Northern Norway
















“A community is like a ship. Everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.”
-Henrik Ibsen















TROMSØ TO ALTA




 


FINNMARK AND TROMS COUNTIES

GETTING AROUND

Rent an electric or diesel car to see the Aurora Borealis instead of booking a tour. Driving from Tromso on the 91 to Alta ensures breathtaking views of mountains, fjords, and snowy peaks with dancing light shows along the way. If traveling in winter, leave early so you can see both sun and moon on either side of the horizon and enjoy the scenery on deck as two ferries carry you across the water. Be sure to stop at Ramfjordbotn, Balsfjord, Svensby, Lyngseidet, and Samuelsberg for stunning vistas, sunsets, and photo ops. Every corner is like a fairytale, or something out of The Neverending Story. Don't forget to download music before you hit the road- Northern Norwegian DJs, it seems, do not enjoy Rihanna as much as I would like them to. After a two hour nonstop block of house music, they finally played "Love Yourself" and I was never so happy to hear Justin Bieber in my life.

STAY

Bjorn and Bibbi's Airbnb

Tromso
I think this is the best Airbnb we've ever stayed in, and we've stayed in some real stunners. They provided everything we could possibly want, from reflective jackets (a must when there's only three hours daylight) to hot chocolate, heated floors, those little rubber things you put on your shoes to prevent slipping on ice, and an awesome television channel called "Humor 2" showing Fresh Prince, Parks and Recreation, even throwbacks like Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place! Our hosts were so friendly and sweet and the kitchen was perfect- perfect for me warming up the vegan-and-gluten-free cinnamon rolls I found at Co Op Prix. Situated near the university, you can hike around the neighborhood at midnight to see the Northern Lights. You can also visit a local graveyard and walk right up to the water's edge. The Airbnb is a ten minute drive from town, with ample parking. 

STAY

Sorrisniva

Alta
Set in a lush valley, some areas of which are only accessible by snowmobile, Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel juts up against a river and forest teeming with wildlife. Co-owner Hans Ulrik, who started the hotel with his brother, treated us to drinks before we watched the northern lights from our hot tub. The igloo is surprisingly warm and comfortable, and the restaurant incredibly delicious, with homemade gluten-free bread, chive butter, flavorful veggie dishes, cloudberries, and fresh river water. I wrote a report in school about how snowmobile usage is bad for the environment, but you must do a snowmobile safari with Utt at night. Driving across a frozen lake and seeing all the stars sparkling clearly was like being in the world's best planetarium, especially wonderful since it was a full moon. My husband said it was the best experience of his life!

EAT 

Peppe's Pizza

Stortorget 2
This was the greatest discovery of my life. Order their thin crust gluten-free veggie pizza with artichokes and a million other vegetables; you won't be sorry. We ate there several times on our trip, and I have to ask: is pizza the unofficial food of Norway? All the restaurants have plentiful gluten-free options, but this tops them all. I prefer it to popular Egon, which strikes me as a TGI Friday's kind of place, with a far more beautiful interior. Note: If eating at a chain bothers you, go to Bardus or Aunegarden instead.

Oteren

Not a restaurant but a village
Under the shadow of Mount Tamok, in a valley three times the size of Manhattan with only 70 residents, some locals made me a delicious potato and chive soup, homemade gluten free bread, and a cute and spicy gluten free carrot cake. I was touched. It's a great place to see husky dogs without having to book with a farm, and also an ideal spot to see the Northern Lights.

Sorrisniva

Alta
Reindeer is the specialty at the glamorous, Gstaad-esque restaurant of the igloo hotel, straight from the Laplanders, who herd them over the Finnish border in summer (we came across a Sami native walking his reindeer down the street and talked to him for a few minutes. Our only other reindeer sighting was in the wild- she came right up to us, and pooped). My husband had his in blueberry coulis. I ate Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip mash, an artistic cauliflower puree, and the best potatoes ever, cooked in evergreen oil. We also got a sense of Norwegian community when we made friends with couples from Norway and Venezuela and solo travelers from Hong Kong over ice cubes filled with curaçao. Side note: I found it interesting that the Norwegian couple lived and grew up ten minutes outside Oslo, but made the distinction that they weren't from Oslo. I grew up forty minutes outside Cleveland, and I still say I'm a Clevelander. I thought it was a noteworthy cultural difference. They also explained how everyone in the neighborhood pitched in to keep the paint on their apartment building fresh, clean the streets, shovel snow, etc. Community!

