Norway – Day Six

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. No more lectures!!

I was very thankful that we only had a 1/2 day of lectures today. I don’t think I could have handled any more. Six-eight hours of lectures a day for five days in a row is a tall order. But I have learned so much this week and would love to come back and learn more!

This morning I met a Norwegian named Jonny. He pronounced it like ‘Johnny,’ which I thought was funny. Norwegians never pronounce the letter ‘j’ with a ‘juh’ sound; it always comes out like ‘yuh.’

Anyway, the topic was security in the Arctic. Jonny is an adviser on Arctic affairs for the Norwegian Air Force and works in a bunker in the mountains. No joke. Because Norway shares a border with Russia, which I didn’t know, they keep very close tabs on all that’s happening on land, sea and in the air. The Cold War may be over, but the renewed importance of the Arctic is forcing Noway to become more vigilant in its watch over its airspace and vessels on the sea.

Hearing about all of this was quite ironic considering that just today, the presidential Security Council of Russia released a document stating that it is creating a military force dedicated to the Arctic. The Russians have been flying through Arctic airspace much more frequently, especially around Norway. They’ve made a few passes by Canada, too, including on the day that President Obama came to visit. The Russians aren’t looking to invade or anything; they’re just asserting themselves and telling the world that ‘they’re back!’ Goody.

Johnny was a great presenter and he was very interested in hearing about Canada’s efforts in the Arctic. He also challenged us as to what our concept of ‘north’ is. How do we define it? Is it by a certain latitute? The tree line? A provincial/territorial boundary like in Canada? How do we refer to it? They’re simple questions, but the answers to these questions are complex, and have a profound influence on Arctic policy.

After class, we were provided with a farewell lunch. The dean came and ate homemade hamburgers with us! Man, they were good! They don’t serve them with buns, though; they’re served on a piece of bread. In Norway they’re called ‘carbonates.’ The dean presented us with a beautiful book featuring some stunning photography of Norway, particularly the area we have been in. I’d like to find a copy of the book for myself and am going to look for it this weekend.

After we said our good-byes, we headed downtown. I spent more money today than I have in the past five days combined. I found some souvenirs, and now just need to find a little something extra for the guys. Any ideas??

A couple of us then decided to visit the Saltstraumen. The Saltstraumen is the world’s most powerful maelstrom, or tidal current. We took a public bus to get out there, and then spent about an hour and a half just walking around, taking pictures and being mesmerized by the current’s power. Every six hours the current is at its strongest, and we were able to be there for it. It doesn’t seem so impressive from the pictures, but trust me – it’s something to see. I did take a video and will try and upload it. However, I’ve had no luck uploading any videos so far.

The trip out to the Saltstraumen was nice because we were able to see some of the countryside. The Saltstraumen is 30km outside of Bodø, on the other side of the fjord. We saw some of the ‘suburbs’ of the city and went around some very narrow, hairpin curves! We also got some fresh air and had a chance to be a little more active than we’ve been the last couple of days. But the scenery was the best part: it is stunning, and the views remind me a lot of Vancouver.

Tomorrow we’re probably going to go the the Aviation Museum, another one of Bodø’s ‘must-see’ attractions. Sunday will be a do-nothing day; we need to clean our rooms and pack because we have to leave for the airport on Monday morning at 5 am.

Our plans to go the Lofoten Islands have been cancelled. Apparently there is some big festival out there that is making travel more difficult. Plus, if we had gone, we would have had to stay overnight; the ferries only go at odd hours, meaning that when we’d get there, nothing would be open. In Norway, hotel rooms average between $150-180 per night for a single room. On top of that, the round trip on the ferry would have cost $160. And the only ferry we would be able to take wouldn’t go around any of the islands; it would go through open sea. In other words – it wasn’t in the cards.

But that’s okay. I’m beat after all that I’ve absorbed this week. I could use a couple of days to just relax – ’cause when we get back, we’ll have to hit the ground running.

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