Monday 25 June 2018

Silver Spirit Norway, Day 11 - A triumph and a disappointment

With thanks to Silversea for this Norway cruise
More photos to follow when the wifi is faster
Boy, they don't pull any punches at Tromsø's Arctic Museum. The first thing you see when you enter is a man about to skin a reindeer, then there's this poor Arctic fox caught in a gin trap, and upstairs a man about to hack at a trio of fluffy white seals with a pointed weapon. There are stuffed polar bears, big and baby, musk oxen, a giant walrus skeleton and some horrific weapons, like an automatic polar bear trap that drew them in from literally miles around with a chunk of raw meat, and then shot them with a rifle when they grabbed hold of the bait - "but often it just wounded them," said Jørgen matter-of-factly, as he showed us around.

Jørgen is a vegetarian, he mentioned several times, but became quietly defensive when I asked, as inoffensively as I could, whether Norwegians generally were changing their minds about their country's insistence on continuing with whaling. No, was the short answer. The long one trotted out all the same justifications that the Japanese do: Minke whales are not endangered, the numbers taken are limited, it's tradition, and - of course - they're providing useful data for research. "Chicken farming is much worse," Jørgen asserted, conveniently ignoring the fact that chickens are in no way threatened as a species.

Slaughtered mammals apart, the museum is good: small, well presented, lots of artefacts, and in a historic building. The sections on Roald Amundsen were well done - including, kind of unsurprisingly, a stuffed dog from his South Pole expedition. Did you know, besides being first there, he pioneered both the North West and North East passages - and is one of the contenders for first to the North Pole too? Bit of an overachiever, eh.

Tromsø itself is a pleasant little - and also very large - town. Third biggest in the world for area, but the CBD is compact and pretty, with the usual colourful three-storey wooden houses, some impressive municipal buildings (including one with a small dog on its roof ridge), statues, squares and gardens. Also a party shop called Randi. And what sounded like another good Arctic museum, Polari, which was a waste of $23 since the Northern Lights movie was no better than what I've seen in Anchorage, and was followed up by a feeding session for the indoor-enclosed harbour seals, which i didn't stay for. Don't bother.

Across its elegant bridge (most of the town is on an island) is a fancy modern church, and a cable car 421m up Mt Fløya, from where we didn't get a view of the mountains opposite, some of them over 1000m. The weather has been a bother for most of this cruise, and today led to a special presentation by the Captain, to a full theatre. He told us that the rattly propeller is mechanically fine, so it must be a software issue, which will take longer to fix; but, more importantly, there is a big low on its way towards us. Since there are swells of 6m predicted, he's decided to keep us tucked safely here in port at Tromsø for an extra day.

That means we won't now be visiting Ålesund, full of Art Nouveau buildings and reportedly one of the prettiest towns in Norway. It's disappointing, and some people are clearly feeling cheated; but the general feeling seems to be better safe than sorry. It's certainly a downer, though - so it's just as well that today's highlight was our TP team's triumph today, the sole first, with 24/25, foxed only by Gaudi's first name. Antonio, since you ask.

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