Opening the curtains in the morning to a new city is a strange experience, like the life you left on land doesn’t exist. It’s a science fiction middle-class utopia here, where breakfast is brought to your room at the exact time you ask for it, and the skyline changes daily. We look out onto the cove of Kristiansand harbour, on a bright blue sky tasselled with pine trees and the curve of rock that keeps the water calm.
It’s our first time in Norway, another country to tick off the list. Kristiansand doesn’t feel like much, but the sleepiness is in it’s own way something exotic. It’s Sunday morning, and most things are closed. The cluster of log cabins next to the port housing restaurants, shops and ice cream parlours is purpose-built and immaculate. The rest of the town is just as immaculate, however, devoid of locals and interrupted in silence only by the regular tooting of the tourist train on wheels that creaks through the town centre.
The feature of Kristiansand seems to be the church, modest in size by European capital standards but charming nonetheless. The sit in the church square and wait for service, eventually going inside to be told the café doesn’t open until the afternoon, due to being Sunday. We also find that it’s illegal to sell alcohol on a Sunday in Norway.
We sit in a Starbucks, which although being the cleanest and friendliest Starbucks we have ever visited, feels a little sad. The tour groups have been hauled off to some traditional dance and lunch or somesuch, the usual. We decided before we boarded we wouldn’t be crammed into a bus at 8am to see mercenary must-sees.
We persevere. There’s some kind of incline beyond the church, with people at the top, peering down. At worst, it’s a good walk before heading back to the boat. We are rewarded with a hilltop forest, winding paths clearing out to a beautiful lake like something out of Stand By Me without the corpse.
It’s interesting to see the Scandinavian touristic cultural ideas spread out through the Baltic Sea. On the hunt for a magnet, we are bombarded with memorabilia involving Vikings, moose, reindeer and Moomins. Never mind their actual origins. During the musical show at the theatre that evening, the trip around the world via dance involves dancing an Argentinian tango to an Italian song. Everything blurred, mashed up for your entertainment. The ship sails on.
We settle into a daily rhythm, it’s part of the joy of having a floating 5* hotel at our disposal. Breakfast in bed, gym, crosswords, walks along the deck. The biggest choice we have to make is if we want dinner in the restaurant with every whim attended to, or if we want to choose a more low-key area of the ship to eat in. I’m sure at some point it would get tiresome, but for a break from life it’s perfect. At night we tumble in from dinner, maybe a show and drinks. I make tea and look out at the waves, the stars, the vastness of the water without a hint of land. If I could keep anything, it would be that view.