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Tromsø is known as the gateway to the Arctic and is a starting point for many expeditions to the North Pole. It is also called the Paris of the North. It is the 7th largest city by population in Norway and most of it is located on a small island connected to the mainland by Tromsø bridge and also a tunnel under the sea. Food and fishing production is a large employer and Tromsø is lucky to have a good climate because of the Gulf stream and although they have snowy winters it is warmer than other places at the same latitude.
We moored in Tromso and spent the afternoon touring the city and outskirts and visiting the beautiful modern Arctic cathederal,which represented a Sami tent and the iciness of a glacier which was across the elegant bridge on the mainland and the Polaria centre, both of which had entry fees, they were interesting places to visit and I hope to write separate reviews on them later. We were lucky enough to have an excellent student guide who spoke good english. We began our tour driving through the University grounds and past the teaching hospital which was much larger than expected. The city has many lovely old wooden houses, the oldest dates back to 1789 and it has the biggest concentration of historicwooden houses north of Trondheim. In 1904 building wooden houses in the city centre was banned, so they now sit beside modern buildings. There is another Cathederal in the town centre called Domkirke and it is Norways only wooden catherderal.
There are several museums to visit, one called the Defense museum cost 40 Krone about £4.00 and was open varying times depending on the time of year. The cable car or Fjellheisen cost £10.00 and is open from April to September, it is across the bridge near the Arctic Cathederal about 2km from the city centre. Mont Storsteinen is 1,378 feet high and providing the weather is kind you can get good views of the town, sea and mountains.
The Polar museum is near the harbour in the former customs buildings and is a bit further away from other places of interest, it opened 50 years to the day after Roald Amundsen left Tromsø on his last expedition.
The Polaria centre was very interesting and after watching a lovely film about the arctic we went a tour of the museum and learned more about the wildlife and weather conditions and enjoyed watching the bearded seals who put on a marvellous display for everyone but were very difficult to capture on film! The shop had lots of gifts that were lovely to look at but extremely expensive to purchase. The glass display building housing the Polstjerna, a seal hunting vessel was closed due to refurbishment but has now re-opened. There is a charge for this if you haven’t been in the Polaria museum. Nearby was the Polar Environmental centre where studies are done about the Polar region. Whilst walking back to our coach we saw the little train which takes visitors around the city.
The shops were all closed as it was Sunday so I can’t comment on the shops! Macks Brewery does tours twice a day in June – August we passed by but didn’t stop, it costs £13 and I believe if you sample the beer it is very expensive! The brewery was started by an employer in 1877 to try to get his staff to drink beer rather than “hard liquor” and has become very successful over the years.
We arrived on a cruise ship but there is an airport in Tromso and you can fly from the UK. There are also frequent buses that run around the town, cheaper than taxis. There is a good choice of hotels from big groups like the Radisson to smaller guesthouses. Fortunately for us a lot of Norwegians speak English so it makes life easy for us to enjoy the area.
Culture is important in Norway and there is an Art Gallery and music festivals are popular. The Tromsø Museum is run by the University and also has an Arctic –alpine botanical garden, which is the world’s northernmost botanical garden. As we returned to the ship we could see the ski jump close to the university, a reminder that Tromsø was hoping to host the Winter Olympics in 2018, but because of costs they have withdrawn their bid. Another popular summer sport was para-glding and we could see several people high in the sky enjoying themselves when we were touring around.
The tour guide was keen to point out that Norway had won the Eurovision Song Contest and Tromsø was hoping to host the contest. The people are said to be very social and love to have fun, in summer they party all night enjoying the fact the sun doesn’t set, in winter the long hours of darkness can be depressing and so they have lots of functions and enjoy eating out at the many restaurants. I was surprised to see lots of barbecues in evidence and we were told once the temperature is above 12 degrees people are out barbecueing!
The sun shines virtually 24 hours during the summer months and in the winter months you can see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.
So did I enjoy our visit? Yes, I did but an afternoon wasn’t enough time to explore thoroughly, a few days would be needed to see everything and of course a Sunday isn’t an ideal day to visit, which is something to consider if you are planning a cruise, in fact Saturday was half day closing when we visited Honnisvåg! Just think of the money I saved not being able to buy the local knitted jumpers and hats and goods in glass and pewter.