A short recuperation of events on the New Years Eve

Excited about Northern Norway and the Polar night I completely forgotten to make a note on the bit different New Years Eve that we spent there. And the night was quite a one!

Although theoretically I still enjoy my sabbatical from the regular work routine, from time to time I do some expert work. Sometimes under severe time constraint. On the day of my departure to Norway we finished (a team of people working in dfferent locations) about 4 am. Somehow I managed to pack my things in between. After around six hours of sleep, and pretty exhausted, I went to the airport at noon. Thankfully, on a day with no traffic jams, it is only ten minutes ride for me. All my companions however departed by cars earlier that morning.

We were all supposed to meet at the airport of Gdansk (Northern Poland) to take the evening flight to Tromso – the biggest city in Europe located beyond the Polar circle. After we met in Gdansk, we spent some two hours enjoying each other’s company and a very tasty supper in the vicinity of the airport. I was that tired that a glass of orange juice with a shot of vodka was sufficient to put me asleep in the aircraft. It was for good, for after we landed it took us around three hours and quite a ride to get to our final location. The New Years Eve just began.


One of the first views we enjoyed after landing in Tromso. A bridge over fiord waters. City lights all around us. The New Year’s Eve just began

As we got to our rented cars at the airport we realised that we would not fit into them with our luggage. After some geometric work we managed to place our luggage in the trunk and on the sit neighbouring the driver with three of us crammed into the back sit (in both cars the same). All of these with eighty kilometers to drive in winter conditions at night. As we departed I had a weird feeling. But on that evening and the following days it turned out that the small, almost invisible spikes put on tires in Norway and reasonable speed limits make the road trip quite safe even if snow and ice are not removed by road services.


Mountains, snow and ice over fiord waters under the almost full Moon. On our road to Nordkjosbotn. A photo taken two days later

On busy days things accumulate somehow. During our ride I got a message that a good friend of mine gave birth to a child. Although Norway is not a member of the EU, the EU roaming rules apply. So without hesitation I called the friend who passed the message to me to know more. Snow, quite much snow, was all around. The road was almost empty. And I was happy for my friend. 

The house we rented in Nordkjosbotn 80 km south of Tromso was very inviting, spacious and warm. There was a fireplace in the living room. Much firewood was left for us by our Landlord. We packed our things out. As Norway is a relatively expensive country we brought much food with us. So we were independent on the local supplies. We ended our long evening with a supper and a sip of wine. Although it was a couple of days after Christmas I had a true Christmas feeling. 


Houses typical for Norway. We lived in one that looked like those on the photo.

On the New Years Eve we departed around eleven to look around in the vicinity of our house. As during the Polar night the sun never reaches this place, the daylight time is about five hours. With limited day-light time we just drove around twice stopping for a photo session. During our stay we saw many tremendous views. But the number of places one could stop the car safely was limited. Still, I think all of us were happy about photos we made on that afternoon.





Just a few photos I made during our two day-light stops on the New Years Eve.

After three hours we drove back. Enjoyed common meal. As we were still tired and a long night was before us, most of us fell asleep. Around seven we grabbed a bite and went to see the fireworks in Tromso. Our plan was to find a good location for shots, make some trial photos, go to a restaurant and come back to shoot fireworks. The plan did not work out. The evening turned to be even better. The first location we selected was not that we wanted. It was cold. Two of our companions decided to look for a restaurant. The six others went uphill to find a higher perspective.

We found another location. Reaching it was a bit of a challenge, as we had to climb a steep heel in snow sometimes reaching beyond our knees. Later, it turned out that there was another path leading over there. At the moment as we placed our tripods and started to make first trial photos, a green belt appeared in the dark sky. After ten or fifteen minutes we saw dancing ribbons of polar lights. Although most of our team were very experienced photographers, and one of us made many time lapses, I think no photo or a film we did can truly reflect the ribbon dance we saw. I put my camera on long exposure, but watched the spectacle with a naked eye. It was close to eleven. Although we were chasing the polar lights in the next days, it was the only time we saw this kind of spectacle.


