To Kirkenes …

… and no further, from we here were heading south and back towards the light; I miss this dark place of snow, ice and the Merry Dancers. This is my diary entry from Christmas Day:

At 10:00am there is light on the horizon but the sun does not rise. The temperature is -20c and falling – everything crackles: the snow under your feet; the cars on white dusty roads; the air. A slight breeze makes your eyes ache and fingers stiffen in the search for the shutter release on an ice-cold camera. It is the perfect setting for a Christmas Day but it is strange nonetheless. By 11:30am the light on the horizon is beginning to fade; Kirkenes is returning to the dark. In truth, it does not really feel like one special day, just another in a series; Christmas started when the snow arrived in Trondheim.

All of these far northern towns have a certain similarity, particularly when seen by artificial light – life goes on despite the raw cold, the snow and the dark. There is industry and a sense of purpose which tourist destinations lack. The architecture is bright, clean, new and purposeful. It is the Alaska of my imagination.

On ship we have been celebrating Christmas since yesterday, Christmas Eve being the day of celebration and gift-giving for the Norwegians. There is no turkey but there is reindeer which is at odds with the story of Rudolph – it tastes good all the same.  In the evening there is a service on the upper deck which I am dragged to like the reluctant schoolboy. It is entertaining – there is competitive carol singing as we are encouraged to sing in our own language – the Dutch tenor wins :D.  This is followed by the story of Jesus in the ‘manga’ at which point we get a fit of the giggles. A joyous occasion, I am glad I did not miss it.

On Christmas Eve the northern lights appear again, right on cue.

Russian ships ... The mothers monument ... MS Finnmarken ... The road to Murmansk ... Finnmarken ... MS Finnmarken ... Near the harbour ... Ropes ... Spirits on the water ... Northern lights at ... Christmas morning ... Christmas morning ... Christmas morning ... Christmas morning ... Christmas morning ...

The frozen boy is a detail from a monument to the mothers of Kirkenes.
The northern lights images have been pushed to within an inch of their lives – the first shows mist rising from the cold cold sea, the lights from a distant town and the aurora on the horizon.


  1. easyweimaraner · January 15, 2015

    the photo with the snow crystals on the face look wonderful, it has something what touched my heart…

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

      It is very sad, a wonderful piece of public art – I think it is the hollow eyes which evoke such pity.

  2. Trini Lind · January 15, 2015

    Thank you for taking me back to my home country 🙂 I am missing it so much! 🙂 the photos are amazingly beautiful! 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

      Many thanks Trini – I can understand why you miss it so much – I do and I have only been there briefly.

  3. Mjollnir · January 15, 2015

    Great set of pics Robin and you certainly can’t complain about not having a white Xmas.

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

      Many thanks Iain – I really don’t know how we better that Christmas – I think we will just have to go back, that’s after we have done it again in the summer 🙂

  4. Cate Franklyn · January 15, 2015

    Beautiful post both words and images!

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

      Many thanks Cate, much appreciated – it is the place that inspires the words and images. I recommend a trip!

  5. Malin H · January 15, 2015

    What a wonderful post, Robin! Thank you for sharing! And gorgeous images x 15!!!

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

      Many thanks Malin – I am quite enjoying putting together these retrospective posts, it makes for a grand virtual return trip.

  6. Tish Farrell · January 15, 2015

    It feels as if you have been to quite another reality – a world between worlds. Very special.

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

      Many thanks Tish – very astute – it is certainly other-worldly up there – a return trip in the summer might be a disappointment

      • Tish Farrell · January 15, 2015

        I’m not so sure it would be a disappointment. It would just be different. When I used to live in Aberdeen, the summer nights were ethereal. I think it would be even better in the far north. Just another reality. The reindeer herders have amazingly wonderful rituals at midsummer (or did do) riding their reindeers up into the sun. I imagine it happening in some sense.

      • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

        Excellent Tish – I am certain you are right – the perfect input to my next business case 🙂

  7. suej · January 15, 2015

    Wow, what a trip!

  8. LaVagabonde · January 15, 2015

    There’s a surreal beauty to your photos and words. A world barely illuminated by a diffuse light on the horizon. That first photo is so stark. If you go back, will it be during the winter again?

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

      Many thanks for your generous comments Julie. I guess I would like to do both 🙂 Certainly I would like to repeat the journey in summer – there is so much we didn’t see because of the short days. Equally, next Christmas is going to seem quite tame unless we go back. Much to be negotiated with the good lady 🙂

  9. scorchedearthvh · January 15, 2015

    Awesome pictures, really capturing the majesty of the north. Crisp, fresh, exciting .. I feel like I’m back there…beautiful.

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2015

      Many thanks – I was delighted to find your informative blog which I will follow with interest.

  10. Graham Stephen · January 15, 2015

    Some lovely light in these shots, Robin. My favourite is

    • northumbrianlight · January 16, 2015

      Many thanks Steve – my Norwegian is not good but I think I get the messaage – stunt motorcyclists not allowed! 😀

      • Graham Stephen · January 16, 2015

        According to Mr Google the sign reads ‘Does not apply to busses or taxis” – so presumably motorbikes can jump over those.

  11. Cindi · January 15, 2015

    Your photography is absolutely magical, Robin.

    • northumbrianlight · January 16, 2015

      Thanks so much – It’s the place Cindi, it’s the place – I must go back.

  12. la_lasciata · January 16, 2015

    So … genuinely good with words, as well, Robin ! That’s a lot of talent you’ve got there: we’re lucky you feel like sharing it ! 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · January 16, 2015

      Very kind and generous words – I use the blog as part of the writing process to sometimes see what gets a reaction and what doesn’t so your feedback is genuinely helpful and appreciated. Have a good day, or should that be night, Robin

      • la_lasciata · January 16, 2015

        And I think blogging is an ideal way to people who like to write to try themselves: if we don’t enjoy your efforts, we’ll leave in droves.
        Your only worry is accumulating a bothersome number of followers ! 😀

  13. Ese' s Voice · January 16, 2015

    Absolutely stunning collection…I enjoyed every photo there! The face, covered with snowflakes…there’ s something emotionally strong in it – difficult to put in words but definitely felt deep down inside. The magic of northern lights that makes me go “Wowwww” in admiration….the white road that does look being pictured in -20 degrees and brings along the feeling that Murmansk isn’ t THAT far… 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · January 16, 2015

      Many thanks, it is a special place particularly in the deep dark winter. “Murmansk wasn’t so far” sounds like a line from a song – someone with more musical skills should work on that 😉

  14. socialbridge · January 16, 2015


    • northumbrianlight · January 16, 2015

      That was my reaction when we arrived – it is a spectacular place.

  15. restlessjo · January 16, 2015

    It is breathtaking and magical but you can’t convince me that I want to be there, Robin. I wasn’t sure if that was a sculpture initially and it gave me the creeps. I’ll be more than happy to remain an armchair spectator in this case. 🙂

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