VISIT

Bibliotek

Tromso
The library of my dreams, by architect Gunnar Bogeberg Haugen, based on the Mexican Candela shells. Originally an old movie theatre, you can sit in the former cinema seats at Perez bar nearby. Go to the second floor of the library, curl up with a Cora Sandel novel, and gaze at the mountains, lights, and Arctic Cathedral across the water.

Arctic Cathedral

Tromso
Built by Jan Inge Hovig, a classmate of the Sydney Opera designer Jorn Utzona, this masterpiece is visible by plane or all around Tromso Sound. The organ, which features reindeer hide bellows, is similarly breathtaking. 

Art Museum of Northern Norway

Tromso
You can't miss this beautiful building on Tromso's oldest street, nor their exhibition on the shared history between Norway and Russia. 

Polaria

Tromso
This architecturally stunning aquarium is less academic than I hoped, but the seal show is too cute (they perform, not for humans, but to keep from getting bored in captivity, and they are in love with their trainers... they look like cats cuddling with their mother). Polaria, which is designed to resemble ice floes against the water, is a great place to learn about Svalbard and conservation efforts there, plus the MS Polstjerna building is equally impressive.

Ersfjordbotn

Kvaloysletta
Beautiful spot to hike, walk along the fjords, and climb waterfalls. Great place for a light show.

Rakettkiosken

Tromso
Built by an 18 year old woman, this historic wooden building somehow survived a great city fire and is now the site of music festivals. From there, visit Gestapo Alley (Bankgata 13), where the Norwegian resistance fought Gestapo torture, and Skansen fortress, built in 1000 AD.

      











Another thing I respected about the people we met was how active and outdoorsy they were despite the weather. In Cleveland, if there's a snowstorm, people do NOT like leaving their beds, much less spending hours hiking or walking around, as the Norwegians we saw did. Also, dogs and cats don't wear sweaters or little booties like in Paris, despite obvious cold. The pets were perfectly happy running and jumping in the snow, even the tiniest chihuahuas! Anyway, it has nothing to do with Norway but I wasn't wearing makeup in these photos and I'm ok with them. Water only is the best thing I could have done for my skin. And my existing boots and parka were just fine for all my activities, including driving the skidoo.


     
Paris to Go

14 comments:

  1. Ariana, thank you for your comment on one of my posts! I tried to email you with my address but I got a bounce back message saying your inbox was full. Anyway, it's cindymlb(at)gmail.com (to stop spamming!)

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    1. Thanks! Argh that's the third time somebody told me that, and I zero my inboxes every day! I have to contact the server to see what's going on. Thanks for letting me know!

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  2. Ok, back to topic. This run down is incredible! I have a huge interest in royal genealogy so my only knowledge of the Scandinavian region is through the respective royal families. This post, though, has truly piqued my interest to travel there and try out some of the experiences you have written about, particularly the northern lights and the starry skies.

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    1. Wait, that is awesome! I have zero knowledge of them and now I'm interested :) Have you seen the aurora australis? That's my goal now (we could see the northern lights where I grew up, still spectacular, but doesn't have the once in a lifetime feel it could have)

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    2. Never seen in person the aurora australis, although recently aurora hunting has become popular down here in Tasmania. One of my friends has taken some lovely photos but he said it wasn't something he wanted to do all the time, on account of the need to wake up super early and then drive out of town to avoid the light pollution. The lazy in me thinks travelling to the other end of the world and bunking down in a naturally small place is easier :p

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  3. What a great post! I tried to convince my husband that we should go to Scandinavia for the holidays this year, but he said it would be too dark and depressing. This looks anything but depressing! So magical!

    I have two questions for you. Perhaps you've addressed this elsewhere on the blog, but... you travel to some amazing places; do you always travel by land/sea or do you fly? If you fly, do you offset or do something else that makes that "feel" ok? My husband didn't fly for ten years, but now that we want to do some travelling, we're struggling with the guilt about the environmental impact of air travel, especially since we work hard to live with a fairly small footprint at home. What's your take?

    My second question is: do you feel like using water only on your face gets the pollution/city dirt off? When I moved to Paris, the first thing my skin did was produce a break out like I hadn't experienced since puberty! When I would wash my face, I saw black grime coming off, which I assumed was the culprit. My face gets dirty like this whenever I'm in Paris, London, or New York. A city thing, I suppose. Does scrubbing sufficiently remove this? Or perhaps water only allows your skin to "get used to" instead of react against dirt?

