Norway so far:
It is beautiful. It is cold. My hostel leaves a little to be desired, but it is so beautiful out there that I don’t even care. The bed is clean and it is warm. The rest I can deal with.
Each day there is a moment, or a view that takes my breath away. Actually, every minute I spend out I am in awe at how beautiful it is.
The sun rises around 8.45am and has set just after 3pm. Even at midday, the sun is low in the sky and looks to be a pre-dawn kind of light due to the clouds and the mountains.
The town of Tromso itself is a little town with colourful wooden houses, set into the mountainside on an island, surrounded by snow covered fjords. Many shops don’t open until 11am or later. The roofs of all the houses and shops are covered in snow and look so pretty from the other side of the bridge.
The houses have big windows, and the curtains are rarely drawn because here in Norway, what people do in their houses is their business and so people just do not look through the windows out of respect for each other.
They scrape the sidewalks of the snow in the main few blocks of town, but not elsewhere, so you can go from sure footing to slippery ice beneath your feet in a matter of seconds. The streets are icy too so each time you cross the road you might fall over. The Norwegians seem to do it much better, and I’ve seen many people running across the street, some even in heeled boots.
The night I arrived the ground was very icy and was difficult to walk. I guess it has rained earlier that day. The next morning it was snowing. The fresh snow helped me walk down the hill to town but I still fell over once. I am getting better at walking in the snow now.
Over the water is the “mainland” side of Tromso and you can see the snow covered mountains from across the water. I’ve taken lots of pictures of this.
I have explored the town and chased the northern lights twice so far. I am going again tonight.
The first night, we went out to a traditional lavo. We were fed the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life, and reindeer soup. It tastes like beef. We saw the lights. I cannot even describe what it’s like, except the most beautiful green lights dancing in the sky. If you ever get a chance to see them in your life, do it.
I went to the polar museum, and read a lot of interesting history about the explorers and trappers (seal and polar bear hunters) from the area. I also accidentally stumbled upon an aquarium (I don’t know Norwegian so I ended up inside by mistake)! The small size of the seals enclosure made me sad.
I chased the lights again the second night but with no luck due to the clouds. We did make it to the Finnish border though, where -11° was the coldest temperature I’ve been in thus far. Our mini van had no heating and it was only a couple of degrees warmer in the van. We stopped off the side of the road and foraged for broken sticks to build a fire as we waited for the lights. While searching for dead branches, I fell into snow that was thigh deep, as it was fresh. I also saw what was at one point a creek that had frozen over. I could see the rocks and seaweed that was frozen underneath. It was only a small patch visible beneath the snow and as it was dark and in the wilderness I thought it was a safer idea to go back to the camp site instead of getting branches from there, in case I fell through.
Today I fed reindeer, went on a reindeer sled ride, ate reindeer and learned about some traditional Sami culture. I have heard a few different Sami joik’s now which is a traditional song of the people of these lands. A joik must be about a person or a place that is in your heart. You cannot joik if it is not a true place in your heart. I think that’s pretty special. They showed us some traditional Sami clothing and tools.
Tonight I am chasing the lights again and tomorrow I am going on a husky sled adventure. Wish me luck!
Norway part 2:
Wow. That pretty much sums up my time here.
The Norwegian people are so friendly and respectful. Unlike anyone I’ve ever met before.
If you need to cross the street, the cars will stop for you out of “respect for people walking”. If you are pulled over on the side of the road (to see the northern lights) they will slow down and stop to check you’re OK and don’t need any help. Every time.
They just genuinely care about the wellbeing of others. Their food is generally pretty good too!
Since Wednesday’s post, I have had many another adventure!
I went out to see the northern lights again on Wednesday night. I’m so glad I booked that tour and went that day on a whim because it’s been the best night of activity all month and she sure put on a spectacular show. The aurora was above me, thick and bright and lasting for hours. The greens had purple and white edges and the intensity grew and faded slowly. The shapes morphed slowly and at one point a double helix pattern was above me. It also got wavy etc. this was a slow moving band and it was fairly constant. Then a second band of aurora appeared… Then a third. The third was further on the horizon and was fast and bright in movement. It danced along the sky and was one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen in my lifetime. I don’t have a camera other than my iPhone which cannot pick up the lights, so I’ve taken the pics from the professional photographer of our tour. What that meant was I didn’t need to worry about my camera at all (unlike many others) and I could sit and fully appreciate all the lights had to offer. Breathtaking.
