So tomorrow morning I begin the bulk of my journey here in Svalbard. I will be boarding the Antigua, a barquentine tall ship, and setting off, even further North.
Longyearbyen is an incredible place. It is home to just over 2,000 permanent residents and is the largest settlement in Svalbard and the northernmost in the world. It sits in a valley and was predominantly a mining town. There are abandoned mine buildings scattered on the steady escarpments.
There are no trees. Nothing. There is very little vegetation at all, perhaps that is why the buildings are all brightly colored - to break up the consistent color of the earth. Interesting tidbit - the only colors that buildings can be painted must be approved and be reminiscent of the colors of the local flora and landscape.
Svalbard Reindeer are like squirrels back home. I have seen several grazing in the middle of town.
When you enter buildings in Longyearbyen you must take your shoes off. This local custom arises from the fact that with the roads being dirt and the extensive winter, cleaning up after dirty shoes was/is not possible. I've been greeted in most places with shelves to place my boots and complimentary slippers if I don't want to walk around in my socks. Eating dinner at a restaurant without shoes is quite interesting. I didn't think that I would notice as much as I did, but it was a significantly different feeling.
Tomorrow when I leave Longyearbyen behind for several weeks I will also be forfeiting my ability to communicate. I will no longer have access to the internet or to a wireless signal ( baring one location where I was told a glacier, A GLACIER reflects some cell coverage to the area, giving me the ability to check in).
So keep an eye for a sporadic update to Facebook or Instagram if I get the cell coverage, but if nothing pops up I will be returning to Longyearbyen on June 27th and will proceed to share my travels in chunks thereafter.
I want to leave you with this amusing quote that I found at the Svalbard Museum today. I find this woefully incorrect and frankly hysterical.
Til neste gang vi møtes. // Until the next time we meet.