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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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