Today we continued our journey from Bergen toward Molde — which we will reach tomorrow evening — on the Hurtigruten’s ship MS Polarlys.
But since the boat did not leave Bergen before 8p.m. and checkin was not opened before 3p.m. we had some time left before boarding.
So for the first time since we have been on this journey we could allow ourselves to have a late and long breakfast in our hotel. There was even some time to write a few postcards before checking out of the hotel at around 10a.m., thankfully we were allowed to store our bikes and luggage in the luggage-room in the basement of the hotel, so that we were able to walk through town unhindered by it.
This time though we didn’t spend our time sightseeing, but tried at first to find a new pair of trousers and a rain coat for Solo. Not an easy task. You know how it is like when you know exactly what you are looking for…you are almost guaranteed that you won’t find it.
So time passed fast.
We also decided to send a package, with all the things we thought we would no longer have any use for, back to my place. This way we assumed our bags would get lighter and easier to pack…well I cannot confirm either of it. But then on a tour like this single grams count, so who knows how much more we would have suffered later on if we hadn’t send that package. :D
The hours passed much faster than I would have expected and sooner than I thought we got our bikes ready for a short ride to the Hurtigruten Ferry Terminal.
It turned out that our timing was just perfect as the checkin-queue was not that long when we arrived. Since we could not just leave our bikes unattended with all the luggage on them outside the building, we had no chance but to stand inline with our bikes. Which probably was a weird sign for everybody else, but then I had not seen any car-checkin, so there seemed to be no other option.
During the checkin process we were told that we would have to go upstairs and participate in a security briefing before we would be given our keys to our cabin. When I asked what to do about the bikes in the meantime we were told to leave them outside the building. I have heard better ideas.
Well for once we did not follow their procedures. We found the spot where we would wait until boarding the boat outside the Terminal building, but were soon told that where we were standing we could not stay as the area was needed for the luggage of those who would arrive by buss. Sure enough the busses soon started rolling in and the checkin queue got longer and longer. While we were advised to wait in another spot. I could sense Solo’s rising frustration at the time, but there was nothing to do about it. After the last bus had arrived and the luggage had been sorted and brought on the ferry we returned to our original spot — again we were advised to wait somewhere else until someone of the crew would pick us up. This time a little closer to the loading entry.
Time passed and no one came… Until one of the employees from the ground crew, who must have understood Solo’s cursing and dissatisfaction, took matters in his own hands and got someone from the ship’s crew to take us on board. But we had no boarding cards yet. We had been told that we would get those after the security briefing, which we could not participate in. This time though things got simplified. The ship’s crew made sure to get us visiting cards, which we were to change at the reception into our boarding cards which then would double as keys for our cabin.
So after fastening our bike to the ship’s wall we made our way toward the reception. The receptionist looked at us in awe and asked where we were coming from. Well what to answer to this one but „from the car deck“.
We got our boarding cards and made our way to the cabin. It seemed we would not get a security briefing after all, as it was now far too late to go back into the Terminal building and take part in this briefing. Instead we stored our luggage in our cabin and from there made it onto the outside deck of the Polarlys, so that we could watch the ship leaving Bergen.
The journey on the Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes counts as the world’s finest boat journey. The entire journey from Bergen to Kirkenes and back to Bergen takes 12 days, during which the boat will stop several times to take on new passengers and to leave others from board, but depending on the season various fjords will be visited as well.
In June 2011 the Norwegian State’s television channel NRK published a series of uninterrupted continuous filming of this journey, 134 hours 42 minutes and 45 seconds long — called Hurtigruten minutt for minutt — which you might have heard about before, and Norwegians got hooked to it immediately. Either watching the show on their TVs or — if they lived along the route of the Hurtigruten — coming up with greetings of the boat during its journey toward Kirkenes. I read at some point that they showed this series even on the television screens of the South Korean subways… For Norway it was the beginning of something called „slow television“. But more than that: it was not only shown on television — since then they have repeated it often during the days of Christmas — but later that year they also offered a free download of the entire show…some 120-140 4GB DVDs full of material…
Since this was such a huge success, later on NRK also broadcasted a similar journey, this time on the Bergensbanen from Oslo toward Bergen, the journey of the Nordlandsbanen and a 24hour show where they showed choirs singing the entire hymn-book…
But back to the Hurtigruten and its history.
Prior to the establishment of the Hurtigruten a letter from Trondheim to Hammerfest would take up to three weeks before being delivered during the summer, during the winter the delivery time was up to five weeks. So in 1891 the consultant in charge for the Norwegian steam navigation, A. K. Gran, developed the idea to establish a faster boat connection between Hammerfest and Trondheim. At this time there were only two existing sea maps and 28 lighthouses north of Trondheim, so the first two shipping companies that were asked to take on the challenge denied, because they thought the journey during the dark and stormy winter season would be impossible.
The reasonable new ship owning company Rederi Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskap decided to take on this challenge. Their captain Richard With and his pilots had already made notes about the route, the speed and the durations on this route, so they felt comfortable of being able to do it.
When on June 2nd 1893 the steamboat Vesteraalen for the first time left Trondheim on this route toward Hammerfest a revolution of the communication capabilities was started. Now a letter would no longer need weeks to travel between Trondheim and Hammerfest but days.
The traffic along the route was continuously extended and in 1898 Bergen was added as the most southern stop, in 1907 Vadsø and in 1914 Kirkenes followed.
Except for the war-periods the Hurtigruten has traveled this route every day of the year since 1936.
Today the route from Bergen to Kirkenes is 1460 nautical miles or 2920 kilometers long, that is as long as the distance between Oslo and Tunisia.
You can find more photos from Norway on my website.