Five Stars of Scandinavia in the News
Antarctica on SaleCruise to Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp Plancius
Cruise date: 6 Mar - 17 Mar, 2017
PLA30-17 m/v Plancius, the ice-strengthened vessel Plancius is an ideal vessel for polar expedition cruises in the Arctic and Antarctic.
Twin window for 8,200 USD per person
Quadruple Porthole on request
Triple Porthole on request
Twin Porthole on request
Twin Window $8,200 $2,050 discount
Twin Deluxe $10,850
Antarctica Special OffersJanuary Offers for Antarctica!
The spectacular Ross Sea – Travel back in time
Have you ever dreamt of traveling back in time or fantasized about traveling to planet Mars? “This” is your unique chance!
Voyage OTL28-17, Ross Sea with helicopter flights, 15 February – 17 March 2017
A voyage for explorers! During this trip we visit the historic huts of Scott and Shackleton, encounter the world’s most impressive ice shelves, fly our helicopters to the McMurdo Dry valleys, the driest place on earth where no other environment on earth comes closer to planet Mars!
You will also travel “back in time” when our vessel Ortelius stops at and crosses the international global date line and the date suddenly jumps back in time one full day!
Quadruple Porthole $17450 $8250 discount
Triple Porthole $17450 $10450 discount
Twin Porthole deck 3 $22490 $10260 discount
Twin Porthole deck 4 $25700 $7050 discount
Twin Window $33850
Twin Deluxe on request
Huffington Post story: Northern Lights are fadingProudly sharing Laura Grier's story - a journey to Finnish Lapland and the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, for which Five Stars of Scandinavia is honored to have made all arrangements!
Laura shares their magical story about having been blessed with four nights of The Aurora - a colorful display of Northern Lights - and fun-filled snow activities throughout the days!
You may want to pack your bag and explore the Arctic!
or visit our website:
Igloo Escape and Northern Lights: http://5stars-scandinavia.com/kakslauttanen-finland-igloo-t…
Due to the popularity of the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort and our # 1 Winter program, it is critical to book early as the Igloos and Kelo-Glass Igloos sell out fast!
Five Stars of Scandinavia Visa-free Cruises
Visa-Free Cruise to St. Petersburgby Victoria Brooke Markus
Let's face it; no one enjoys the logistical barriers that bog down vacations; who really wants to spend time waiting in line for a visa? With the increasingly popular visa-free cruises from Five Stars of Scandinavia Inc., that inconvenience can be easily avoided. Traveling between the exciting cities of Helsinki and St. Petersburg, Five Stars' packages provide you with more time to explore vibrant new cultures and less time dealing with mundane travel protocol.
The distance between Finland and Russia is practically a tease – geographically, so close, yet so far away diplomatically. But since May 2009, international tourists have been able to visit Russia visa-free for up to 72 hours when they enter through designated ports, one of which is St. Petersburg. Established in 1989, the U.S. tour operator Five Stars of Scandinavia, offers comprehensive visa-free packages that make the most of the 72 hour window with exclusive activities and engaging activities.
One package, the Three Baltic Capitals Cruise, departs from Helsinki and includes an evening excursion to medieval Tallinn in Estonia. Upon arriving in St. Petersburg, you have a full 72-hour window to explore the city of the Czars. The former Imperial capital of Russia encompasses a wealth of sights, and unique expeditions, including the guided three-hour Panoramic city bus tour, highlights the city's cultural treasures. All the overnight accommodations are with the Finnish Sokos Hotels, and the St. Petersburg location is just across the river from the most famous landmarks, including the Hermitage Museum, St. Isaac's Cathedral, and The Admiralty.
Available from February to late December, these cruise packages vary from one night/two full days in St. Petersburg to two nights/three full days. They include breakfast buffet, onboard dinners, options for private car tours and guides and great amenities on the finely refurbished ships. And you can't beat the visa-free perk. So skip the application; it's more fun to relax on a cruise than wait in a line.
Visa-Free Cruises to St. Petersburg, Russia
Visa-free Cruises from Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn to St. Petersburg/RussiaSt. Peter Line visa free cruises to St. Petersburg, Russia continue to be a great success. Five Stars of Scandinavia has been representative for St. Peter Line for many years; our staff knows the cruises, ships and routes, and are able to answer your questions regarding procedures, customs, visa free etc.
Two ships, Princess Maria and Princess Anastasia, connect St. Petersburg with Baltic Sea ports Helsinki, Stockholm and Tallinn. One-way or round trip cruises are visa free, allowing a stay of up to 3 days / 72 hours, in St. Petersburg.
Passengers can enjoy Cruise and Hotel packages with one or two night hotel stays in St. Petersburg, and may add private sightseeing tours, excursions and transfers to make the most of their visit!
