Just back from such a fantastic tour, it’s difficult to know where to start…
After meeting the group at Gatwick we flew to Bergen where we checked in to the lovely Hotel Clarion. There was even time to check out a nearby yarn store – just the first of many we visited over the coming week, before the shops closed. Then it was time for everyone to really get to know one another with a welcome dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. The traditional Norwegian meal was absolutely delicious and from our tables in the window we enjoyed wonderful views across the water to the famous Hanseatic waterfront. With Christmas lights on all of the characteristic wooden houses, it made a really festive start to the holiday.
The next morning we got to learn a bit more about Bergen on an orientation tour with a local guide. There was then another dash for the other yarn stores in Bergen and several of us visited the Christmas market, which was a bonus we hadn’t been expecting. Looking back, it’s amazing how much we managed to do in just 24 hours before we boarded ms Nordlys. The Hurtigruten ship was our home for the next six nights as we knitted and crocheted our way up Norway’s stunning coastline in search of the northern lights.
Yarn kits at the ready everyone met in the lounge bar on deck 7 in readiness for the first workshop with Carol Meldrum. For this holiday Carol had designed a stunning cowl based on traditional Norwegian patterns and everyone quickly started on the project whilst enjoying the amazing scenery through the large panoramic windows.
Our first opportunity to step ashore was in the art-nouveau town of Alesund and everyone made a beeline for the town’s yarn store, which was conveniently situated next to the Husfluiden shop selling traditional Norwegian crafts and souvenirs – oh and more yarn! The sun was already setting when we sailed mid-afternoon and we enjoyed the colours of dusk before darkness fell during our second workshop.
The next day we woke up in the port of Trondheim. When the sun rose above the horizon we were treated to a beautiful blue sky without a single cloud. Mind you there was a bit of a chill in the air – it was some 12 degrees below freezing! It made for a brisk walk into the centre with its beautiful medieval cathedral. Trondheim has several yarns stores, all of which did good business that morning. Then it was back on board in time for lunch – always a marvellous smorgasbord (buffet) of Norwegian dishes, and more knitting and crochet.
The Arctic Circle
As we continued northwards the days got shorter and it was 10am before the sun crept over the horizon the following morning. By then we were already busy knitting and crocheting and admiring the amazing snow-capped mountains in the morning twilight. Yet again the scenery was stunning and there was always someone rushing out to the open deck at the back of the ship with their camera. Earlier that morning we’d crossed the Arctic Circle and one of our group had won the competition to guess the actual time of the crossing. Everyone went out on deck to see her presented with the prize, which was a ship’s flag signed by the Captain and senior officers. She was then the first to join in the traditional Crossing the Arctic Circle ceremony – I’ll just say it was a rather chilly experience and one that surprisingly many more of the group happily joined in!
Today’s stop was in Bodo where some of the group had opted to join the ship’s expedition team on a coastal hike, whilst others headed into the town in search of yarn and some more retail therapy.
That evening the ship stopped for an hour in Svolvaer. It was just enough time for some of us to walk up the quayside to Magic Ice where we enjoyed a drink in a glass made of ice and admired the simply amazing ice sculptures. It was a really clear night and now high above the Arctic Circle we were hopeful of seeing the northern lights. Everyone gathered out on deck as our Captain took us to the entrance of the famous Trollfjord where using the ship’s powerful spotlights we looked for trolls in the stark rock walls. Then as we headed northwards we got our first glimpse of the aurora borealis. They were very faint initially but later got a little stronger. Although the lights were white to the naked eye, those who’d attended an earlier workshop on photographing the northern lights managed to capture some colour on camera before they disappeared.
The next day was the first day the sun didn’t actually get above the horizon – although we still had a few hours of twilight to enjoy the beautiful scenery that led us to Tromso. Here several of the group visited the famous Arctic Cathedral before checking out the yarn store in the cruise terminal. Several of us enjoyed a moonlit walk through the streets to the market square where we saw a Sami lady in her traditional dress accompanied by two reindeer!
That night the northern lights put in a second appearance. Wrapped up in many layers we spent several hours out on deck watching the extraordinary lights that were definitely stronger than the previous evening. The photographers amongst us got some wonderful images of the colours but this time even with the naked eye you could see a gentle green glow against the white of the snow-capped mountains.
The final day of our cruise took us around the top of Norway to the tiny town of Honningsvaag. A number of the group took the ship’s excursion to the North Cape Plateau where they experienced blizzard like conditions as the wind whipped up snow lying on the ground. The rest of us took a more leisurely stroll ashore. There was much excitement when we found a yarn store that we hadn’t been expecting and better still it had a sale on! We also discovered a fantastic book full of traditional Norwegian mitten patterns – in English! Between us we bought every single copy from the shop in the town’s small museum.
Our final evening on board we were treated to a seafood feast! The smorgasbord was laden with delicious mussels, dressed crab and wonderful prawns. Each evening we’d enjoyed a wonderful meal with dishes from different regions of Norway but the last meal was definitely a favourite. It was also the first evening we saw snow falling outside and when we arrived in Kirkenes the next morning the landscape was a true winter wonderland.
It was simply the most wonderful tour. Stunning scenery! Delicious food! Hours of knitting and crochet and most importantly all was enjoyed with brilliant company! Thank you to the lovely ladies (and our charming gentleman), who made this such a fantastic experience.
We would like to say thank you to our tour manager Lynn Cornish for her travel journal from this amazing trip and a big thank you to some of our Stitchtopia ladies for sharing their wonderful photos with us all- Anne Mulligan, Marleen Grabowsky, Avril Collier & Janice Sumpton.