Day trip to Pyramiden

Day trip to Pyramiden

Visiting the ghost town Pyramiden was high on the list for my visit to Svalbard. Exploring these kinds of unusual sights are intriguing, and the guide gave insight to the way of life in this former Russian settlement.

After a nice lunch in Longyearbyen, I was ready for my afternoon trip to Pyramiden. Heading north with the mountains on one side, and the partly snow-caped mountains and glacier at the other side of the fjord, I was excited for this trip combining nature and the mystic ghost town.

Skansbukta, a bay in the outer part of Billefjorden, is known for the rich bird life and the former gypsum mine, and we could easily witness both from the boat. The mining for gypsum was not a success, so after two attempts, the mine was abandoned. We could still see the traces of the mining and the trappers hut at the beach, but the main attraction now is the birds. My personal favorite among them are the cute puffins!

Skansbukta bay in the outer part of Billefjorden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Skansbukta, a bay in the outer part of Billefjorden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

A cute little puffin! Billefjorden, Pyramiden, Svalbard, Norway

A cute little puffin!

Grey clouds hanging down the mountains. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Heading on, I could see the massive glacier Nordenskiöldbreen in the distance. I ignored the fact that I was quite cold, and stayed out on the deck to enjoy the beautiful, yet grey, scenery. As the boat approached the majestic glacier, the wind silenced and the sun came out, warming up my frozen butt… I did bring more warm clothes, and they even have some thermic overall suites on board, but I was just too lazy to put them on. And I actually did not realize how cold I was until I felt the heat.

The grey clouds that had followed us all day cracked up, and gave way for the blue sky. This combined with the white clouds, and the white and blue glacier, made it picture perfect! Everyone on board came out to enjoy this powerful natural sight, and it felt like time stood still for a moment.

Arriving at Nordenskiöldbreen glacier. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Blue ice at the massive glacier Nordenskiöldbreen. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The massive glacier Nordenskiöldbreen up close. Near Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Nordenskiöldbreen glacier near Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

But Pyramiden (and the guide) was waiting, so we had to continue our journey.

Due to the risk of polar bears in the area, you are not allowed to walk around on your own without a gun or rifle, so we had to stay close to the guide at all times.

The Pyramiden area was originally Swedish territory, but they sold it to the Russians in 1927. They built the settlement at the foot of the Pyramiden mountain, hence the name of the town, and started mining for coal in 1956. It was considered a very lucrative job, both being very well paid, and also included free housing, food and entertainment. At the glory days, there were about 1800 people living in Pyramiden. Some workers came with their family, others came alone. In one of the apartment buildings, the top floor was for single women and the bottom floor was for single men. The floors between were for couples and families. Very few left Pyramiden still single…

Welcome to Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

An apartment building in Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

An apartment building in Pyramiden.

The workers were not allowed to stay for more than two years, both to prevent depression during polar nights, but also to give the opportunity to others to work and save money to start a new life back at the mainland.

The houses in the town were modern, the culture center had a concert hall and a sports room, they had a nice swimming pool, a large cantina and a hotel. And even imported grass from the Soviet Union!

The decline started with the fall of the Soviet Union, and combined with the tragic plane crash in 1996, where most of the deceased were workers at Pyramiden, it was the beginning of the end for the settlement. In 1998 most of the workers left the town, and left everything behind. Maybe they thought things would get better and they would move back some day, or maybe it was just too expensive to move everything. The theories are many.

After being deserted for 10 years, some Russians started to inhabit Pyramiden again in 2008 to attract tourists. Today there are only two buildings that has electricity, and most of the houses are locked up. No one are allowed to enter the buildings without permission, but the guided tour takes you inside some of them to witness the grandness of the glory days. Today there are 3-4 persons living in Pyramiden all year around to maintain the buildings, while there are about 10 extra people during the season.

It is a very special experience walking around a ghost town like Pyramiden. It seemed dead quiet, but all of a sudden a fox came sneaking around a corner, curiously following the group at safe distance.

