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TROMSO: THE ARCTIC CAPITAL

NORTHERN LIGHTS, MIDNIGHT SUN AND ARCTIC EXPEDITIONS

Tromsø, considered the Arctic capital, is located about 350 km north of the Arctic Circle, at 69°40′ north latitude, in the heart of the wild between majestic mountains and beautiful fjords.

In the north of Norway there is complete darkness during the polar night season.
Here from 23 November to 18 January, the sun never rises but is at most 3 degrees below the horizon, enough to ensure the presence of light.

Being right under the oval of the Northern Lights, it is the area with the highest probability of seeing this magical phenomenon from the end of August to the end of April, generally between 6pm and midnight..
If the sky is clear, you might see the Northern Lights right above the city, but to increase your chances you should go away from the lights of the city centre.

 

Norway - Tromso - Sami

 

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Tromsø has a milder coastal climate than other destinations at the same latitude.
The average winter temperature is about -4°C, but if you’re looking for the Northern Lights, remember that the temperature could be from -20°C to +5°C, so always stay in layers.

On the contrary, from May 19 to July 26, the sun never sets. With the phenomenon of the midnight sun you can enjoy full daylight doing any activity 24 hours a day.

Tromsø is also a strategic point to reach North Cape, Svalbard Islands, Lofoten Islands or Sweden and Finland.
Thanks to its location beyond the Arctic Circle, it is considered the gateway to the North Pole and has been the starting point for many Arctic expeditions.

 

Norway - Tromso - Polaria Museum

 

WHAT TO SEE

Arctic Cathedral

One of Tromsø’s best-known buildings, the modern architecture of the Arctic Cathedral, featuring 11 aluminium-clad concrete panels on each side of the roof, is reminiscent of an iceberg or a Sami tent and has often been compared to the famous Sydney Opera House.
It takes about 25 minutes to get there from the city centre on foot or you can take bus 20, 24, 26 or 28.

The main entrance is surrounded by a large window with a pronounced cross.

 

Norway - Tromso - Arctic Cathedral

 

Storsteinen Mountain

A 15-minute walk from the Arctic Cathedral, on fine days you can take the Fjellheisen cable car to the top of the Storsteinen mountain. From here you have a wonderful view of the city (if low clouds don’t prevent the view).
Otherwise you can reach the top by climbing the 1,200 stone steps of the Sherpa Staircase.

 

Norway . Tromso - Mount Storsteinen

 

Tromsø Bridge

A peculiarity of Tromsø is that it is located on Tromsøya Island, connected to the mainland by an arched bridge.
You can also walk to the Cathedral and see Tromsø from a different perspective.

 

Norway - Tromso

 

Domkirke

The northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world is located in the quiet main street of Tromsø but I could only see it from the outside.
The opening hours are very variable and uncertain but it’s still a beautiful building of neo-gothic architecture, the only cathedral in Norway made entirely of wood.

 

Norway - Tromso - Domkirke - Protestant Cathedral

 

Perspektivet Museum

I don’t know how long each photographic exhibition lasts, but the museum is free so you can “risk” visiting this neoclassical 1838 building.
Satisfaction or disappointment will still be subjective.
I saw unpublished photos that were very interesting for me.
On the ground floor the photos made you imagine the cities/villages and life in the Palestinian Territories before the war of 1948.

 

Norway - Tromso - Perspektivet Museum - Palestinian Territories

 

Upstairs, instead, the different faiths of “homo religiosus” are shown.
Other photos show the history of Tromsø, from the construction of the bridge to the airport.

Tromsø Museum

This is a multidisciplinary museum with first part dedicated to animals living in the Tromsø area and in the Arctic and about the climate change they are fighting.
The upper floor first shows us the damage that man is creating with his waste, then explains the phenomenon of the Northern Lights.
The museum closes with the interesting history and culture of the Sami people.

 

Norway - Tromso - Sami culture

 

Polaria

I don’t think you should consider this museum as an aquarium just because there are three seals, starfish, sponges and other Arctic fauna and flora.
Before you go in, think about the panels outside that explain life in the Arctic and its importance. This museum is in fact the gateway to understanding Svalbard Islands and what is happening with climate change.
Understanding the damage plastic does is essential for all of us.

 

Norway - Tromso - Polaria Museum

 

MS Polstjernan

Housed inside a glass construction, it is the ship used to kill (or, as it was said at the time, “bring home”) at least 100,000 seals. You can walk on its decks, full of objects of the time, hunting tools, numerous photos, videos and objects related to polar expeditions.

Thinking about what this boat has seen, however, almost makes you see the blood of the seals on deck.
It was not very pleasant for me.

The entrance ticket is included in that of the adjacent Polaria museum.

 

Norway - Tromso - Polstjerna

 

The Polar Museum

It would be better if this was called “the Polar Hunting Museum“.
I expected a different museum instead is the exaltation of hunters (especially seals and bears) and the description of hunting carried out over the centuries in the polar territories.
There are many, too many, stuffed animals. Looking into their eyes I wonder the sense of their presence in the museum, rather than in their natural habitat.

