We had finally reached the northern edges of the European coast and was now in the Barents sea, enjoying the spectacular Norwegian coastline. Our last stop before Russia was the small city of Honningsvåg .
Honningsvåg is the northernmost city in Norway. It is very unusual because legislation effective in 1997 states that a Norwegian city/town must have at least 5,000 inhabitants, but Honningsvåg was declared a city in 1996, thus exempt from this legislation, so it is also one of the smallest cities in Norway.
In reality it is a small fishing village which is famous as the dropping off point for visitors who want visit North Cape which is a tourist attraction on the northern tip of the European mainland. It’s claim to fame is that it is the northernmost point in Europe but the reality is that it is not, that title goes to nearby Knivskjellodden.
However that has not stopped busloads of visitors from taking the ride from Honningsvåg and the North Cape attraction organisers to charge visitors £19 to enter the complex. If it had been the northernmost point, we may have decided to join the tourist crush, however it isn’t so we decided to investigate this charming little fishing city.
When we get off the boat, we are surprised to see a life size statue of a St Bernard Dog, reading the information board gave us some information about this remarkable animal. The dog was called Bamse and he was the mascot of the Free Norwegian Forces during the Second World War and a symbol of Norwegian freedom during the war. In its early days, the dog was a well known character in pre-war Honningsvåg before joining its owner on Royal Norwegian Navy as a coastal patrol vessel. When the Germans overran Norway, the vessel and Bamse moved to Scotland stationed in Montrose and Dundee. Bamse became a celebrity to the local Scottish population and often rounded up the Norwegian sailors from the local pub and escorted them back to his boat. When Bamse died in 1944, he was buried with full military honours. Hundreds of Norwegian sailors, Allied servicemen, schoolchildren and people from Montrose and Dundee attended his funeral.
In 2006, a larger than life sized bronze statue of Bamse, made by Scottish sculptor Alan Herriot was unveiled in Montrose. A copy of that statue was commissioned and in 2009 with hundreds in attendance, the statue was unveiled on Honningsvåg harbour.
When we entered Honningsvåg it was teeming with birdlife over the cliffs and on the waterfront and when we set out to walk through the town it was only the sound of birds that you could here.
We slowly made our way past the closed shops to the small Honningsvåg church on the hill, built in 1885, it was one of only twelve churches in Northern Norway that escaped destruction by the Germans in the Second World War. As we sat on a small bench within the small cemetery attached to the church, even the sound of the birds had disappeared.
The silence was deafening and quite eerie as we looked at the small but beautifully formed gravestones. How many souls beneath our feet had been born and lived their entire lives in this northern outpost ?
As we walked quietly passed the small wooden buildings, we began to notice that the local population displayed their sense of humour with interesting little figures dotted here and there.
There was dressed little trolls, stone people and dolls in a little window box. Many of the gardens have flowers or colourful furniture, even the main street had an interesting selection of plants in wellington boots.
Honnigsvag certainly had a quirky quality that added to its picturesque setting and has we made our way to the harbour we could see it was a working port.
There were plenty of small to medium size boats which are used to fish the rich fertile waters of the Arctic Circle. Honningsvåg is considered one of the busiest fishing ports in Norway.
The waters are remarkably clear and Mrs Nice was quite excited by all the starfish in the harbour.
Honningsvåg does have a few other attractions including a small NordKapp museum and Icebar with gift shop where a massive husky stood guard. But we were content to get away from the crowds and take a little piece of downtime enjoying the (city) and the wonderful scenery.
Whilst enjoying the late summer sunshine, we noticed the arrival of one of the Hurtigruten coastal ships, these ships have been a familiar sight on our travels up the Norwegian coast and Honningsvåg is one of the main stops before Kirkenes in the north.
Honningsvåg may be seen as a gateway to North Cape but possesses a charm all of its own. The local population take a lot of pride in their houses and town and display a quirky sense of humour which no doubt brighten up the cold winter days.
It is a place to enjoy the birdlife and scenery in a peaceful setting without too many distractions.
Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.
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