Embark on one of the many options of our visa-free cruises to St. Petersburg: depart from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, or from Stockholm via Tallinn to St. Petersburg. You have the option to stay up to 72 hours without having to obtain a visa, allowing you two hotel nights and three full days to explore the treasures of this historic city.
Our excursions by private car and driver enjoy great popularity: highly knowledgeable and educated English speaking guides are a great success and provide you with deep insight of local treasures, history and culture without having to stand in long lines, as they have seperate entrances to many sites. Enjoy the special guidance while your driver waits for you!
Five Stars of Scandinavia is representative for St. Peter Line in the USA. We know the cruises, the ships and procedures, and pride ourselves in being able to answer your many questions regarding travel to Russia.
Please visit our website and select a cruise to fit your travel plans:
Talk to the Experts - Book early and take advantage of special rates that might be available at the time of booking.
Viking River Cruise New for 2016!
New Cruise Tour!
New River Cruise: Poland, Prague and the Elegant Elbe
Breathtaking, Chic and Utterly Surprising!
Complement the natural wonder and baroque beauty of your itinerary with breathtaking stays in three magical cities. Enjoy two nights in magical Prague, three in lovingly reconstructed Kraków and two in Warsaw.
From $5,999 | 16 Days | 14 Guided Tours | 3 Countries
Book early for 2016 and 2017!
Visit Warsaw, Prague & Berlin. Complement your Elegant Elbe itinerary with stays in three magical cities. On this inspiring cruisetour, you’ll sail the lilting waters of the Elbe past the sandstone cliffs of Saxon Switzerland. Spend two nights in vibrant Prague; three nights in Kraków, where you can join a moving excursion to Auschwitz; and two nights in Warsaw, home of the courageous Jewish Ghetto Uprising and a stunningly reconstructed Old Town.
Watch our video (click on the arrow in picture):
Rail Products Scandinavia / Northern Europe
Five Stars of Scandinavia offers Rail Products throughout Scandinavia!
As booking agent for your rail product needs we are proud to assist you with all your rail needs, i.e.
Point to point rail, Rail passes, Scandinavia Rail tours:
By far our most popular Rail Journey in Norway:
Norway in a Nutshell Tour
Norway in a Nutshell
Sognefjord in a Nutshell
Hardanger in a Nutshell
Hurtigruten, Trondheim and Oslo
Majestic Fjords, Norway Nutshell, Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord
Fjord Majesty, Nutshell, Sognefjord and Glacier
Norway Fjord Discovery
EuRail Passes throughout Scandinavia:
Single Country Pass:
Eurail Sweden Passes
Multi Country Pass:
Eurail Denmark - Sweden
Eurail Norway - Sweden
Eurail Finland - Sweden
Eurail Denmark - Germany
We are proud to provide travelers from around the world access to its attractive range of
"All Country Passes" and point to point train tickets which offer great value and flexibility for exploring exciting destinations by rail, including Northern Europe.
Additional Antarctic Basecamp Voyage, 10 nights - November 08 - 18, 2016Antarctica Cruise on M/V Plancius, with free activities during our Basecamp Plancius voyages.
"Basecamp Plancius" emphasis is on activities, including: zodiac excursions, hiking, kayaking, glacier walking/mountaineering, camping and photo shooting. All activities will be conducted by trained expert guides.
The vessel will stay for two or three days at specific locations to serve our active passengers as a comfortable hub to allow more time than usual for wide ranging activities: mountaineers to climb mountain ranges (soft climbing), hikers to participate in long walks, photographers to explore photo opportunities, campers to enjoy life at shore base camps, kayakers and zodiac passengers to explore near shores where the ship cannot go.
Activities: Camping | Kayaking | Mountaineering | Snowshoeing | PhotographyPassengers who do not wish to become physically active will enjoy our zodiac excursions and follow the normal shore program and land excursions (easy to moderate walks and hikes with focus on wildlife)
Please visit: http://5stars-scandinavia.com/antarctic-peninsula-basecamp-cruise.html
Fly Fishing the Gaula in Norway!What is in store for 2016? We all have high hopes!
|Lower Gaula Chrome – caught by Taylor Edrington in June 2015|
We are also glad to announce that we have been able to add new Beats to our rotation! With new productive water both above and below the Gaulfoss this will be a great improvement – especially in the early season for the big spring salmon and as well in the later season and also any time we experience low water. Stay tuned for more information on the specific beats, their descriptions and some photos to come soon!
|Matt Harris with a big fish from our Bogen Søndre Beat caught end of June 2015|
We still have rods available in the early season and also very few rods in prime time and as well in the later season. We are looking forward to another great season in 2016 and hopefully we will see many of you on the Gaula during the summer 2016!
|Olivier playing a salmon in Beat D1|
Experiencing Norway Like a Local!