 

Norway - Tromso - seal

The multilingual guides delivered free of charge at the entrance explain every object in the rooms (traps, weapons, writings, photos, drawings, reconstructions of scenes and hunting methods).
I have nothing against hunting when it is a necessity to survive, but here we really see almost ostentation and exhibitionism of man’s blind force against animals.

Animals

The whale watching season varies from year to year depending on the presence of herring in the fjords.
It usually runs from November to the end of January and there are several companies at the port that make special excursions.
Some of them also allow you to go into the water with whales, although this experience, given the weather, is not guaranteed.

If you are interested, I suggest you to go to Tonga Islands, where I swam with whales in Nuku’alofa.

 

Tonga - swimming with whales

 

Huskies are some of the most popular animals to meet in Tromsø and with them you could sled or walk in the woods.

Another animal you’ll probably see is the reindeer. They often walk freely along the road or you can get to know the Sami people, with whom you can feed reindeer or have them tow you on a sleigh.

 

Norway - reindeer

 

HOW TO MOVE

Plane

There are 3 connections between the city center and the airport:
– the express bus takes about 15 minutes, with several stops near the hotels and in strategic points of the city.
– the city bus lines 24, 40 and 42.
– taxis

Ship

Hurtigruten leaves Tromsø every day.

The port is located about 4 km from the city centre.
You can easily reach it on foot or by city buses 30 and 42.

 

Hurigruten - Nordkapp

 

District buses

District buses offer some excursions around Tromsø municipality and depart from Prostneset, the city’s main bus station, which is located next to the Tourist Information Office.

Bus 420 Tromsø – Hella – Brensholmen – Sommarøy:
Short excursion from Tromsø around the southern part of the island of Kvaløya.

Bus 425 Tromsø – Ersfjordbotn:
Fantastic views of the fjords and steep mountains.

Bus 450 Tromsø – Tønsvik – Oldervik:
Reach hiking trails and see fantastic views of the sea and the Lyngen Alps.

 

Norway - Tromso

 

CONTINUE THE TRIP

Northern Norway

You could travel from Tromsø to Alta by bus and from there, after at least one night’s rest, take another bus to Kirkenes or Honningsvåg, from where you then reach Nordkapp – North Cape or Knivskjellodden.

Hurtigruten departs daily from Tromsø with a 17-hour journey to Honningsvåg.

Another option is to fly from Tromsø to Honningsvåg with stopover in Hammerfest.

 

Norway - Nordkapp - from afar

 

Svalbard Islands

The only way to get to Svalbard is by plane and there are daily flights from Tromsø to Longyearbyen.
In high season, from March to August, the number of flights increases.

Remember that Svalbard is outside the Schengen area so you need passport.

 

Svalbard Islands - Pyramiden - polar bear

To the South of Norway

If you want to get excited traveling south, you have to travel by ship.
With the Hurtigruten you could reach Lofoten Islands, Bodø, Trondheim or Bergen.

There is a daily bus connection from Tromsø to Fauske. From here you can continue south by train to Trondheim, Oslo, Bergen and other destinations.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Kayaking on the river Nidelva

 

Sweden

There are several direct flights from Tromsø to Stockholm.

The Länstrafiken Norrbotten bus goes from Tromsø to Narvik, from where it continues to Björkliden, Abisko and Kiruna in Sweden.
Or from Narvik you could continue by train to Boden, Luleå, Haparanda and Stockholm.

 

Norway - Tromso

 

BODØ: A STRATEGIC CITY

Bodø (pronounced Bùda) is a small but strategical city.
It is in fact the first port north of the Arctic Circle, the starting point to reach the Lofoten Islands, the northern terminus of the Norwegian railway and gateway to the Arctic lands.

 

Norway - Bodo - Hurtigruten

 

The current center is a mix of wooden houses, brick houses, blocks up to 10 floors high, quite luxurious hotels with large windows.
There are few attractions in Bodø but the surrounding landscape is certainly fascinating: the largest city in Nordland is surrounded by the rugged Børvasstindan mountains, Bodømarka forest and lots of small islands.

 

Norway - Bodo - mountains

 

Just 75 minutes by plane from Oslo, you could see the Northern Lights from September to March and from 30 May to 12 July the midnight sun.

The city was founded in 1816 and around 1860 it became an important centre for herring fishing.
During the Second World War it was practically razed to the ground by bombing on 27 May 1940 and later rebuilt in a sober but functional architectural style, a classic post-war example.

 

Norway - Bodo - World War II

 

During the Cold War, Bodø military airport was considered strategic by NATO because it was from there that attacks against the Soviet Union would start.
In May 1960, during a period of very high tension, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down on Soviet territory on its way from Pakistan to Bodø airport.
Norway didn’t officially allow foreign troops to park or use military installations on Norwegian territory, and this illegal behaviour, in violation of the agreements, led to a worsening of relations between Norway and the Soviet Union.

