The latest enthralling journey that we are covering on the WILDFOOT blog took our senior travel advisor to Spitsbergen in Norway. As the story of the third day of their trip makes clear, a tailor made Arctic adventure with us is endlessly fascinating – even when it heads indoors.
Day 3: Cultural Tour + Foodie Tour
I think most of our group were quite happy to have a break from the great outdoors today, allowing our frozen bits to thaw out properly. With a population of only 2,600 and no indigenous peoples you might not expect there to be much culture or history in Spitsbergen, but the museum at Longyearbyen where we went that morning, is well worth a visit, detailing the toils, endurance and unbelievable hardship suffered by the early settlers. It’s also got its own stuffed polar bear, which I was starting to realise is de rigueur in indoor public spaces in Longyearbyen (not forgetting the airport arrivals hall, the supermarket has one, as does the Radisson Blu and at least one of the outdoor gear shops in town). Along with the continuous darkness it’s the presence of polar bears (there are more than humans there) that actually makes Svalbard different to anywhere I’ve ever been before. When leaving the town limits, it is the law that you, or your guide, must be armed with a rifle. Polar bears are extremely big and hungry and, as the information in the museum made quite clear, we are food!
Our next stop was a gallery showcasing art inspired by the stark beauty and incredible light of Svalbard. The gallery also had an interesting display of old maps from the days of early exploration. Although some of those maps are hopelessly inaccurate, I did stop and ask myself how I would fare trying to draw up a chart of somewhere so inaccessible. Not too well I wouldn’t think!
The day finished with the unlikely sounding ‘Taste of Svalbard’ tour. Now whilst the early settlers, and indeed the majority of inhabitants until quite recently, would have had a rather unadventurous diet, that’s not the case these days. In fact, the meals I had here were all outstanding. The main highlights of the gastro tour today however were Svalbard’s very own brewery, with its 5 speciality beers, the Polar Permaculture project (where they are trying to grow herbs and vegetables in a greenhouse) and a chocolaterie. Presented with a plate of chocolate samples I am extremely ashamed to say that I had eaten all mine before realising that the owner of the shop was intending to talk us through the subtle taste of each, one by one. Very embarrassing…