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Nordkapp (June-July 2010)

Written by Thanasis Vavaroutas. Posted in Expeditions

9.100 kilometers, 14 countries, in 25 days....

What could I say about a dream-trip such as this one?  A trip to the Top of Europe....  It was a trip for two, for Vana and me!

I started the preparation of this trip a few months before the Day 1.  I bought the tickets for the ferry (from Greece to Italy), six months before with a 50% discount.  I had made everything right and we left from the Port of Patras, Greece with the ferry, on the 17th of June 2010.  The next day we disembarked in Ancona, Italy.  We crossed Italy and after 780 kilometers we stopped in Munich late in the evening.  I have driven many times this road from Ancona  to Munich and it was very familiar to me.  Munich is a city which we had visited a lot of times so we knew where to go....  The next morning we left early, and we crossed Germany from south to north, for the Port of Rostock (Germany) to get the ferry to Gedser (Denmark).  We made a short visit to Berlin  before we arrive in Rostock, though....  We embarked on the ferry and after 1 hour and 45 minutes we disembarked in Denmark!!!  Copenhagen was not far away (150 kms), and we arrived late in the evening.  That day I drove 1.000 kilometers....  In Copenhagen  we visited the Tivoli Gardens, the Old Harbour District (Nyhavn) and the Amalienborg Palace. We walked in Strøget (Pedestrian Street) and we visited the place where the Little Mermaid was.  But she wasn't....  She was in Japan in an exhibition tour.... Frown  

After a two days stay in Copenhagen, we left for Oslo, Norway.  We crossed Øresund Bridge, which is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe.  On the other side of the bridge was Sweden, and the city of Malmö, but we didn't stop there.  We moved forward and we made a short visit to Göteborg, the second largest city in Sweden.  After 620 kilometers on the road, we arrived in the capital of Norway, in Oslo,  late in the afternoon.  We had a very good time during our two-day stay in Oslo.  

The true exploration started the moment we left Oslo for the Norwegian Atlantic Coastline, with all those beautiful-colorful villages and cities and of course the fjords.  I drove North-West towards Alesund.  From there we started "climbing" in Norway towards to Nordkapp.  We visited the astonishing Geiranger Fjiord  where we embarked on a ferry and we had a tour in the fjord.  Our first stop to stay overnight was the city of Molde.  After Molde we were anxious to cross the famous Atlantic Road.... chosen as "Norway's construction of the century" in 2005.  The feeling of driving on this complex of bridges with sharp turns over those islands was a unique experience.  The next "big thing"  the day was that we crossed the Arctic Circle  in Mo i Rana.  The people in the reception of the Arctic Circle Center  stamped our passports for crossing the Arctic Circle.  That day I drove 1.120 kilometers in total.  We embarked on ferries a few times, in order to continue our trip. Late in the evening we found our hotel in Narvik, where I impressed by the history of the Port of Narvik in in the early years of World War II.  

We were just 720 kilometers away from Nordkapp. I had planned another stop before Nordkapp, in the city of Alta, but I was close to Alta early at noon. We decided with Vana to continue our trip and visit Nordkapp in the evening of that day.  We were close!!! After Narvik, on the way to Nordkapp, we saw for our first time reindeers on the side of the road....  We crossed the tunnel from the mainland to the treeless and windswept island of Magerøya.  As we were getting closer to Nordkapp the emotion was high!  We arrived in the 26th of June, at 21:00.  The temperature was suprisingly high, 21° C.  We visited the Nordkapp Visitor Center  and right after we were outdoors getting pictures with the metal globe.  We were on the Top of Europe!!! We were very excited about our achievement!  We enjoyed every moment up there!

After our visit we rent a hytte  in the middle of distance of Nordkapp and the village of Honningsvag.  When we left from Nordkapp the weather changed dramatically.  The sunny weather was gone and the rain started falling.  The wind was going stronger and stronger.  The next morning the temperature was 3° C and the wind was as high as 11 Beaufort....  It was my toughest day ever on my motorcycle as we were leaving Nordkapp to Inari,  Finland....  We had left Norway!  Norway was one of the most expensive countries I have ever visited....EmbarassedCry

We arrived in Inari tired.  We found a hotel by the river, and it was warm and comfortable.  After an hour, we were ok again.  We ate trouts for dinner with a very beautiful view of the forest and the river from the window of the restaurant.  The next morning I saw reindeers around the parking lot, looking for grass to eat.... After breakfast we were ready to continue our trip south.  Oulu in Finland was our next station.  Finland, the country of the thousand lakes, as we taught in geography in school, was just a dream. Driving through forests, lakes, over bridges was awesome. On the way to Oulu we stopped in Napapijri, and Rovaniemi.  Rovaniemi, Santa's home.....  We crossed again the Arctic Circle and the night came again in our lives.  