 

Norway - Bodo - Cold War

 

WHAT TO SEE

Domkirke

The peculiarity of this church, made almost entirely of wood, is certainly its shape of an upside down ship.
Inside there are interesting photos that tell its history, from its construction to the bombardments of the Second World War that practically razed the entire city to the ground.
Rebuilt in 1956, it is one of the few Norwegian churches where you could enter for free.

 

Norway - Bodo - Domkirke

 

Nordlandmusset

Not far from Domkirke, there is the Nordland Museum.
Bodø is a little city so is impossible not to come here and discover the history of this city, which went from the bombings of World War II to its strategic position in the Cold War.

There are also exhibitions about Sami and Viking cultures.

 

Norway - Bodo - center

 

Bodo Tourist Information

Given the few things to do in Bodø, I looked for a few excursions to the Tourist Centre but unfortunately it was a bust, given its uselessness and the listlessness of the staff.
No useful information is given and therefore it could be a library where you browse maps and brochures.

The excursions on visitbodo.com are presented and also the eventual reservation must be made directly from this website, with payment in advance by credit or debit card.

Saltstraumen

400 million cubic meters of water flow in about 6 hours through a 3 kilometer long and 150 meter wide strait between the Salten Fjord and the Skjerstad Fjord, and the maelstrom can reach speeds uo 20 knots..
This phenomenon creates the worlds strongest tidal current and you see characteristic whirlpools up to 10 meters in diameter and 5 metres deep.

I booked the excursion on visitbodo.com but the NOK 495 (just over € 50.00) seemed too expensive.
The bus takes the independent travellers in front of the library and then heads to the port to pick up the passengers of the Hurtigruten ship (who have chosen to participate in the excursion, paying about double).
It do a quick tour of Bodø and then goes to Saltstraumen where arrives in about 45 minutes.
You have about 15 minutes to go down to the shore, take photos and see the current and the whirlpools that form.
Or you could choose another type of tour, challenging the current on board a zodiac.
The time is enough but still shamefully little in relation to the price of the excursion.
Arrival at the port of Bodø is scheduled for around 14.50, in time for the departure of the Hurtigruten ship to the Lofoten Islands.

 

Norway - Bodo - Saltstraumen

 

HOW TO GET

Plane

Bodø Airport is located 1.5 kilometres south-west from the city centre.

SAS, Norwegian and Widerøe are the main airlines connecting the city to Oslo, Trondheim, Tromsø, Bergen, Narvik, Svolvær and others.

Train

Bodø Station is the terminus of the Nordlandsbanen and was opened by King Olav V on 7 June 1962.
From Bodø, a day and night train goes to Trondheim.

 

Norway - Bodo - houses Saltstraumen

 

Ship

Hurtigruten docks here twice a day: at 01.30 when heading south and at 12.30 when heading north.
I chose to arrive here by plane from Trondheim and then continue the trip by ship to Honningsvag (the best port to reach Nordkapp – North Cape (and the real North Cape, Knivskjellodden) with stops at Lofoten Islands and Tromso.

 

Norway - Bodo - arrival Hurtigruten

WHERE TO SLEEP

Thon Hotel Nordlys

By booking well in advance, I found a great price for this hotel very closed to the port, 20 minutes from the Hurtigruten ship boarding and within walking distance from the airport.

The reception staff is kind and professional but I have to write a honorable comment deserves the extraordinary breakfast, wonderful and very rich thanks to the chefs who cook on sight and at least 4 waitresses always in the room to arrange everything and available to guests..

It was one of the best breakfasts ever, with a huge assortment of sweet, salty, salmon, drinks and fruit.
And a spectacular chocolate fountain that invites you to dive in.

 

 

Continue your trip to south (Trondheim or Oslo) or to north (Lofoten Islands, Tromso, Nordkapp – North Cape, Knivskjellodden or Svalbard Islands)

 

 

HISTORY OF THE CITY

Although Trondheim does not have a troubled history like the Irish Derry/Londonderry, it has also changed its name several times.

The Viking King Olav I of Norway founded the city in 997, calling it Kaupangen (“market”).
In his conquest, he beheaded some of his rivals, including Count Håkon with his son Erlend and the servant Kark.
Olav I had their heads impaled at the entrance of the fjord, so that all who entered the city should, in honour of the king, stop to insult and curse his enemies.
The city of Kaupangen then changed its name to Nidaros (“mouth of enemies”).

 

Norway - Trondheim - Kaupangen

 

In 1030 King Olav Haraldsson was martyred and later named Saint.
The town became a place of pilgrimage from all over northern Europe.

At the end of 1800 Norway fell under the rule of Denmark, which called the city Trondhjem.
With independence in 1905, the central government decided to change the name back to Nidaros. And so it happened in January 1930, although the population declared its opposition in a referendum in 1928 (17,163 votes against the name change and 1,508 in favour).
The non-respect of that vote, led to great protests and riots in the streets, so after a few months the Norwegian parliament chose the name Trondheim.

For a short period during the Second World War, the Nazis gave it the “Germanized” name Drontheim.

