The last day – Oslo

The last day of our trip starts little before 5 o’clock in the morning when bustling sounds of Gardemoen airport reaches our “cosy bedroom” in the corner of airport hall. Some of us preferred sleeping on ground, some on chairs, but all of us seemed to sleep quite well. During this trip I experienced my first sleeping in airport ever and have to say, to my surprise, it is possible to sleep in airport.
Early breakfast with sandwiches and little of coffee made using remains of hot water we got for free yesterday in Starbucks. They were very kind and filled our thermos for free even three times.

Our train to the Central station of Oslo departs at 7:03. Agnese says she has heard that train tickets can be used in other transport means, too. Lady who checks tickets in train confirms it is true and very kindly puts a time stamp on our tickets 08:00 thereby giving us time till 9 o’clock for using the same tickets and saving a good amount of money for us. In the station we put all our big bags and 3 suitcases in the luggage room. There are different sizes of luggage boxes and the biggest one (70NOK/24h) was big enough for luggage of six people.

After that we start our Oslo sightseeing plan. We go to metro or so called Oslo T-bane and take a train till the Majorstuen station. From there to the first point in our schedule – Frogner park is only some ten minutes by foot away. Park is mostly known by the famous Vigeland sculpture installation created by Gustav Vigeland in the first half of the last century. We’re having a nice slow walk along the east-west axis of park followed by men, women and children sculptures all together looking to me like a laud to human beings. Officially the overall theme of the park is Man’s journey from the cradle to the grave.

Oslo Royal palace

Oslo Royal palace

Metro seems to be the most convenient transport for us today, so we go back to the same metro station and take a train to the very center of Oslo – till Nationaltheateret station. We walk around the center streets enjoying buildings of Old University, Palace and modern and old ships in Oslofjord. As me and Everita already had been in Oslo we decide to walk directly to the Central station while others stay to see Akershus Fortress and uses a chance to walk on the roof of Oslo Opera House.

After our short Oslo sightseeing it is time to go to the Rygge airport to start the last part of this trip. It’s 49 minutes in train and 10-15 minutes in bus and we’re already there. Enough time for lunch, trying to finish with our food left-overs, repacking of our suitcases to fit their weight in Rynair’s 15 kg, a little inconvenience for me and Agnese on safety check (put the cheese in the checked-in baggage we are later said) and in a while our plane’s taken-off. Flight is quite calm and pretty short and in an hour and half we land in Riga airport. Most of us have some greeters come to take us home, so after short farewells we part.

And that’s the end of the story?
Absolutely not. So many beautiful memories and new impressions can’t be kept inside. Just in a couple of days there will be a story about our trip told in the monthly meeting of Latvian Astronomical Society and probably some article in the popular science periodical “Zvaigžņotā debess” .
As for me personally I have to say this jorney was full of new experiences – from human attitude to nature and to each other to some activities I did first time in my life (snow mobiles, dog sledges). And that so unusual feeling when you wake up in the morning and the first thing your eyes see through the window are white mountain peaks in the whiteness that surrounds everything.

Day 8 – The free day. Part 1

The first morning in the new home. Juris quietly wakes me up and bit by bit we start to get ready for going to the seed vault. While we’re heating water and preparing breakfast the others are waking up one by one.

Also Maija who is hosting us, is up. We talk about many things, then I ask her whether she has seen a polar bear at all -? She replied affirmative and told that she had faced one in summer – some weeks after starting the studies here. They had gone to camp in groups outside the town as part of the studies and the polar bear had woken them up in the morning by starting the alarm system. But that didn’t scare the polar bear, and it continued to search for food. The had fired a flare gun which doesn’t hurt the bears, just to scare them off, but that hadn’t helped and it had continued with scavenging and eating. As a result they had fired 17 of the flare guns! Soon the helicopter appeared which they had called out and that finally scared of the polar bear who run away. Everyone got through unharmed but with a big shock and experience. It had been very serious but now it’s possible to tell with a smile on. She said that some people who have been living here for a long time haven’t seen any polar bear, some spot one occasionally, and others meet one soon after arriving here. To see a polar bear is a rare happening and to get attacked by one is even rared.

Me, Agnese and Juris are preparing for a long walk to the seed vault along the old road which is accessible to snowmobiles and pedestrians (armed as it’s outside the town). Anders will also come with us till some moment and then will leave for his own errands in the town. Also the others have their own plans. Some are walking in the town, some are resting – this is the free day, so everyone can do whatever they want.

We will visit the post and the supermarket before going to the seed vault as it has a free wifi. Using the internet Agnese does the things she wants to do in time and Juris is also using the opportunity. Meanwhile I browse the shops. I’m curious on what is on offer here for an active lifestyle. While exploring the shop I concluded that here is almost everything that would be needed to be in winter freeze and summer. Diverse equipment is available starting from cutlery to mountaineering. The clothes are offered in a good variety. There is also Hero Go pro camera and its accessories. If one doesn’t have special requests, one can come here without almost anything and come here to shop, but there is one “but” – the price. The price is as in Norway, but there is also a positive side to it – there are no taxes included in the price since there are no taxes here. If one has a lot of money, it is possible to go on shopping spree. It is more complicated with the alcoholic drinks as you can only buy a limited amount. If you have arrived by plane, you can present your ticket to buy some, but the locals are given a special card to mark how much you have bought.

Agnese finished to use the internet and I to browse the shops. We are going to the post and find out the prices for the post cards. Tomorrow they are issuing a special stamp in honour of the Solar eclipse. The stamp will cost 20NOK.

The northern-most sundial

The northern-most sundial

The four of us are going to the seed vault and pushing the acquired kicksled. We cross a bridge and go to see the sundial which is the northern-most and showing time the entire day when it’s the midnight sun here. The time of the sundial matches that of the mobile phone. We sign in the guest book, take many pictures of the sundial and check on how it is here with the shadow of the mountain and where we should observe the eclipse. We concluded that the place is good and it should be possible to see the eclipse between two mountains.

We are heading for the old road and see an old snow bulldozer as well as a cable trolly which has been put out for public to see. Soon we notice on a wall of a building something familiar from one of the previous eclipse trips – an Australian road sign with a kangaroo! It’s not so hot here, however, and there are no kangaroos either.

Cable trollies

Cable trollies

Then we stop at the old sorting place of the cable trollies which come from four directions and the old stanchions are still standing in their places. That’s the history of mining that is kept here as historical heritage, and the old houses are not allowed to be pulled down either. A part of the sections with cables and trolleys is preserved. There is also a GeoCache here. For some time we are looking for it by the description where it should be located, but soon after we find it a bit further away. Meanwhile Anders takes photos. He is not coming further and will go back to the town.
[… to be continued…]

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!