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A Norwegian Diary

The photos from Norway looked so fantastic that I had to ask someone to write a guest blog so that we could hear all about their amazing experience. Thank you so much to Liz Harrington from East Grinstead for her Norwegian diary!

The blog of the inChoir Norway trip
by
Liz Harrington, East Grinstead choir

Monday 15.2.16
At 9:20am, 19 excited members of inChoir Burgess Hill, Crawley, Crowborough, Dorking, East Grinstead, Haywayrds Heath, Oxted, Tunbridge Wells and Redhill set off from Gatwich South along with Karen, Sally and other family members. W were on the Norwegian Airlines flight to Oslo then on to Tromso ( N 069, 38.8 E018 57.7) to catch the 18:30 Hurtigruten ship MS Nordkapp. All was going to plan until we arrived at Tromso, minus Sue from Crowborough's luggage! We transferred to the ship, were allocated our cabins and – after our safety briefing – there was time for a glass of prosecco before our first delicious dinner on board. We had time for 4 laps around the deck (totalling 1km), a snow ball fight, a few people watched a demonstration on fish drying before heading to the bar, then it was time for bed...after various choir members lent clothes and a toothbrush to Sue!

MS Nordkapp carries freight, cars and passengers, and also delivers post, so it made stops throughout the night with various drop off and pick ups from the small coastal communities.

Tuesday 16.2.16
After a lovely breakfast it was time for our first rehearsal on board and an early lunch. Then we all donned our winter gear ready for our arrival in Honningsvag where we were catching a coach to the North cape ( 71 10 21) (Nordkapp); the most northerly point on the European continent and our first performance in Norway. The coach journey was through a winter wonderland where Sally chortled at seeing a picnic bench in the snow and Sue snapped pictures of a sole husky pulling a sledge. We gave an atmospheric performance in the visitor centre ( there was even a troll in the audience) then it was all outside for a group photo by the Nordkapp monument, with the husky which had just arrived! We raced back down the mountain by coach back to our ship where some of us enjoyed Norwegian apple pie. Time for a breather as we passed Finnkjerka, which has the most elegant sea- cliff in Norway and looked like a cathedral with illuminated cave windows!

We went outside as a local king crab fisherman had boarded with several live king crabs to show us. These massive creatures are actually lobsters and have copper in their blood which allows them to survive the cold. They can survive several months without eating and have no known enemy except man...and are also cannibals! Wow! We next had our first sighting of the Northern Lights followed by a shooting star! Everyone was in good spirits as we enjoyed our second dinner on board followed by a quiz. We should have known there would be a singing question on the Northern Lights sung by Renaissance! Tunbridge Wells team won the quiz- drinks on them. Some of us had a stroll around the deck then off to bed.

Wednesday 17.2.16
We arrived in Kirkines (N069 46.1 E 030 05.3) after rough seas during the night, ready for our next adventure. Most of us travelled to the Snow hotel, where some of us tour round its themed rooms. What a place, with its ice sculptures and snowy archways. You had to be there to appreciate it. Next we visited the husky kennels where all the dogs were pleased to see us. We saw the nursery where a puppy had recently been born. We even saw a blind husky which is part of the team. After this, some of us went snow-mobiling whilst others went husky sledging. All of us had exhilarating journeys but sore coccyx! When we got back to the ship Sue’s case had arrived! Hallelujah!

We said good bye to the beautiful town of Kirkenes and following lunch we had a leisurely afternoon on board. We docked at Varso where I had an arctic dip in the Barents Sea, then joined the rest of the choir for their on board performance. Everyone enjoyed our singing. Even some of the crew came to watch the performance. Our audience were multinational but typically we had someone from Tunbridge Wells! Many people enquired about us and asked us when we joined the ship! We had a very cheerful dinner that evening.

Thursday 18.2.16
Anna and I left the ship at 0.45 am and joined 10 other passengers for a snow-mobile trip through the polar night, re-joining the ship at 3.00 am at Kjollefjord. It was amazing as we each had our own snowmobile. Challenging journey across frozen fjords and mountains.

Late morning we arrived at Hammerfest (N 070 39.6 E023 39.5), the northmost town in Europe. Some of us joined a coach tour of the town, past its wooden houses, and climbed the heated concrete staircase (Southeast rail please note!) to visit the Struve Geodetic Arc, a UNESCO world heritage site where measurements were made in the form of triangulation along the meridian, stretching from Ismail on the Black Sea to Fuglenes in Hammerfest in the North. Some of us visited The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society before going back on board. We enjoyed our last dinner on the ship, followed by a fashion show given by the crew. We arrived back in Tromso at 23.45 that evening where some of us went straight for the concert in the Arctic Cathedral.

Friday 19.2 16
We had a free morning in Tromso with some members shopping, some going to visit the ice sculptures in the square and others visiting the Polaris centre, which was similar to a sealife centre. We watched films about the wild life of the Fjords and the Northern Lights, then watched the seals being fed. After lunch we made our way to the Arctic Cathedral for our concert. The churchwarden told us all about the history of this remarkable building and how its design resulted in its name. It is actually the local Lutheran church and has over 500 concerts a year there. The stained glass window has an image of Jesus with Adam and Eve at each side. During the day, inside the window is multi coloured but at night it turns white...while the colours of the window can be seen brightly outside. We had a small audience for our concert but with acoustics and the magical atmosphere we all had a great time. As we returned to the hotel and disembarked from the bus the green streaks of the Northern Lights filled the sky. Viewed from a higher view point they appeared to emanate from the Arctic Cathedral itself. Divine intervention! The Northern Lights lasted for about 45minutes then disappeared. We had a celebratory dinner as Rick had his 60 + 10 birthday that night; the prosecco was kindly supplied by Rick and his wife. A small group of us then went to the evening concert at the Arctic Cathedral. Sally arranged a minibus and we had the friendliest driver ever who dropped us right outside. The concert consisted of Trudom by Edward Grieg sung by a baritone and backed by the church organ. Several pieces followed, sung by an alto accompanied by piano and flautist. These included The girl with the Flaxen Hair by Claude Debussy and Norwegian songs and a same yolk. The hymn Be thou my vision was sung in Norwegian. Our friendly driver was there to take us back to the hotel. The Northern Lights did not make an appearance again that night.

Saturday 20.2.16
The journey home. We travelled home on the same SAS aircraft from Tromso to Heathrow so there were no worries about the luggage! But we did have to get off the aircraft at Oslo and get back on! We experienced a short delay due to the snowy conditions in Oslo with the aircraft having to be de-iced. We returned to a wet, dull and windy Heathrow. Everyone agreed we had had a great trip. New friendships had been made. Thanks were given to Karen and Sally.

The choir that sings together stays together!

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