really got the kids engaged with the artworks. Then they got this pack at the end as a reward for getting it all right!
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After the Munch Museet, we headed to the Vikingskipshuset - a fascinating look at 3 Viking Ships which had been used around 900AD as burial tombs for 'important' people. The deceased were interred in a burial chamber on the boat, and surrounded with useful goods which would be beneficial in the afterlife. These ships are the best preserved because they have been buried, however when they were discovered they were treated with a preservative, which stopped the outside of the wood from deteriorating, but sadly are now decomposing from inside, and the museum experts are not sure how best to prevent it continuing.
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Interesting fact for the day... Vikings did not wear helmets with horns!
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A bonus from our ticket to the Vikingskipshuset, was it also gave us entry into the Historical Museum within 48 hours! So on the morning we were leaving Oslo, we had a quick visit to the Historical Museum to get another quick look at Norwegian Viking History and Life in the Arctic Circle!
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We saw a model of a Stave Church in the Historical Museum, and then realised that it was en route to our next stop - Bergen!

Posted by aboo10 13:27 Archived in Norway Tagged children museum norway family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (1)

Next Stop... Copenhagen

Reporting from the Crown Seaways Ferry

sunny 27 °C
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On the way to Copenhagen, we managed to spend an amazing afternoon catching up with old friends from Shanghai. They have a summer house in Hojby, on the coast of Zealand. We got there about 2pm, and had a traditional and yummy late lunch... although the kids preferred to just graze on choc chip muffins....

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We then wandered down to the beach, a dreamy 5 min walk down the road. We caught up about each family's changes since leaving Shanghai. They are in the process of relocating to the Hague - so we'll probably see a bit more of them in the near future!

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We were a bit late getting to Copenhagen, but settled into our next AirBNB apartment, ready to explore Copenhagen the next day. It did not disappoint... we went to Rosenborg - an old Royal Castle built in 1606. We saw the crown jewels and marvelled at the amazing rooms in the castle.

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And then we headed over to see the Little Mermaid, sitting on her rock in Copenhagen Harbour. We had seen her at the Shanghai Expo in 2010, in the Denmark Pavillion, so we knew she was little! But the crowds visiting her, proved her popularity. It was hot, and a long walk, and we found refuge from the heat in the Marmorkirken church, which was beautiful! Didi found it a bit far, and actually fell asleep during a piggy back ride on Mike's back! Although he perked up once we got there and he climbed around on the rocks.

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We continued our walk (wish we'd been wearing a pedometer!) and had dinner in Ny Havn - a fabulous outdoor eating area right on the canal, in front of traditional Danish buildings, all brightly coloured. Loved it! I had a herring platter - delicious!! So good we went again the next night!!
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Something we are still working out how to manage is that it is light until about 10.30pm, although the sun sets just before 10pm, and it makes it tricky for the kids to agree to go to bed! This has resulted in a build up of tiredness, and so after a lazy morning, we headed into town to visit Amalienborg - the palace where Princess Mary lives! It is a large gracious square with 4 (matching) palaces on each corner. One is Queen Margarethe's home, another is a museum (the one we went into) and one is for hosting State Events. The museum showed reconstructed rooms from each palace which were stunning, and as well there was information on the current royal family.

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On our last full day we again headed into the city, this time to visit the HC Andersen Museum. Unfortunately it was part of the usual tourist attraction of Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, although we didn’t have to go into both, but it was a bit more tinny and tacky than I had anticipated. That being said there was a good history of Hans Christian Andersen, and scenes from many of his stories.
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After the HC Andersen Museum, we went to Tivoli. A-may-zing! It’s the most beautiful garden with concert halls and amusement parks altogether. It was lovely to stroll through the gardens, and the day was divine… a bit cooler than our other days, but still sunny and blue. There were surprises at each turn, from the Pirate Ship Frigate to an elaborate Chinese Pagoda, the rides were spectacular - frightening upside down roller coasters and quaint old merry-go-rounds. We didn’t go on any rides, but enjoyed the carnival atmosphere. And we let the kids have a fairy floss EACH!

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Today we had a quiet one, packing up the AirBNB place. We then went to the supermarket to buy lunch, which we had as a picnic in a local park, watching a soccer camp practise. Then we headed to the Ferry Terminal - because tonight we are sleeping on the ferry to Oslo. We have a tiny sea front cabin for four with two bunk beds and a mini bathroom. It’s minimalist to the extreme! The boat is huge. Our car is parked on the decks below and there are about 6 decks of cabins and entertainment… I feel like I might be on a mini-cruise - it’s quite fun! We pre-booked a table for a buffet dinner, and I’m planning on only eating salmon. Maybe a smoked salmon starter and a baked salmon main!

Posted by aboo10 10:51 Archived in Denmark Tagged buildings children flowers norway ferry denmark family_travel Comments (1)

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