The mines behind Pyramiden. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway A fox sneaking around. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Arriving at the cultural center, we were allowed to walk freely inside. The house is pretty run down, but if you look closely, you can still see some of the fine details; such as the engraved polar bear on the floor downstairs.

Lenin in front of the cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The world's northernmost statue of Lenin. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

A polar bear engraved in the floor. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

A polar bear engraved in the floor.

Several music instruments were scattered around in different rooms, once used to play music in the concert hall. Pyramiden was a haven where they could listen to music that was banned elsewhere in the Soviet Union, like for instance jazz.

One of the many instruments left in the cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The entertainment room in thge cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

The sports hall had a thick layer of dust on the floor, and reminded me of the sports room in another former Soviet area; the cultural center in Pripyat in Chernobyl

The sport hall in the cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

The stairs inside the cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Standing at the porch of the cultural center, you can look out at the whole city of Pyramiden, with the glacier and the mountains as a beautiful backdrop. And the back head of the northernmost statue of Lenin, that enjoy the same view.

Lenin looking out over Pyramiden and Nordenskiöldbreen. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Lenin looking out over Pyramiden and Nordenskiöldbreen.

Pyramiden and the glacier. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Pyramiden town. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

The large cantina looked like a nice ballroom, with wooden floor, large windows, flowery wallpaper, and a large mosaic art piece above the staircase. Back at the kitchen the relics of the state-of-the-art equipment from that time remains.

The cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Care for some ice cream. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Care for some ice cream?

The main staircase in the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Mosaic art in the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The main room in the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Inside the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The kitchen in the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Our last stop was at the hotel. Originally built in 1989, it still has the Soviet style even though part has been renovated to be more modern. The room where the bar is situated still has the original walls and ceilings, but the bar is new. And rich. Not in the sense of money, as the prices are quite cheap, but the selection is wide. They have their own beer and vodka as well. I of course had to try them both. Apparently, Russians have a tradition to drink alcoholic beverages containing the same % of alcohol as the latitude they are at, so if you feel adventurous, you can get a strong shot. Being at 79°, I did not feel the need to act like a local. Regular vodka was enough.

The hotel bar. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The local vodka in the bar. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Leaving Pyramiden, I wish I had more time and could stay overnight. You are not allowed to walk freely around without a gun or rifle though, but if you are licensed you can go for hikes up the mountain. Or just enjoy the scenery. And send a postcard from this unusual outpost.

Stamps at the post office. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

As the boat headed back towards Longyearbyen, I caught a last glimpse of the white and blue glacier, while puffins were flying by the window.

Practical information: 
Book online in advance. 
The catamaran leaves at 13.30, but pickup at the hotels are earlier.
Bring warm woolen clothes, including scarf, gloves and a hat, so you can stay outdoor and enjoy the scenery.
You can only pay by cash at Pyramiden, as they do not have signal for the card machines to be online.

 

The world’s largest Gingerbread Town

The Gingerbread Town is the worlds largest, with approximately 2000 houses. The first Gingerbread Town in Bergen was made in 1991. Every year since, kindergartens, schools, private persons, offices, organizations are all contributing with their gingerbread houses.

The Gingerbread Town is built as a miniature of the city of Bergen, and you can easily recognize the well-known landmarks, such as Mount Fløyen with the Fløibanen FunicularBryggen, St. Mary’s church and the Rosenkrantz tower. In addition there are some internationally known landmarks, the Eiffel Tower being one that usually is present every year.

Start by visiting the Gingerbread Town to get the Christmas spirit, and plan the rest of your stay in Bergen from there.

Opening hours 19 November-31 December: 
Weekdays: 9-21
Saturday: 9-20
Sunday: 10-19
24 December: 9-13
25 December: Closed
26 December: 13-18
New Year’s Eve: 11-15

The worlds largest Gingerbread Town in Bergen. Norway The worlds largest Gingerbread Town in Bergen, Norway Rosenkrantz Tower and St. Mary's Church. The worlds largest Gingerbread Town in Bergen, Norway Vågen in Bergen in the worlds largest Gingerbread Town in Bergen, Norway Fløibanen Funicular. The worlds largest Gingerbread Town in Bergen, Norway Nordnes in Bergen in the worlds largest Gingerbread Town in Bergen, Norway Sandviken and Norwegian Fisheries Museum. The worlds largest Gingerbread Town in Bergen, Norway

