Heathrow to Harstad

The flight from Heathrow to Evenes was largely uneventful, give or take the woman in front of me – at the back of the plane no less! – who brought two babies with her and drove out the passenger who’d been quietly sitting in her rightful seat next to the window so that the car seat could go there – the car seat that the baby did not spent most of the flight in.

(By the way, if there are weird typos in here, it’s because this Norwegian Library computer is set on putting Capitals where I don’t want them and auto-corrects in ways that just can’t be undone)

When I got to Oslo, I discovered two things. One was that it was really cold and snowy – I don’t know why I never expect it to be snowy there when it always is. It was also so cold that you have to breathe through your nose because air that cold hitting the back of your throat hurts. The second thing I discovered was that the way to transfer from international flight to domestic one is to go through passport control, exit through customs and then re-enter the airport through security. Not anticipating this, I’d bought two lovely bottles of Ribena at Heathrow and I wasn’t going to surrender them without a fight. I thought about just drinking them both in the airport before going through security and then decided I just could’t do that. So I checked in my bag – which I had the right to do, but since I had to travel home on hand luggage only, I’d thought I might as well travel out on hand luggage only. But I checked it in. I wandered Oslo airport, drooled over the smell of pizza and then got on my plane. And also enjoyed The Ballet of the Thirteen Snow Ploughs – thirteen snow ploughs running endlessly around the airport in a long line,
one after the other, all flashing lights and waves of shredded snow.
Considering the distance from plane to terminal is about fifty yards, it took a ridiculous amount of time for the baggage to arrive. The plane had already been late leaving Oslo (“due to absence of crew”) and I didn’t particularly enjoy hanging around at the airport for half an hour for the bag I shouldn’t have checked in in the first place. The plane had been reloaded and had probably left again by the time our luggage arrived.

When I went outside, there was a bus waiting next to a sign that said Harstad but I wasn’t going to fall for this again. Too many times have I got on the wrong bus. I went round the front of it and checked that it had Harstad on the front of the bus too. It did so I boarded, paid 230kr for the journey – that was quite the shock, since I’d been expecting 70ish, but it only comes to about £18 which I suppose isn’t so bad for a journey across the Westerålen of nearly an hour. I arrived at the central bus station, having been expecting at least two hotel drop-offs on the way, neither of them any good for me. I’d planned to go to the bus station anyway but I was lost and confused because what I was seeing didn’t really match my map. So I asked the bus driver, who added further confusion by pointing towards the harbour and saying “that way. Just walk. Quicker than walking.” Did he mean it was quicker to walk? Did he mean that the bus was quicker? Who knew? I set off into the polar night – it was about half past seven and pretty dark and I very soon spotted the Thon Hotel. I know from experience that Thon hotels are always very happy to give you directions, often with a map, but by the time I reached it, I could see my destination.

Harstad is odd. I have never been anywhere in Norway where it feels so small and quiet and yet has so many people stumbling out of bars at relatively early hours. It doesn’t feel threatening exactly but it gives it more of a big city feel than anywhere I’ve been in Fenno-Scandia. Everything was closed, there was no bread anywhere, so I went home, had a bath and went to bed.

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