Midnight sun in Norway: where the sun never sets
For years it had been a dream to experience the inexplicable magic of a midnight sun at the North Cape in Norway, the Northernmost point of mainland Europe. In summer 2016, this dream came true and how else to reach this remote place than by car and tent!? Camping along frozen fjords, camping above the Arctic Circle, camping in stunning Lapland? Yes, yes and yes, I’d do it all over time and again!
While writing this post, I’m sitting at a café, it’s -15° celsius outside, sipping hot orange juice while finally finalizing this piece of travel blogging 😉 What I wouldn’t give to be back in Norway right now… But let’s start from the beginning.
Our starting point: diverse and beautiful Oslo
My mom and I started our road trip from Oslo, Norway’s capital, a magnificent city, stunningly located at the Oslo fjord. We had been there before, when I was 11 years old, so 15 years earlier, and boy, this place had changed! Luckily, the campsite hadn’t. Ekeberg Camping can be found on a hill west of the city and offers not only complimentary 1.5 km walks (3 km round-trip), every time you need to use the loo or want to take a shower or use the laundry or cook or… no, it also comes with complimentary scenic views of the entire city about 200 m below, GORGEOUS, especially in the summer months when it doesn’t get dark and yet it’s not light there either.
Oslo itself truly is a diverse and beautiful city with awesome restaurants and cafés: I highly recommend Café Cathedral (their veggie lasagna and burger are to die for) and Café Sentralen (go for their cappuccino and cheese sandwich). Most certainly though, you would not want to miss out on the Holmenkollen, Oslo’s magnificent ski jumping tower and biathlon arena high up over the city and easily reachable by metro.
On the road towards Europe’s Northernmost point
After way too little time, we found ourselves on the road again, driving up to Östersund in Sweden. We only spent one night there and left early the next morning cause the Arctic Circle was calling! How unbelievable! Can you imagine crossing the freaking Arctic Circle??? I´m still pretty baffled every time I realize that I spent 2 weeks north of said Arctic Circle in Lapland. The crossing in Jokkmokk is not as spectacular as the one in Norway, but yet an elevating feeling. Even more so as the next day took us through Finland, past the bluest lakes I have ever seen, up into the high north of Norway aaaand onto my favorite place in this beautiful country: the island of Magerøya, also known as the island of the North Cape, or Nordkapp as Norwegians call it.
Reaching the North Cape and feeling home
I still don´t know what I was expecting, but certainly not driving up there through a snow-hail storm at the end of July. Nor trying to pitch our tent only to learn that NO TENT could withstand the gale-force winds that rattle the island constantly. The wonderful owner of the campsite took pity on us and offered that we could stay in the one empty cabin, phew! After a good night´s sleep, no storm, no rain, no fog, nothing, absolutely nothing could keep us from going the last 20km north and FINALLY reach Nordkapp, Europe´s northern-most point.
I still have problems putting into words what I felt there, how I feel about the place, how wonderful, magical, special, breathtaking, homely, picturesque… this place on Earth is. Everyone who knows me, knows that I´m not at home where I was born nor where I grew up or still live while writing this (in Germany). I´m a traveler, carrying my home with me wherever I go and attaching the feeling to the most outstanding of places, to the ones where all my attempts to escape cease. Thank you Naguib Mahfouz for this most fitting of quotes:
“Home is not where you are born; home is where all your attempts to escape cease”.
The Nordkapp is one of those places. As soon as I got out of the car, set foot on the gravel and made my way to the globe standing on the cliff, facing the continent on the one side and Barent´s Sea and eventually the Arctic on the other, I knew I was where a part of me, where I belong.
Watching the magical midnight sun: one of the most beautiful experience ever
Summer in northern Europe means daylight 24/7. It´s a splendid experience that leaves you with more energy than you could possibly use up in one day and sleep becomes totally overrated when you sit on the tiny porch of the cabin and watch the sky NOT going dark at 2AM. It also means the one moment when the sun touches the horizon, only to rise again a couple of minutes later, can be witnessed every clear night. One of those was July 31st, 2016. We went up to the tip of Magerøya at around 8 pm and spent the next 6 hours watching the sun dip into the ocean, turning the sky all kinds of colors from blue to purple, orange, yellow and back to blue.
Thousands of others were there with us and yet, none of us were strangers. We were united in the desire to experience this unbelievable phenomenon. Can you imagine roughly 3000 people holding their breaths when the body of the sun slowly reemerges from the depths of the dark blue Arctic ocean at 1:09am? Can you imagine the feeling of 3000 people running outside, ignoring the temps below zero, cameras ready, trying to capture this second for all eternity? Can you imagine 3000 people crying with joy upon the dawn of a new day? Before August 1st, 2016, I couldn’t. Now, I will never in my life forget this moment in time.
Making our way back south through Norway’s spectacular landscape
The way back south lead us along Norway’s gorgeous fjords, over the Arctic Circle once more, this time in the stunning Norwegian part of Lappland, and down to one of the other spectacular places this country has to offer: the glacier landscape of the Sognefjell. Take Route 55 and drive all the way across the highest mountain road in Europe; start in Lom and you won’t be disappointed. All over the world, glaciers are melting due to global warming. Norway is no exception! And yet, if you almost freeze your feet off and find yourself walking over glaciers and through a permafrost region in August, you might not believe the scientists’ claims. Watch closely though! Compare your photos with those from the past and you’ll see how little of the ice remains.
Speaking of ice… I seem to have neglected to mention the weather in Europe’s northern countries. Think wet and sunny and wet and sunny and wet and you can never go wrong 😉 In fact, it was pouring so excessively that, for the first time in the history of this hiking trail, the path up Preikestolen had to be closed that day. Needless to say, we made it about half the way before we were politely ushered back down as the authorities had started a search for a missing hiker who might or might not have fallen off the cliff some hours earlier… Yeah, THAT’s what this rock is unfortunately famous for.
However in the company of people united in the quest to dry and get warm again, we spent a marvelous day at the cabin at the foot of Preikestolen. Our attempt to camp had ended the same morning when we woke up because of waves lapping against the sides of our tent. Yeah, it was just that wee bit wet!
A dream come true and forever memories
Three wonderful weeks came to an end a lot sooner than we had hoped. Isn’t it always the same? The more you enjoy yourself, the faster time seems to fly by?!? Thousands of snippets of memories still swirm about in my mind. I can’t mention them all here, I would not find the right words to put them into anyway. I can only say that this dream of ours came true in the most magnificent of ways. Norway will always hold a special place in my heart. I will never forget the thousands of kilometers of gravel roads we crawled over at a snails pace. Nor the smiling faces of Swedes in the middle of nowhere upon discovery that we meant to drink a coffee at their café hundreds of miles off the beaten paths. Until next time, Nordkapp, farewell and don’t be a stranger!
By Explore like a Girl Contributor Anna K. Feige
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