Tromso

Nice Norwegians

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We left Tromso behind this morning but received a suitable send-off in the form of a beautiful sunrise over the mountain peaks from the comfort of our plane seats. We landed in Oslo and headed to the home of Elin and Malin in Grunerlokka, which is a hip and happening part of town that has a similar vibe to Surry Hills in Sydney. We were once again singing the praises of Globalfreeloaders for exposing us to such a cool place in Norway, which we quite possibly would not have visited otherwise.

Malin had made her way home to let us in and made us feel welcome straight away. We spent half an hour chatting and enjoyed listening to Malin’s stories of her nine months in Australia. There is a lovely picture of her feeding two King Parrots when she was living in Orange and other memorabilia of her time in our country around their home. Malin had to go out so she gave us a key to the place explained that she would be out for most of the night as would her Mum, Elin, but we should make ourselves at home. It’s kind of a shame that we have to leave so early tomorrow morning, as I would have liked to have got to know Malin and Elin. Their home faces into a communal courtyard. Inside it has an eclectic mix of quirky photography, posters, art books leaning against window sills and shaggy animal furs adorning seats. We were told to make ourselves at home and quite frankly, right now as we sit at the wooden kitchen table under lamp light drinking a cheapish Australian shiraz we found across the road, I feel at home! I once again have felt the warmth and trust of the lovely Norwegian people we have come to meet on this trip, and I hope truely to be able to return the favour in kind when we find ourselves a new home upon our return.

Today was not a big tourist extravaganza for us. We spoilt ourselves by eating out at lunch and enjoyed an amazing couple of Croque Madames. At the recommendation of Malin we walked through the streets to our first stop, the Opera House, which Elin suggested we go to in an email exchange. Both were good advice and offered interesting city sights. Then we headed to the National Gallery which we both walked away from impressed with. Not least because in the first room of the Gallery the very first statue we stood in front of was a carved bust of none other than Hermes. Hermes is one of two Gods we pay homage to. Hermes is a Greek deity of antiquity who is the God of travellers and we oft find reason to thank him during our travels. The usual way being a simple “Hail Hermes!’ He is also the God of less auspicious things such as thieves and weights and measures. But he also looks after a few of our other interests such as literature, orators and poets.

Our other God is Bacchus. Three weeks after we met we went on a road trip around regional Australia together. The purpose of the trip was to eat and drink our way around a fine selection of the one and two hat restaurants in the countryside. It was a completely gluttonous and delightful experience and we soon decided that we needed to thank Bacchus, the Roman God of wine (and good times!) for the adventure. We’ve remained faithful servants to Bacchus since. And the two Gods combined are a formidable force in ensuring we have great times together! So, it was no surprise then that we should see a painting of a Baccanalian gathering as we exited the room we started with Hermes.

On a serious note though, we saw some amazing art in the gallery such as the The Thinker (which I had no idea was in Oslo) and Munch’s Scream. This is probably not the thing to say, but I liked some of Munch’s other works more. Not that it wasn’t wonderful to see such an iconic piece of modern art with my own eyes.

I’m a bit sorry this is all the time we have for Oslo, but I’m sure we will return.

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Categories: Art, food, Norway, Oslo, Scandinavia, travel, Tromso | 2 Comments

Ten things I’ve noticed about Tromso

We’ve had a great time in Tromso but budgetary constraints have dictated that we kept our daytime activities to a minimum whilst here. Also, three nights in a row of bus expeditions that last about eight to nine hours from wo to go has also made us take it a bit easy the rest of the time.

However, I have really rated this place that stakes a claim for the most northerly town in the world for a whole range of things….the uni and the brewery are a couple that spring to mind. Tromso has a great feel about it and it’s a place where people live in some of the most extreme conditions in the world – a place that’s well above the Arctic Circle where there are months of complete darkness and then months of endless daylight. But Tromso is charming, exotic and somehow alluring for all of it’s extreme qualities. In short though I would love to return here when Norway is the focal destination of our holiday and not part of a year of travel. With a pocket full of cash (not a lean budget like ours) you could find endless options for entertainment all year round. A reindeer or dog sled ride out into the wild to view the Aurora, now that’s something to keep in mind for another time!

So I don’t claim to have got all the ins and outs of this town sorted but here are ten quick things I’ve noted about Tromso:

1. Everyone leaves all their curtains open at night (all night) with lights on for the world to see in. They usually have lamps sitting in each window and the outside lights on too.

2. People use cross country skis and one person sleds as modes of transport.

3. There is roughly 30 km of underground road networks that are complex enough to have roundabouts.

4. There are seat belts on buses.

5. Beds are made with two separate doonas folded in half for each person (this seems to be the European way in general).

6. There is a seriously disproportionate amount of stunningly beautiful women.

7. A beer in a pub costs at least $10 Australian.

8. They eat whale, seal and reindeer.

9. Everyone seems to knock off work at 3.30 pm.

10. They love Goyte’s, ‘Somebody that I used to know’….as does the rest of Europe it seems. We’ve heard it played in every country we’ve been in…a nice reminder of Australia 🙂

Categories: Norway, Scandinavia, travel, Tromso | 2 Comments

So what do we do when we are not chasing Lights?

