Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wrap it up

I didn't really post much this trip because most of the time I was in areas that had no internet, and when I did have it, I was pretty busy or pretty exhausted.  I squeezed a lot in during this trip in a short amount of time.

When reaching Narvik, it was so beautiful, as the train pulled into the station.  The last couple of hundred of kilometers was breathtaking, with large snowy mountains and deep fjords with the deepest steel blue water I ever did behold.  The young German mountaineer in the dining car was holding court and he informed us that this mountain range is actually part of the Appalachians in the USA.  Whether this is true or not, I have no idea, but it sounded interesting enough.

After offloading my things, I wandered around Narvik for a bit.  It is an interesting "city" but more like a fishing village that has now grown and modernized over the years.  Locals told me that Nazi Germany had a naval station there, and other interesting tidbits of information.

I had the one night to view the lights, and I was anxious for that.  The local people told me it may be possible that night, since it was supposed to become clear at midnight.  The lights usually were best viewed between 2 and 4 a.m., so I knew I would be in for a long night.

I stayed up like a sentinel on watch on the roof of the resort, waiting and waiting.  Nothing.  Around 2 a.m.  I saw what looked like a faint green glow in the sky, and I began to wonder if my eyes were playing tricks on me, because I wanted to see these Northern Lights, and they were a no show.  This glow of green kept pulsating and disappearing for the next 45 minutes.  Then, at around 3 a.m., the green lights grew and expanded, with a long green line forming in the center of the sky.  It pulsated and wriggled like a holographic snake, and then long, yellow pulsations and hints of orange and red came forward all at once.  It was beautiful and so exciting I was overwhelmed:  The lights had arrived!!  I sat and watched them for a minute or so, completely enrapt, and forgetting all else.  I felt such a strong connection to the universe at that moment, it brought tears to my eyes.  And, I totally forgot about my camera.  I snapped to it, and grabbed up my camera, and just as quickly as they had appeared, they were gone.  I had missed my opportunity to photograph them.  I sat there and laughed at the irony.

So, the crazy person on the roof, waiting for the lights to arrive like a acolyte waiting for a UFO, had missed the money shot.  I began to laugh and laugh, but I didn't care.  *I* had seen them, and nothing else was really important -- whether or not I photographed them was really not the point of the journey.  It was to personally witness them, and I had.  Mission accomplished.

The mountains of Norway

So, I was elated but tired.  I headed to bed and slept for about 4 hours, and then had to vacate and head back to the train station to go back to Stockholm.  I checked onto the train, and was shown back to a sleeping car, and I immediately fell asleep for hours.  The rhythmic rocking of the trsin put my to sleep like a baby, and I woke up and it was, of course, dark.  I headed to the restaurant cart, got myself a light meal and some dessert, and then headed back to my compartment, and just lay in the bed listening to the roar of the wind, and watched the snow swirling by at light speed.  The whistle of the train was the most soulful sound, calling across the long, empty stretches of snow covered land, out to the reindeer, out to the unknown denizens of that dark land, and every now and then there was the eerie yet comforting sound of ghost-like voices.  It sounded as if there were children laughing out in the darkness, and yet, that was a sweet sound and not something scary.  It was strange yet not in a bad way.  I listened a while, and then fell back to sleep.

I woke up and had arrived in Stockholm. The country side of Sweden is also very beautiful, somehow reminding me of home when I saw the pine trees that lined the farmlands.  I hopped off at Central Station, and immediately went and stowed my luggage and headed out.  I walked along the streets of old Stockholm or "Galma", and was very intrigued. It was very quaint and filled with people, and you feel the "Christmas" in the air.  It is "Black Week" in Sweden and Norway-- their equivalent to "Black Friday".

There was a choir of singers on the steps of one of the beautiful cathedrals, and they were singing very heavenly Christmas hymns, and I listened to them for a few songs, and then went to find a coffee and sweets shoppe.  This is not hard, since cafe and sweets are a Swedish specialty!  I tucked into a delightful little nook of a shop, and had a latte and a chocolate cake.  It was like a chocolate mousse with coconut shavings on it, and it was very good.  After sitting there a while and warming up, I moved on, going through the whole quarter in a loop, and trying to see as much as I could in the few hours I had there.  By around 2 pm, I had complete my tour, and headed back to the Central station to pick up my luggage, and head to my hostel.

The train ride from Stockholm to my hostel was almost an hour (I had made sure I took one close to the airport), and it was a really nice ride through the city and out into the suburbs of Stockholm.  I reached my destination, and stood there for a moment, confused.  Why had I been dropped off in front of an old Jumbo jet?  I looked across the street and saw the Radisson, and other chain hotels, and looked around again.  Great.  Where the hell was this place.  I stood there, disgruntled, for a moment, until I saw a young blonde guy with a backpack walke by.  He walked slowly up the path to the Jumbo jet, and then up the steps that led to the door.  It dawned on me suddenly, "Is THAT the hostel?"  I just started laughing.  "you've got to be kidding me!".

I walked up the path, and yes, sure enough, it was the hostel.  It was a converted Jumbo jet, called, duh, "Jumbo".  I knew I needed some coffee!  I stood at the bottom of the jet, and there was a cargo lift up.  I rode the lift, and came to the reception desk, that said, "shoes off please" and "Welcome".  The young lady at the desk was wearing a flight attendants' uniform.  She smiled warmly, and processed my reservation.  She then showed me to my "cabin".  I was delighted.  It was a most comfortable little room, with a very comfortable queen sized bed, overhead luggage bin, additional sleep space or storage above, a flat screen tv, and other little comforts, including a sweet smelling goosed-down quilt.  I was very impressed.

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