In reference to the name, sports fans associate Trondheim to the Rosenborg, the most norwegian team titled and with numerous participations to the various European Cups, founded on May 19, 1917 just in the homonymous district of the city.
The blackwhite play their home games at the Lerkendal Stadion.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Rosenborg Stadium

 

Its relationship with fire has always been tragic: in 1219 it suffered the first fire and a few years later, in 1295, a large part of the city was reduced to ashes.

 

Norway - Trondheim - landscape from the fortress

 

At the end of the Middle Ages population growth slowed down and in 1531 there was another phase of decline.
Archbishop Olaf Engelbrektsson tried to stop the Danish influence in Norway and in response Danish troops set fire to the archbishop’s palace, the cathedral and much of the city.

The same happened in 1681, with the so-called Hornemans fire, which once again devastated the city almost completely.

King Christian V entrusted the Luxembourger Johan Caspar de Cicignon the task of rebuilding Trondheim with a new urban plan that would prevent such destruction in the event of future fires.
The city was then designed with large squares, wide and straight streets, but despite this, many serious fires occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

Norway - Trondheim - city rebuilt by Johan Caspar de Cicignon

 

Trondheim is still called the city of wooden houses, because of the large number of them.

Today Trondheim is Norway‘s third largest city, with about 205,000 inhabitants and over 30,000 students. Many of them attend the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the largest in the kingdom and which contributes to making the old capital the undisputed technology centre of the country.

 

Norway - Trondheim - wooden houses

 

WHAT TO SEE
Nidarosdomen – Nidaros Cathedral

The tomb of St. Olav, the Viking king who brought Christianity to Norway, immediately became a pilgrimage destination for Christians from Scandinavia, Great Britain, Russia, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
The work to build the Cathedral above the tomb started in 1070 and was completed around 1300.
Still today the city is reached by thousands of pilgrims, so that Trondheim can be considered the Catholic landmark of northern Europe, as are Rome to the south, Jerusalem to the east and Santiago de Compostela to the west.

 

 

Norway - Trondheim - Nidaros Cathedral

 

After being damaged several times by fire and left without maintenance in the Middle Ages, the cathedral was in poor condition, largely in ruins.
Great restoration work started in 1869 and today the cathedral is practically in its original splendour.
A legend tell that when Nidaros Cathedral is completely finished, a landslide will devastate the city and the cathedral will sink into the fjord.
Restoring a cathedral of this size is a never-ending work, but the cathedral will probably never be completed in such a way as to avert any danger.

Nidarosdomen is a è un richly decorated Gothic masterpiece.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Nidaros Cathedral

 

I understand the importance of a guided tour to discover the history of the Cathedral and all its secrets but I refuse to pay to enter a church.
For me it is shameful to demand 80 NOK (about € 10,00) for the entrance, without possible to take photos.
Anyway, I entered two minutes before the beginning of a mass but I’m not allowed to take photos.
The darkness inside kept me from seeing much.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Nidaros Cathedral

 

Vitensenteret

Since 1988 the Science Centre encourages curiosity and creativity with exciting activities, experiments and interactive installations.
The Vitensenteret, open daily, is one of the 10 regional science centres in Norway and is located in the historic centre of Trondheim.

Children will have fun in what looks like games, but also adults could have the same fun, thinking that if this were present in every school, learning would be better and easier.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Vitensenteret - Science Centre - Café Wall Illusion

 

In fact, there are no results and theoretical explanations of scientific studies here, but you have to personally experiment and play with technology, physics, mechanics, anatomy, electricity, chemistry, geology, mathematics, meterology, informatic and much more.
If a child knows science by playing, it’s easier to continue his/her studies at the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Vitensenteret - Science Centre - Vater Hevert

 

Also beautiful is the 3D planetarium where you see videos about the Northern Lights and an exciting travel through the universe, between galaxies and constellations.
Very interesting are also the videos about the underwater adventures in the coral reef and the stories made by the penguin James from the South Pole and the bear Vladimir from the North Pole.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Vitensenteret - Science Centre - Tornado button

 

Kristiansten Fortress

The fire of 1681 and the subsequent urban reorganization entrusted to Johan Caspar de Cicignon, led to the construction of the Kristiansten Fortress on the hill east of the city.
One of his tasks was also to protect Trondheim from foreign attacks, as happened when the Swedish army besieged the city in 1718.
The Kristiansten Fortress resisted thanks to the Norwegian army and the population, who also came from the surrounding countryside to defend Trondheim.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Fortress Kristiansten

 

During the German occupation of Norway in the Second World War, 1,500 German soldiers arrived in the city at dawn on April 9, 1940 and in 4 hours they occupied it without finding resistance.
The Nazis immediately understood the potential of the fortress and settled there, using it as a court and place where about 30 Norwegian patriots and an unknown number of people of other nationalities were executed.
At the end of the war, the fortress was always the official place of execution of traitors and war criminals.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Fortress Kristiansten

 

On the occasion of Trondheim’s 100th anniversary in 1997 Kristiansten was extensively renewed.
In 2001 the Norwegian Parliament decided to end its military use and use it for royal and civil purposes.
It’s considered a museum area and a popular destination for hikers and travellers.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Fortress Kristiansten

 

It takes about 15 minutes to go up from the Old Town Bridge, but the effort will be rewarded by the beautiful landascape.
It’s also very close to the Singsaker Sommerhotell, where I recommend sleeping if you visit the city in summer.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Old Town Bridge

 

Sea Tours

Of course you could see the city from another angle.
There are several agencies that organize daily boat tours in the fjord with multilingual guides.
For a truly unique tour, you can board a ship almost identical to the Viking drakkars of over 1,000 years ago, built using precisely those techniques, handed down through generations.

