Tromsø

Tromsø is the Arctic capital of Norway. It’s located on a small island and a bit of the mainland peninsula in North Norway. Tromsø is just there, above the Arctic circle, and every year thousands of people come and go to see Northern lights, midnight sun, and beautiful fjords in that area. My friend Lucy and I were one of the tourists the first weekend of April, when we decided to visit the city to catch the sights of Aurora Borealis before its traces would disappear in the rays of the never-setting Sun.

storsteinen-tromso2
The view of the city from the city’s mountain, Storsteinen. The city is very small, as you can see. Hiking up to see this view was an adventure, but now that my bruises are almost gone I have a feeling I wouldn’t mind doing it again. The people who live next to the mountain climb it very often (i.e. every day) like an exercise routine. Norwegians, in general, seem to love exercise as much as I love food.
eidkjosen
At this place called Eidkjosen. Lucy and I passed by this place in order to get to the fjords. We had to wait for the bus for about an hour but we didn’t complain. There was also a Whole Foods-like store that had free samples of smoked fish and fruits. Maybe that is why I didn’t mind waiting?

It has breathtakingly beautiful views. Tromsø’s a tiny city for my standards but I enjoyed staying there because it just has such beautiful nature. I don’t know how it looks during summer, but when I was there I was able to witness mountains covered with shiny-white snow embracing the bluest sea water and I fell in love with that image immediately.

ersfjordsbotn-4
When we got to Ersfjordbotn, a small village in between mountains, I understood why there even was Norwegian romantic nationalism movement in art in 19th century. It is impossible to see this view and not to want to paint it.
ersfjordsbotntromso
Ersfjordbotn
ersfjordsbotn3
Ersfjodbotn. When we were heading towards the bus station to return to the city as we were slowly freezing, we met a lonely cyclist sliding down this empty road. The possibility to ride in between mountain peaks and calm waters seems very tempting. If only I had enough stamina.

 

Tromsø introduced me to Sami culture. Sami are indigenous people of Scandinavia, who have their own culture and language. Their historical land spans across Northern regions of 4 countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. In Norway they suffered from Norwegianization, a movement from the government to unify Norwegian culture and language which in turn meant to erase Sami culture and language. Now their rights are recognized and protected, and Sami people are rebuilding their cultural values with the support from the governments of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. You can read more about Sami people on Wikipedia, UN regional information center, and this website (informal but informative).

storsteinen-tromso
The view from Storsteinen at the neighboring mountain-hill.

 

Tromsø is one of the places you can go through the Sociology Department’s study abroad program. Therefore, I felt obligated to visit the northernmost university in the world. Well, my friend and I went there because we wanted to see reindeer in captivity at the Arctic biology research center, but shhh. The university’s campus is very modern and curious. Personally, I think I liked the design of the university campus and its buildings much more than those of the University of Oslo.

The library building had a very nice picture collection at randomest places. I enjoyed them a lot.

It also had some weird installations in their reading rooms designed, perhaps, to encourage students to read.

The main administrative building was modern and welcoming, compared to Sproul Hall at least. I liked the big windows, a wall with falling water, and lots of plants towards the entrance.

uit8
As far as I understood, this is a Biology, Fishery, and Economics building. At first glance such collection of faculties seems unusual but I guess it makes sense if you consider Norway’s main products for commerce.
uit7
Reality is merely an illusion, Albeit a very persistent one. -Einstein’s words on something that looks like a garbage bin. I think I like this university.

 

And of course, we were able to see the lights. We were lucky–the weather and solar activity were perfectly calibrated for our visit. But of course, I couldn’t capture the moment on my sad camera on my sad half-broken-but-still-working phone. I will just say that when you see the lines of pure color dancing right above you, you will know exactly why everybody wants to see them at least once in their lives.

aurora
The title of this photo is I Tried My Best

By the way, it is possible to see them in the middle of the city, if the weather is good, and the reason people head out on tours is to escape city lights and clouds in case there are ones above Tromsø. Thanks to our luck and the weather, I was able to lie down on a frozen lake in the middle of the city to see lights perform their dance.

storsteinen-tromso1
Just to show you how much snow there was in April. The house-like structure is actually a slide that is completely buried under snow. Only the top platform remains. Three rods on the right are swings, of course. This was on top of Storsteinen.
bibliotektromso
A very beautiful public library in the city center.
arcticcathedral
The Arctic Cathedral, or Ishavskatedralen. Apparently its stained glass windows are very beautiful. We decided that its exterior was too grand to digest and did not go in.

I would love to visit Tromsø again to witness the midnight Sun in its full glory.

 

Today I got 2 poems for you. They are written by a famous Sami poet Nils-Aslak Valkeapää.  These are opening and closing poems from his book Trekways of the Wind, or, more precisely of the second book of this trilogy, called Bluethroat, Twitter, Sing. The book was translated by Ralph Salisbury, Lars Nordström, and Harald Gaski in 1994 (first edition).

Hope you can imagine North-Norwegian landscape better when reading these poems. You can read more about Valkeapää here.

Can you hear the sound of life

in the roaring of the creek

in the blowing of the wind

 

That is all I want to say

that is all

 

The redness of evening

Birch tops sway against the sky

The reflection of light in the river

 

Everything remains unsaid

Still

 

 

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