Catching Up With LOFOTEN, Part Three

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Peter Knego’s southbound journey aboard Hurtigruten’s dowager LOFOTEN continues with visits to Trollfjord, the ship’s namesake Lofoten Islands and a transit of the Arctic Circle.

Hurtigruten

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: A new DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2014.

Friday, August 22, 2014, ctd.:

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Entering Trollfjord.

By the time LOFOTEN began her late afternoon approach to Trollfjord, the day had already yielded a week’s worth of stunning scenery and quick calls at four Norwegian coastal towns. This would be my first ever visit to the less-than-a-mile-long Trollfjord, a sidearm of the Raftsund Strait between the Vesteralen and Lofoten archipelagos.

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Vertiginous verticalia.

What the little fjord lacks in length, it more than makes up for in height and scenic beauty.  On either side, there are mountains that tumble down from 3,000-plus foot elevations via steep basalt cliffs. As we drew nearer, it looked as though even the tiny LOFOTEN would scrape the sides of the 300-foot-wide entrance. Had I a chance to do this again, I would without a doubt book the Sea Eagle Safari excursion, if not just to see the majestic birds hovering overhead but even more for the views of LOFOTEN passing through this splendid backdrop.

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Exiting Trollfjord.

As LOFOTEN’s exquisitely erudite excursion manager Anja provided narrative in English, Norwegian and German, we motored gracefully into the little fjord, then spun around to rendezvous with the Sea Eagle Safari boat. Soon, we would re embark the excursion guests and continue onward to the Lofoten Islands.

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Dinner setting.

Just as I settled in for dinner in the Restaurant, Anja’s voice chimed over the PA. Hurtigruten ships have a policy of not only publishing in the daily program the times when fellow Hurtigruten fleetmates will be encountered but also announcing them in advance, allowing gawkers like me a chance to hit the open decks.

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Chopped salad with pesto dressing — back in a minute!

In this instance, it was not another Hurtigruten ship we would soon be encountering.

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Approaching AZORES.

Were the oncoming vessel any ordinary cruise ship, I am sure LOFOTEN’s officers and Anja would have just let her quietly pass. But while I was ditching my salad fork for my cameras, our host was providing a brief history of the 1948-built AZORES, which was originally the transatlantic liner STOCKHOLM for Swedish American Line.

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Ships that pass in the light.

Not only is AZORES one of the oldest ships in active service, she is one of the most storied, having collided with and sank the Italian liner ANDREA DORIA off Nantucket in 1956. 52 lives and one of the most beautiful liners ever built were lost in the tragedy but the STOCKHOLM limped back to New York for repairs and went on to sail another four years for her Swedish owners before being sold to East German interests in 1960.

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Transom and then some…

As the VOLKERFREUNDSCHAFT, the ship offered cruises in the East German market until being retired in 1985. Her sturdy construction eventually attracted Italian buyers who basically scrapped the ship down to the hull and completely rebuilt her as the cruise ship ITALIA PRIMA. To compensate for the enlarged structure, huge sponsons were attached to her stern. Today, as the AZORES, the ship continues to sail for newly-formed Portuscale Cruises and will be chartered to U.K.-based Cruise and Maritime Voyages from 2015 onwards.

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Like buttah! Delicious lemon-drenched cod entrée with mashed potatoes.

I returned to the Restaurant to savor the rest of my dinner, finishing just as LOFOTEN made her approach to the port of Svolvaer, which was bathing in the glow of a pristine afternoon sun. As soon as we tied up, I disembarked for the Hiking in Lofoten excursion, which began with a short bus ride through town.

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The hike begins.

As the tour bus continued onward for visits to various local sights, our small group exited at a trail head that was part of the main highway prior to the construction of a tunnel in the 1970s.

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Lofoten overview.

My fellow hikers were all German, so our guide Veronica told us about the region’s unique geology, flora and fauna in both languages as the views became ever more spectacular.

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Hiking in Lofoten.

She also explained that just after one visit, she fell in love with these rugged islands and has made them her summer home ever since. She had also scaled nearly every one of the jagged peaks in our realm, although our hike thankfully adhered to a far less vertiginous standard.

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Sandy beach.

Several kilometers and a crispy Norwegian chocolate bar later, we had arrived at a beautiful sandy beach where the coach would swoop us back up for the second part of the regular Lofoten sightseeing tour.

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Mirrored in Lofoten.

One of the stops on the road to meet the ship in Stamsund was American artist Dan Graham’s 2.5 meter tall glass and steel monument near the old ferry docks at Lyngvaer. The untitled work questions the role of the onlooker encountering modern art while said onlooker observes him/herself within its transparent and reflective walls.

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Twilight from the wing.

Two islands and an hour’s ride away, we rejoined the LOFOTEN in an indigo twilight. As the ship sailed off into the night, I tried to linger on deck in the hopes of catching the Northern Lights. Earlier, our guide Veronica advised that the night’s “3” rating meant there would be a good chance of such an encounter. But before the show could begin, sleep had beckoned.

End Of Catching Up With The LOFOTEN, Part Three.

More To Come…

Special thanks: Mindy Bianca, Anja Erdman, Elliot Gillies, Snorre A. Pedersen

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego
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