Oulu  was 550 kilometers far from Inari.  Late in the afternoon we arrived there.  Oulu is one of the northernmost larger cities in the world.  We stayed one day there and the next morning we left to visit our last station in Scandinavia in that trip, the capital of Finland, Helsinki.  We walked through pretty parks, we visited the Lutheran Cathedral which is an impressive, imposing church, sitting on a top of a magnificent staircase.  As we did it in all the Scandinavian countries, we did it in Helsinki.....we ate a lot of salmon....  We love salmon!!! In Helsinki we visited the local BMW dealer, where I changed the oils in the motorcycle, and I gave her a wash....

Two days in Helsinki were not enough but we had to leave.  We had planned to return to Greece from the Eastern Europe.  So we drove to the Port of Helsinki to get the ferry to Tallinn, Esthonia.  The crossing took approximately two hours.  We stayed one day in the beautiful Tallinn  and the medieval Old Town is something which a visitor must see.  We left Tallinn for Riga,  the capital and the largest city of Latvia, 310 kilometers distance.  The Riga skyline is breathtaking so we visited St Peters Church  and we took the elevator to the top for an unbelievable 360 degree view!  In our two days stay in Riga, we made several walks in the Old Riga City and we marvelled at how well the buildings have withstood all these years.  Riga was a surprise for us.  It was a very beautiful city and we will visit Riga again.

All the road from Tallin to Riga was through dense forests and we loved it.  The same scenery continued for the next part of our trip.  From Riga we left for Kaunas, 270 kilometers away, where we made a short visit and we continued to Warsaw,  Poland (another 400 kilometers).  I had visited Warsaw recently and it was very familiar to me.  One of the must see in Warsaw was the Palace of Science and Culture (was Stalin's gift to Poland).  The Royal Castle and the Old City were our next sights to visit.  We stayed in Warsaw for only one day  because we preferred to spent two days in Krakow which is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland.  So we left Warsaw, and we drove to Czech Republic  for a short visit.  Right after we entered again in Poland and we visited the Auschwitz  concentration camp, 70 kilometers away from the city of Krakow.  We took a tour in Auschwitz, and the empty buildings, dead end railroad tracks, and empty space were just a reminder of the horrific finality that met many people who came here in the 1940s.  After Dachau,  Auschwitz was the second concentration camp we had visited,  and we felt great sorrow!

After Auschwitz we drove to Krakow the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland.  We saw the beauty of the Old Town with its original Medieval street layout, marvelous architecture, and unique atmosphere that distinguishes Krakow from the rest of Poland.The salt mines of Wieliczka  are definitely worth a visit, and we dedicated two hours at least to visit them.  It was something new for us.  

After two days stay in Krakow, we left for Bratislava,  the capital of Slovakia.  Another 370 kilometers on the road...  In Bratislava we visited the castle, which dominates over the city of Bratislava on a hill overlooking the river Danube and today, it serves the Slovak Parliament.  We explored the old city taking a lot of walks during our two day stay....

We left the city of Bratislava and we travelled west.  We made a short visit to Graz  in Austria and we continued to our beloved city of Ljubljana, Slovenia!  What new we visited at that time in Ljubljana ?  The Castle of the city,  We went up there using the Funicular railway and we enjoyed the high view of the city.

The next day we left for the port of Ancona, in Italy where we got the ferry to return to Greece.  It was a very stressed day, because we faced heavy traffic in the highway in Slovenia and  in the autostrada in Italy, because of the summer vacations.  We did it though and we were on the ferry on time.  The next day we were back home.... 

The exploration of Nordkapp was something which set high standards in my trips.  The feeling of being in the roof of Europe was something extraordinary.  With Vana we had a very good time and very good cooperation during the trip.  One thing is for sure... I will visit Nordkapp again and again through different routes.....

This place calls me !!!

 

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