Tromsø was a minor religious center in the medieval times. People from a vast area congregated regularly in the small town to go to the only church in the region. Hindered by the Napoleonic wars, the city still developed into a trade center with connections from Arkhangelsk to Central Europe. Ever since the mid 19th century, the town has been the starting point for Arctic hunting and polar expeditions. It’s about the well-known drift of the Fram expedition when the explorers Nansen and Johansen almost reached the North Pole with dog sledding.
Called the ‘Paris of the North’, Tromsø is a city in the very northernmost part of Norway. It is a vibrant and dynamic town almost 350 km north of the Arctic Circle. It is in the middle of the Auroral Zone/Oval and into the land of the Midnight Sun (or the Polar Night). A lot of things in Tromsø are the northernmost of their kind: the world’s northernmost university, brewery, glassblower, and cathedral. The Sami culture is strongly supported in the region for tourism development and for the respect of this ethnic nomad group.
Tromsø is far one of the best examples where is often snowing a lot, but life goes on as natural as possible. White seagulls fly all over along the fjords. People ski everywhere in the parks of the island. Streets are slippery and full of snow almost all winter time. Cars and people are well adapted to these ‘extreme’ conditions with daily crampons and appropriate attitude. Nevertheless, due to warm currents, the average temperature is somewhere around 0 C degrees. Surprisingly, one layer of wool is enough to survive so close to the North Pole.
At the beginning, I was terrified of Northern people. By default, they should be cold and distant in accordance with the climate conditions. I was surprised to meet welcoming and smiling locals. They spoke very well English with everybody. They were more than happy to share their culture with outsiders. From my hosts, I learned the three most important things Norwegians don’t need to be contradicted. First, the Norwegian landscapes are fantastic by default. Second, the water is the purest quality (even if not 100%). Third, the ‘Norwegian arm’ goes over the table to grab something without disturbing the others.
During my stay in Tromsø, I had four hosts: Bilal – a Ph.D. student from Pakistan, Bente – a wonderful old lady from Kristiansund, Karl – from here, and Asne – a Ph.D. student from southern Norway. From one of the evenings, an image will last in my mind forever … Outside was snowing with big flakes. I was in a typical Norwegian wooden house from the Arctic Circle. I was sitting in front of the stove where a wood fire was burning. I felt how the fire warmed my face. Bente, my host, was a respectable old lady. At her place, I met Daniel, who was a Spanish traveler like me, hunting the Northern Lights through the arctic regions. Together with the whole family, we visited the Whale’s Island – Kvaløya. We ate reindeer stew and smoked salmon for dinner. We had English porridge for breakfast. We made plans for meeting again in the future someday. I felt suddenly a strong invisible connection between us. For such experiences, I would never give up the risk I assume while I stay with strangers that can become my friends.
Some more photos from Tromsø and traveling there: