Day 2 – The arrival day

Those 7 of us who came to Oslo last night spent it in the Gardemoen airport which is claimed to be one of the top 10 European airports for sleeping. There were several options ranging from the floor to nice-looking cushioned stools in one of the cafes. However, the cafe area appeared rather busy and it would take long time to wait till everyone has left. So we went for some shorter space along 3 seats in a row of chairs on the 2nd floor for 3 of us, and a quiet corner on floor for the other 4. I opted for the chairs and spent a very peaceful and not at all uncomfortable night,

On the other side of security control it turned out that Longyerbyen flights are on the international schedule rather than the domestic. I believe that might be because Svalbard is not part of Schengen zone while Norway itself is.
We met Anders at the gate. Some (unsuccessful) attempts to fix the map on the homepage and I had to leave the internet behind. That’s not too bad as we were supposed to have wifi when airborne! We are flying Norwegian airlines after all, and they have free wifi on board. Except that the wifi experience this time was not the best. It took a long time to open google, and it was impossible to open gmail. Some Norwegian newspaper webpages worked better, however. So no success with the map again.

We landed a couple of hours later in a snowy place next to a body of water, Longyearbyen. The mountains are not comparable to Alps, but so close to the sea they are still impressive. To get a better first impression 5 of us had decided to walk from the airport to the guesthouse. The others would go by bus (75 NOK) and take all the suitcases and large backpacks with them. The walk to the town centre is 4.5km, and to our guesthouse it’s 7km in total, so not impossible at all. Technically there’s a risk of polar bears between the airport and the boundary of the city (first 3km), but the risk of being hit by a car is in fact greater, so we didn’t worry about that much.

Polar bear sign

Polar bear sign

Jeans were perhaps not the best piece of clothing to wear for the walk as we had a head-wind and we were longing for some skiing-trousers which had gone along with the suitcases by the bus. On the positive side, we saw some reindeer and enjoyed the walk in other ways. We were not the first ones to reach the “Polar bears around” road sign, so our sticker was only about the 10th on that road-sign pole. But we have now marked our presence :)

We are living in 2 guesthouses which are located next to each other. Ours was said to have one public pc with internet connection. That sounded as a great potential for wifi to me, so I had taken a router with me to try to set it up. In the real life there had been some improvements and there were wifi routers in our building. Unfortunately having a router and having a wifi are two different things, as it wasn’t working. After some educational exploring we attached the power cable from my router to theirs and got the wifi signal. Later on when talking to the receptionist, we found out that this access point has been the previous wifi they have had and now they have a new system to connect to if we want internet. With one bar signal strength out of five in our building on good times that was not really usable, however, and the fact that they are supposedly working on improvements didn’t help either. So we were happy to use their old one without them noticing.

The guesthouses are nice. Both of them are very clean and warm. There’s a kitchen with all the pots, pans, plates and cutlery, a fridge, an oven and a stove and even a dishwasher. Thus we have a very good setup to prepare our own food which we have brought with us from Riga. However, just before the dinner there’s some fun going on outside – a snowmobile jumping show was a part of a restaurant opening celebration and our kitchen windows were perfectly positioned to see it. We went outside for a closer look and got a welcome drink on the house in the new restaurant.

This had been a long day, so after some cozy chatting around dinner table we went to sleep to be ready for a hiking trip on the following day.

Longyearbyen – my travels’ fantasy

Contemplation before…

It could be, that the archipelago of Svalbard (also called Spitsbergen) is not the most recognisable geographic name. Perhaps for most people these islands of Arctic seem like a real end of the world or maybe even name that doesn’t mean anything, one of the many names in the extensive atlas of world… however, aren’t exactly such places tempting the adventure-hungry spirit which dwells in each of us? Maybe this is the reason why the name – Svabard – and especially its capital Longyearbyen lives in my heart and mind for many years.

Several years ago when exploring the website of an airport I stumbled upon a flight map where my eye was caught by the most northern destination reachable by plane. It was Longyearbyen. As it turned out later, this fact and the interesting name was completely enough to promote this place to an honorable place in my travels’ fantasy list. Perhaps it was a very reckless attraction or temperamental youth love, but could you resist? Imagine bright white end of the world with real snowy and white winter, arctic foxes and seals, even polar bears and reindeer, the bright glaciers, husky sledding and the ascetic but enticing beauty of the northern nature.



Regarding the end of the world, that is actually not far from the truth – the archipelago lies only 15° degrees from the North pole (maybe we will be able to bring greetings to Santa Claus?), as well as it is the most northern populated place in the world. People started to live here only in the late 19th century, but in the first half of 20th century coal mining business was developed in Svalbard. Nowadays most of the archipelago is a nature reserve, tourism has been developed, as well as scientific research.

But that’s not all! On the 20th of March a total Solar eclipse will be visible here and this year it will have the totality observable only here and in the Faroe islands!

We have been preparing for a long time for this surreal expedition to my mind, but I think that in the head of every participant of the expedition is swarming with uncountable questions… Will we see the aurora? How cold it really is there, north of the Arctic circle? Will the weather be favourable to us? will we be dressed warm enough? Will we make friends with the huskies? Will we meet reindeer? I hope this expedition will inspire each of its participant for new ideas and objectives and maybe even will bring some interesting insights. For them not to fade as the shimmering aurora or melt as the ice glimmering in the sunlight, we will try to perpetuate them in this blog. Every day – a bit of our impressions. That is, if everything goes according to the plan. However, as it is well known, plans tend to have their own plans :) therefore wish us luck, follow our activities and wait for us to come back to already vernal homes!