Holmenkollen and the Ski Museum
As Norway is considered to be the birthplace of skiing, you can't visit without checking out the slopes. You can go skiing all over the world, but only Norway is home to a ski museum, which opened in 1923 and is the oldest of its kind. You can explore the origin of skiing, which dates back 4,000 years. At Holmenkollen, you can also find a the world's most modern ski jump, which opened on March 3, 2010. The total length of the slope is 96.95 meters, and the entire jump consists of 1,000 tons of steel, making it the only steel ski jump in the world. You can explore Holmenkollen on your own, or take part in any of the guided tours which occur during and after opening hours. The guides will fill you in on everything from polar history to modern skiing.
Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park
This destination is just as loved by Norway locals as it is tourists. Approximately 1 million Norwegians visit the park annually. Located in Oslo, this park contains 212 bronze and granite sculptures, all created by Gustav Vigeland. You can't miss the 14-meter high sculpture known as the Monolith, which is made up of more than 121 human figures.
Vigeland even designed the architectural setting and layout of the entire park. Spend the afternoon at the park, making sure to stop by Cafe Vigeland for a French pastry, sandwich or baguette. Aside from the magnificent sculptures, there's also a museum at the park, which displays the original full-sized plaster casts of the sculptures.
Rest assured, there are a number of stunning views throughout Norway, but nothing can beat the breathtaking scenery admired from the Floibanen Funicular, a cable car. When you step inside this car, you'll be taken 320 meters above sea level, where you'll be able to see all of downtown Bergen. The car will also take you to the peak of Mount Floyen, allowing you to soak in the truly picturesque view of sparkling fjords and islands. And it's not just the views you get to enjoy when you take the Floibanen Funicular. Hop off and go for a relaxing hike or visit the Floien Folkerestaurant to fine dine at 320 meters above sea level. The Floibanen Funicular departs every 15 minute from the city center.
The Lofoten Islands
You haven't truly experienced relaxation and serenity until you have visited the Lofoten Islands, which is as off the beaten track as you can get. Admire Norway's seabird population by heading to the island of Rost, located on the tip of Lofoten.You can also go on a nature safari, experience a northern lights tour or go fishing as you enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings. If you want to practice your golf game, pay a visit to the Lofoten Golf Links course, where you can play along the Lofoten Mountains. If you go during the summer, you can play under the midnight sun - darkness will never fall on the golf course.
New Hurtigruten Ship
DISCOVER YOUR INNER EXPLORER
We've long celebrated the traveler who wants to see as many new things as possible (and those voyages are still plenty) but our new ship - the MS Spitsbergen - is for the wanderer, the ponderer, the sightseer. Spend a little time with us in Norway.
MS Midnatsol to Southernmost Continent: Antarctica!
Exploring Antarctica with MS Midnatsol
MS Midnatsol offers an opportunity for travelers who possess a true spirit of exploration, and who want to “thrill” their senses by connecting with extraordinary natural surroundings - not just sailing by on a big ocean liner. Here is the chance to connect with Antarctica’s gigantic ice, penguins, leopard seals, whales and albatross. And more, to be among the fortunate few to step foot on the last untouched continent. Back onboard, scientists will help deepen your understanding of Antarctica’s wildlife and environment, and expand your awareness of the fascinating world around you.
Midnatsol to Begin 2016 Operation in Antarctica
Seattle, May 2015 – Hurtigruten, a world leader in sustainable explorer travel, is moving the MS Midnatsol to Antarctica for the 2016/2017 season, more than tripling the company’s guest capacity for sailings in this important polar region. The MS Midnatsol will join the Hurtigruten’s well-known expedition ship, the MS Fram, increasing the company’s seasonal berths from 2,268 in 2015/16 to 6,800 berths in 2016/17.
Antarctica itineraries include highlights such as the Falkland Islands, Chilean fjords, Patagonia, the Magellan Strait and Cape Horn. Sailings will depart from October 2016 to March 2017 with prices ranging from $5,999 to $6,666 per person, double occupancy.
Smyril Line M/F Norröna
Smyril Line has started their new season and has been sailing a few trips to Iceland, at the moment we are in the Shetland Islands with approximately 600 guest who have been on our special cruise to the Faroe Islands, Orkney and Shetland.
During the winter season we have made quite a few changes and updates on-board. The Simmer Dim Restaurant has become a Steak House, serving fantastic fresh salads and other tasty dishes in a relaxed and friendly environment.
