Longyearbyen

(Post 5 of 6) It was a packed house at the concert. The abandoned coal packing hub was chilly, but everyone here has the clothes for it. Plus, the choir kept us laughing throughout, which warms the body and the soul.”It’s a magical building,” said Sveinung Lystrup, the show’s MC, “and it just stands here’…

(Post 6 of 6) The choir’s full story came out in the pub after the show. Between spontaneous bouts of singing, we talked to the head of the trade union, an architect, leaders of three political parties, a teacher, the priest, several staff from the mining company and others. Coal mining is controversial, so why…

(Post 2 of 5) Haakon Sandvik grew up in Longyearbyen. His mom, Anne Lisa Sandvik, is known as “Mother Svalbard,” and she wears a golden pendant of the islands around her neck Many of the young people we have met here come for the outdoor lifestyle of glacier travel and dog teams, but Haakon is…

(Post 3 of 5) It would be impossible to profile Longyearbyen without talking about tourism, and we wondered what the tourists themselves were talking about. These three are from France. When I asked about their trip they became very upset about seeing the sled dogs. “We are scandalized by the conditions,” they told me. “This…

(Post 4 of 5) Back on the trail of #meetthenorth (check previous posts) we attended a service at Svalbard Kirke this morning led by pastor Leif Magne Helgesen. The clean beauty of the church surprised me; wood panels and gold paint welcomed us Leif was raised in Madagascar by missionary parents, and he’s been in…

(Post 5 of 5) The trail to Platåfjellet leaves from behind the church in Longyearbyen. It’s one of Pastor Leif’s favourite walks. In less than an hour you reach the ridge above town. A little further, and the magic starts.