24 hours in Bergen with the Bergen Card

Being a local in Bergen I wanted to be tourist in my own town, experiencing what the city has to offer. With all the Bergen Card advantages, it was an easy choice. You get free or discounted admittance to most museums and attractions as well as many cultural events, various sightseeing tours, restaurants and parking. It also include free travel on Light Rail and buses in the city and the region. Depending on how much sightseeing you want to do (and how much time you have), the Bergen Card is available for either 24, 48 or 72 hours.

Beautiful view of Bergen from Mt. Fløyen. Norway

Beautiful view of Bergen from Mt. Fløyen.

Overview first! Taking the Fløibanen Funicular to the top of Mt. Fløyen gives a great view of the city. Being up on the mountain, you are also away from the city life, and can walk straight into the nature. Fløibanen Funicular has made some tour suggestions for the many hiking options in the area. You can download them for free on their website.

Downtown again, I went for the 10 o’ clock departure for the Fjord Cruise to Mostraumen. I was obviously not the only one that had figured this was the perfect day for a fjord cruise from Bergen. Gliding past Bryggen – the old Hanseatic Wharf, bathing in sun, made me love my hometown just a little bit more. Once outside the harbor, the boat picked up some speed. As it is autumn (even though the sun and temperature could easily fool anyone), I was prepared with warm clothes to be able to stay outside. Even though it is perfectly fine to sit inside as well, there is something special about getting the real full experience, feeling the sun in my eyes and the wind in my hair.

Bryggen in Bergen a beautiful autumn day! Norway

The water was completely flat, reflecting the trees dressed in magnificent autumn colors. Arriving at Mostraumen, the crew picked two persons to get water from the waterfall. I was one of them, together with a Spanish by the name Enrique. Why not stand under a waterfall when the sun is shining..? With that said, we got dressed in proper rain gear, and did not get wet at all. The bucket was filled quickly, and everyone that wanted to taste got a glass. Fresh and cold!

Reflecting water. Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway Nice surroundings on the Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway Beautiful waterfalls on the Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway Water from a waterfall. Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway Getting water from the waterfall. Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway

On the way back I enjoyed a typical Norwegian “lefse” and a “Kvikk Lunsj” chocolate. Not the healthiest, but since I was being a tourist in my own town I pretend to be on holiday. Then everything is allowed, isn’t it?…

Back on shore, I walked passed the colorful, charming houses at Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. The houses were originally built in the 11th century, but burned down many times. The oldest part of Bryggen was rebuilt after the great fire in 1702. In 1955 a new fire burned down a part of these remaining houses. Following this, the archaeological excavations at Bryggen started. I decided to go to Bryggens Museum to have a look at the findings. Luckily for the coming generations, the burned out ruins were not completely cleared out. The water was filled in by the remains of the burned houses and other trash, and the new houses were just built on top of them, causing the waterfront to move several meters throughout the time. The excavations therefore revealed houses from many different periods, the oldest burned in 1170. They also found ceramics, runic inscriptions and other artifacts witnessing the commerce with Europe and daily life in the Middle Ages.

Bryggen in Bergen a beautiful autumn day! Norway

Traces of many of the fires in Bergen can be seen at Bryggen  Museum. Bergen, Norway

Traces of many of the fires in Bergen can be seen at Bryggen Museum.

Being in the medieval mood, I went on to Bergenhus Fortress, dating back to the 13th century, when Bergen was the political center of Norway. The Håkon’s Hall was built between 1247 and 1261 by king Håkon Håkonsen as a royal residence and banquet hall. It was finished for the wedding between his son and a Danish princess. About 2000 guests were present for the wedding. However, only the men were allowed in the hall. The women, including the bride, were in another hall that is now destroyed.

The Håkon’s Hall. Bergen, Norway

The Rosenkrantz Tower right next to the Håkon’s Hall is a former royal residence. Climbing the steps all the way from Hell (aka the dungeon) to the rooftop may be steep, but the view was a reward in itself!
Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen, Norway

On my way to the dungeon in the Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen, Norway

On my way to the dungeon in the Rosenkrantz Tower.