Our Deluxe cabins have got a total make over with new furniture's and a great new look and furthermore our Naust Bar has become a Sport Bar with a new Sporty look. During the summer we will make sure that the guest will have the possibility to follow all the sport events which are going on through the summer.
Our famous Norrøna Buffet Restaurant is still serving both breakfast and dinner during the whole week. The Buffet offers such a wealth of dishes that one cannot possibly try them all in one evening, even if you will be tempted to. Every evening there are over 20 different hot dishes to choose from, in addition to somewhere between 40 and 50 cold dishes. And then there is the cheese, the fruit and the irresistible pastry selection.
Pre-Book and save up to 20%
We would very much recommend that your guest pre-book the food before the journey, not just because they save money, but also to make sure that they get a seat either in the Buffet or in the Steak House.
Tallink Silja Line
New Five City Baltic Cruise from St. Peter Line!Five City Baltic Cruise
Helsinki - Mariehamn - Stockholm -Tallinn - St. Petersburg - Helsinki
Enjoy St. Peter Line's visa free cruise on the M/S Princess Anastasia. Depart from Helsinki on Friday afternoon, via Mariehamn to Stockholm, where you have the full day at your leisure. Continue to Tallinn, with time for a city tour of Tallinn and Old Town with private driver/guide. Evening departure for St. Petersburg; full day to explore the imperial city of the Czars on your own, by St. Peter Line shuttle bus, or by private pre-arranged excursions.
As a novelty, Princess Anastasia will arrive from St.Petersburg to Helsinki on Friday mornings starting from 5 August 2011. New passengers from Helsinki can start with Princess Anastasia on Friday evening and sail via Mariehamn to Stockholm, Tallinn and St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg they can stay visa free for two or three nights in a hotel before returning to Helsinki Port either with the other ferry Princess Maria on Thursday morning or the same ferry Princess Anastasia on Friday morning. Passengers from Stockholm can on Saturdays and Wednesdays go for visa free cruises spending from a day up to 72 hours (three hotel nights) in St. Petersburg before sailing directly back to Stockholm or via Helsinki and Mariehamn (in both you can jump off) back to Stockholm.
Please view our great offer on the Five City Baltic Cruise and all our St. PeterLine visa-free cruises from Helsinki and Stockholm to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Forbes Magazine: In Cod They TrustEven in late March the weather can be nasty above the Arctic Circle, especially in the Lofoten Islands, where my German fishing buddy Ingrid Shumway and I were booked to compete in the Lofotcup, Norway's annual two-day cod fishing tournament. A 60-mile archipelago, the Lofotens fan across the Norwegian Sea like scared bait. They are one of the prettiest--and most out there--places on Earth. Sheared and whittled by 20,000 years of glacial ice, the islands are a sweep of 3,000-foot maritime alps and 3-billion-year-old granite plateaus. If Switzerland were flooded, it would look a lot like the Lofoten Islands.
Scattered about are little fishing villages marked by simple fishermen's cabins and two-story wooden cod-drying racks. But don't let the old charm fool you. The place is full of chic coffeehouses, good bookstores, hotels that could win design awards in Milan and some of the most sophisticated seafood anywhere. Especially cod dishes, the Lofotens' still-bustling cod fishery being the reason Viking traders bothered to settle these Lilliputian islands. A thousand years later, in 1991, islanders turned the opening of cod season into a national event and invited out-of-towners.
A word about cod and the Norse. The fish lies in rough relation to northerners as cattle do to Argentineans and sheep to New Zealanders. Norwegians eat it fresh; boiled with fat skeins of its own delicate roe; air-dried and baked into a tomato-based bacalao; or prepped with lye, which turns the fish into something resembling a bar of soap.
Tournament headquarters is in the village of Svolvær, nearly 800 miles (and two more flights) northeast of Oslo. By the time we arrived the light was blue and Svolvær's waterfront looked like Saturday night on Santorini--with Gore-Tex. The cafes were packed with jovial Norwegians, but we managed to squeeze in and enjoy some surprisingly lean and tasty hamburgers.
"Hvalburger," our server corrected. Whales, a fellow fisherman told us, follow the cod, so this was good news.
By morning Svolvær Harbor looked like D-day. Scores of boats carrying 500 or so contestants revved their engines while crews ran around filling bait tanks and checking tackle. Swathed in layers of fleece, wool and rubber, we Gumby-walked to the Blomøy, the 58-foot postwar chartered boat we would share with nine other fishermen, all from Oslo. The day was so clear the mountains looked mythic. The starting horn sounded to a hail of whoops, and we were off. But the moment we left the harbor a north wind kicked up, the sea convulsed, the sky went dead-cod green and ice-pick sleet soon hacked at our faces. We skedaddled into the first handy fjord, but it was so rough there the Norwegian Coast Guard followed us in. Nonetheless, the captain cut to an idle, and the fishing began.
