Get a taste of Europe’s northernmost point
Breakfast at North Cape
The Hurtigruten ferry arrives twice daily. Hundreds of nature-loving tourists are amazed at the natural settings and look forward to leaving the ship. The harbor of Honningsvåg, administrative center and town of some 2,500 inhabitants where most residents live, will welcome all on the North Cape Road. This road makes it possible for some 250,000 tourists to visit the plateau on the northernmost Norwegian island of Magerøya during the summer months, making it one of Norway’s top travel destinations. In earlier days, both ordinary tourists and kings had to climb the steep slope from Hornvika, the Horn of North Cape. You no longer need the wealth of royalty or the fortitude of the brave.
Between candy-colored houses in Honningsvåg, the chimneys of Hurtigruten move back and forth. The trip from the harbor takes only half an hour before breakfast at “the end of the world.” But its spectacular view “to go” imprints a never-forgotten memory.
Buses wend their way to the plateau, the northernmost point of Europe. The sun shines between the clouds, and the grazing reindeer do not mind being photographed. Still the snow falls now and then on the plateau, even though the calendar indicates it is summer. A wreck at the roadside, a camper lies broken in many pieces, a reminder how dangerous the weather can be. It blew 67 mph the day the accident occurred. There were no injuries this time, but every year an accident occurs on the road to North Cape either due to blinding rains crossing the road, as they frequently do, or ferocious winds.
At the North Cape, the entry ticket includes a spectacular film about the Cape through four seasons as well as a visit with a Sámi family.
“We have been here for 30 years,” explains Somby, a Sámi woman who is selling handcrafted traditional items called duodji, as well as reindeer horn. Wearing her traditional clothing (kofte), she runs the shop with her sister and sister-in-law. It is a colorful meeting with Finnmark, the region where the Sámi live, speak their own language, and have their own Parliament (Sametinget).
In Honningsvåg’s inner harbor, fresh king crab is being unloaded. On the waterfront promenade, the new museum is open, as is the Artico Ice Bar, the tourist information bureau, and even a comedy in English shown twice a day. Called Our Northernmost Life, it describes reality of the inhabitants who live so close to the North Pole.
Not only tourists find their way to Honningsvåg. Prospective sea captains receive their education at Nordkapp Maritime Fagskole, Finnmark’s main school of fishing, aquaculture, and maritime studies. Here you will find a simulator opened in 2008, providing seafarers with a solid education aimed at reducing marine accidents.
As the midnight sun does not set, youngsters play football after midnight. The Liverpool Way was recently back in town, arranging training for the young. Interest in football is huge in Honningsvåg, where teenagers train at night or early in the morning.
During World War II, the city burned to the ground. Finnmark’s most famous filmmaker, Knut Erik Jensen, who was appointed Knight of the first Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav in 2008 for his efforts in Norwegian film, is planning his next film. A Longing for the Present will deal with the reconstruction of Finnmark after WWII. He was a young boy, evacuated from Honningsvåg to Senja during the war, and he remembers well the hardship.
“With awareness of our own history, knowledge, and insight into what happened in Finnmark and North Troms in 1944, we will perhaps have a better understanding what it really means to be a refugee and lose everything,” said Jensen, “Altogether, I spent almost 12 years of my youth in German barracks. As German forces withdrew from eastern Finnmark.” Soviet troops liberated the region on Oct. 25, 1944.
History is important for visitors who are interested not only in the spectacular raw beauty of nature and the ways people survive in the far north, but also in the history of surviving war and rebuilding society.
After breakfast, Hurtigruten’s passengers continue through the underwater Nordkapp Tunnel, a route to the mainland along the beautiful Porsangerfjord to Hammerfest, where they are reunited with the ship. The sign at the entrance to town advertising “Norway’s Summer Town” brings a smile to my face; it is windy most of the time.
Tove Andersson is a freelance journalist who writes about travel and culture. She conducts interviews for the street magazine =Oslo while writing poetry and fiction. Jeg heter Navnløs (My name is nameless) was published in 2002. Her website is www.frilanskatalogen.no/frilanstove.
This article originally appeared in the September 21, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.