People can take many excursions to Svalbard Islands, vary and unlike each other to satisfy every taste.
One of the most beautiful we took was that one to Pyramiden: the inhabited centre, today abandoned, was the scene of exhibitionisms that today make only laugh between Russia with its communism and the West, while in Europe and in the rest of the world the Cold War dominated the newspapers.
Today Pyramiden is there and can be visited by anyone who choose one of the excursions to Svalbard Islands arriving as far as these latitudes, beyond the 79th parallel. As evidence and as a warning of the apexes which the human stupidity can arrive to.
You see many of these travelling all over the world, this is only one. But let’s begin with things in order.
The excursion, like any other excursion to this archipelago, can be booked directly on the Svalbard Tourist office website.
On the same website you can book the stay, the tours and find a lot of useful information to plan the trip according to the season (it is a very important aspect and not to be underestimated when you choose your excursions to Svalbard Islands).
We went to this archipelago in August, just straddle the feast of the Assumption week: one of the few summer breaks we gave to ourselves over years. As you know we prefer to travel out of season so we preferred to book nothing before our arrival.
The weather varies very quickly and in a pitiless way. So we chose the day for the excursion by boat, according to the weather conditions. A choice that revealed perfect.
Our excursion to Pyramiden, as you can see from the pictures, enjoyed a wonderful and warm sunny day for those latitudes: it allowed us to take unique shots, to eat outside and enjoy the landscape outside during navigation, wearing simply a mountain winter anorak.
We leave early in the morning from the Longyearbyen harbour, a transfer will pick us directly at the hotel at the scheduled hour. Almost all the excursions to Svalbard Islands begin like that.
That’s odd! What do we run here today into? It’s leaving for the last cruise of the season to Svalbard.
It’s the Fram. Many years ago we went on the entire route throughout Norway, from South to north (from Bergen to Kirkenees) onboard Hurtigruten by the Richard With. What memories to see it there in front, with its typical white, red and black colours!
The cruise to Svalbard is certainly one of the most beautiful ways to visit the archipelago, one of the most beautiful excursions: thanks to its duration it allows both to enjoy entirely the essence of the Arctic and to see practically all the animals, from the polar bear to walrus.
It’s useless to say it’s the most expensive, too. If you decide to opt for this alternative, I recommend you to search for offers both in Norwegian (you can find prices even more lowest than ours) and in German version of Groupon where often there’s the Hurtigruten with its cruises and routes. Keep also in mind the Hurtigruten isn’t the only naval company going on cruises to Svalbard.
Out boat leaves on time towards the glacier. Over the navigation inside the fjord to reach our destination we sight immediately really many animals.
The wind lashes our faces: we persist to stand, on the top, at the bow of the boat. The views are unique.
Under the cliffs covered by guano, the puffins lord it. They fly, play, run one another around the boat. You’ll see really many of them in Summer and really, really close.
At some point the guy who was explaining the Arctic life and many interesting curious issues about these so extreme lands to us, stops and turns our attention to an imprecise point in the middle of the fjord.
Here it is! It’s her! The whole boat moves about and the captain changes direction to go close.
We ran into the blue whale. The huge blue whale running through the seas of the world and which we saw so close in Sri Lanka on board that so small little boat. Now we admire it in all its grandeur nothing less than in the Arctic.
You think during the excursion to Pyramiden we saw several of them, at least 5 or 6!
Then seals. Also the seals populate the Arctic and in this so particularly hot Summer it will be easy to sight those ones, too. We saw them swimming calmly in front of the glacier.
A helicopter flies over us at a low altitude: it links other remote places of the Svalbard Islands with the chief town, Longyearbyen. Meanwhile we are closing to the glacier.
It’s striking its greatness with its dazzling whiteness and the thousands blue shades the ice gets reflecting this very clear sky of today.
We are all at the bow to admire it. Little icebergs move around us, the seals swim and at some point a bit more strong creaking and a roar with the typical “splash”. A piece of ice came off and fell into the sea.
A wonderful scenery: you wouldn’t go away anymore. The sun burns the skin even if we don’t realize it due to cold and wind. The crew prepares quickly a barbecue.
Right here, at the warm sun, seat on the boat admiring the glacier and tasting a very good fish. The inevitable Norwegian salmon, cooked with a masterly skill, is served as much as one likes.