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  4. Hi Chloe, for water only, it only works in Paris if I wear makeup when I go outside. I'm not sure if water only allowed me to get used to the dirt or not, but I feel using just water is enough to get all the dirt and my makeup off. My skin feels clean after, and the smaller pores and lack of breakouts is wonderful. I had horrible acne when I moved here too, and going makeup-free made it worse. To this day if I don't have a silicone foundation on when I go outside, I get a giant zit, although it heals a lot faster and doesn't scar anymore. In Norway, the air was so clean. In Paris, I get a grey grime in my hair and skin when I go outside, but not in Norway or Cleveland (I did get the grime thing in China). Not even in London!

    For the carbon offsets, that is a great question, and I haven't addressed it but it's a great idea for a post, I think next month I will do one! We flew here but we also travel by land or sea. I don't pay carbon offsets. They make no sense, to me, and I haven't seen independent research supporting the claims of social benefit from carbon offset programs.

    I used to pay them, but I actually perform carbon, energy and water audits and in the past when a parent corporation hired me to audit their offset program, the offset schemes were extremely uncooperative, falsified data, or wouldn't return calls or submit data at all. This only happened three times with three different programs but it was enough for me not to pay again. This is only anecdotal of course, but several environmentalists, watchdog groups, and journalists have gone on record as saying they're a waste of money. The author of the book Green Gone Wrong and the Stockholm Environment Institute are among them, and at one time Bill McKibben wrote an article denouncing them but he has since partnered with a carbon credit program, which provoked outrage.

    This doesn't mean they're all bad. The Gold Standard http://www.goldstandard.org/ and Verified Carbon Standard sound good http://www.v-c-s.org/. But I think I should support programs like this anyway, regardless of whether I fly or not. I wrote a little about these programs throughout the blog, but I've volunteered and donated to a seed saving operation, an earthen building project, helped a hill tribe school that empowers girls to open sustainable businesses, the Bamboo school which offers scholarships to needy students and teaches them sustainable skills along with academics, worked with Neighborhood Progress to turn abandoned parking lots into community gardens, replanted native species on an island in my old hometown... sorry I'm going off on a tangent. I hope this comment doesn't sound preachy. I also have been on building projects with my religious organization, which builds green walls, zero-waste water purification systems, solar powered radios, and LEED certified structures all over the world using entirely volunteer labor and donations, from New York to the DR and the Philippines.

    Don't feel guilty please! I think traveling is really important for people, especially living in Paris, I don't know how you stay here without burning out! If you have a small footprint at home, that in my opinion is more helpful than paying an offset. I am vegan, so my carbon footprint is pretty low (estimated 4.93 metric tons in 2014); I want to lower it, but some travel is unavoidable, like visiting my family or traveling for work. This trip was partly through work (the Airbnb was paid for by Airbnb, but that has to do with my actual work and nothing to do with this blog so I didn't disclose it) and the igloo hotel was for our anniversary so I don't feel bad about it.

    Sorry I wrote a novel!

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    1. Brilliant response, thanks so much for taking the time to write that out! I would love to hear even more in a full blog post!

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    2. HI Chloe, you are so sweet. Sorry my comment was so sanctimonious and pretentious, I didn't even realize how much I wrote until after :) Thanks for the great idea for a post!

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  5. Ah, another post from Norway! So happy to see you enjoyed northern Norway. My father is from Tromsø, so I visit the area quite often. It is so beautiful!

    We Norwegians love being outside, no matter the weather, so we don't mind the cold. We have a saying that would translate into: there's no such thing as bad weather,only bad clothing. And, yes, we Norwegians love our pizzas.

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    1. We had such a good time Camilla, I really admired the Norwegian people and the landscape... and the pizza of course :) Our friend in Oslo teased me about putting Peppes on this list of my favorite places instead of a cool Norwegian restaurant in Tromso, but I was just so happy to have something delicious I could eat! Enjoy your next trip up north.

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  6. Loling at the Justin Bieber Rihanna part!

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  7. With global warming, or just the worldwide pollution challenge, alternative energy solutions are increasingly being considered with higher awarenes https://facebook.com/stromtest.no/

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