At this point of my trip I hadn’t seen my sister for almost 3 months, which is totally unusual for us considering that her and I would spend all our time together while she lived in Toronto. We worked together, went out together, had the same friends. So I decided to visit her at the end of October after my trip to the Netherlands. When I saw her face I came to the realization that nothing feels better than seeing your family again after a prolonged amount of time. She made sure I will never forget the tears I shed when I saw her; the photograph is now on Facebook for all our friends to see.
My specific city of residence during my ten day stay was Tromsø. A small city, or town depending how you want to look at it, up in the Arctic Circle. I would never have visited this place otherwise, but since my sister was here for school, I made the trip. I was welcomed by freezing rain, which was followed by four days of snow. And I HATE snow. I might be from Canada, but there is something about snow that makes my insides boil, so as you can imagine I definitely did not want to head outside and acquaint myself with the white stuff. So I was in the cold and snowy Arctic, in the same city that a few days before I arrived was pleasant and snowless, but I am not Mother Nature so I just had to toughen up and live with it.
The quality of living in Norway is fantastic. The houses are large and everyone has a car or two. There are no homeless people from what I could see, and the public transportation is great. However, this place is super expensive by Canadian standards. I think there are about 5.5 Norwegian Krone in a Canadian Dollar. And bananas cost about 60 NOK, so you do the math. Everything is expensive over there. A 24-hour bus pass is about $20, a bottle of wine in a restaurant is $60. If you ever plan on travelling to Norway, definitely set aside a hefty budget.
I will admit that I spent a lot of my time in Tromsø sleeping because I was trying to recover from a cold or flu, and it was cold outside. The perfect combination for some much needed rest, especially after two and a half months of backpacking at this point. I spent some time with my sister in her dorm, which consisted of a house with two floors, separated into four sections with five rooms in each section. The heating and water pressure were both fantastic for such a remote part of the world. This arrangement is typical for northern university campuses in Norway. The rest of my time I spent out in the town walking around or checking out museums.
I visited the Perspektivet Museum which is located on the main pedestrian road in the centre of the city. At the time they had a photography exhibit displaying human obsession with perfection and artificial modification of the body. It was interesting to see some of the things that people will do to themselves to achieve an aesthetic goal. The second floor exhibit explained the history of Tromsø and its relationship with Russian seamen back in the day. It was an interesting look into the background of the region. Another worthwhile visit is to the University of Tromsø Museum where you can learn about many topics relevant to Arctic Norway such as archaeology, astronomy, physics, biology, and social issues concerning the Sami. The Sami are Norway’s equivalent to Canada’s First Nations people, except Norway treats theirs much better than we do ours.
Another good attraction is the Polaria Museum where you can see a live seal feeding. The show occurs twice a day, and the seals are fed in between performing all kinds of tricks. The commentary is given in both Norwegian and English and photography and video recording are allowed. There are four seals in total, all female. I was surprised by how intelligent these animals are, apparently more intelligent than our domestic dogs. The museum also has a cool aquarium exhibit displaying some of the organisms and ecosystems present in northern Norway. I was very impressed by the place.
I had the pleasure of enjoying a gift from my sister: a ride out into the north Atlantic on the ship Vulkana outfitted with a sauna and hot tub. This boat trip lasts about 2.5 hours and offers the passengers a chance to enjoy the warm spa services before plunging into the cold depths of the Atlantic and literally freezing your butt off. I was so nervous to do it, but it was fun, and a unique experience. Now I am somewhat able to understand how those maniacs feel when they go running into Lake Ontario in the middle of winter.
However, the highlight of my northern experience is, without a doubt, the Northern Lights. For much of my visit to Tromsø the sky was cloudy, but finally in the last few days everything cleared up and my chances of glimpsing the dancing lights were brighter, no pun intended. One night we spent a couple hours out by the water, in the cold, waiting for them to appear but to no avail. Another night we headed to a dark cemetery to catch a glimpse of it but again nothing. Finally after finishing some grocery shopping on my last night in Tromsø, my sister looked up and let out a gasp: finally I would get to see the Northern Lights. We headed up the hill to the cemetery and I got to watch the lights dance and sway. It was a completely breathtaking experience and will remember it for the rest of my life.
If any of you ever have the chance to take a trip to the Arctic, please do! There are so many things to do in all seasons. The hiking and fishing are fantastic in the spring and summer. In the winter you can enjoy dog sledding and ice fishing. It is a very diverse place and I can guarantee you will have a fantastic northern experience!
© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.