Ausflüge pt. 3: My Arctic escape

It all started a year ago when I was still living in Barcelona, so there’s not much connection to my everyday Berlin reality within this odd-ball post, except from that I did wanted to escape badly the heat wave in Europe. Around the time I visited Iceland in June 2014, my Danish colleague told me about spending last Christmas time even more drastically North: on Svalbard. Since then, my wandering soul stayed uneasy and there was no turning back for me: I knew I had to go to the Northernmost settlement in the world, sooner or later. I started studying about Svalbard, and looking for the best opportunity to go there as a tourist. Pardon me, a traveller. Being a tourist on Svalbard means something very disrespected and stupid.
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I read about moving to and around the island, paying attention to the safety regulations, and protection against the polar bears. Though polar bears are considered endangered species, they are actually quite often seen on Svalbard, so it’s better to walk protected with a riffle (asking the governor for a renting licence prior to your visit). Or with a guide. Or with a newly acquired friend in town who owns a riffle, there are plenty of options to organize your activities there actually. Bearing in mind that the mighty nature is always the most important governor of the island!
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Although Svalbard is still a very remote and wild place to go, I have to say it’s pretty well-connected now with the rest of Europe. In the summer time there are about 2 daily flights directly connecting the airport in Longyearbyen with Oslo, in the winter time there’s a daily flight from Tromso in the northern Norway. Longyearbyen, currently the largest town in the archipelago of Svalbard, on its largest island – Spitzbergen offers a wide range of hostels and hotels – from sharing a dorm with some other adventurers in a former coal miners’ lodge to 5-star hotels, like Radisson Blue or Mary Ann’s Polarrigg Hotel (with a very quirky look). So all in all, to go to the Northern tip of the world from my flat in Berlin took me maybe 7 hours in total. Quite surreal, isn’t it?
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While the heat was treating the continent quite cruelly last week, I spent some lovely Arctic summer days: hiking on the Spitzbergen’s mountain ranges, sailing and kayaking around the fjords and Russian settlements, birdwatching or exploring the abandoned buildings on my own.
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It’s not a trip for everyone. The place is pretty different to anything you’ve seen so far, and the conditions on the sea/in the mountains can get quite hostile. You have to respect the local customs and the nature, trying best to behave like an invisible tourist, which is often repeated in the informational brochures. The alcohol is very cheap as for the island being a tax-free zone, but in order to prevent tourists behaving like jerks, you have to carry your boarding pass whenever you’re buying a booze, as the quantity of what you drink is noted, and eventually – counted. Well, not really – and for the intoxicated tourists there’s a unique cell prepared too by the local governor – and I’ll definitely write about it in my next post featuring the usual day in Longyearbyen. I’ve learn best that there is no such thing as crime out there, just plenty of tourists that can spoil last pieces of wilderness on Earth. So once again: thumbs up for travelling, not being a tourist.
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4 thoughts on “Ausflüge pt. 3: My Arctic escape

  1. Pingback: Beyond 79° latitude: Pyramiden | Berlinering

  2. Pingback: Longyearbyen: where Santa Claus lives in the mine | Berlinering

  3. Pingback: 10 thoughts for 1 year in Berlin | Berlinering

  4. Pingback: Relaxa – how to get through the cold and dark days | LUSOFONETICA

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