The boat bucked nonstop, one icy wave after another crashed onto the decks, and the wind tied endless knots in our lines. There was something heroic about standing there and surviving. Dock gossip that evening was that almost no cod had been taken by anyone. Something wasn't right.
On the second day we awoke to a perfect Arctic storm. Stowed rope and crab pots made snowy hillocks onshore as we headed out in near whiteout conditions. Within minutes I was totally freezing.
"Dere is no bad weather, only bad clothes," one of the crew noted, glancing helpfully at my dishwashing gloves, which were all that the Svolvær hardware store had left. Then he told us that Blomøy means either "flower island" or "cauliflower" depending, we assumed, on how the fishing was going. The old boat managed to plow through nonstop rollers for 45 minutes before we lurched into another fjord. We resumed battle positions, armed with heavy Norwegian fishing rods and handsomely tooled saltwater reels--all of which counted for nada. After three hours of fish-free torture I'd had it.
Whoever said misery loves company was crazy. All I wanted to do was crawl off somewhere by myself and warm up. I settled for the hold and braved its perilous long vertical ladder only to find a crew member named Odd Burviuk already down there playing "Misty" on his accordion.
"Shouldn't you be running the boat or something?" I asked him.
"Too rough," he replied with a rococo flourish. "I joke. Dis is nothing."
So the old Blomøy can handle weather like this? "Awk!" spat Odd. "She yust need replacement in skandekk, floor and skin. Also dare is tæring damage in the aftermath bastard around some keel bolts in forskipet." After that explanation, he began to play "That Old Black Magic." A yell sounded from above decks. Someone finally had a fish on. I scrambled back up the ladder. The snow had stopped, the air was still, and the Good Ship Cauliflower was bathed in celestial light. I was thrilled to find that the fisherman fighting a fish was Ingrid.
She boated it, too, with a little help from our first mate's gaff. There it was, the ancient Norwegian coastal cod: the Homer Simpson upper jaw, the churlish little chin barbel, the big startled eyes popping out of a scale-less skin. But intriguing. This cold-water cannibal won't hesitate to dine on its younger brethren. It makes its own enzymatic antifreeze that lets it handle water temperatures icy enough to make a grown man … pick up the accordion.
Ingrid's 8-pound cod won her ninth place in the women's division, an achievement we toasted at the Lofotcup awards ceremony on the waterfront that night. But the real celebration began when she led us and some Oslo pals to Svolvær's Rica Hotel, where she had snagged a room with a fishing hole cut into its floor. We settled into armchairs, poured brandy and cast our bait to the wind beneath our now warm feet.
View the Article
Gourmet Magazine: Pride of the Norwegian WoodNORTH OF OSLO, A UNIQUELY LARGE POPULATION OF THE GIANT GROUSE KNOWN AS THE CAPERCAILLIE DRAWS HUNTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD BY JESSICA MAXWELL
ON A NARROW FRET OF LAND between Sweden and the Norwegian Sea, Sea, the trees are alive with the sound of capercaillie, the largest species of grouse on earth. Big as a turkey, handsome as a hummingbird, male capercaillie (pronounced "caper-kelly") can weigh up to 15 pounds and are detailed like race cars, with bright indigo backs, mahogany wings, and a blaze of malachite iridescence across the front, all of which the dusky females find irresistible.
Capercaillie are well known for the ruckus they make when startled, something like a pony crashing through the brush, hence their sobriquet, an old Gaelic word for "horse of the woods." And the flesh of this woodland grouse has seduced hunters for centuries. Fine-grained and lilac-mauve, it has a pungency reminiscent of guavas soaked in retsina, the gift of a diet rich in forest berries and pine shoots.
Once common throughout northern Europe, capercaillie had been hunted to extinction in the British Isles by the late l700s. Small, scattershot populations exist today in the French Pyrenees, Slovakia, Scotland, Russia, and the Czech Republic, but a remarkably high ratio of forest to people supports hundreds of thousands of breeding pairs in Scandinavia. Especially in Norway, which is why I was stork-stepping through foot-high snow in a 30,000-acre family forest a few hours' drive north of Oslo, trying to follow the poodle-yip of a little red Finnish bird dog, which, my Swedish hunting guide assured me, had treed an iibergrouse only a few miles away. "When Molly barks, she has found a bird," explained Bertil Kainulainen, a renowned
shooting champion who had been recruited to lead our hunt.
"Now we have to find it," added Knut Arne Gjems, the cheerful, sea-eyed 26-year-old son of our hosts, UlfErik and Gerd Gjems (pronounced "yems"), whose family has owned and hunted this forest for 150 years.
