June 28, 2010 - Honningsvåg, Norway

North seems to be the common word used in many of my recent journal entries, at least since our special Norway voyage, and now is no different. Today, I found myself adorned in my North Face jacket, filling in as the tour guide on my bus and headed north, to Nordkapp (North Cape), which is Europe’s proverbial “roof” – its northernmost shore sitting at 71°10’21”north latitude.

Let me start from the beginning!

At around 9:00am, we sailed into Honningsvag, a rugged and remote place which serves as the gateway to the Arctic exploration of the beautiful North Cape Plateau, a destination that calls all visitors to this region. Located on the island of Mageroya, Honningsvag lies just 21 miles away from Nordkapp. Fortunately for me, Nic, Nicola, Jasão, and Mark, we all had the pleasure of escorting one of the tours that would take us there, to the northern most point of Europe!

To be fair, Knivskjellodden (kuneev-shel-oden), a narrow promontory a few miles west of Nordkapp, is slightly further north (71°11’8”) and therefore qualifies as the true Nordkapp, but few people complain about the minor error. The North Cape complex had already been built by the time the blunder was discovered. Most visitors, like us, arrive by sea anyway (and therefore cruise further north of both sites…like us).

Our adventure began as we made our drive along the winding and twisting roads of Honningsvag and had views of what is considered the only genuine Arctic scenery in Europe. It may be bare and treeless, but there was an unusual beauty about the island. Now, you may have picked up on the fact that I said I had to play tour guide. Well, seeing as how our trip to Nordkapp was not necessarily considered an excursion, but rather a “bus transfer”, there were no tour guides leading the way. Traditionally, the tour guide will sit in the front of the bus, microphone in hand, and commentate on not only the scenic drive ahead, but also the customs, traditions and ways of life of their native people. Seeing as how I couldn’t do anything of that, this is what I said:

Good morning everybody! Welcome to Honningsvag! Is everyone excited to see Nordkapp? Good! Well ladies and gentlemen, at this point you may be telling yourselves, “Wow, this Norwegian tour guide can speak really clear English”, but there are a few things wrong with that sentence. One, I am not Norwegian, and two; I am not your tour guide. I am, however, Erich, one of your dancers onboard the ship, and today, also your tour escort. Now, seeing as how I am not Norwegian, I am sorry to say that I will not be able to give you any information on anything we are going to be seeing during our drive. What I can do, however, seeing as how I’ve been onboard for about seven months now, is answer any and all of those burning questions you may have regarding life onboard (and below deck) of the ship, the audition process, our shows, etc. I know you have many! But, in all seriousness, if you do see something outside and have any questions, please send them on up and I will ask Helga, our bus driver, and see if, together, we can’t get you an answer!  With that being said, ladies and gentlemen, sit back, relax and enjoy our scenic drive!

Well, it didn’t take long before the questions already started flying! And I was getting all of the regulars! Like: How are your accommodations onboard? How and where did you audition? How long is your contract?  I was pleased to answer any and all of the questions they had. It was the least I could do to keep them happy and occupied during the drive, not to mention the fact that I loved using the mic and playing tour guide! Anyway, I digress…

Before we arrived to our final destination, we did make one quick stop at a small, local market where there was not only handmade trinkets and clothing, but also several reindeer. There was even one that was standing next to a man, grazing and posing for photo ops. Like I said, this stop was a short one and before long we continued on our way.

In just another 15 minutes we reached the top of the mountain only to be welcomed by a sudden, yet very heavy, blanket of fog. It was a bit unfortunate, seeing as how the main reason to make the trip is for the view, but we didn’t let this ruin our day! Regardless of the weather (it was windy and very cold as well) we headed outside to get the traditional picture with “the globe”, the monument which has become the symbol of the North Cape. Then we braved the conditions to make it over to the “Children of the World” monument, which was created in 1989 and depicts seven children from different parts of the world to symbolize cooperation, friendship, hope and happiness across all borders. Once back inside, we wandered around the gift shop, before stopping in the North Cape Coffee Shop to get some authentic Norwegian waffles.

As soon as we were finished eating, we headed downstairs to watch Nordkapp’s panorama film. The supervideograph, a 225-degree screen with wraparound sound, takes you on a journey through a countryside filled with contrasts, changing light and magnificent natural beauty. You get to witness the changing of the four seasons along with the extremes that occur in this area, such as the 24-hour darkness, which takes place from November to the end of January. The film was really fantastic! I was happy that I had the opportunity to see what this area can look like on a day without a cover of thick fog invading. I even considered buying the DVD, had it not been a costly $50!

Anyway, after the movie, it was about that time to load back onto the busses. Once we were back at port, we ran into Andy and Jen (the Youth Coordinators) and Dan and Oleana (our Ballroom Couple). They were in search of the Artico Ice Bar. Well, seeing as how I was given a pamphlet earlier, on my way off of the dock, I figured I’d lead the way. Most of the others, who were on our tour with us came along as well, but once we got there and saw the line and cost, most backed out. It ended up just being the 6 of us (Nic, me, Andy, Jen, Oleana and Dan), but we had a blast!

This Ice Bar was far better than the one in Iceland. (Go figure!) It was more of what I had been imagining all along, yet still, I have to admit, not as great as the pictures I had seen of the Absolut Ice Bar, which I found out from Andy, is in Stockholm, Sweden. Regardless, the Artico Ice Bar was definitely great in its own right. The frozen room was complete with a circle-shaped bar, dog sled, two alcoves with ice tables and even an igloo, which you could actually climb into. We probably stayed inside for about 30 minutes, constantly annoying the employees, who we kept asking to take picture after picture. Once we had decided to leave, one of the workers told us to make sure we hang on to our shot glasses (which were completely made of ice) and once we get outside, “make a wish and throw it into the bay”. Well, this sounded like a great idea, but I had already bitten off part of my glass, easily enthused by the fact that I could actually do that. Before I could fully consume my shot glass, I figured we better make it outside quick and make our wishes! So that’s exactly what we did!

…And that’s how my day in Honningsvag ended – making my wish on my partially eaten shot glass!





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1 Comment

July 21, 2010
I am sure you made quite a great tour guide!! I am glad you think quick on your feet and know just what to do to get others involved. The ice bar sounds fantastic and I sure do hope your wish you made comes true (or did come true). I am anxious to visit Epcot with you and see how true to the countries we visit there are to the actual countries you have set foot in. I love you and miss you always!
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