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Thoughts about my trip to Svalbard

Positive and negative aspects of my trip to Svalbard

You can never forget a trip to the Svalbard islands – an archipelago located north of Norway between 74° and 81° N.

It is a charming Polar land. A Polar expedition takes you to an unknown world which you only thought possible in adventure books and films.

Yet you are there, on Svalbard. You are living in the Arctic. You are part of an expedition which takes you some hundreds of kilometres away from home. You are in a place where no mobile phone works. You find yourself in a place where just a few people live.

How far is Rome now, with its humid hot weather, its traffic jams, its city life, its unbearable polluted air!

How close is Svalbard when you think about silence and about the white, about the cold and the unspoilt nature, about adventure, breathtaking views and glaciers!

Positive aspects

The positive aspects of my trip are many; maybe uncountable and endless. I will try to list some of them, but no words could capture my feelings resulting from a visit to Svalbard.

  • Wild and untouched nature: on Svalbard, a large Arctic park, it is possible to observe and live with pure nature. Air is fresh, the environment is clean, the human settlements are rare. Svalbard is the right destination for people who want to keep away from civilization.
  • Cold: on Svalbard it is cold. The summer is similar to our winter, or even worse. I can not stand hot temperatures so for me it was a real pleasure. For people who love cold places, Svalbard is the place where you can get your daily dose of cold.
  • Ice and snow: on Svalbard, ice and snow seem to be everywhere, even in July. Snow was not only on the mountains but also in the valleys. Glaciers are many and ice banks detach from the glaciers by melting or by the wind and float on the sea. You often hear the “voice of the glaciers”: loud noises similar to thunders which are indeed caused by the detachment of huge ice blocks from the glacier.
  • Isolation: in a certain way, the Arctic is isolated. When we were camping we felt cut off from the world. Our mobile phones did not work. Even though our guides had satellite phones for emergency, we were detached from the rest of the world. This is one of the most beautiful aspect of our trip.
  • Unique landscapes: the landscapes of Svalbard are unique. The scenary ranges from snowy glaciers to ice-covered beaches and wildlife scenes. Svalbard offers landscapes for everyone. Ice blocks and icebergs which float on the sea, the icy and deserted tundra, the remains of ancient houses. The beauty of the Svalbard leave you speechless.
  • Animals: Svalbard is home to many animals which live here in complete tranquillity. Polar bears, reindeers, seals, walruses, whales, terns, skuas, foxes: the encounter with these animals is a real connection to wild nature.
  • Multi-cultural experience: a trip to Svalbard makes you enter into contact with different realities, locals and international. Our guides were Norwegians but in our group there were Danish, Swedish and one Englishman. The boat equipment was from Thailand and at Barentsburg there were many Russians. You get to know people’s way of life. Everyone comes together here, attracted by the Arctic.
  • English language: this trip gave me the chance to improve my English. Now I can understand almost everything I hear and my vocabulary is richer than before. I am now more confident with my English. For my next trips I will make sure to get a non-Italian guide.

Negative apects

The negative aspects are really just a few. The cons of my travel to Svalbard are mainly three: two of them were related to the travel agency I choose for the organization: 4winds.

  • Hotel in Oslo: my hotel was close to the airport. This can be an advantage if you just stay in Oslo for a few hours, waiting to fly to Longyearbyen. I was in Oslo for half a day on my way to Svalbard and one day when returning, so why should I have hung around the hotel? I had to spend about 50 € just to reach Oslo from the hotel and vice versa. 7 euros from the airport to the hotel, the same amount to go back to the airport, 11 € to reach Oslo town centre from the airport and the same kind of money to go back. Another 7 € were spent for going back to the hotel and the same amount to reach the airport the following day. The same happened when returning. I could have saved 100 €. If my accommodation was in Oslo, I would have spent about 44 € instead of 100 €.
  • Rigid suitcase: 4winds (our tour operator) advised us to use a rigid suitcase for our travel to allow a better storage on the boat. The use of a rigid suitcase was also advised in an email concerning the program which was sent to us. Nothing is wronger, more unconfortable and difficult than this for people who are going to camp and trek on Svalbard. Imagine how hard it is to carry a 20 kilo-suitcase and an 8 kilo backpack for 250 metres from the beach to the tent and backwards, on the snow, crossing a wooden footbridge made by floating trunks. Relaxing, it is not.
  • Tipping on the boat: I must admit I had never gone on a cruise in my life. So, I did not know about the tipping custom. On the last day of the cruise we found a note in the cabin which invited us to leave a tip for the crew. The note even said how much we should be giving: from 8 to 10 Euros per day.

Apart from the hotel in Oslo, the rigid suitcase and the tip on the boat, my adventure on Svalbard was unforgettable.

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