Being so heavy, capercaillie don't really like to fly, and whenever Molly found one, she chased it into a treetop, then distracted it with her incessant yapping so we hunters could, theoretically, sneak up on it unnoticed. So far, every bird had escaped long before we'd gotten to it. Once, we found Molly barking at absolutely nothing. "She smells some oil from a bird," Bertil explained. "But it flew."
Moments later, the dog was off again on what we dubbed another "Molly bolt," and so were we, navigating the cool beauty of the woods, which, given the lack of hunting action, had become its own reason for being there. Having lived in the American Northwest most of my life, I've seen my share of forests. But the Gjems' forest felt enchanted, like the antechamber to Valhalla. A dappled land of birch, pine, and lake, it has, even at midday, a vespertine quality that makes you want to speak in whispers, which made Molly's racket all the more jarring. But that's bird hunting. And this was certainly the place to do it. Thanks to the exceptional management of Ulf, Knut Arne, and his older brothers, Ole Jorgen and Haakon Einarprofessional foresters all-this grand forest remains a virtual larder of ducks, geese, black and hazel grouse, and the elusive capercaillie, not to mention moose, deer, hare, trout, perch, pike, and even thrilling nongame predators: wolf, lynx, and brown bear. But the capercaillie is the most coveted game, a legendary staple traditionally served with lingonberry jam, Norway's answer to turkey with cranberry sauce.
We'd been walking for something like five hours, not counting a break for a good camp lunch of bacon mooseburgers and hot coffee. Molly, as always, was off somewhere, barking like a crazy thing, and we were trudging up yet another snowbound hill, an army looking for a war. Then, without warning, a rapid swooshing sound passed overhead.
"Capercaillie," Bertil announced with quiet admiration, like John Wayne pointing out Rita Hayworth. We saw nothing. But the closeness ofthose mighty wings had set my heart on edge. The hunt was on.
A few minutes later we saw them: five rufous-throated females and a dark male, pecking at pea gravel not 20 yards away.
"I have never seen so much capercaillie here," Knut Arne whispered to me.
Diving behind a tall snowbank, Bertillay down sideways and motioned for me to steady my gun barrel across his back. This was crazy. And dangerous. And it worked. Despite my raging pulse, I got the male squarely in my rifle sight... then he ducked, and moved out of view. As with making sauces and taking photographs and broaching delicate but necessary subjects with a loved one, a hunting shot requires good timing. There is a right moment, then it is gone.
"Why didn't you shoot?" Bertil asked.
Why? Because I'd never gone bird hunting with a rifle, only a shotgun. Because I'd only shot a rifle three times in my life... at target practice the day before. I hit the sweet spot on the cardboard capercaillie each time only because I love animals and cannot bear the thought of wounding one and want to take it square or not at all. And because when the capercaillie ducked, the sweet spot ducked with it, and I was unwilling to take a chance on anything but certain, pain-free death. "It is a rifle," Bertil replied. "You would have killed it."
WE WALKED DOWN MANY MILES of frosty lane that day, hot on the trail of Molly's promising bark. She seemed to find a capercaillie in every cardinal direction, only to have it vanish on the wing. We walked until around three that afternoon, when the light was falling and so was the temperature, and my fingers felt like frozen fish sticks. That's when Bertil's foxy little bird dog became a cinnabar comet streaking up a slope. He took off after her, and I after him. Forty-five minutes and five uphill football fields later we found the tree.
"There," he said, and pointed up at such an obtuse angle I thought he meant the sky.
"No, Yessica, there," he repeated, turning my head toward the top of a very tall spruce. But all I saw was a thatch of branches.
"I don't think that's a bird," I ventured.
"It is a bird," Bertil declared. "Shoot it."
It's hard to disobey the John Wayne of Sweden. So after a Keystone Cops episode of Berti I trying to get me to use his shoulder as a rifle rest and my chickening out three times for fear of ruining his hearing (or worse), I knelt in the snow, leaned into a tree, and took aim. My heart hopped like a pogo stick and so did the thatch of branches in my scope. My blood played kettledrums inside my ears, my arms cramped from holding the heavy rifle so high, and I was panting like a lover. There was no way I could hit anything. Then something hard and true fell into my solar plexus. My pulse slowed. My mind cleared. And soon the capercaillie hung on the cross in my rifle scope. And I pulled the trigger.
"You got it!" Bertil hollered, then ran to get to my bird before Molly did.
It was a yearling male, nearly eight pounds, dropped against all odds at 65 yards in the dark, in the snow, in the good Norwegian woods. There in my arms, the blue and green of its feathers playing against the black, it looked like a gigantic collapsed petunia, the warrior's corsage.
