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And now we are in Longyearbyen!

We got a bus to the airport in Tromso - fast & efficient, and empty - we were the only two passengers on it. I am impressed by Tromso's road tunnel system - the tunnel we went through was big enough to have two, count 'em, two roundabouts.

The flight from Tromso to Longyearbyen took about an hour and a half, and was very smooth - and (by airline standards) the tea and muffin were good. The arrivals hall had a stuffed polar bear in the middle of the luggage conveyor belt. Then a bus to the hotel, a late lunch (3 o'clock!) and a "welcome to Svalbard" talk.

After that, we took a walk into town, and saw two reindeer (yes, in the middle of town), some terns, and some ?dunlin (small waders, anyway). When we got down to the harbour, it started snowing, so we turned round and headed up to the hotel.

Svalbard has got lots of colourful houses in it, and several reminders of its industrial (coal mining) history. Impressive snow-capped mountains around it; lots of snow-mobiles parked everywhere; and lots of bikes.

The dutch lady ahead of me has finally got off the internet terminal, allowing me to make this update. In a little while, it will be dinner time.

Tomorrow, there is a range of excursions in the morning; more details of these are promised at dinner. After lunch, there will be a coach trip; then in the evening we board the MS Nordstjernen (North Star?) for our cruise up the west coast, where we hope to see polar bears (or isbjorn), walruses, and puffins (lundybirds).

Back to Tromso, and I should have said that a submarine was moored very near to our hotel. It was flying both the Norwegian and Indian flags, and there were high-ranking Indian naval officers (turban and lots of gold braid = high-ranking Indian naval officer, I think!) going into the big hotel next to ours. My guess is that there is some sort of Indo-Norwegian naval conference going on, but why that should be, I don't know!

Dinner last night was very good. Monkfish wrapped in bacon; blackcurrant sorbet; moose; and creme brulee with berries. A couple of days ago, on an excursion, we passed through a major fruit-growing area. There were kids in the villages selling punnets of raspberries and strawberries, which were very good. The guide also said that they grew apricots and peaches; in that latitude???

We also went to two cathedrals in Tromso - the Lutheran Domkirke (very 19th century), and the modern Katedralen - the walls were formed of multiple overlapping triangles, with the east and west walls being of glass - the west one plain, the east one stained.
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