Sunday, 29 July 2018

Tromsø and the Far North

On leaving Bergen we flew up to Tromsø, 70°N of the equator. This is the furthest north I'd ever been, as when we'd visited Iceland it's 'only' 65-65° north. As we were visiting in summer we were in the land of the midnight sun, and the week after we left the sun set for the first time in two months. Its latitude also means that from late November until late January the sun never rises, and Tromsø is apparently a great place to see the Northern Lights in winter.

notice what's missing?

Tromsø has a population of 75,000 and is the largest town in northern Norway.

Tromsø waterfront 

It's home to the world's most northernmost brewery, botanical garden, and cathedral. The building in the photo below is often referred to as a cathedral, but it's actually just a large parish church at Tromsdalen; Tromso's 'real' cathedral (the largest wooden cathedral in Norway) is located on the north side of Tromso bridge in the city centre. Tromsdalen church was built in 1965 and has eleven arching triangles that are supposed to suggest glacial crevasses and auroral curtains.

Arctic Cathedral/Tromsdalen Church

Tromsø is built on an island, Tromsøya, and the Arctic Cathedral is actually across a bridge, on the mainland.

looking north at Tromsø city centre from the Arctic Cathedral

Afterwards we took Fjellheisen cable car up to Mount Storsteinen (421m), from where there are good views.

panoramic of Tromsø and the island it's located on, Tromsøya

the bridge connecting Tromsøya with the mainland; cathedral is bottom right

looking east from Storsteinen, across the area known as Tromsdalen

The next day we hired a car for one day (just like in Bergen it was eyewateringly expensive, but at least this time we got upgraded!) and went to visit Senja, Norway's second largest island (not counting the Svalbard archipelago). Unfortunately unlike the previous and following day it was cloudy, but we still saw breathtakingly beautiful landscapes (although I feel the photos doesn't do it justice). Only about 10km out of Tromsø we came across a group of reindeer by the side of the road. We stopped to take some photos but didn't want to spend too much time because we had a ferry to Senja to catch (the next ferry was only 5 hours later!), and thought that in any case we'd see more reindeer elsewhere. But in the end these were the only ones we saw (alive, as we saw reindeer meat on menus at several occasions!).

one of the reindeer we saw

The village of Husøy sits on a small flat island in Øyfjorden, Senja

Ersfjorden and surrounding mountains, Senja 

Bergsfjorden contains 98 small islets 

Bergsfjorden, Senja 

Gryllefjord, Senja

fish drying outside, Senja

Norway is a land of tunnels (apparently the joke goes that if Everest was in Norway they would have dug a tunnel underneath it), and we saw many during our Senja roadtrip. As some of these could be quite narrow the local municipality has put in place a system of hi-viz vests for cyclists.

one of Norway's many tunnels

A box containing vests is placed at the entrance, and you can borrow one to ride through the tunnel. You then put it back in another box on the other side. A simple but effective system.

hi-viz vest (placed on box for the photo)

close-up of the vest,
reminding drivers to keep their distance 

Talking about bikes, on our final day full day in Tromsø we chose to hire electric ones, and cycled about 26km almost all the way round Tromsøya island, in a clockwise direction.

panoramic looking west from Tromsøya

looking west-north-west from Tromsøya

looking north, from Hamna

We stopped for a picnic lunch beside Prestvannet (known as Báhpajávri in the local Sami language), which is a small lake at the highest point on the central part of Tromsøya. The surrounding area is criss-crossed by paths used for recreational purposes (walking, running, cycling in summer, and cross-country skiing in winter).

our view during our picnic lunch beside Prestvannet

Not far away are the world's most northerly ski jumps. This is the vertigo-inducing view looking down.

looking down

 And this is the view looking up.

looking up at the ski jumps, Tromsø

We had time for a last cycle on the morning before we left Tromsø, and this time headed to Tromsdalen, crossing the bridge on our bikes to get there. As it was a Sunday morning everything was very quiet. At one point in the forest I saw a pair of skis propped up against a tree, and to me this is typical of the Norwegian attitude: everywhere we went lost objects were not stolen, but left in a prominent place to be recovered by their owners.

skis waiting for their owner to find them again?

Then it was time to head back to Oslo for less than 24 hours, before leaving Norway and carrying on with the rest of our travels.

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