My capercaillie was prepared that night by Jorgen Bestum, who is the gifted young chef at Skaslien Guesthouse (062-94-6666), in nearby Kirkemer, and whose cooking trumps that of chefs at many big-name restaurants. Jorgen made us a starter of crisp-skinned lake trout with leeks and asparagus done in a light butter cream sauce, followed by a champignon consomme with tomato concassee and fresh parsley, so rich with the essences of capercaillie bones, it could have held its own in Paris. As could the rounds of walnut bread that Jorgen baked himself. Our third course was Ulf's mother's recipe, the Gjems Capercaillie Sandwich, a hache of thigh meat on toast with a ragout of Lithuanian chanterelles, crowned with half a roasted capercaillie heart.
But the prize went to the edgy, sexy roasted breast of capercaillie served sherbet-pink in half-inch slices as generous and aromatic as the woods from which the bird came.
"Capercaillie is the grouse de resistance!" I proclaimed.
"And I am Yohn Wayne of Sweden!" countered Bertil. "And I say it is the time for the hunting toast!"
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Forbes Magazine: Girl vs. MooseWhen da dog stops barking, da moose is moving." Toward us? Bjorn regarded me with lutefisk eyes. "Yes, maybe. If we have da luck."
He nodded, and Ingrid nodded back. Bjorn Johansen was our hunting guide. Ingrid Shumway is the founder of Five Stars of Scandinavia, the U.S. outfitter that books this annual October trip. We were hunting on the opening day of Norway's moose season alongside our hosts, owners of a 10,000-acre private woodlands outside Oslo. The family sold its ancestral home, which is now a hotel, Losby Gods Manor. But they kept the surrounding property--a preferred hunting ground since 1850 for European nobility, including Norway's late King Haakon VII.
The hills are alive with the sound of black and hazel grouse. The bottomlands hide pools of quicksand, plus many mighty moose. For the record, elk, or, in Norwegian, elg, is what Europeans call the animal known in North America as moose ("moose" coming from the Algonquin word meaning twig-eater). The Swedish father of taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, named them in 1758: Alces alces, Latin for "elk elk." What Americans call "elk" are really wapiti--Eurasian red deer.
Moose are related to the extinct Irish elk, which were the same size as modern Norwegian elk, weighing between 900 and 1,200 pounds, but had enormous antlers. Irish elk had antlers 13 feet across and died out about 10,000 years ago (no doubt from poor posture).
There are an estimated 125,000 moose in Norway--so many that scientists have called for thinning of the population to avoid an agonizing die-off from mass starvation. As it is, hungry moose have shown up in barns looking for food and have sampled Christmas wreaths hung on urban front doors. They have broken into grocery stores, chased joggers, attacked dogsleds. Some, after gorging on fermented apples, have stumbled around drunk and gotten tangled up in hanging laundry. Others have plunged off cliffs, flattening cars.
Last year some 85,000 licensed hunters culled 40,000 moose. The meat was used for such traditional Norwegian fare as moose roasts, ribs, supremely lean steaks and kjøttkake, tasty little meat cakes. About a hundred moose roam the Losby estate, more than enough to assure good hunting for the owning family, their friends and up to two dozen paying guests per season. Throw in the comforts of a room at Losby Gods Manor and a meal at its award-winning restaurant and you have a hunting trip fit for Haakon vii.
At Losby some hunters walk with the guide and his dog (as Ingrid and I did the first day), while others remain posted at prime shooting spots. Then everyone trades places. Bjorn's dog, Piro ("Fire"), is, of course, a Norwegian elkhound, a breed descended from Viking guard dogs, and as such had immediately run off to find moose (elg) and start barking at them.
We chased Piro's bark all morning. Sometimes it floated to the left, sometimes to the right; sometimes it drew thrillingly near, sometimes it narrowed to a small, distant yelp that could have been mistaken for a hawk's cry. We pursued it like the siren-possessed, up granite outcroppings and down hillsides slick with tangerine-colored mushrooms and lichen that looked like golf tees. When Piro ran too far off to be heard, we tracked the signal sent from his collar to Bjorn's insectile, four-antennaed radio.
We crossed forest floors aglow with wild cranberries and raspberry-colored blueberry bushes, then Frankenstein-stepped our way across a lagoon of quicksand, in which I became resoundingly mired for ten sinking minutes. When one of my rubber boots got stuck, I walked right out of it, then had to balance ice skater-like with my other leg pointing out behind, until Bjorn and Ingrid rescued me.
After I'd recovered my breath and boot, we tramped through stands of birch while Piro barked and barked. We had been walking for three hours when at last he stopped. The sudden loss of the hunt's soundtrack made me nervous.
