NORWAY - We are at London Gatwick Airport again. Flying is not my favourite option but I've found a solution this time. Staying at the Yotel, a small hotel of 46 rooms resembling first-class airline cabins inside Gatwick Airport South Terminal, is a relief for pre-departure anxiety. From London, we fly to Bergen for a Norwegian cruise to the Arctic. The last sight of Bryggen in Bergen is immediately recognizable as a row of wooden houses in maroon, beige, yellow and white colors standing tenaciously alongside Bergen Harbor. Surviving the vicissitudes of burning down and rebuilding, the old quayside architecture cluster is now a UNESCO Heritage-listed site - a time machine taking us back over a period of 500 years.
Bergen today is a plank to cruise passengers sailing the Norwegian coast - as we sail with the Hurtigruten.
The Hurtigruten's ship MS Nordnorge (Northern Norway), takes us on a voyage of 2,400 kilometers along the Norwegian coast, through perilous reefs, small islands and narrow inlets, from Bergen to Kirkenes in the Arctic - a sea passage started 120 years ago.
"Hurtigruten ships have always been working ships," tour leader Harald Weinreich reiterates in the first passenger meeting aboard.
"A taste of Norway" is our first ashore excursion and it begins at Urke, where life is like a poem, as described in the village leaflet: "We are approximately 53 people in Urke, 10 children, 31 adults and 12 older Urke-people. In addition we have 20-plus cabin owners There are 14 people who work here The market garden gives us fresh tomatoes and vegetables. The fjord provides fish. In the Urke Valley, goats and sheep graze freely. The local power plant gives us electricity. If we need more, we take a trip to Orsta or Alesund. But most of all, we like to be self-sufficient in Urke Enjoy the view and good life in Urke."