A friend of mine had come to town with her son, so we decided to go to Bergen Science Center – VilVite. As it is located in the complete opposite side of the city, we took the bus and light rail to save time. Entering the exhibition, I felt like a child again. I went straight to the police motorbike to feel the wind in my hair for the second time today. Googles on. Bring on the speed! At least the wind, so you can pretend to drive fast and furious. Better keep it safe! Speaking of safe; next up was to bike in a 360 degree loop, with the result of hanging upside down a few meters above ground. It may sound a bit scary, but it is quite fun. And you learn about the G-Force at the same time. That is also the aim of Bergen Science Center – VilVite, to combine teaching with fun, making it amusing to learn about different aspects of science.

Science and fun at VilVite. Bergen, Norway.

Science and fun at VilVite!

It was time to calm down a bit, drilling for oil, “solve” the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, make a weather forecast and wrap ourselves in a giant soap bubble! Finishing off by reaching new heights, standing still and jumping straight up as high as you can. Or not so high in my case, as my bouncing skills are highly absent… As a bonus, it is filmed, so you can see it in slow motion afterwards. Great fun for children of all ages!

Playing around sure works up an appetite, so we got on the light rail back to the city center, and strolled over to Pingvinen for dinner. With the retro interior and traditional home cooking, it feels like visiting your grandmother. The perfect way to relax and digest all the impressions after an amazing day!

Three shades of the Pulpit Rock; sunset, sunrise and noon!

The iconic Pulpit Rock is growing in popularity, and more and more people are finding their way up the stone stairs. Positively, highly welcome wooden planks along the way occasionally replace them, as you will definitely feel the sensation of the rocks in your legs. But it’s definitely worth it!

The increasing popularity has its price, but also creates new thoughts. Sunrise Tours are also possible, either with a guide or on your own. I had not thought of that possibility until I heard about the trip to Outdoor Life Norway a while ago. Strangely enough, considering my fascination for sunrise and sunsets. Since I had walked to the Pulpit Rock earlier, I decided we could easily do it on our own this time as well. Since the weather was so lovely we brought sleeping bags and slept under the stars (or not really, as it never got properly dark). The idyll was impeccable with magical views over Pulpit Rock and the Lysefjord, with sunset colors lighting the sky. National Romanticism bubbled in my heart, to put it mildly.

Beautiful view and sunset on the way up to the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Beautiful view and sunset on the way up to the Pulpit Rock.

I had prepared myself for almost everything. Dry change of clothes to the top as well as warmer clothes. Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, toilet paper and a bag to bring the trash down again, wet wipes, and a little bit of wine to celebrate when we reached the top. But the mosquitoes took me off guard. Unfortunately, mosquitoes love me, while I hate them! Luckily, my extra warm clothes included both a hat and a cloth to cover my neck, so I managed to slightly reduce the damage. Yet they succeeded sneaking in between, leaving approximately 30 mosquito bites only in my face, leaving me to look like a pimply teenager. Makes my appearance younger then, at least! Every cloud has a silver lining. Or something like that … I can only hope that development stops and do not bring me back to the year 1349…

Let’s get back to the beautiful. Our camp site for the night was slightly higher than the Pulpit Rock, a little away from the other peers who stayed outdoors. Since we are approaching midsummer, it was not ever really dark, it went gradually from sunset to sunrise. The latter colored the mountainside and trees golden, and the rays of the sun warmed both the morning dew and the early birds.

Sunrise over the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Sunrise over the Pulpit Rock.

Down at the Pulpit Rock plateau, I felt the fearing sensation when I peeked over the edge. 604 meters down, the azure Lysefjord looked dead calm. I sat down and enjoyed the view. And the silence. Even the hum of mosquitoes around my ears had subsided. A magical moment!
The Pulpit Rock is glowing! Preikestolen, Norway

Fearful joy! Great view from the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Fearful joy!