"We stay now," said Bjorn, "let da dog bring da moose to us."
He crouched and took aim while Ingrid and I steadied our 7mm Dakota 76 Travelers, "the best gun on the planet right now for the money," according to Ingrid's husband, Bob, an ace shot. We hunkered down into what might at any moment be the path of a galumphing behemoth.
It was hard not to recall what had happened two years ago to a hunter in this same situation. Aurdal Arne, 68, had shot a bull moose one autumnal morn. As Arne approached the "dead" bull, it reared up and lunged at him. Not wishing to be impaled, he grabbed hold of the moose's antlers as it flailed with the urgency of the dying. "After a minute of madness," he recalls, the moose expired, "and went on to the eternal forest."
Conditions all seemed in our favor. We were downwind. Visibility was flawless. Sound--the ratcheting song of a black grouse--carried plainly. But the straight-up truth is that waiting in a clearing for a rampaging moose feels a lot more like pre-op surgery than sport.
There was a thrashing in the bushes as moose sought to get away from Piro.
"I can smell them," said Ingrid.
Alas, no elg ventured out. Then Piro barked again, and the tension broke like a shoelace. Exhausted, we gave up for the day. Bjorn eventually found the dirt road back to his car, Piro found us, and together we drove to a log shelter called the Resting Place for lunch.
Our hosts had already made a campfire. Cowboy coffee was boiling away in a big black kettle suspended from a rebar tripod minded by Johan Foss, an Oslo surgeon and one of the ten surviving family members who inherited Losby Gods in 1960 when the family matriarch died. His cousin, Danckert Krohn, an Oslo anesthesiologist, cut off thick slices of bacon and fried them in a pan with an ingenious 3-foot sapling handle. His daughter, Kristin, who works for the Norwegian Parliament, readied potato pancakes for the best bacon sandwiches this side of London. Their friend and fellow M.D. Fredrik Hancke helped affix the sandwiches to pronged sticks so we could roast them in the fire, and Bjorn poured thick coffee into hand-carved birch cups.
After lunch Ingrid, Kristin and I posted on a sunny knoll while the rest either walked with Bjorn or posted elsewhere. Just as I had bedded down in the heather for a nap, I heard Kristin say: "There he is!" And I opened my eyes to find a huge earth-colored bull sauntering through brush below us.
Until you have a close encounter with a moose in the wild, you simply cannot fathom how massive they are. Their haunches are hillocks. They stand taller and broader than any horse. This male's huge, many-tiered palmate antlers called to mind the lyric "he's got the whole world in his hands." Ingrid already had her sight on a cow that had climbed the opposite ridge. Before I could say: "Wait, there's a bull!" Ingrid shot. And missed. Both bull and cow bolted into the pines.
The next morning I walked with Johan Foss. "Normally we would have an animal down by now," he said as we followed a small, clear creek up a steep hill. "Very unusual." Few know the property better. From May to October Johan and his wife live in a cabin on the family estate.
"I hunt here. I golf here. I go skiing here, tracking here, pick mushrooms and berries here, go canoeing and swimming and skating on the lakes here. I see things I never see anywhere else." He pointed to a hoofprint in the new grass. "He has been here today. The moose very often come to this place."
That place, called the Lunch Sump, is a traditional dining spot for Losby loggers. A granite rise with natural boulder seating, it offers an excellent long view of a tight valley. An hour later Johan pointed to a dark shape on the hillside and took aim. The wind was up, making white noise in yellow birch leaves. Clouds raced in from the west, then vanished. So did our moose.
"Hunting is waiting," said Johan. He and I departed for a new post near a silvery lake above a sloping V-shaped meadow half a football field wide at the middle. At 12:15 a yellow-backed woodpecker landed on the tree in front of us, just as a message in Norwegian came over Johan's walkie-talkie. He held up two fingers: two moose.
"Listen for the shooting."
At 12:35 we heard Piro barking loudly, closing in on the woods by the lake to our left. The dog fell silent. A ringing shot followed. Then another. Two more. And a fifth. Johan interpreted the radio report: "One moose down. A cow. Ingrid's. Danckert hit a bull, but they haven't found it yet. They'll find it."
They did, of course. Later we all met at an outbuilding fixed with winches and pulleys and tables, where Bjorn and the doctors went about the solemn choreography of butchering the first moose of the season. As night fell and the evening birds began their own hunting, the men moved silently in tandem to tease the rich, red meat from narrowest of sheaths of white fat beneath the chocolate hides. You could smell the sweetness of the forest in it--a miracle of wild nutrition. Isn't it good, Norwegian wood? The Christmas kjøttkake would be excellent this year.
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