Saturday, August 9, 2008

Friday, Kirkenes, Olympic-madness-starts day...

Final day of shipping, a nice thing to be back on land.. nothing moving around wherever you look.

We’re staying at the Rica Hotel, Kirkenes, very nice. DAMN expensive, $A80 per head for a buffet dinner - a very NICE buffet dinner, but sheesh! We have a big room, and a big bathroom. The usual book-in time, we were told, is 3pm. Given that we arrived at 10am, the day was looking a bit stressful - Kirkenes isn’t a throbbing heart of any kind. But M, ever resourceful, took to the young reception person and said “Oh but is there any chance of booking in a bit earlier, my wife isn’t feeling very well”. Heh. This must be the ONLY upside of my nose being my nose. So after waiting a discreet few minutes for other ship-departing comrades to clear the room, we quietly came up in the lift to our room. Wonders. A proper bed. A bathroom big enough for a bath! And walking room. The boutique nature of the ship’s cabin was fun, but we did find it tricky to do things like get dressed, without giving each other a black eye with an inadvertent elbow or somesuch. Here we’ve spread out as much as we dare, not fully unpacking for only a night, but being able to stash things without having to be neat and tidy. Enough with Virgotude!

We spent some time writing notes and letters, then went out to find the post office and try to get rid of some loot. Success again - all posting done, 8 parcels winging their way to Australia, arriving in about 7 days according to the very efficient Norsk post office person .. we had a great time packing post office bags, finding post codes and thinking of all the ppl we were sending to.. a nice feeling.

After the post office fix, we had lunch at a Bakeri and Konditori - ham and cheese sammos and coffee. The service was very interesting - lots of extremely blonde, ice-eyed waitresses (and customers - a boy about 8 years old with white hair - not an albino, because he had darker eyebrows and eyelashes), but the coffee took until we’d eaten to be served. And our lattes were extremely hot. I carried mine over to the counter to add some cold milk, and managed to tip the whole beautiful thing over. Yeah, me a bit tired. What with the late night, early morning, unnatural activity before normal corpse-reviving time, and the excitement of being on land again, I was clearly not myself. The coffee (a whole tall glass of it) went EVERYWHERE - all down the counter, across the floor, across my clean, brand new daks, ditto shoes and socks. Bugger.

But this is a testament to Australian wool, because I was able to wipe down my daks, shoes, socks and not a mark left on them (thanks also to my darling dorter for the many layers of water/soil proofing on my shoes, it worked!). The staff were very kind, not only mopping up the mess but making me a free new coffee. After this the only possible thing to do was to have a sleep.

I resumed the day at about 5.30... only to read, have dinner, and find some pretty amazing things on tv - like, oh I’d forgotten totally (no newspapers remember?) that today the Olympics begin. We watched the opening ceremony for about 3 minutes, only enough to see the official opening words. Then M insisted we move channels, too much Party propaganda for him. I channel-surfed and found, ye gods! an Ozzie drama, Colin Friels et al in a cop thriller. So while I’ve been engaging in other soothing personal activities (cutting my fringe, drinking cold gin, repacking my cases to fit more in - not actually impossible, so ner to all you cynics out there) I’ve been able to enjoy some Aussie logic, accent, bullshit, cynicism and humour. Wonderful! Now M has shut himself into the bathroom to read because he can’t cope with the tv sound. I’d better give it up.

Tomorrow we turn south, crossing into Finland and heading, via a scenic tour, to Inari, where we will stay the night. I think it’s another Rica group hotel, although I do hope it’s cheaper than this one - as you know I have no problem with luxury, but if I’d known the buffet was so expensive I’d probably have bought bananas, bread and cheese at the ICA (IGA in Norsk, stands for Independent Coop Association I think)... or at least tried to eat my head off. We had that amazingly huge and wonderful seafood feast on the ship last night, so I just couldn’t fang this one. Best item? - there were two: sun-dried tomatoes; and a sort of fish cake, more like a fish ball a la Vietnamese soup, but as wide in diameter as a slice of orange, served with brown gravy. Very tasty. As was the very large chicken drum and breast - a Viking-sized chicken, but moist and tender. So perhaps I have just described why this buffet cost as much as it did. The array of fresh salad served with it was good too. I didn’t dare look at the desserts, temptation is too hard.

Tomorrow, ze bus. Today brought to you by what I believe was a lot of nice Gucci (I have no sense of smell atm), latte floor-wash in the Konditori, and a fresh Norsk cinnamon/sugar bun. Nom.

I was reading ze brochure about Kirkenes and this remote area of the world. This area was formerly known as ‘Lappland’, now known as the homeland of the Sami people, who speak a dialect of Norwegian which has more in common with Finnish than any other language. M described as a language/dialect which started out the same 2,000 years ago but took a turn sideways. I can imagine that! And, we are further east than Cairo. Even thinking about the curvature of the earth leaning up to the North Pole, it’s a long way further east than I would have guessed. We are really travelling! Yesterday we passed a whole lot of ‘north’ markers - the largest northern town, the most northern island of Norway, etc etc. Even the northern-most port, although I am confused about that, because I know ships can get to Greenland, and Iceland, places like that, which I am guessing cover more northern territory. Perhaps it’s all related to this warm Gulf Stream, and the ports are described as such because boats can get into them all through the year, not just for a few days in mid-’summer’. [Speaking of which, a balmy summer’s day in Kirkenes on 8th August is 8 degrees with a brisk cool wind. Mum this is where you should move to when the summer gets too much at home.]


Hil said...

It snowed here a few minutes ago - early sunday morning. It was very brief, wet and didn't settle, but still snow.

Beth said...

Hi there B -
Have just spent a very enjoyable hour catching up on your blog. Sounds like your health is holding up and you are having a great time! Keep up the kitty contact, sez I, they might have messages from Max and LMW.
Hey, is Kirkenes like Kirkness in the Orkneys? ie, is there a connection in the dim and distant past? Maybe M knows?

BJ said...

Sounds like I really HAVE taken the weather with me! Altho it is still 19 degrees here (in Helsinki), it's raining today. Makes it humid, yuk.

Beth - M says there is a likely very strong link between the two, because they both mean 'church point' or 'church head', ie promontory or ridge or headland. So it is just a matter of interpretation into two different languages. Go to the top of the class that girl!

We've been to the Museum of Modern Art and got all depressed by the dark vision of the Finnsk. Shopping afterwards made it worse.. we have resorted to alcohol, not least because while searching for a grog shop we passed the AUSSIE BAR. We didn't go in, I mean, we aren't totally desperate.. yet... I plan an evening of sloth and a dial-up movie, with my coffee, gin and knitting. Dunno what M's up to, he may choose to leave the bear alone in its cage and go out to a concert he's found in a nearby church.

Purrhaps your weather has hit rock bottom and will now improve? I hope so. xxb.