The polar lights – the other kind of fireworks on the New Years Eve. You can only watch and wonder. The photo is a long exposure of 30 seconds

As it was over we joined our friends for a supper. And we found ourselves on the New Years Eve … in a Nigerian restaurant beyond the Polar Circle. The mood was happy all around us. A number of guests were dancing to some African rythms. As we had only a bit over half hour to get out to photograph the fireworks, we ordered meals we knew. Ultimately, I enjoyed spaghetti carbonara served by our Nigerian cook with … ham instead of bacon. Nevermind. It was delicious.

As it was already quite late we finished our New Years Eve supper putting on clothes on and packing the cameras in a hurry. We run to our car. It was ten to midnight. After a five minutes crazy drive with –  as you can imagine the car navigation that just failed – we managed to come back to the location we selected earlier. By accident we parked on the easier approach to the hill. I managed to install my tripod as the New Years counting started. For the next ten minutes we enojed fireworks unleashed at a top of a mountain that spreads over the city.


The New Year fireworks in Tromso

Technically we had it all. The Polar lights and the fireworks. But the night was still young. We decided to chase further the Polar Lights and drove around forty minutes deeper North. We stopped at a small parking place at a fiord coastline. It was dark around us and the Moon was full putting its light onto dark waters and snowy mountains. The silence was overwhelming. This was the first time I realised the power of the natural environment around me. The views were frightening and breathtaking the same time.


The full Moon we enjoyed around one am on the New Years Day

We put up our platic glasses filled with some cherry vodka and hugged each other somewhere in the North beyond the Polar Circle. The New Year just began. We drove further North for sometime. It was around five am as we came back home. The New Year’s champagne was for breakfast.

The very beautiful chapel of Bruges

Last year while on business in Brussels on a weekend I visited the historical city of Bruges. Bruges is probably the biggest quite well preserved and carefully revived medieval city in Europe. The local authorities put much attention so that new constructions or upgrades fit well into the historical city style (compare photo gallery >>>). I went there without any plan just to take a walk, sightsee and make photos. (A train from Brussels reaches Bruges within one hour.)

To understand the city heritage I took a one hour guided tour on a small touristic bus that starts and ends its tour at the main square. I was not planning to see any interiors. But one place drew my attention as I was listening to the audio. It was described as the most beautiful church in the city with relics of value inside. As it is located five minutes of walk from the main square I came back there after descending the bus. The church turned to be rather a big chapel with a status of minor basilica.

Yes indeed, as I entered my only reaction was ‘Wow!’ Of beautiful interiors I saw last year (including the most opulent rooms in the royal palace of Madrid) this one turned to be on a definite must-see list.

The Neo-Gothic interior of the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges

The Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges (Belgium) is famous for the venerated relic of the Holy Blood. But from the sightseeing point of view it is a place of true architectural and artistic value. It was originally built in XII century as the chapel of the residence of the Count of Flanders. The status of a minor basilica was awarded 1923. The Basilica consists in fact of two chapels (the lower and the upper one) built within the residence of the Count of Flanders.

It is easy indeed not to see it from outside as the entrance facade does not look like it leads to a church. In fact it is a small building in the top right corner of the Burg square. The building has a very decorative facade but … many buildings in Bruges look like that.

The both chapels were originally built in Romanesque style. The upper chapel was however transformed into the Gothic style at the end of the 15th century and once again on the Gothic revival architectural wave in XIX together with other major revival works in the whole historical city of Bruges.

A close up onto the main entrance facade and the front view of the interior

Index of posts on Brussels and Bruges >>>




After a couple of quite mild days in North Norway with only few Centigrades below zero, now it is the second day with temperatures below 15°C. So we decided to visit Tromso, the biggest city on the European continent beyond the Polar Circle. We already had been there for the New Year’s Eve. But that time we were more concentrated on Polar Lights. The city climate is a bit different than of other locations we visited in the past week as Tromso lies under the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. With only -5°C we had perfect conditions to make more photos.