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Published: August 5th 2014
Tromsø north Norway 3-5 August 2014
After a very relaxing 45 minute ferry trip from Senja Island, we again drove about 100kms through more beautiful mountainous-lines fjords to Tromsø. Tromsø is a city in the very northernmost part of Norway. It is almost 350 km north of the Arctic Circle and is one of the best places to view the spectacular Northern Lights in winter because it has a cable car going up to one of the many mountain peaks that surround Tromsø.
Tromsø was a surprise for us: Here we found art, history, sophistication, and good food, in the tiny city of about 38,000. It is a town mostly developed on an island, surrounded by spectacular scenery that is visible from everywhere in town. The city is home to the world's northernmost university, as well as research institutes and satellite based industry. The population is therefore highly skilled, but retains the straightforwardness and sense of humour that the North is known for.
Man reached the Tromsø area 11,000 years ago. The first church was built here in 1252. The next 550 years, Tromsø was a minor religious centre, as people in a vast area regularly congregated in
Tromsø to go to the only church in the area. Trade and industry, however, suffered under the domination of Bergen and Trondheim to the south.
Tromsø's most visited attractions include Polaria, the Arctic Cathedral, and Cable Car, all of which we visited.
Tromsø's people are overwhelmingly Lutheran, and at the same time overwhelmingly secular in attitude. Small communities of other faiths are also present, like around 400 Catholics, and probably a similar number of Muslims. Various non-Lutheran protestant churches as well as Lutheran dissenters are also important.
The Arctic cathedral is the city's most photographed building and is part of the town's logo. The striking 1965 structure contains one of the biggest stained-glass windows in Northern Europe, and enjoys a fantastic location on the mainland, just opposite the city centre. Our camp site was 10 minutes walk from the Cathedral.
The 2nd night in Tromsø, the clouds came over and it started to rain. We were planning to go inside the Arctic Cathedral to see the afternoon sun shine through the stained glass window...but the clouds were covering the sun. In fact the fog was very heavy. So we decided to attend the midnight concert which
is held every night during summer. They presented a variety of music: traditional Norwegian and Sami, contemporary hymns and other songs. A pianist/organist, cello player and singer performed the concert. It was really enjoyable and quite unique. Between mid-May and 25 July, people watch the midnight sun through this window while the concert is on.....how good would this be??
The first night we were in Tromsø, we heard a lot of music and other entertainment. We later learned that there was a global Chess Olympiad, with 180 countries being represented. The competition was being held over 14 days. We saw numerous small groups of people with T-shirts and tracksuit jackets with the names of their countries on their backs, all involved in the competition. We tried to get into the Arena, but couldn't.
We also visited the Arctic Alpine Botanic Garden is the world's northernmost botanic garden, Although not a particularly big garden, it has some interesting features:
The Rhododendron Valley with specimens from the China and the Himalayas, as well as the local variety rhododendron lapponicum
. The Himalaya section with the blue poppy (Meconopsis
The friendship garden, with plants donated by the Kirovsk Botanic Garden
in Russia, previously the world's northernmost. Various sections of alpine plants and southern hemisphere plants.
The pond, surrounded by giant perennials. The traditional garden with plants used in traditional medicine.
Next we went up in the Cable Car, which is easy to spot from any part of the town, and runs every half-hour until 1.00am in the summer. We went up for dinner one night and watched the sun trying to set while we ate reindeer and drank a lovely glass of local red wine. The sun is setting at about 11.45pm here. Mount Storsteinen, on which the cable car ascends, offers a fantastic view from 421metres above sea level. The area surrounding Tromsø is spectacular. Mountains, fjords and vegetation in an arctic perspective, all of which we saw from the top of the mountain. The sun was dancing on the calm waters of the fjords - beautiful.
We also visited Polaria which is the world's most northerly aquarium. Rather than a mainly scientific aquarium, Polaria, which opened in May 1998, is designed to be an educational experience, with particular emphasis on displays for children.
Most of the displays focus on the northerly islands of Svalbard.
There is a five-screen panoramic cinema, an "Arctic Walkway" area containing displays of polar exploration equipment, stuffed animals and simulated permafrost, many conventional aquaria displaying local marine life as well as open tanks and display tanks containing rock-shore animals, and baby fish. Its centrepiece is an open pool containing a group of bearded seals. These are trained and there are regular displays, as much to keep the animals active and healthy as for public entertainment. The seal enclosure has observation blisters set into its sides, so that we could look up at the animals from underneath, and a submerged walkway in a transparent tunnel across the bottom, allowing close access to the animals in their natural environment.
The building itself is also worthy of note. Its striking design represents ice floes that have been pressed up on land by the rough seas of the Arctic....one of the best museums we have seen.
There was also a movie on the Northern Lights seen in Tromsø, so all in all, it was a really interesting couple of hours.
During and after all the sightseeing, we also used Tromsø as a town to have our motor home services,
having haircuts which we both badly needed, and to give the vehicle a good clean as well as do all the washing. We are now set for the next part of our travels, heading towards Estonia and Russia. The weather remains very mild. But it was a little sad driving out of Tromso. We were just about to drive over the border out of Norway. We have spent nearly 5 weeks in this beautiful country and have thoroughly enjoyed it. We will have to come back again sometime in the future.
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