Or, if you like it, you could push your kayak along the calm waters of the Nidelva River.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Kayaking on the river Nidelva

 

Grakallbanen Tram

Gråkallbanen is the world’s northernmost tram line, running among the forest from the city centre to the recreation area of Bymarka. The route is scenic and very pleasant.
On special occasions, or often when there are cruise ships, the old historic tram is put into operation.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Grakallbanen Tramway

 

Norway - Trondheim - Grakallbanen tram stops

HOW TO GET
Plane

Trondheim Værnes Airport welcomes domestic and international flights.
SAS and Norwegian have direct flights to/from Oslo which take about one hour.

There are two possible connections between the city and the airport:
The Flybussen bus, which stops just outside the arrivals, makes several stops in the city (so ask which one is closest to your hostel/hotel/b&b)..
The train instead connects Trondheim Central Station to the station inside the airport.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Nidelva River

 

Ship

Trondheim is obviously one of the ports where the Hurtigruten stop daily, and then continues to south and north.
Traveling by boat is a good choice if you have time, otherwise you could take a flight to Oslo or Bodo.

 

Hurtigruten - Nordkapp ship

 

WHERE TO EAT

Trondheim is a city with great food experiencesin charming cafés, delicious restaurants and micro-breweries.
Small and large game, lamb, shellfish, salmon and other seafood and berries are all specialities of the Trondheim region.
Prices are obviously balanced with the very high standard of living and can be unapproachable for many foreigners.

Bondens Marked

Arriving here was almost a mirage. In a very expensive Norway, you could eat in peace and quiet by wandering around the various stalls. You find everything: meat, fish, vegetables, desserts, drink. The prices of possible purchases are still very good.
I have only to thank St. Olav because I don’t know how many times I have walked among the stalls eating everything and more.

 

Norvegia - Trondheim - Bondens Marked

 

Ravnkloa

At the lower end of Munkegata, there is the Fish Market.
Really it’s not a market but a large fish shop. In the various tables outside you could eat various traditional dishes, obviously made with the freshest fish and shellfish from the fjord.

Norway - Trondheim - Ravnkloa Fish Market

 

WHERE TO SLEEP

Singsaker Sommerhotell

One of the largest inhabited wooden buildings in Scandinavia, during the school season is the city’s university campus but in the summer becomes a hotel, since the 1950s.
The Singsaker Sommerhotell has 103 rooms with 1-4 beds and dorms for 10-12 people (only negative note, the 2 dorms are in the basement and being underground is not very pleasant). The reception is open 24h/24h, breakfast, wifi and parking are included in the price.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Singsaker Sommerhotell

 

Trondheim Værnes Airport

I never give up anything in my travels. But to do everything I want, I have found my compromise by spending as little as possible to sleep.
Besides preferring hostels in shared dormitories instead of hotels (unless absurd offers or special conveniences), I often choose to travel at night to save time and spend the night on the bus (or train, or boat) or to take the last or first flight of the day.
And this is to sleep at the airport. Mine is really a choice: I like sleeping in airport.

I couldn’t believe my eyes at Trondheim Værnes Airport.
Not so much because of the comfortable sofas with electric sockets nearby, not so much because the luggage was delivered in an area open to everyone… but because the shops inside the airport were “open/closed” all night long.
No cameras and no security.
And the thing that amazed me even more is that, at the morning opening, I asked why they left everything so “closed/open” but they didn’t understand what I meant.
“There’s no one there, it means the store is closed. Who comes in if the store’s closed?”

 

Norway - Trondheim - Airport

 

CONCLUSIONS

Trondheim was a beautiful discovery, a largely pedestrian city where you can walk quietly through cobbled streets and historic bridges, with many wooden houses and no skyscrapers, a culinary tradition influenced by both the land and the waters of the fjord, a lively and attractive atmosphere thanks to the largest university in Norway.

But of course with prices aligned to Norwegian living standards (and therefore salaries).
Here in fact I had the first hard contact with this reality and the costs can be really prohibitive.

Luckily, St. Olav helped me…

 

Norway - Trondheim - fjord

 

Norvegia - Trondheim - Munkholmen

 

 

Continue the trip to Oslo or to north with the Hurtigruten.

 

 

 

 

OSLO: FIRST STOP ON A TRIP TO NORWAY

On my last trips I chose physically hard ones, thinking that afterwards it will be more difficult to do similar experiences.
That’s why I had imagined going to Scandinavia in the future..
Instead some coincidence changed my plans and I decided to go to Norway before.
I never visit a country without going through its capital. And Oslo was the first destination of my long trip.

