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Spitsbergen, Svalbard

Getting There

During my research stay in Trondheim the opportunity presented itself to spend a long weekend on the island of Svalbard, administered by Norway. There are about three daily flights from the Norwegian mainland (Tromso and Oslo) to Longyearbyen, the "capital" of the place. About 300 EUR bought me a return flight from Trondheim via Tromso. Passengers travelling to this lost place were a rather mixed crowd, families, expedition tourists, locals returning home, and myself. All were, however, easily distinguished by the fact that they were wearing heavy and sturdy boots -- it would soon become obvious why.


My flight arrived some time after midnight, greeted by the Svalbard sun. I stayed at the Campground in Longyearbyen, which is located a few meters from the airport, but a longish walk from "downtown". Staying in a tent was quite economical (10 EUR per night) but (obviously) left me rather exposed to wind and weather.

The next morning I made my way into town, shocked by crowds of tourists that a cruise ship had just spit out to stroll the two streets and fill the tiny "shopping mall". I would have expected this mass of people in China but certainly not here. I looked around a bit in the center, checked some of the shops and stocked up on provisions. Back down at the waterfront I rented a rifle in order to be able to safely explore the nature around Longyearbyen. Apparently polar bears are so common that everybody is required to carry a gun when leaving the settlement - all you need in order to rent one is a certificate of no criminal record and an application form.

Other than the populated (or not) center of Longyearbyen there was not too much to see. I went to check out the Svalbard museum, a nice modern building attached to the university center that shows some nice exhibits about the history of Svalbard and life there. I also climbed a hill near the entrance of the town for some awesome vistas of the bay and the center.

Hiking around

Hiking hiking


The Longyearbyen Campground is also the host of the Arctic Naked Bathing Club. In order to become a member and get a certificate - nomen est omen - you have to go swimming naked in the artic sea. Campground staff was happy to witness my feat, jumping in at 6 degrees water temperature and I have been a proud member ever since. (Incidentally I got a similar certificate also from swimming in Antarctica, albeit not naked.)

Last update 01-Dec-2016.

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