Well it’s not all glamorous and action packed!

Today is a good example of the that! We have essentially ate breaky at our hotel, oh we love that buffet! And then hung out in our room in between doing trips to the hotel washing machine and making our room resemble something of a Chinese laundry. It’s amazing where you can can hang clothes to dry. We are quite creative.

I’ve had a chat on the phone to a mate back home via Skype which was so nice. We did some weights in the hotel gym which has heaps of great equipment too. Not to mention probably the best  panoramic view of an Arctic town nestled at the base of breathtaking mountains…oh and by the sea. Nice!

Post lunch we are both interneting it up. I have been reading my backlog of emails and came across this one from my cousin which  had me in stitches …. so I thought I’d share:

How tough are Australians?

The scene is set …  a dark night, cold wind blowing, campfire flickering, stars twinkling in the jet black sky.

Three hang-glider pilots are sitting by the campfire, one from Australia, one from Seth Efrika and one from New Zulland – each one embroiled in the bravado for which they are famous.

The night of tales begins…

Kiven the Kiwi says, ‘I must be the meanest, toughest, heng glider there es. Why, jist the other day I linded in a field and scared a crocodeale, who came out of the swamp and ate sux min who were standen close by. I grebbed the crocodeale and wristled him to du ground and killed em with my beer hends’

 Hansie from Seth Efrika (who typically can’t stand to be bettered) said, ‘Well you guys, I lended orfter a 200 mile flight in my heng glider on a tiny trail, and a Namibian snike slid out from under a rock and made a move on me. I grebbed de borsted with me bare hinds and beet it’s head off ind then sucked the poison from its body down in one gulp. End I’m still here today’

 Colin, the Aussie remained silent, slowly poking the fire with his pen!s.

 Anyway, that’s all for now from me. Ciao.

P.S  The pics are actually taken from our room which is down the hall from the gym as it’s essentially the same view.

Categories: family, friends, Norway, travel, Tromso | Leave a comment

Nordlys

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The whole purpose of us starting our year of travel in Europe in winter has been because we hoped to catch the Aurora Borealis in Norway.

When I started researching the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights I stumbled across an article in the Daily Mail on line which sealed the deal in our minds. It stated that NASA was predicting that 2012 would be the brightest Northern Lights display for 50 years. How could we resist the temptation to try our luck at catching this ethereal splendour? I for one have been fascinated by images of the Lights since I was a kid and have always viewed it as one of those must do things in my life.

So we made the trek to Tromso – a sea side Arctic town that basks in the majesty of the surrounding snow covered mountains.

The afternoon we arrived the snow was falling heavily and we were both quite tired, so we opted to hit the hay and try our luck the following night. We joined the Arctic Guide Service for a bus ride to chase the Nordlys (as the locals refer to them – thanks Lillian!) and were regaled with tales of the lights the night before; our guide informing us they were the best he had seen in his life. I saw a few of his pictures and yep, they looked pretty damn fine. Apparently the solar activity was also very strong on the our night too so I was getting a wee bit excited.

We came to a clearing in a forest and waited for the show to start. We saw the beginnings of the lights (which I later referred to in disparaging terms as the Northern Smudges) but alas, the clouds came over and there endeth the show. We all piled back onto the bus and did a dash to the Finnish border to an area which is the driest in Norway. However the snow had set in there too and I found myself devouring four chocolate chip cookies in quick succession as compensation! May as well get something out of this bus ride to the arse end of nowhere I thought!

Needless to say gutted would be an understatement. The knowledge of the ‘best in life Light’ we opted out of on our first night loomed in the forefront of my thoughts. Bad decision, very bad decision. A morning of breakfast buffet abuse at the Scandic Hotel raised our spirits somewhat and we resolved that damn the expense, we would go out again that night. Although it is possible to view the Nordlys in Tromso, the light pollution of the city makes it less likely.

So chase number two took us to the island of Sommaroya which is about 60 kms from Tromso. We took stints of going out into the elements from the bus – the 72 km/hr wind and hail elements. But we were rewarded in the breaks in the cloud cover with views of the lights. They started off faintly – like the Smudges of the first trip but got progressively better. At about 11.30 at night Damien came bounding back onto the bus and yelled in a frantic tone that I should come now. I could hear by the sense of urgency in his voice that something really good was happening. I donned my thousand layers of clothing in lightening speed and launched myself through the bus doors and there it was! A massive line of green light stretching across the night sky above!

Damien and I ran like excited children up the hill. All the while my eyes were glued to what was going on in the sky above me which turned out to be unwise when I promptly face planted in the snow. Undeterred by my stack I leapt up, now giggling like a school girl and chased after Damien, nay, jostled to get past him on the track, to which Damien exclaimed, ‘Are you right??’ (good humouredly of course!). Where upon whence I found a less used side track and launched past to ascend to the top of the hill, post haste!

There’s probably no surprises that I really don’t have words to describe what it was like but suffice to say I had a serious case of perma-grin and more than one tear in my eye. It was like all the stars aligned at that moment in the evening. The brutal winds abated, the clouds evaporated and the lights came out to dance in the sky.

Our mission is complete!

Categories: Northern Lights, Norway, Scandinavia, travel, Tromso | 5 Comments

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