Every time I travel anywhere that comes under the vague heading of ‘Northern Europe’, I am excited by the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. I wrap up warm and spend my time sat hopefully around the campfire, but I have never yet set eyes on this natural phenomenon. Bad timing seems to be my problem. While in Denmark, people told me that the Northern Lights had been great only the week before. In the Shetland Islands, people told me that if only I had visited at a different time of the year, I would be sure to see them. Even my Mum told me that if only I had accompanied her on a cruise to Norway in February, I could have seen them every single night and never grown tired of them.
Still, I have not yet achieved the dream of watching the Northern Lights for myself. Until I am able to take that highly-recommended Norwegian cruise, I will continue to daydream. Whenever I see them photographed, I find myself wondering- Exactly what are the Aurora Borealis? How can such spectacle be conjured in the sky? Of course, I have googled that very question. The dictionary definition of ‘a natural electrical phenomenon, characterised by the appearance of red and green lights in the sky, near the magnetic poles of the earth that is caused by the interaction of charged particles from the sun in the upper atmosphere’ is not as satisfying as I would like. It does not deliver the romantic images of blazing colours over icy fjords and dramatic silhouettes of the Norwegian coastline that I am looking for.
I much prefer the folklore and stories of the Sami people, an indigenous group still living in Northern Europe. Their stories are a much more satisfactory way to explore and explain such beauty in the sky. The Sami stories tell us that the Northern Lights are living beings, with a soul and the ability to listen to and understand humans. They also say that if you listen carefully, you can hear the Northern Lights talking back. In the past, Sami parents taught their children that they should never point at the lights with their finger. They may be insulted, lashing down out of the sky to punish you. There are stories about two brothers, very noisy reindeer herders, receiving this punishment after yoiking at their herds far too loudly by night. These stories told to children to get them to behave, I presume!
If you feel inspired to see the Northern Lights and Nordic Fjords for yourself, why not join The Big Journey Company on an escorted group tour by train and by cruise ship in February 2020. You never know- one of these days I may be lucky enough to join you!
Samantha Wales. May 2019.
To see our 2019 Northern Lights and Nordic Fjords itinerary click HERE