I had always associated Norway with snow, cold and northern lights. But of course there’s much more.
Norwegians have great maritime traditions, from Vikings toArcticexplorations. And not only that…

Is it possible a low cost trip to Norway? Maybe… but it’s very difficult..
Obviously the personal standards are different but you could take some precautions.
In Oslo for example Oslo Passis essential.
The cost is high (about € 40.00 for 24 hours, € 60.00 for 48 hours, € 75.00 for 72 hours) but it includes access to all museums, attractions and public transport, as well as discounts in some restaurants.
Admission tickets to the various museums are expensive and if you visit the major attractions, you would spend more than the cost of the Oslo Pass.

 

Norway - Oslo - City Hall

 

Oslo Visitor Centre

Seldom has an Information Centre really helped me, but that doesn’t apply in Oslo.
As soon as you arrive, you should just start at the Oslo Visitor Centre, inside the train station.
Someyoung people welcome you with the utmost kindness and answer every quick question.
For more detailed information or to buy tickets and subscriptions you have to take the number and wait in line. Sometimes you have to wait a long time so you could read the various tourist brochures, rich in details and available in many languages.

Nobels Fredssenter – Nobel Peace Prize Palace

Alfred Nobel became rich thanks to the 355 patents filed following his experiments about explosives (he invented also dynamite).
When his older brother died in an explosion during an experiment, some French newspapers believed that Alfred, “the merchant of death who made his fortune by finding a way to kill as many people as possible”, had died.
Shocked by these words, he decided to devote his immense fortune and the interests subsequently accrued by his investment funds to create a series of Nobel Prizes for those who, during the previous year, contributed the most to serve humanity.

The award money, currently close to 9 million NOK (about € 870,000.00), is divided into five equal parts: to the person who made the most important discovery or invention in the field of physics, chemical, physiology/medicine, who produced the literary work most idealistic and to the person who has done the most for the fraternity among nations, for theabolition or reduction of armies and for the training and increase of peace congresses.

Of course, the nationality of the candidates should not be taken into account in the awarding of prizes.
Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine and literature are commonly considered to be the most prestigious in these fields.
The Nobel Peace Prize, especially lately, is often accompanied by controversy over the political evaluations that motivate it.

 

Norway - Oslo - Nobel Peace Center

 

The Oslo Card convinced me to go in but unfortunately the initial scepticism was reinforced minute after minute.
There are temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. There are temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. I found a photographic exhibition about changes in generational values but I don’t understand what consumerism, sex and cosmetic surgery have to do with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Upstairs, on the other hand, it is one-way politics that is the master, a clear demonstration of how unfortunately the Nobel Peace Prize has become almost the nobel for exporters of peace and democracy.

This disappointment does not make me buy souvenir in the large shop or in the bar inside.

Kon-Tiki Museum

My high school math and physics teacher used to tell us that “we are all ignorant“. There are those who take offence and those who understand that this is only the truth because we can’t know everything.
Ignorance, i.e. ignoring something, must in fact push our curiosity towards knowledge.
I had never heard of the Kon-Tiki and when I entered the museum that hosts it I was speechless.

 

Norway - Oslo - Kon Tiki - museum

 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the name of Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. And yet we should all know him.

Certain of his studies, he wanted to show that some ancient populations were capable of transoceanic travels.
He was sure that the Polynesian islands had been colonized in pre-Columbian era by the peoples of South America and not by the West.
This is because winds and currents in the Pacific generally run from east to west and also because in Polynesia there are animals and plants common in South America.

How could he prove this? In the only possible way: doing it!

 

Norway - Oslo - Kon Tiki - museum

 

Thor Heyerdahl, hydrophobic with minimal swimming ability and no experience as a sailor, built the Kon-Tiki with prehistoric materials, methods and technologies.
The balsa wood raft sailed from the port of Callao, Peru,on April 28, 1947 and reached the atoll of Raroia, now French Polynesia, on August 7.
Thor Heyerdahl, Erik Hesselberg, Bengt Danielsson, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby and Herman Watzinger succeeded in the incredible feat of covering about 4,500 nautical miles (about 8,000 km) in 101 days on this raft, the legendary Kon-Tiki.

 

Norway - Oslo - Kon Tiki - museum photo

 

In 1955 Heyerdahl organized a scientific expedition to Easter Island.
When he arrived on the island only the heads of the famous moai were visible, but thanks to his excavations it was possible to unearth the statues in their entirety.

 

Norway - Oslo - Thor Heyerdahl and the buried moai of Easter Island

 

Norway - Oslo - Thor Heyerdahl digs the Easter Island moai

Various experiments were also carried out on carving, transporting and positioning the moai.
With the help of only 5 people, with rudimentary techniques and tools, he managed in three days to carve an entire twelve-ton statue in volcanic tuff.
Only 18 men with ropes, a wooden sledge and a special stone base hoisted and “walked” a moai demonstrating that it was possible and also easy.

 

Norway - Oslo - Thor Heyerdahl and the Moai of Easter Island

 

On the island he also discovered representations of reed boats with master mast and sail and was convinced that the ancient Mediterranean civilizations sailed in the Atlantic Ocean and reached Central and South America.
Again, he could only prove it by doing the same kind of trip.

