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.