But time is pitiless like always. In a flash it’s time to leave again towards our destination: Pyramiden.
From far we see it close to with its abandoned air.
At the harbour we are welcomed by our guide, strictly armed. He gather us and he immediately explain us how it’s important to stay joint.
We are told again for the umpteenth time the mantra of the Svalbard Islands: here the danger of the polar bear is very real. It isn’t a joke.
It can be anywhere. It can hide everywhere among these abandoned buildings and if it’s hungry it is really, really dangerous. Yesterday right here at the harbour people sighted a polar bear that was swimming.
We missed it for a less. Who knows what emotion! We saw the bear in Florida but here we weren’t able to see the polar one!
Our tour starts. By a very old bus we are took inside the town and the guy starts to tell us stories of an incredible reality dating back to 1998, the year when the town was abandoned.
Practically, it was a point for the coal mining which these islands were very rich in, half Norwegian and half Russian. Over time it turned up. Here took place a sort of “ideologies fight”. The Russians sent here doctors, luminaries and important leading figures as a “prize” and paying them generously or promising them brilliant careers.
The message they wanted to send to West was: if with communism people live so good in this place, think how could be in the rest of Russia.
The Svalbard Islands, once abandoned the coal mining since it became uneconomical, were an extortionate cost for Russia, even more than they were for Norway which in some way followed hot on the heels of Russia and it wanted to be no less, even though by different ways.
So next to the works for the coal mining we run into still working pianos where to measure oneself in very out-of-tune melodies and then theatres, all sorts of entertainments to make seem this place idyllic.
Even a swimming pool with heated sea water, the first one of Svalbard Islands! Then school, hospital, gym, basketball court and football ground!
A hard place, with a very rigid climate, where hard work dominated and life was almost impossible.
We run into the grass in those that were called the Svalbard Champs Elysées. Imported, sowed and some ways survived. You find it only here. It doesn’t exist in any other place in the whole archipelago!
The main buildings, like this, dormitories for people who lived here, had the rounded edges to better resist to the non-stop, hard and very cold wind of the long winters. A curious issue. Do you see those little cubes outside the windows? Do you know what are these things for?
Don’t answer air-conditioners, please! They were refrigerators. Outside the windows, all over the year, people kept the food cool. You think in Pyramiden the houses of the inhabitants didn’t have kitchens and they ate all together in a big canteen. One of the building was dedicated to families with children and so called “the crazy building” due to the never-.ending chaos that reigned inside.
Someone starts an old lorry that, who knows how, starts with a terrible smoke. The old European and Russian means still present here.
The view from the highest points of Pyramiden is amazing in front of the so stately glacier. No doubt. But we have to never forget the sunny days are really few.
Up over there, right on the peak, there’s what is called jokingly the internet café. Yes, it exists also here a way to connect to Internet, despite any preview.
You’ll have only to have desire to go on foot as far as up there: the mountain opposite prevents the signal to reach the town since the mountain has a pyramid shape (the town was called after this). The only place where the signal arrives is the station up there on the peak. Practically it’s a very good method to not create a connection addiction!
The Russian notices alternate with the Norwegian ones. We arrive through the Champs Elysées to the 79th parallel, too.
It’s really striking to think how the North Pole is relatively less far!
In 1998, in a rush, only few month, the town was abandoned. The land was always Norwegian but Russians could exploit it according to an old agreement.
Pyramiden became immediately a ghost town. Everything was left there like it was before. Today look at it makes an impression.
Some years ago the hotel reopened. Pyramiden is used as a base point of the excursions to Svalbard Islands and expeditions. Of course, even only to stay at the hotel you must have got a weapon.
A little museum with a few relics of the time tells us still some curious issues about this so absurd place.
People try to make relive a “normal” atmosphere for the human life through these little plants on a window!
It’s time to go back.
The navigation through the fjord gives us still breathtaking views with a shiny sun.
We admire settlements, shelters, areas used by people who even pushes as far as up here by the kayak for the excursions to Svalbard Islands to enjoy the Arctic.
Some wrecks and shelters.
A so as inhospitable as charming land.
Still animals and a certainty: we have to come back to sight the polar bear and to see walrus!
On the contrary, if you like us haven’t had enough of the Arctic, enjoy our video with many curious issues about the Svalbard archipelago!