The road through Norway, part IV: Svalbard

Being the last outpost before the North Pole, the backcountry of Svalbard is one that truly deserves to be called wilderness. On these desolate islands approximately 2500 people share the land with more than 3000 polar bears. The geography is striking: pointy mountains rising out of the sea, broad valleys crosscut by glacial rivers, ridgelines as sharp as the edge of a knife. 60% percent of the land is covered with ice.

Outside of the main settlements (and even inside of the smaller ones) carrying a rifle and a signal pistol are basic safety requirements. It’s a land of hunters and trappers, where sound instincts and a good intuition are necessary for survival, where us humans are not always on top of the food chain. I had seen Svalbard once before in summertime so a return to the islands while completely covered in a white, fluffy blanket was long overdue.

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Breaking the Spitsbergen Bubble

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The last day of our trip we spent in Longyearbyen. One of the guides on the campsite told us the airship museum, covering over 100 years of polar exploration history, was worth checking. We spent a surprising amount of time in this tiny museum, reading the stories of the many men who wanted to be first to reach the north and south poles. It’s not exactly happy stories: most of them died in airship crashed or simply disappeared. It was impressive though to see how far people actually made it, considering the limitations of technology and the weight of gear at that point.

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Walking around in Longyearbyen for a day was a good closure of the trip. You would be surprised about the vibrancy of this tiny little city. It has a very atmospheric feel, a couple of nice bars and many enthusiastic people. Almost everyone we met had a positive, free-spirited view of their stay on the archipelago and had consciously chosen it as their place of residence. One day they simply decided to do what they actually wanted to do, which is being active and outdoors. It’s a small bubble of enthusiasm this city, enthusiasm that catches on to the travelers passing by.  Continue reading “Breaking the Spitsbergen Bubble”

The Arctic Naked Bathing Club

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Quite to our susprise, we found out that right below the airport in Longyearbyen lies a campsite. To keep as much as possible of our budget available for activities, we packed our camping gear and went for some Arctic tenting. That actually turned out one of the best choices we made for the trip.

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For one because of the dramatic panoramas we got when we opened our tent in the morning and closed it again in the evening. On clear days the setting is truly spectacular and one week later we still found ourselves staring into the fjord. Furthermore, the campsite is located right next to an area where various birds breed and is regularly visited by Svalbard reindeer and the Arctic fox. Secondly because the campsite was a bit of a safe haven away from the tourist crowds in Longyearbyen. Five (!!) well-filled flights arrive on a daily basis in a city of merely 2000 people. Thinking about the amount of trolleys I encountered at the gate, I was pretty happy with our desolate patch of grass under the airport. With a good sleeping bag and double matresses I would even call it a comfortable experience.  Continue reading “The Arctic Naked Bathing Club”

A Story of Arctic Beauty: Spitsbergen

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After moving to Sweden I started making regular trips into Arctic territory and realized that there is something special about the parts of this planet located above the Arctic circle. On every visit, I am amazed by the natural beauty of these areas. I feel free. I feel like I want to get lost and forget about the rest of the world. Naturally, Spitsbergen/Svalbard had been on top of my things-I-absolutely-need-to-do list for a considerable time.

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So when my boyfriend found out that it is remarkably easy and surprisingly not expensive to get there, he easily found a companion to come along. Spitsbergen became the holiday to celebrate the end of my internship and hence the end of my studies. I don’t think I could have thought of a better destination to celebrate the occasion. Off we went, on our closest bid to the North Pole yet.

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