The next day, I missed my husky sled ride as I went to the wrong hotel for pick up (apparently there are 3 Scandics in town!) so I was booked into another one for that evening. When we arrived, the dogs howled. They howled at each other, at the night sky, and they howled because they were excited to work. They jumped around and were very loud, waiting to run. We took off and the dogs would bite at their partner and kept howling until they settled into their rhythm and then there was silence. Only the sound of dogs and sleds crunching along in the snow. To my right, the city lights of Tromso shine brightly over the water. In front of me, sled dogs, snow, trees. Above me was the stars and to the left, a faint line of the aurora started.
A great experience. We got back to the dogs kennels and could walk around and pat them. Many were sleeping. A blind dog came out to say hello to me, and cocked his leg and peed on me. Square on my leg! Luckily I was in their businesses thermal suit and snow boots!! We also saw a litter of accidental puppies that happened due to a male biting through his collar and visiting a female through the night! They won’t sell their pups although they try not to breed them. They will raise them as sled dogs and they will become part of their big family. The dogs love to work and love the cold. It was zero degrees when I was there so some dogs were sleeping out on top of their boxes or on the snow to escape the “heat”.
That day, by pure accident, a woman came into our dorm room. She had been lost the night before with self check in and took the spare bed in our dorm. A few other girls came into my room on the same day and we quickly became friends. Fate brought us together because we hired a car and went on an adventure. 17 hours in total we went out! We drove to the Lyngen alps, cruised around some seemingly ghost towns, saw scenery that just takes my breath away, and searched tirelessly for coffee or toilets without much success for most of the trip (everything was closed- for on Saturdays people prefer not to work!). We laughed and joked about how we would love for a lovely Norwegian person to just invite us in for coffee and kept carrying on with our adventure. As night fell (by 3.30pm) we stocked up on some food from a supermarket and a few hours later we found an old caravan park by a frozen lake. There were 4 dry chairs sitting by an empty log cabin on the edge of the lake, (everything else was covered in ice), even the ground underneath the chairs and the table accompanying it. But 4 of us and 4 dry chairs was fate, and we sat, and we ate, and we laughed. We weren’t quite facing the right way to see the northern lights so after dinner we carried on in search of a place nearby that was by the water, in the darkness, to get a good vantage point. As we drove along we saw a Norwegian couple taking an evening walk along the road so we stopped to ask them for some local knowledge of where to go. They pointed us to a place like only a few hundred metres away and then said “actually just follow us” and turned around to walk us there. As we drove along beside them we got chatting and before we knew it, we were invited back to their weekend cabin by the river for coffee! (The land they had directed us to was their private property). They live in Tromso but have a weekend getaway on a big piece of land with a 3 bedroom wooden log fire cabin, and outside “bungalow” which is like a tent area with a fire for roasting marshmallows and sausages, gave us coffee, then wine and beer, local dried fish (it’s a delicacy) and we talked about life and culture and we laughed! We were there for about 4 hours!! Turns out they’re these rich Norwegians that own a petrol station up the road, lots of land, and work for fun and just like meeting people. They were so, so lovely and hospitable!!!
I really love Norwegian people. They are all so friendly and have a genuine respect for other humans. While we sat though, there was no northern lights activity and we thought maybe we were out of luck. We exchanged coins and gifts with our new Norwegian friends Bjorn and Eli and bid them farewell as we start the drive home.
Then we left, and we saw the northern lights again on our drive home. Just magical!!! We got in at 3am. A great last day/night in Tromso!!
Off to Stockholm today, let the adventures continue!!!!
**Note – the photos of the Northern Lights were taken by the professional photographer at Tromso Sarafi on my tour – these are not my images**