The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society, Hammerfest, Finnmark, Norway  

Dedicated to preserving Hammerfest culture, the Royal & Ancient Polar Bear Society (founded in 1963) features exhibits on Arctic hunting and local history and shares premises with the tourist office. For 200kr you can become a life member and get a certificate, ID card, sticker and pin. At times, the link to polar bears here can feel a little tenuous. But if you think of the place in terms of the Norwegian name (Isbjørklubben, simply Polar Bear Club), you’re less likely to be disappointed.

Membership (there are around 250,000 members worldwide) entitles you to attend the annual general meeting of the society in January. And not everyone can join, it seems. In 1973, one Elvis Presley wrote to the society asking to join, but his application was refused – to become a member, one must be physically present in Hammerfest.

If simple membership is not enough and you’re part of a group, for 300kr you also receive a schnapps glass and get dubbed with the large bone from a walrus’s penis. Honestly. It’s well worth the extra for the conversation this unique honour will generate down the pub once you’re home. Advance reservations for this ceremony are necessary.

Epic Norway Culture & Adventure Route © Monika Newbound

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