Havoysund to Skjervoy including Tromso and Hammerfest

Friday 28th September - Day 8

We awake this morning to some blue sky, but this quickly passes and we find ourselves in misty grey. It feels moody today and the mists hang over the mountains blurring their edges.

Our mood is lightened by our regular announcer, Eskild advising us of a birthday on board. He tells us that the lady who works in the cafĂ© should be wished a very happy birthday if we are passing through and in addition, she is very open to birthday hugs from gentleman that are willing to oblige. As I grab a mug of tea on my way through to the library, one gentleman has taken up the offer and she embraces him warmly.

Hammerfest is today’s major stop. We have only an hour and a half here and the guide books tells us that we can walk up the hill in town and reach an observation deck with a restaurant on top and see views of Hammerfest. It sounds good until we arrive and take a look at the weather. It looks like rain and so we decide against the walk and instead stroll through the town and head towards the local church. Their triangular structures are prevalent throughout all the towns we have visited and Andy enlightens me to the fact that of course the snow cannot build up on the roof if they are this shape. It just falls away. I have one of those "it all makes sense now" moments. As usual the Norwegians have come up with a striking design with a practical application.

Inside the church is a glorious stain-glassed window. There are candles burning and a sense of reverance surrounds us. It seems that all the churches we visit in Norway have someone playing the organ or singing and today despite it being 11.30 and a Friday morning, someone is jauntily playing the organ. It sounds like a mix between Abide with me and a merry seaside tune, but it fills the dimensions of the church.

Hammerfest centre consists of one main street, and there are some charming shops. I strongly recommend a visit to No 19, where you will find fine china, ornate candle holders and garlands to decorate your front door. And in addition, balanced amongst the interior design there are a few white tables and chairs at which you can sit a while and catch up with your friends over a coffee. We had take away coffee lattes here and they were the best we had in Norway.

On the way back to the boat, freezing rain begins and we are glad that the boat is docked only a short distance away. We are also glad that we didn’t decide upon the walk up the hill. Our friend Tom tells us that the rain caught up with him on the way back and in addition the restaurant was shut!

Back on board, Hurtigruten have another treat for us this afternoon. The ladies choir of Hammerfest is on the ship and will be singing in the bar at 4 pm. We head up to find that it is in fact a concert plus singalong. Song sheets in Norwegian are passed among the passengers and dotted amongst them are some English versions. We end the session with a rendition of We’ll Meet Again (naturally), although we laugh to see that it has been attributed to Jonny Cash in the song sheet. Whatever would Vera Lynn have to say on the matter.

Much later, we arrive back in Tromso and take our one and only excursion, which is a midnight trip to Tromso cathedral to hear a concert. The concert consists of Norwegian and Sami folk songs and instrumental pieces played on the piano and flugelhorn. The acoustics at the cathedral are wonderful, carrying the echo of the pure voiced baritone straight to our hearts. The concert and the setting are absolutely magical and I am moved to tears at the final rendition of Amazing Grace.  

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