The Lofoten Islands
The Vesteralen excursion through the Lofoten Islands sets off at 8.15am. We join our luxury coaches and local English speaking guides and set off from Harstad, with first stop at Trondenes Church, which dates from around 1250. The first church was probably built of wood but it is now of stone construction. As we arrive we see our ship the FINNMARKEN sail south. Together with the snow covered mountains and the sun rising, it is a wonderful photo opportunity. We're invited to attend a short service before driving a short distance to the location of an old fortification built by the Germans during World War II. Germany's occupying forces built forts all along the coast and the gunds near Harstad were intended to command the approach to Narvik and Tromso. One of the guns has been preserved and we're able to visit an exhibition in the gun bunker and the gun itself. The only problem is that the gun is situated in the middle of a Norwegian military base. We're permitted to drive our coach through but advised not to take any photographs until we reach the visitor centre. Norwegian soldiers appear to be on duty watching our every move. From the gun placement you can see 360 degree views and Dawn decides to take a photograph of the mountains in the distance. Shortly afterwards (5 seconds in fact!) a Norwegian soldier asks her to delete the photo! She's not sure what military secrets she photographed.
From Harstad we continue to explore Hinnoya Island and take the ferry from Revsnes to Flesnes. During the short ferry crossing we're served tea or coffee, a local cake and the typical Norwegian brown cheese. Leaving the ferry we drive alongside a pretty fjord towards the town of Sortland where we rejoin our ship. We cross an impressive road bridge to access the quayside.
Those guests who stayed on board ship this morning have enjoyed a picturesque sailing through the Lofoten Islands, including the 3-mile long man-built Risoyrenna channel.
Next stop is Stokmarknes and although we only have one hour, most of us visit the Hurtigruten Museum and step on board the original MS FINNMARKEN ship. It is somewhat smaller and less comfortable than our current transport so we don't lose anyone. This evening we visit Svolvaer and there is a choice of things to do: the Magic Ice Galllery with impressive ice carvings (and expensive drinks in glasses made of ice!), an informative war rememberance museum, and an art gallery. After this we visit Stamsund and Bodo - but that's at 2am and we're not sure anyone went ashore.