When a friend of mine moved to Norway to become a professor at Tromso University, my reaction was ‘Tromso who/where??”. Exactly the reaction a lot of people have if they haven’t explicitly researched the North Pole or wanted to see the Northern Lights. My connection to Tromso began with Tromso University before research enlightened me that Tromso was the top destination for people wanting to see the Northern Lights.
Having missed the bus to the Northern Lights season because of poor planning, we were determined to see the Midnight Sun. And of course, see our friends as well. So come June, we set off for our Northern holiday well in time to catch the Summer Solstice.
Tromso is a little slice of heaven, a small Nordic island city, nestled right at the north-west corner of Norway and holds the distinctive badge of being the northern most university town in the world! It’s a small island off the main coast of Norway, connected to the mainland through an iconic bridge which usually forms the backdrop of most images you will find of the city on Google. Here are a few of mine.
Whilst it is not on the travel destinations for most individuals, it is an undiscovered jewel in the Arctic ocean, especially if you get a clear day in the summer. Our stay in June was unusual as it was cold, rainy and dreary for a typical Tromso summer where temperatures can reach twenty degrees celsius. The most we managed to experience was 8 degrees on a good day. But when the sun did shine briefly, the flowers bloomed and the greenery sprouted in happiness. It was a heavenly environment in a quiet sleepy little town with the University students mostly in absentia due to exams or pre-summer holidays or maybe a combination of both.
And the best part was, of course, the Midnight Sun! Imagine pubs and restaurants open in the centre of the town, people streaming in and loud music, all at 1:30 am in the morning! It was magical. Friday and Saturday nights were the most vibrant as people were up and about enjoying their weekend. Imagine the below view of dying sunlight at 11 pm in the night!
The city comes alive after ‘dark’ during the summer months. Because the sun doesn’t completely set, it’s easy to forego sleep altogether and trick your body into staying awake for 24 hours. That’s what most people do over the summer weekends, possibly to compensate for the dreary dark winters, making use of the 24 hours of daylight. It was no surprise to us to find our hotel room equipped with a thick black curtain to keep out the sun. Having returned to our room at 2 am the first day we had arrived in Tromso, we kept our curtains open to admire the view and the sheer wonder of the planetary system and the earth’s revolution and rotation around the sun and its axis. Come 4:00 am and we were still wide awake, with nary a shred of tiredness! We decided it was enough and we wouldn’t get sleep and ventured out at 5:00 am. Mind you, there were people up and about at that hour! Most were young people stumbling home after a ‘night’ well spent at the local pub. Come 8 am and our bodies gave up. It refused to be tricked any longer and so we somehow crawled into bed for some well-deserved sleep. We had learned our lesson! The next night, albeit around 2 am, we made use of the black curtains and ensured we got our sleep. Hence, please remember, get your sleep in the Arctic lands during summer solstice! Here are some of the images of the town taken during our walks post midnight.
Having spent two days wandering the streets of the town, we decided to broaden our horizons and explore the Nordic countryside and more importantly, fulfil my childhood dream of seeing the fjords. Having studied geography in college, the fjords were definitely on my bucket list. And oh yes, they definitely did not disappoint! The views were breathtaking and reminded of those amazing coloured pictures of my school and college textbooks as we drove under them, over them and around them, stopping wherever and whenever we wished to drink in the sheer beauty of that rugged landscape.
Now comes the interesting bit. Imagine traversing three countries in a matter of hours. If you lead a consulting life, many people have actually done that. Flown in and out for breakfast, lunch or possibly dinner meetings. I happen to know a few such consultant myself. Some miles away from Tromso, are the borders of Finland and Sweden. Traversing down the E8, in a few hours you would reach Kilpisjarvi, a sleepy village with an even sleepier border post which signals your entry into Finland. Some more miles down the road (almost a 100 miles!) is Karesuando, the northernmost town in Sweden. I am gutted that I didn’t take too many pictures of this part of the journey and fingers crossed, I’ll be back someday! And with that, we turned back to make the almost 200-mile journey back to Tromso in the still bright light of the night!
The summer solstice spent in Norway in 2015 created an unknown quest within us to explore more of the cold barren lands which constitute the Arctic lands. The quest for more rugged landscapes, ice-laden mountains, narrow mountain paths, desolate countryside, mountain lakes surrounded by log cabins and the off-beat foods (e.g. whale meat!) are going to be just some of the few elements which will pull us back to the Arctic lands hopefully soon.Hence stay tuned for the next post folks – Iceland or Greenland, here we come!
P.S. We had a full Indian dinner at our friends’ place on our last night in Tromso. They live in this lovely upside down house, with the bedrooms on the ground floor and the living accommodation upstairs, I imagine to make the use of the lovely view of the sea!