Saturday, 28 November 2015

Norway within the Polar Circle. January 2015

I have been dreaming to visit Norway for a long time. But when the dreams began to come true and we bought the tickets, I still had scarce understanding of Norway and Tromsø. I have never crossed the Polar Circle before, never seen the Polar night or Northern lights. 

Tromsø in January

Hotels in Tromsø were fantastically expensive, and I started to research the suburbs. Luckily, I found an advertisement of two rooms for rent for unbelievable 20 euro per day! And an access to the kitchen! The house situated 30 km from Tromsø and promised fantastic views on the fjord. We also decided to rent a car to commute. 

Now I can say that both our decisions were 100 per cent correct! Without a car our story would be absolutely another. 

Arctic Cathedra

We landed late in the evening, took a car and started our way to the house. We were driving slowly through the darkness. For all five days, I seldom drove faster than 80 km/h – at least because of a self-preservation instinct. The roads – even in the town – were covered with ice. There were constant slopes, sharp turns at serpentines and snowdrifts. Winter tires did not help much. 

The house was located behind a deserted pass on a narrow coast of a fjord, not far from the ocean. We drove there and settled. 

In the morning, famous Polar light painted everything in blue. The dawning was slow, and at 10 am it was almost light. However, it felt like constant dusk with enough light to enjoy the views. Around 2 pm it started to get dark. 

TROMSØ 

In our first day, we decided to visit Tromsø. The town seems small, but has a lot to offer for tourists. For a couple of centuries Tromsø became the largest town in the region, a Polar station of Norway. Many notorious expeditions started from there, and for many travelers the streets of Tromsø were the last point of civilization before the utmost North. 

Norway, Tromsø, Winter view of town

Currently the population equals around 70 000, many of them are students of the world's most Northern university. It makes the town very young and busy, with a lot of festivals, parties, scientific conferences and sport events. There are no curtains on windows, houses are painted in bright colours – to fight winter depression. Many of the locals do not switch electricity when they go out. 

All the roads of the town-island are hidden underground – or under the rock. Under residential areas there are motor roads – whole streets with crossroads, circular motion and parkings. Tip: study the map of tunnels in advance. It is really hard to avoid them, and GPS navigation does not work underground. 

Norway, Troms, Tromsø

You can walk around the whole town center for about 30 minutes. But we were not in a hurry. Some buildings dated back to the 19th century and thanks to the maintenance looked like new ones. They looked fantastic on the overall blue background. 

A panorama to the other coast of the fjord was fantastic. The bridge, the Arctic Cathedral that resembles the top of iceberg, lights from the houses and somewhere far away – a rope-way to the peak. 

We found a very cozy and relatively inexpensive café where used to seat practically every day. The Polaria museum was also very nice, especially fur seals. 

Fur Seal

Thanks to Gulfstream, in January temperature seldom falls below 5 degrees Celsius, and fjords do not freeze at all. 

NORTHERN LIGHTS 

Many tourists go to Tromsø with one purpose – to see the Northern lights. There are even professional guides who call themselves "Northern lights hunters" and offer dozens of ways to observe Aurora Borealis under their strict instructions. In the same time, we all understand that it is a natural phenomenon impossible to predict in advance. No one guarantee anything to poor tourists who pay 200 euros per excursion. 

Northern Lights near Tromsø, Norway

The best way to "catch" the lights – a car and a bit of luck. Drive far away from bright settlements, and you will be able to notice even the weakest lights. You need clear skies and the forecast of solar activity. Check the forecast a couple of hours before you go "hunting". 

First two days were fruitless – it was snowing. In the third day, the weather changed and the sky became clear like glass. We went to the pass, found a free place along the road. Minutes turned into hours when we finally saw a barely discernible green stripe. I was so disappointed in that moment! Was that it – just this?! We waited a bit more and drove home. 

Northern lights

Next day we decided to try again. We chose another place, slightly farther, on the coast of the ocean. We were ready to wait long – brought with us cookies and tea. It started all of a sudden. The sky lit up with green, and in twenty minutes separate lights turned into a single dance of mysterious flames. After an hour we could see other colours: violet, dark-red, yellow. It was fantastic! 

SOMMARØY 

Sommarøy is one of the most picturesque fishing villages. It is located in the mid-ocean, on an Iceland open to all winds. 

The day when we decided to visit Sommarøy, the snow finally stopped. Sometimes we could see blue sky among the clouds; however, the wind was strong and really cold. The closer we were getting to the village, the stronger it was becoming. The road was difficult, and the wind made our car dangle on the road. The vision was limited because the wind blew the snow from the mountains. We had a stormy ocean on the right and white mountains on the left. It was dusky, but we could see clearing sky above it. A severe beauty of the North! 

Sommarøy, Norway

We drove over the bridge that connected the mainland with the archipelago. In winter, the village looked strange. Modern wooden houses on the ocean coast. Sandy beaches and azure water, but the temperature was low. Wild deer walked along the frozen streets. Wind was knocking me of the feet. My wife did not even get out of the car. Not a soul in the streets, but windows were lit. On the way back, we were surprised to see two joggers in bright waistcoats. 

LYNGSALPENE 

Lyngsalpene is one of the most interesting natural areas of Norway, and it is a must-see spot. To get there from Tromsø you take a beautiful road Е8, after several dozens km you turn to the East to the border. Then take the narrow road to the North along the fjord up to the town of Lyngseidet. There was a shorter way with a ferry, and we used it on our way back. 

Lyngsalpene, Norway

We watched breathtaking mountain landscapes on the eternal background of pink-violet dawn-sunset. The silence was almost complete. There were rare villages of several houses that we considered a natural addition to the view. 

Lyngen Alps, Norway

Lyngseidet seemed deserted. The anticyclone came, and it became winter-freezing. Now we felt that we were within the Polar Cycle! The only thing you can do there in winter – ride a car and enjoy the view. 

CONCLUSION 

A fairy tale is Tromsø. An ice-cold story with a good plot, with Gerdas and Kais commuting from Sommarøy for work on their cars. Everything is very definite there: a day or a night, nothing vague like morning or evening. I wish to return there and see the midnight sun. 


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