In 1969, in front of the Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt, Heyerdahl built thepapyrus boat,inspired by ancient Egyptian ships, and named it Ra in honor of the Sun God.

 

Norway - Oslo - Ra construction in front of the Pyramid of Cheops

He sailed from Safi, Morocco, but after almost 5,000 km travelled in 8 weeks, and only 160 km from the arrival, he was forced to ask for help and finish the expedition.
Due to some design errors and a broken rudder, the reeds let in a lot of water and Heyerdahl feared that the Ra would sink with all the crew on board.

Ten months later the Norwegian adventurer launched the smaller but stronger Ra II with the help of four Aymaras natives from the Bolivian area of Lake Titicaca who are used to sail with similar boats (you can still visit the floating islands on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru).

 

Norway - Oslo - Kon Tiki - museum

 

On May 17, 1970, he sailed from Morocco, traveled about 4,000 miles of ocean in 57 days, and finally reached Barbados.

The crew was composed by Thor Heyerdahl, Carlo Mauri (italy), Jurij A. Senkevich (Russia), Santiago Genoves (Mexico), Norman Baker (Usa), Kei Ohara (Japan) and Madani Ait Ouhanni (Morocco).

Vikingskipshuset – Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum houses four Viking ship buried in the Oslo Fjord area: found between 1852 and 1904 in Oseberg, Gokstad, Tune and Borre.
Three of the ships contained graves that have survived to this day: the ship Oseberg should date back to the year 820 AD, the ship Gokstad just before before 900 AD and the ship Tune about 910 AD.
From the ship in Borre’s tomb (900 AD) today only iron nails remain.

The three ships had been at sea for several years before being pulled ashore and used as funeral ships. The dead were placed in special chambers on board.
They were buried with generous supplies of food and drink, various animals, and a large number of objects.

The Oseberg was used as a women’s funeral ship, while Gokstad and Tune were reserved for men.

 

Norway - Oslo - Viking Ship

 

The Gokstad ship had been in use for some years before a local commander was buried there with his many gifts: beds, boats, a tent, a sledge, dogs, horses and peacocks.
This ship is built of oak and measures 24 meters long and 5 metres wide. It’s the largest of the three, with space for 32 rowers.
The oar-holes could be closed with wooden covers when the ship was sailing.
The Gokstad reached a speed of more than twelve knots and could sail to Iceland.

Most of the items were well preserved because the ships had been buried in damp soil and covered with clay and grass, but since no jewels and weapons were found, they were supposedly looted.

Seeing Viking ships is exciting and unmissable during a trip to Oslo.

 

Fram Museum

This museum too, close to the one described above, is definitely worth an accurate visit.

The ship Fram was the first ship built in Norway specifically for polar research. It was used in three important expeditions: from Fridtjof Nansen drifting on theArctic Ocean from 1893 to 1896, from Otto Sverdrup in the Arctic archipelago west of Greenland (1898-1902) and from Roald Amundsen in Antarctica for his expedition to the South Pole (1910-1912).
This means that the ship occupies a unique position in the history of exploration, having been able to reach both the North Pole and South Pole.

 


The Fram is really impressive and it’s easy to imagine yourself inside it when virtual images of big sea and glaciers navigation are projected on the sides.

Here you have a first approach about studies on the conquest of the North Pole. For many years the Arctic currents and winds between Greenland and Siberia have been analyzed, but all attempts to reach the North Pole through the Arctic ice failed.
That’s why it was necessary to design what would become thestrongest wooden ship ever built.

 

Norway - Oslo - Fram Museum

 

Its structure, 40 meters long and 11 meters wide, was designed so that it would not directly face the pressure of the Arctic pack, but to take advantage of the movement of the ice, climb above the pack and thus be transported adrift to the North Pole (or at least very close).
It also needed to be comfortable for the crew, who would have to spend several years on board.

The ship was built thanks to the economic support of Norway and many private citizens who were proud to contribute to its success.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

Oslo amazed me and taught me many things I’d never heard of.
Because traveling for me is also discovering, learning, coming home better than when I left.
The first approach with Norway was definitely positive. Its capital city given me the adventure of his ancestors and a great sense of peace.
Not so much, as said, about the current value of the Nobel Prize, but for a general respect for nature (the cleanliness of the city is total and I had never seen so many electric and hybrid vehicles) and for people (sometimes bikes and cars stop so far from the pedestrian crossings that you don’t even realize they’re thinking about you).
I know that these topics may seem trivial for people who live in Norway or in other similar countries, but I think it’s incredible and unexpected for most of the tourists and travelers who come here.

Oslo was only the first stop of my trip to Norway, click here to discover the continuous…

 

Norway - Oslo - Opera House - Operahuset

 

 

MAGDALENFJORDEN: LIKE AN EXPLORER

Before start this travel, crossing the geographical limit of the 80th parallel North was one of the objective of my trip.
At Magdalenfjorden you can swim in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. That’s why I was looking forward to this day of expedition on the Hurtigruten. Read more

NY ALESUND: TRAVEL WITH SCIENTISTS

About 30 people live in Ny-Ålesund in winter and 130 in summer.
This settlement on Svalbard seems an international territory, a world fundamental scientific base especially for geologists and meteorologists.

