78 Degrees 13 Minutes North (Svalbard)

The long-awaited (by who? no one, probably) post about Svalbard. I’ve uploaded a bucket load of pictures and since WordPress hates me, I’ll just run through them in whatever order they have landed on this post. This could get random.

Flying in to Longyearbyen Airport on a summer’s day. I kind of expected this – the ground is permanently frozen so bound to be a bit of the white stuff on the ground. Not as much as  you would expect being 78 degrees north though.

Usually my yellow North Face bag sticks out like a homeless person at a black tie event, but in this place, soft sided bags (particularly North Face) reign supreme. On the baggage carousel I counted no less than six bags similar to mine.

Speaking of baggage carousels, I swear I never take pictures of them. Honest. Unless they have a polar bear on them. Then all bets are off.

Checked into the Trappers Hotel, and it this is not the first time The Husband and I have been allocated twin beds. I promise, we really are married. That said, for the sheer novelty of the place and knowing that they are fully booked, I said nothing. Who doesn’t like sleeping perpendicularly anyway.

The polar bear theme continues in the breakfast room.

The room keys are attached to raw hide ‘bones’. Good job they don’t let The Dog stay in a place like this, this would be eaten in minutes.

Breakfast room again.

Chill out space. Polar bear motif always in shot somewhere.

Looking out from the room of perpendicular bedding. Yes, that is a mezzanine. No, we don’t know why, no we didn’t sleep up there.

Next we went shopping. We figured that it might be good idea to disguise ourselves as polar bears in case we got attacked.

Then we thought better of it and perused the gun selection. Word of warning, if you are a little gun shy, this part of the world is not for you. People carry rifles in full view just walking around the streets. The Husband is from Northern Ireland, so he wasn’t phased, but I was a little amused.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what this is, but I bet the staff get good tips.

Fearing that we wouldn’t see any real live polar bears, The Husband purchased some. And this is what we did with them. We are those people.

Oh, shit, you wanted usual information about Svalbard. Sorry. Well, there is a museum and other than being pretty awesome, they give you colourful crocs to wear, because in Svalbard, you take your damn shoes off when you go inside somewhere. That includes your hotel. I like the practice which is (I’m told) quite Norwegian. I don’t wear shoes in my own house and my socks are in excellent repair.

Longyearbyen itself has lots of pretty houses. Why? Because, I’m not sure whether you have noticed but nothing grows here. There is no grass, no trees, nothing.

And that makes dogs very sad. Imagine if you couldn’t wee on a tree. All you could do is hang about with a seal skin and look forlorn.

Ah, the famous polar bear signs. This just basically says ‘watch your back, these mo-fos’ are everywhere.

What else is there to do in Svalbard beside getting rescued on the high seas and marvelling at the how the sun doesn’t set? Well, you know I’m into my cycling right now. And I picked the ultimate bike tour for us to go on. I’ve done the fat tire bike ride in Paris, but this is a REAL fat tire ride. (Yes, I’m spelling tyre that way intentionally, put the green pen down.)

These bikes will go over anything: rocky beaches, small cars and probably a walrus though we didn’t get to try the last two. It was pretty ace though.

Sea kayaking. I know, it sounds a bit lame to go for a gentle paddle on a fjord. But add in a seal, some freezing water and shit gets good.
Oh, and did I mention the scenery. That’s pretty nice too.

Ever wondered what happened to all those christmas wish lists you sent to Santa at the North Pole? They get incinerated here.

Fine, maybe they don’t burn them and are actually not ever delivered here on account of the pointlessness of actually shipping them, but I like to think they start lighting this bad boy every November.

I have no idea what this is, other than a collection of sea-junk that has been turned into a sculpture that I momentarily thought was good enough to take a picture of.

The ever-present polar bear, in metal sculpture form. Classy.

Wondering whether Longyearbyen has a local custom? They do. It’s call smacking the christ out of birds that are nesting. Help yourself to a stick and whack a few yourself. At least, I think that’s what the sign says, my Norwegian is a little rusty. (Totally true though, the stick is for whacking birds that attack you during specific seasons.)

Dumb and Dumber, arctic style.

Midnight sun. See? It exists. Though frankly, I could have taken this at noon, you wouldn’t know. I promise I stumbled out of the bar to take it though.

Svalbard, a really long way from anywhere.

Being a long way from anywhere also means they have limited supply of some things, like lambic fruit beer. I drank them out of it one night. Not happy with myself.

Kultur. It has it. We don’t.

The Husband, ridiculously excited about something. Presumably that it is still light as midday at 1am. It’s wrong to be this drunk and feel like it’s noon, unless you have an addiction.

So, what do arctic folk eat then? Time to get some grub in…
I’d like to say this was just a regular sausage, but it wasn’t. I’m sure there was some reindeer or seal meat in it. We dined at Huset, which is the only fine dining place on the island. Food was amazing though (as was the bill which The Husband picked up).

OK, this was definitely something arctic-ish. Go with reindeer again. It wasn’t polar bear, apparently those things don’t actually make good eating as they are mostly disease-ridden.

Puds are good too. Very good.

Even if the restaurant itself was a tad bizarre and ‘The Shining’-esque. This place was in the middle of nowhere.

Fine dining in the arctic…? You better believe it.

So long, Svalbard. Thanks for the emergency situations, pricey drinks and good times. Got a funny feeling I’ll come back…

6 thoughts on “78 Degrees 13 Minutes North (Svalbard)”

    1. Thanks – all pics are from my iPhone! It’s pretty close to how it looks in real life, though I admit I touch up the photos just a tad.

  1. Yes this one has been much anticipated, we knew about it, enjoyed the stop over, experienced the rescue, so its good to get the mission report even though we don’t know the distance to Parkes.

    Its easy to distinguish between this adventure and a gazillion other exciting holidays that you have already done this year, it may be due to your arrival experience, or lack of bikinis it is obviously different and something most of us warm blooded happy with our boring little lot homosapiens may not be attracted to, even after your call to return!

    Trust you to get on a pushy, in amongst it all, at least you looked unhappy when the fruit beer ceased, I must ask were you and hubby on a high vis anorak acid trip in lieu of Stonehenge midsummer’s, either way you will always be able to trump any oneupmanship conversation with this one.

    By the way there is a lot of well established grass in that shot where you say there is no vegetation.

    Are we now done, is there no more holidays for the foreseeable?

    1. No more holidays? Have we just met – yes, of course there are more holidays. I’m busy trying to lock them in, but I promise more adventures regardless. I fancy Stockholm. And Greenland. The Husband wants to go somewhere hotter though. We’ll fight it out for a while, I’ll get him tipsy and he’ll agree to whatever I decide.

      It looks like grass, I’ll admit that, but it ain’t. Tundra at best. Trust me, very little grows up there. We met one couple as we stumbled around half cut at midnight one evening, they were hunting for flowers. They made as join in. We were expecting huge flowers, but to our disappoint (but their utter joy) the flowers were located: barely a millimetre or two. Still, they were extremely excited.

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