Column: P D Kaushik

Roof Top VieW

I do not deny that Bollywood has been more responsible than our tour operators for making destinations like Paris, New York, Vienna, Venice, Amsterdam, Madrid, Queenstown attractive for Indian tourists and travellers. These places have abundance of charm in their architecture and museums besides plenty of gaiety. Many of them simply sizzle with nightlife.

But I prefer exploring less frequented tourist destinations, taking the road less travelled if you like. One such is North Cape or Nordkapp (71į 1í N, 25į 47í E). Situated on a 370 metre high cliff in Finnmark, Norway, Nordkapp is the northern most point in Europe. It is also called the Roof of Europe. It is landís end, and therefore, the mystery is deeper.

To reach Nordkapp, I took the VR train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, a town made famous by Santa Claus. It is located on the Arctic Circle (66į 33í N). The Helsinki Central Railway Station is a quaint structure reflecting the influence of Russian architecture. My journey into the unknown began at 8.20 p.m one night in May. 

At 11 a.m next day, a shining red Oy Matkahuolto Ab bus that would take us from Rovaniemi to Karasjok arrived. It took us 10 minutes to commence the eight hour journey, my passport was checked before departure. From Karasjok, I took another bus to Honningsvag..This being May, there was no direct bus between Rovaniemi and Nordkapp, only those who travel between June and August get this service. I took a taxi from Hooningsvag.

It is a 35 km stretch of mesmerizing Arctic scenery between Honningsvag and Nordkapp. The beauty all around is stark, since most of the landscape is bare and without trees.

I alighted from the taxi at Nordkapphallen (North Cape Hall). The hall was fully insulated by thick glass, and I didnít realise the rough weather outside. When I stepped out of the Hall and hit the passage, the cold Arctic winds swept across my face, their force leaving me breathless for seconds. I was truly face to face with one of the most daunting, yet beautiful places on earth, on the edge of the European continent, beyond which lay the Arctic Ocean and the North Pole.

I stood there lonesome but strong, and felt vastly satisfied at the journey Iíd undertaken. Before me lay an expanse of ocean and ice. I stood against the rails, and emulated Kate Winslett in the Titanic, my arms spread. The moment was overwhelming. The memory is frozen.

I paid 120 kroners to enter the souvenier shop inside. It had a fine selection of gifts, but importantly it sold me a certificate of my arrival at Nordkapp. That was my proof of having visited the Roof of Europe.

May 2006

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