Read more

TRIP TO BARENTSBURG

THE USSR TO THE SVALBARD ISLANDS

Barentsburg (in Russian language Баренцбург) in winter is reachable by snowmobile, in summer is the first stop of the Hurtigruten expeditions but you could visit it also with a daily tour from Longyearbyen.
This is the only mining settlement dating back to the Soviet period still operating on the Svalbard Islands and has an important geopolitical value.

Read more

TOUR TO PYRAMIDEN FROM LONGYEARBYEN

FINDING THE URSS AND POLAR BEARS

After the polar expedition with Hurtigruten to overcome the 80th parallel north, I chose a full day tour from Longyearbyen to Pyramiden and the Nordenskiöldbree Glacier, the last chance to see animals, absent in the previous days.
And incredibly it was the perfect choice.

Read more

LONGYEARBYEN: TRIP TO THE END OF THE WORLD

Gate 20 is on the lower level of Tromso airport and walking in the grey corridors seems to have already left Norway.
The passage to customs for passport control marks the exit from the Schengen areaand leads to the waiting room.

Read more

SVALBARD ISLANDS: TRIP TO THE NORTH POLE

I have always liked geography and I often find myself digging into memories looking for unusual and unknown destinations for future trips.
It is in one of these researches that the Svalbard Islands have become the enlightening destination.

The islands under the Norwegian flag, often even hidden by the arm of the earth’s axis in the globe, are the northernmost inhabited lands on our planet..

Read more

HOW TO BE THE NORTHERNMOST PERSON IN EUROPE

We think that North Cape (or Nordkapp) is the northernmost place in Europe, beyond which we cannot go.
This could be true if we did not consider some islands and lands covered mainly by glaciers.
But even in this case the name pushes us to error.

If you are in the balustrade near the famous globe’s sculpture and look the sea thinking to find only the infinite sea in front of you, you will be very surprised.

Read more

HOW TO GET TO NORTH CAPE (FOR TOURISTS)

The name North Cape immediately suggests that reaching it represents a fundamental stop in our life, or at least in the experience of travelers.

Imagining yourself here at the end of the world can be true, even if only in part.

Read more

NATURE AND LEGENDS OF THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

NATURE AND SCIENCE

The Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO heritage site since 1986, is an expanse of about 40,000 basaltic columns, mostly hexagonal, up to 28 meters high.
Science teaches us that over 60 million years ago, a submarine volcanic eruptionbrought to the surface a large lava mass that, in contact with wind and sea, cooled quickly, solidifying, contracting and generating the cracks that gave rise to these particular columns.

This is the Giant’s Causeway, constantly changing because column movements.

 

The Giant's Causeway - Ireland - basalt columns

 

The Giant's Causeway - Ireland - basalt columns

 

The Giant's Causeway - Ireland

 

 

 

Ireland - The Giant's Causeway - Giant's foot

 

 

THE LEGEND OF THE GIANT

Obviously this particular place can inspire a lot of legends.
One of the more known is about Fionn mac Cumhaill (name often Anglicanized in Finn McCool).
The gentle Irish giant built the road to reach Scotland and fights against rival giant Benandonner.
After building the causeway, tired from the great work, Fionn fell asleep.
he next morning, Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, found her husband snoring and heard the thunderous sound of Benandonner’s footsteps crossing the causeway. He was really huge and Fionn would have no hope of defeating him.
So Oonagh decided to put a nightgown on Fionn asleep to make him look like a child.
When Benandonner arrived home, he asked to meet the cowardly rival but Oonagh asked him not to scream or he would wake his son.
Benandonner, seeing the size of the “child”, worried about how great Fionn could be and so, frightened, he fled to Scotland destroying the causeway behind him.

 

if the chimneys are smoking The Giant's Causeway - Ireland

 

Humphrey the camel - The Giant's Causeway - Ireland

 

Humphrey the camel - The Giant's Causeway - Ireland

VISIT THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

The entrance fee costs £ 10, including the multilingual audio guide necessary to understand the origin of this particular site and the legends that surround it.
You can reach the columns either with a panoramic walk or with a bus (for a fee).
At the Visitor Center, sustainable and with an original structure that brings back to the basaltic columns, there is a bar and a souvenir shop.

 

beach - The Giant's Causeway - Ireland

 

HOW TO GET

Car

Outside the visitor center, big parking is available

 

Public transport

If you don’t have a car, public transports are a great way to come here.
Spending £ 17 for the iLink Zone4 allows to use trains and buses for 24 hours.

The city of Coleraine is the hub of connections with Belfast (buses 218) and Derry (buses 234).
From here you get on bus 172, direction Ballycastle, and get out at The Giant’s Causeway stop, 150 meters from the entrance to the Visitor Center.

 

Wind on the cliffs - The Giant's Causeway - Ireland

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