Sensation of freedom at the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

The walk down was easier. Since we chose to go to the little hill to the right of the Pulpit Rock to get the view, we went a different way than the fine trail, but I think it’s a nice combination.

The sun was shining and the birds twittering. A wave of happiness washes through my body, and outshines the feeling of soreness in my legs.

Down at Preikestolshytten, you can buy the breakfast buffet, but since time began to run out, we went for the packed lunch offer instead, and packed a real Norwegian lunch including liver pate. Nice to enjoy in the sun before our next adventure started.

Rødne offers fjord cruise on the Lysefjord, so of course we had to try that as well. Since we were already at the “Pulpit Rock side” we chose to be picked up at Lysefjordsenteret by Oanes.

The boat ride through the narrow fjord has a nice balance of informative guiding and silence to enjoy nature. And performances of music by the Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” and “Nocturne” by Secret Garden. It was a bit strange to see Pulpit Rock loom high above us, and think that I myself had sat up there, swinging my legs over the edge just hours earlier. Although the water was relatively flat, the national romantic waves came continuously.

The only thing missing was a Kvikk Lunch chocolate, but fortunately, they had a kiosk on board…

Hengjanefossen waterfall in Lysefjorden

Hengjanefossen waterfall .

The Pulpit Rock is looming high up there. Preikestolen, Norway

The Pulpit Rock is looming high up there.

Facts:
Take the ferry over from Fiskepiren in Stavanger to Tau. From here, both Tide Reiser and Boreal offer bus up to Preikestolshytten, which is the starting point for the hike. Buy either single or return ticket. We stayed overnight outdoor up by the Pulpit Rock, but it is also accommodation at Preikestolshytten, in various price ranges.

The hike takes about 2 hours each way, and naturally depends on physical fitness.

If you wish to do the sunrise hike to the Pulpit Rock followed by a fjord cruise on the Lysefjord, Pelles reiser drive a minibus from Preikestolshytten to Oanes ferry quay. From there it is only a few minutes walk to Lysefjordsenteret, where it is possible to be picked up. Fjord cruise on the Lysefjord concludes in Stavanger.

800 stairs towards heaven

Or in my case – to hell!

Walking (I definitely did not run, like many others) 315,5 meters more or less straight up can be quite painful. At least unless you are very fit.

Walkng up Stoltzekleiven in Bergen

Going up, up, up!

Exercising in Stoltzekleiven, commonly known as Stoltzen, is extremely popular. In September each year the uphill run called Stoltzekleiven Opp is arranged. During two days, almost 5000 persons compete to be the fastest to reach the top of the stairs. The official record runing up is 8:06. For women it is 9:35 Me? Let’s just say I was not even close….

But the view makes it all worth it! Don’t you agree?

On top of Stoltzekleiven in Bergen

Fantastic view from the top of Stoltzen!

Chasing the Northern Light!

Being in Alta, known as the “City of the Northern Lights”, I of course had to go chasing it! As dark surroundings and nice weather is important to be able to see it, I signed up for the trip “Hunting the Northern Lights” by the company Glød to find the best spot.

The tour started with some information about what we would experience and a film about the actual phenomenon Aurora Borealis.

There is no guarantee that you will be lucky and see the spectacular light show, it depends on the intensity of the solar storm, and off course a clear sky. No sight, no light!

The guide had thoroughly checked the weather forecast for different places in the area, and had a few options where to go. It was time to get on the bus and let the chase begin!

Patience is an important keyword. We tried a few places and saw some lights, but we continued to be able to see the real deal. The waiting finally paid off. On a dark side way just by the fjord, only lit by the stars, the light suddenly appeared. I must admit that I had always pictured it to be more intense and the colours more bright, but apparently, the eyes are not able to register the colours that good. The camera on the other hand, was. By adjusting the aperture to the maximum (f3,5 on my camera) and shutter speed at least 15’’, the colours came out.

Chasing the Northern Light

Chasing the Northern Light

Chasing the Northern Light 2
Chasing the Northern Light 3
Chasing the Northern Light 4

Getting stronger!

Getting stronger!

Chasing the Northern Light 6

What are you waiting for? Go chase!