It is a little after 10:00 in Kirkenes, Norway, and our fjord cruise has just ended. This morning at 03:45 I woke up to see the arrival in Vardø, the most eastern town in Norway where I visited in January 2002. It was a moment of extreme beauty. Mark got up and two hours later we saw Vadsø, where I also visited eleven years ago. Now we are watching the passengers disembark for the buses to take them into Kirkenes. Mark and I are going to walk to town and stay on board until the crowds have thinned out. We are going to the border museum this afternoon, as Kirkenes lies very close to the Russian frontier and a border museum is the perfect attraction.
Here is a Kirkenes follow-up. During the short walk into the town centre, Mark heard my suitcase making a funny sound. I noticed it too, but took no heed when I first noticed it making that scratchy noise. The noise was caused by a wheel on my suitcase which had become blocked and did not rotate anymore. The wheel which had become stuck wore down and by the time Mark had heard it making its funny sound, it had worn down to a flat surface. One of my suitcase wheels was now a semicircle! This is all I need with so many books to carry. A suitcase with only one functioning wheel is going to be murder to tow behind me while we are in Kirkenes and then back in Oslo. The hostel in Oslo is uphill so I know what a hard job I have ahead of me. It is a very good thing that I selected a set of new luggage as my gift from my employer for lengthy years of service. My new red luggage will be making the trip to Tristan da Cunha. I have now heard from the crew of the South African research vessel who have given me all the boarding details. I will write about all this when I return home later this week.
Kirkenes is a small town of 3.500 and it is only 7 km from the Russian border. Signs are in Norwegian and Russian, and the Wikipedia page on Kirkenes shows the public library (unfortunately its summer hours have it closed on weekends) with its bilingual sign. I took a picture of the library. Even the grocery stores have Norwegian and Russian signage inside above every aisle. Mark and I will visit the border museum tomorrow, since it is open from 10-16 and will give us something to do here as all the stores are closed on Sundays. This afternoon I bought a Norwegian book on Vardø, which I am very happy about. I have always regretted not buying a massive multi-volume Norwegian encyclopedia on the village of Vardø when I was there eleven years ago. Now, I know that there would have been no way possible that I could have brought back those (I believe three) very bulky and heavy encyclopedias. Although I do not read Norwegian, the text is easy to figure out and the photos were impressive, albeit all in black-and-white. The book I just bought was a single volume and had colour photos and was from 2012. The Vardø I saw today from 03:45 to 05:00 had new murals at the harbour and there is a new building going up by the town hall. I took photos of the murals and new construction, and will post them here upon my return.
Our hotel has free Internet as well as free bike rental so Mark and I will go out cycling tomorrow. Today and tomorrow are going to be lovely sunny cloudless days. Mark is out cycling now, while I was off shopping. We are going out for Italian tonight then will play some more Scrabble, for the first time ever, in Kirkenes.